Health information on wikis

My colleague Rob Pearce has a thought-provoking question about the safety of medical information on Wikipedia:

I’m not having a go at Wikipedia at all – I’m a big fan, but I had a thought about the recent McMaster University and Wikimedia Canada initiative to for health care content creation in the creative commons (holding workshops Oct 4th, 2011 at McMaster¬† introducing both professors and students to health care content creation in the¬† creative commons) .

This has come up before when I was working on Open Educational Resources: what is to stop nutters/malcontents – subtly or otherwise – altering medical information that leads to somebody putting their health in jeopardy or pushing one procedure over another, promoting one drug over another, etc.? I dont quite know how to defend this argument yet.

If you Google search for “shark cartilage”, “laetrile therapy” or “copper bracelet” you can see the nutters and profiteers already have their own web sites, which of course you and I are unable to edit.

For that reason I’m very glad Read the rest of this entry »


Secrets of the Google Algorithm

Wired magazine has a feature article which gives about as much detail as outsiders can expect on the core of Google’s business, its search algorithm. I was surprised to see that philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was an influence. Hundreds of different pieces of information (or “signals”) are used to rank the results, and some of these are contextual to the user: for example, geographical information is used to prioritise results from near your location.

One of the signals which is increasing in importance is page speed: the time it takes the page to load and render. Hence it’s worth reading up on Google’s performance optimisation tips.

Intute advent calendar blog

This December, Intute is once again running an “Advent Calendar” on its blog, with the theme of user-created content. It started on Tuesday with a post about the independent film Born of Hope, set in Tolkein’s Middle Earth. My own post, “Voluntary work for an obscure educational charity”, discusses contributing academic material to Wikipedia. Paul Meehan’s post today discusses augmenting a human-maintained web catalogue with Google Custom Search Engine. There’s more to come through the month on web2.0/community themes, and as usual the Intute blog has that bit more depth than the rest.

YouTube for fun and education

I just wanted to flag up an interesting talk I went to recently. My friend and colleague Paul Ayres (a digital librarian at Intute Social Sciences) gave a talk about engaging with YouTube here at the ILRT. His presentation is now up on SlideShare (below).

While I’ve previously looked at the basic technical implications, Paul looked at how community and debate are essential to what YouTube is about, with the consequence that it cannot be “managed” in the way that organisations try to manage other media. Organisations (Ten Downing Street, for example) have very much less success than charismatic individuals with something to say. Engaging openly, even with deeply critical responses, seems to be the key to being taken seriously by the YouTube community, as Queen Rania’s experience shows. Although I’m a heavy user of YT, I learnt a lot from the talk.

Slides are up on SlideShare, though if you have time click through and watch the example videos on YouTube, which are also stored as a YouTube playlist. driven Google custom search

This is an account of how and why I wrote a Google custom search engine to search sites that I had bookmarked on

I’ve liked the Google custom search engine since I first played with it shortly after it came out. If you don’t know about Google CSE, it allows an individual or group to create a search form that will perform a full text search using the Google search engine but limited to sites which they choose. This search form, and the results page, can be embedded in any website. I think it is the obvious way to build a cross search across all the centres in an organization like the HE Academy (this was one of my first custom search engines). Better, for teaching and learning you can set up a reading list of recommended sites for a course and let students do a full google search that prioritizes those sites (for a sort of generic variation on this see Tony Hirst‘s Open Educational Resources search). Better still, let the students as a group decide which sites they want on their course reading list.

Building and editing a Google custom search using the interface on the Google site is by no means difficult, but over the past year or so some tools to make it even easier have come out. Read the rest of this entry »

Eduserv Symposium 2008

This event took place in London on 8th May and its theme was “What do current Web trends tell us about the future of ICT provision for learners and researchers?”

My colleague Ale Fernandez has already blogged at length about the symposium. I disagree with his downbeat assessment of the Guardian and BBC speakers, and also with his (poetically expressed) negative assessment of the live use of electronic discussion. I was also interested to read some reflections by Mary Burslem at Intute. Here are the points that stuck out in my mind from the event.
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Using embeddable video services

Notes for a presentation at Nottingham, 11 April 2008.

Following up on previous presentations about using commercial embeddable services, this focuses on the Economics Network‘s use of embeddable video.

A video is worth more than one thousand words: Folding a Collapsible Reflector (We wasted an embarrassing amount of time in the office before looking it up on YouTube). A more relevant example: Wikis explained in Plain English (embedded on EconomicsNetwork site).

All the more important for getting a message to digital natives where you have to beware the TL;DR issue.

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1 May is RSS Awareness Day

Get involved

Edit by Martin: and for anyone who still doesn’t know what the fuss is about, watch this video from “RSS in Plain English”.

Embedding repository searches

For a long time now we have wanted to embed searches of other people’s collections of stuff into the Engineering Subject Centre‘s website. The general idea is to let people look at those collections without leaving our site, which may or may not be sensible. In one case doing so would allow us to use a remote repository service (the Jorum) to host resources that we want to help make available, saving us the cost and risk of managing the repository while showing the close relationship that we have with this material. With the help of our friends at the Jorum we have been experimenting with a light-weight approach to using the SRU (search and retrieve by URL) standard to achieve this.
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Image directories by RSS aggregation

A report published last year on Community Led Image Collections suggested that:

  • visual directories showing a selection of images from each relevant collection might be a useful means of disseminating information about those collections; and
  • while sophisticated repository interoperability specs might be a long term aim, such a directory could be kick-started using more lightweight technologies, specifically by aggregating RSS feeds (with images as enclosures) supplied by the image collections.

The JISC wanted to test the viability of this idea and so provided, through the Engineering Subject Centre, some money that allowed a colleague (Lisa) and me to try to build and populate an image thumbnail RSS aggregator.
We [and by “we” I mean Lisa] found that building one was technically feasible, but perhaps not quite as easy as might be hoped. More importantly we found cultural or organizational barriers within the image collections that prevented us receiving the necessary feeds to populate it.
Read the rest of this entry »