While I considered myself fairly adept at online searching in general and using Google in particular, there were things lurking behind the Advanced Search options that made me balk. Date ranges and searching within websites, but filetype? Those colour options in the Image Search? Some features had been added since I’d focused on mastering online searching skills (aka grad school), and while I was picking up tips and tools through Google-a-Day, I discovered that far too often, I found the answer and then moved on, without looking at the tricks recommended by Google.
So when I saw announcements last year for a free online course titled “Power Searching with Google“, it sounded like a great opportunity. Taught by Senior Research Scientist Daniel M. Russell, the course uses online videos, exercises, and assignments to help users learn more about how to effectively and efficiently search and retrieve valuable results using Google. There were Google+ hangouts, and Google+ was used as a forum on which participants could share strategies, experiences, and insight.
Time is running out. Time keeps flowing like a river. It’s just a question of time. A query of iTunes reports that I have 42 songs with the word “time” in the title. I have it on good authority that it would be possible to write a few lines of code to figure out how many times the word “time” appears in lyrics from the 18.6 days of music and audiobooks in my iTunes, given the appropriate skill set, files of all the song lyrics, and enough time.
However, time being limited and deadlines looming, this experiment remains hypothetical because I simply don’t have the time to spend on it. Earlier this year, I bookmarked and clipped articles on time from Grad Hacker (February’s “Setting time boundaries”) and Hack Library School (“It’s OK to not have time,” also from February), thinking I would read them as soon as I had time. Fast-forward four months and here I am, finally reading posts on time, trying to find some solution to my situation of feeling over-extended, overwhelmed with work, and wondering how much more I could get done or how much better I’d be faring if I only had more time.
As previously discussed on this blog, I keep statistics for our library, in an effort to quantify what we accomplish and what we produce. X number of publications catalogued, y number of reference queries of z duration. However, I could not use this same tool to effectively estimate how much time I spent on a given subject or activity. Following a recommendation, I created an account with Toggl.com and started using the Toggl app for iPhone to try to answer a very important question: where does the time go?
Who doesn’t like a good deal? Some deals are better than others, some are too good to be true, but who doesn’t like to get something that is good quality for very little or no cost? With the launch of the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository, such a deal is now on offer.
In April 2012, the World Bank announced the adoption of a new open access policy and the launch of their Open Knowledge Repository (OKR), the first phase of this policy. The Repository gives access to more than 2100 books and papers produced since 2009 and issues from 2007-2010 volumes of the World Bank’s two journals — World Bank Research Observer (WBRO) and World Bank Economic Review (WBER). Starting in 2013, the repository will include links to datasets used for publications and over time, there are plans to add translations of those publications originally published in English. Along with the launch of the Open Knowledge Repository, the World Bank has launched a revised Policy on Access to Information. This policy governs information relating to World Bank projects, meetings, and advisory activities.
Rendering such a large variety of World Bank products open access is a boon for researchers, because of both the sheer volume of information now available for free and also the large range of topics covered, from agriculture and energy, to development and health. Additionally, included among the monographs now available for free are the World Development Report and other flagship publications for which access was previously more limited.
The Open Knowledge Repository interface is user-friendly and the layout uncluttered. Visitors can query the collection using a single Google-esque search box and filters to modify or restrict queries. Records for publications include complete metadata (handy for cataloguers though perhaps of less interest for other users), abstracts, and links to publications in the same series, by the same author(s), or on similar subjects.
Libraries of all kinds are always on the lookout for new resources to help support the needs of their patrons and the discovery of free resources offers added benefits. While some users will still prefer to consult the print versions of these publications, the availability of these monographs online for free means that the portion of our budget previously allocated to their purchase could now be liberated and reassigned.
While this resource may be of greater use to researchers at academic or special libraries, this new open access policy may have more wider-reaching effects that could benefit. Publications are now to be covered by Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) copyright license, which allows distribution, reuse, and building upon the World Bank’s published works, even commercially, as long as credit for the original publication is given to the World Bank. One of the most flexible and permissive licenses offered by Creative Commons, this license allows wider dissemination and use of the publications and data produced by the World Bank. Perhaps more organizations, including those who already make many of their publications available online, will follow the World Bank’s lead to make even more information and even better resources available for online and for free.
Source: World Bank, Press Release No. 2012/379/EXTOP, “World Bank Announces Open Access Policy for Research and Knowledge, Launches Open Knowledge Repository.” Permanent link: http://go.worldbank.org/VOS0JQ0VK0.
“Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded” – Virginia Woolf
This semester, I have been part of a set of Faculty Development Workshops on Global Citizenship. They have been interesting extracurricular activities allowing me to think about how we can globalize our syllabi and teach that next generation of global leaders. At the same time, they have been interesting escapes during the day that have demanded reading of interesting articles and critical thinking/discussion of our world around us. That being said, today was a busy day, and one where I could not attend my much-enjoyed seminar. I am also a note-taker for those meetings, so the need to get an accurate read on the meeting was not only critical for my own enrichment, but for the ability to post a quality summary for the other participants. This got me thinking about my trusty Sony voice recorder and, regardless of brand or toy, the ease and benefit of using voice recordings for a variety of educational and research purposes. It may sound obvious, but with the number of tools and software available today to facilitate this task, I thought it would be of benefit to write up a post that gave an overview of the many options that are available today.
