Webometric Thoughts

February 11, 2009

One Hundred Updates on Twitter

Filed under: Twitter,noise,research — admin @ 8:36 pm

It has been been almost two weeks since I went to the Birmingham Social Media Cafe and decided that I should give Twitter another look, and throwing myself in head-first I have already reached 100 updates. So has my Twitter time been worth it?

I discovered information I wouldn’t have come across any other way:

And made useful contacts I wouldn’t have made otherwise:

However there is always a down side.
I have been sidetracked from the social web into the discussion of other interests:

I have had to put up the cruder side of work colleagues:

and, in truth, I have had to accept a lot of twittering noise:

Twitter is not for the easily sidetracked, and the truth is that I am someone who is easily sidetracked. Nonetheless, the experiment shall continue.

February 8, 2009

The Pleasure of Feedjit: Moving beyond the hits

Filed under: Feedjit,Google Analytics — admin @ 7:00 pm

One of the pleasures of Feedjit is you sometimes get to see patterns upfold that are missed in the vast quantities of data you collect with an analytics service such as Google Analytics. Today I spotted this one:

The above information shows me that not only did someone find my post about programming for Flickr in Python, but they found the page useful enough to visit each of the links I had placed. Not merely glancing at the linked-pages, but spending time reading, and probably acting, on them: It was 40 minutes between the visitor’s arrival and their final leaving.

Obviously it’s nice when a user finds plenty of interest on my site, but I am just as happy to know that I have pointed someone in the right direction.

February 6, 2009

Nokia 5800 v. Xda Serra (HTC Touch Pro/MDA Vario IV)

Filed under: N97,Nokia 5800,O2 Xda Serra — admin @ 10:23 am

Whenevever I get a new phone my girlfriend decides that she needs one too. Yesterday she picked up her new Nokia 5800 XpressMusic:

It wasn’t long before I was coveting the 5800. Whilst by no means as powerful as my recently acquired Xda Serra (or even the N95 which we both previously had), it has the usability (and price tag) that will appeal to the masses.

Every day I seem to find something to curse about the Xda, but to a certain extent that is the consequence of choosing phones which are moving ever closer to the computer end of the appliance-computer spectrum. Whilst I momentarily contemplated exchanging my Xda Serra for a Nokia 5800 (I still have a few days to return the phone), the truth is that I am the sort of user who will take advantage of the Xda Serra’s qwerty keyboard and the included Microsoft Office.

The Nokia 5800 is the better phone; the Xda Serra is the better computer. Maybe the N97 will be the best of both.

February 5, 2009

An Unimpressive EThOS from the British Library

Filed under: British Library,EThOS,bibliometrics,webometrics — admin @ 8:45 am

One of the hundreds of posts in my feed-reader this morning was about the British Library electronic theses service (via SCIT blog). As my own thesis should be included I decided to indulge in a bit of vanity searching. Result: EThOS has a long way to go.

I would expect my thesis to turn up for the term ‘webometrics’, in fact it is about the only term for which someone might actually want to read it. Unfortunately the only webometric thesis belongs to Xuemei Li:

My thesis does however turn up for the wholly inappropriate ‘bibliometrics’:

Seemingly the reason for my appearance under ‘bibliometrics’ and not ‘webometrics’ is that ‘bibliometrics’ appears in my abstract whereas ‘webometrics’ does not. Whilst this may seem reasonable at first, theorectically the University of Wolverhampton are taking part in the project and their record includes a number of keywords carefully selected me, including ‘webometrics’. The British Library also fails to provide a link to my thesis, despite it being scattered over the web like confetti: “Not yet available for download”.

Young academics brought up on Google Scholar, with full text searching and links to the numerous copies on the web, are unlikely to see the value in EThOS and its traditional OPAC style. Whilst I’d like to see an electronic thesis online service that seperates the wheat from the chaff, with full text searching and links to the documents, and believe that librarians could aid in retrieval with classification of such documents, this is not what EThOS is currently offering. It’s still in Beta, and likely to improve, but it has a frighteningly long way to go and you do wonder whether they should have buddied up with one of the big search engines to produce a more user friendly version.

February 4, 2009

Twitter API Updates: But I still don’t like them

Filed under: API,Social Graph API,Twitter — admin @ 10:25 am

Just hours after I wrote a post complaining about the limitations of the Twitter API for researchers, Twitter released two new API features that specifically deal with the data I was collecting!…Coincidence?

Twitter have now released two Social Graph Methods (via Scripting News) that enable you to call a list of a user’s friends and followers. Whilst this is far quicker than checking the links between each pair of users, it unfortunately means I will have to write my program again from scratch.

Whilst I welcome the new methods it is still not addressing the fact that Twitter gives preferential treatment to commercial applications whilst lumping researchers together with hobbyists.

Nb. Obviously it is a coincidence, but my site did gain a bit of a stalker yesterday…

February 3, 2009

Sketch Messaging: The Xda Serra (HTC Touch Pro/MDA Vario IV) is growing on me

I didn’t immediately warm to the Xda Serra, but today I finally found something it could do that my N95 couldn’t: Sketch Messaging!

No longer will my friends suffer random photos in their inboxes, instead they will suffer little sketches by the world’s worst artist:
Whilst Microsoft’s Notes application allows you to draw pictures with the stylus, it only sends any text and drawings as an attachment in the obscure .pwi format. However with the MiTo Team Paint application you can use the stylus to knock up a little picture, save it as a bitmap, then just insert it in a multimedia message and send it off to anyone with a camera phone!

nb. In case you wondered…it’s meant to be a cat.

Stupid Twitter: Don’t researchers deserve more than a second-class service?

Filed under: API,Twitter,academia — admin @ 9:16 am

I have never particularly seen the point of Twitter; it’s the background noise I can do without. However, as an all-thing-web-2.0 researcher I recognise that there needs to be further investigation of how people are using it. Unfortunately Twitter doesn’t seem to think so; yesterday they turned down my request to be upgraded from the extremely limited 100 API requests per hour.

After visiting Birmingham Social Media Cafe last Friday, and noticing the prevalence of Twitter names, I thought it would be interesting to get an overview of the Birmingham Social Media Cafe Twitter network: Had clusters formed? Did these clusters reflect different interests?…the usual sort of academic questions. In no time I had collected the Twitter IDs of 50 members of BSMC, and written a program that would check which of the members were following one another (using Twitter’s ‘friendship exist’ method).

Unfortunately, to test every combination of names requires the sending of 50*49=2,450 requests. So even this extremely small scale study would require the program to run over 24hrs!! Last time I had collected data using Twitter’s API there seemed to be no such limits. Whilst Twitter do offer the opportunity to be placed on a ‘whitelist’ that allows you 20,000 requests per hour, “…we only approve developers for the whitelist”, and seemingly by their negative response they mean the distinctly commercial type of developer.

As the explanation link suggests, I was turned down because, as a researcher, I should be asking for the second-class data-mining feed:

It returns 600 recent public statuses, cached for a minute at a time. You can request it up to once per minute to get a representative sample of the public statuses on Twitter

This is the service Twitter have decided is most appropriate for “researchers and hobbyists”, albeit one that would fail provide the sort of network information that I am interested in. A distinctly second-class service in comparison to the one offered to commercial developers.

I can understand if online services such as Twitter don’t want to go out of their way to help academics, but it is rather disappointing that we are penalised for doing public research rather than chasing money. Whilst I will eventually be able to find a 24hr slot to run this particular program, it’s a shame that I won’t be able to run more large scale studies.

[Update: within hours of this post the Twitter API was updated, but no specific improvements for academics]

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