If you live outside the UK the story of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross phoning Andrew Sachs is unlikely to have made an impression, however, in the UK it is seemingly the only thing people are talking about.
For those who don’t know, the story can be summed up as follows:
In the recording of Brand’s BBC radio show a number of childish phone calls were made to Andrew Sachs (most famous for the part of Manuel in Fawlty Towers). In one of these phone calls Ross shouts out “He [Brand] fucked your granddaughter”. This then led to lots of discussion about the wayward nature of the BBC in the right-wing press, and numerous complaints to the BBC. A more detailed timeline can be found at the BBC, and the actual comments are, unsurprisingly, available on youtube.
So, why am I interested in this particular story? Because it is a great example of the continued power of old media. As the graph of blog posts below shows, there was no story until the Mail on Sunday created a story (the show was originally broadcast on Saturday 18th of October from 9pm-11pm).
The story created the 30,000 complaints, rather than the actual event. Whilst I acknowledge that there must be some standards, the question is whether those standards should be set by a right-wing press. If the phone call had happened in the middle of Songs of Praise then I would support the complaints, but what do you really expect from Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross?
Whilst searching on Google Blog Search for ‘webometrics’ I noticed that the usual webometric blogs are listed as ‘Related Blogs’:
As I had just been blogging on the subject of bibliometrics, I decided to see which the related blogs on that topic. Surprisingly there aren’t any:
[Although two blogs are 'related' to Scientometrics].
If blogs are a useful way for sharing the latest news and information in a particular discipline, as well as the promotion of a discipline, then surely bibliometrics would benefit from the odd bibliometrician blogging occasionally [...for the sake of inter-disciplinary relations I will eschew the joke about bibliometricians being odd]. Admittedly the webometric blogs are not the best example of academic blogging, but it is a burgeoning online community of sorts.
It is not very often that I come across a mainstream news article that starts bandying around terms such as ‘H-Index’ and referring to the ‘Web of Science’, however today’s Guardian has an article on the effect of web journals on academic publishing, the gist of the argument is summed up in the subtitle: “Online publishing reduces academic research to little more than a ‘popularity contest’, critics warn.”
The critic in this case is Alex Bentley an anthropologist at Durham University, arguing that:
We’re just producing so much wordage that nobody has time to read anything. It makes academic publishing, and even science itself, a bit like trying to get hits on blogs or try to make yourself the Britney of science.
Is the situation today really so different from an earlier age? Was there ever a time when we could read everything within our field, when academia wasn’t a popularity contest? The web makes the popularity contest a discussion point for the lay person, but the popularity contest has been going on since the we could check our citations (or lack of them in my case).
As a result of this lack of time, people are just hyper-focused on Science, Nature and PNAS
Is it me or is the above statement just a load of old rubbish? Publishing in Science or Nature shares your work with a far broader group of researchers, but it is by no means a substitution for publishing in the top journals in your own field. No academic could have a career that was based solely on publishing in these journals.
Citations have always been important. But they have never been as ridiculously important as they are now.
Personally I welcome the move towards a more open metrics-based RAE system, whilst also recognizing that there will be those who try to play the system (Goodhart’s Law). However, I believe that the best way to succeed in the metrics system is not to try to beat the system but to produce quality research, in the same way that the best way to get a high search engine ranking is to produce quality content rather than joining link farms. Information scientists already recognise that not all citations are equal, and in the same way Google adjusts its algorithm to stop spam dominating the front pages of our searches, we will adjust the calculating of metrics.
Dr Bentley will be pleased to hear that I will be flying off to Thailand next week to carry out some isotopic work on prehistoric skeletons.
Last week saw two special logos on the Google.co.uk site: one for Paddington Bear and one for the Queen. Using Google Insights for Search it is possible to compare the effect of the Google logo on the different search terms.
Whilst the logo quadrupled the number of searches for the Queen, there was ten times as many searches for Paddington as normal! With the honours even (the Queen held on to the most searches), hopefully the results won’t dent the chances of any future joint birthday parties (according to the BBC they share a birthday).
It is a shame that the daily details are only available for the last week, as it would be interesting to compare these logo results with those of some other famous people/events.
Last week I bought Paul Carr’s Bringing nothing to the party: True confessions of a new media whore; yesterday I read it. Review in brief: A fun light read that managed to raise the occasional smile. Opinion of web entrepreneurs in general: what a bunch of tossers.
Obviously there is no reason why the web should be different to any other business with plenty of money sloshing about, it’s just that I am highly unlikely to pick up a book on any other sort of business.
If I ever think about leaving the life of academia behind me, this is the book that made it clear that the life of a London web entrepreneur is not the life for me. I’m just not shallow enough.
If the Queen was visiting my office I’m sure I would tell everyone, but you have to think today’s Google logo (.co.uk) is a bit tacky…and possibly even treasonable.
Fair enough if you want to turn Paddington Bear into a letter ‘g’, but the Queen’s head? Why not have Prince Charles’ ears as the two o’s and be done with it.
Just in case you find yourself bored on a Monday afternoon (or any afternoon for that matter), and you want to read some more of my words-of-wisdom/random-thoughts, I have just reviewed a book for Online Information Review(32(5)): Digital Media and Democracy.
This particular review was dragged from me through blood, sweat, and tears. On the night I had said I would send it off, I had also committed to having a curry with a couple of webometric colleagues; forcing me to drink diet coke so I could continue work afterwards, whilst they happily drank copious amounts of red wine (or some such alcoholic beverage). Nonetheless I was still enamoured enough with the book to want to recommend it unreservedly (albeit with a slight caveat in the end).
There are few things that could tempt me into using Google search on a regular basis, but admittedly a picture of Paddington Bear is a step in the right direction (currently on Google.co.uk, not Google.com).
Paddington’s 50th Birthday, and still as youthful as ever!
I have just bought another new book to add to the ever-increasing piles scattered around my flat: Paul Carr’s Bringing nothing to the party: True confessions of a new media whore
I bought the book from Waterstone’s online for £6.29 (£6.99 minus 10% for some special offer code they had sent me), as opposed to the £9.99 for one of the shop copies. As Waterstone’s offer free delivery to your local store, that seemed a better option than paying for it to be delivered to my home (at which point I may as well have paid the full price in the shop). The only problem is, Waterstone’s never tell you when an internet order has arrived. They tell you when the order is dispatched, but not when it has arrived in the shop.
Would it really be much more difficult to let people know the book has arrived, in the same way they let you know the book has arrived when you order it in-store? And why do I have to wait for my copy to be delivered when there are three copies sitting on a shelf in-store? The chain of high street stores could give Waterstone’s a great competitive advantage over other online book sellers, but they just don’t seem to be using it to their advantage yet.