Recently, I blogged about analyzing qualitative interview data. Using a constant comparative method, themes emerged upon multiple readings of the data. Done by hand, the process was laborious, time-consuming, and highly instructive. In other words, I learned a lot. However, as in other areas of life (electric screw drivers, anyone?) having the right tool for the job can save an enormous amount of time, not to mention muscle power. Time and energy that might be spent in better ways, say in writing up the analysis or catching up on your professional reading, or even polishing off the last of your online Christmas shopping. So when I received over 50 pages of newly transcribed interview data, I decided it might be time to investigate tech tools to do the job more efficiently, even more precisely.
One afternoon, a staff member came into the library with an unusual request. For her upcoming holiday, instead of escaping to a beach or the mountains, she had decided to try something a little different. She would be traveling to South Africa and donate her time to a project tagging penguins on a wildlife reserve. She had already borrowed books on penguins and made an appointment to visit a local zoo and speak with those specializing in animal care. Now, all she needed was a camera.
Her previous camera was not up to the trip and she was looking for something a little more advanced, with a different feature set. She did not want to know what camera I would recommend for her, but rather where she should look to find information to help her make her decision. Where could she find reviews of various products, created by experts and everyday people, to enable her to make an informed choice?
As we have alluded to in previous posts, Google Reader has undergone a radical transformation, and KRED and I are currently reassessing our feed reader options. The redesign has us thrown a bit. For the last two years, I have been using Google Reader to keep my many feeds organized, bookmark articles for reading when I had down time, and share interesting finds effortlessly with friends and colleagues. However, with the push to have more users taking advantage of Google Plus (Google’s Facebook-equivalent social networking site), there has been a paring down or incorporation of the tools’ best attributes to enhance Google Plus. While Google Plus is being tweaked, the former standalone tools are being changed in dramatic ways, and Google Reader fell victim in this latest redesign. With that being said, I am not left with a second tool that has shifted so dramatically it is no longer useful to me.
So, what happens now?
One of my friends moved recently. She really likes her new digs in an historic house and loves the proximity to town center. My friend is a walker, so it was no surprise that she now makes regular jaunts to “her” coffee shop, a miniscule (by corporate standards), independently owned, convivial space with the requisite collection of slightly quirky customers. She’s come to know the servers and is starting to say hello to regulars, some of whom are her neighbors. In her personal life, my friend is gentle, quick to laugh, and a sympathetic observer of her fellow humans. In her professional life, she is a qualitative researcher, perceptive and well-versed in the art of eliciting other people’s perspectives and lived experiences in naturalistic settings.
Interviewing and observing participants where they work or live are staple tools of qualitative researchers. Often, interviews and observations take place in interior spaces; in offices, classrooms, or homes. Frequently, one or all parties are sitting down, engaged in a somewhat formal and dialectical exchange. In other words, the environment and actors are relatively static. By contrast, the tools of “street ethnography,” such as neighborhood walks and go-longs, are less frequently used. They take place in exterior spaces; sidewalks, neighborhood paths, or public spaces. Frequently, both or all parties are ambulatory, engaged in a much more informal and somewhat more egalitarian exchange.
The up and downs with the tool Delicious has caused me to sit back and reevaluate our relationship. As I mentioned in a post just a few months ago, Delicious had been my bookmarking tool, my way to share links with colleagues and students, and a great way to keep current by following those in my field who were using the tool. But also over the past year, there were rumors that Delicious would be no more. Then, Avos bought the tool from Yahoo! and it seemed that all was well for me to continue using the utility without major upset. I was so confident that I assigned students a task using Delicious as an assignment to help them learn a new tool for organization while compiling resources for an upcoming presentation. Right before they were set to submit the assignment, Delicious redesigned their user interface. The tag description option was no longer a feature, so their intro paragraph had to be written separately. Interface changes confused students who were already shakily trying to learn a new tool and woke up to “everything looking different all of a sudden!”
While this served as a good lesson for being flexible and improvising when life changes, it was disappointing that a favorite assignment was no longer a viable option in Delicious. So, needless to say I am not thrilled with the new look and the missing features. And I am not the only one. I was stubbornly holding on hopes that Delicious would stay relevant, but I think it’s time I give up the dream. With this development, I have started to look into the tool Diigo; which, ” coincidentally” has an easy import function to migrate your Delicious bookmarks. I know many colleagues who have been using Diigo and have had a strong preference for it, and I am starting to see why. I’m already enjoying the highlighting feature, the Firefox plugin, and the integration with Twitter. As I explore and get more comfortable with it, I will have a full report for you here on Research Salad.