Sunday, 8 January 2017

Thing 17: Survey tools (i)

This post is an interim progress report.  I have, as Georgina bids us, applied for a Qualtrics account; I have made a survey using Google Forms while waiting for Qualtrics to arrive, and tweeted links to said survey.  Later, I will do a 'Thing 17: Survey tools (ii)' post, reporting on how I find Qualtrics and what answers, if any, my Google Forms survey has drawn.

The survey takes its cue from the 2017 Libraries at Cambridge conference. Registrants at the conference were invited to indicate what their superhero powers were, and a few did.  But the conference included much -- a panel discussion and a well-received keynote address -- on the theme of failure.  My survey asks respondents about superpowers they don't have.

Reading the posts of other '23 research things' participants has been most instructive, particularly Luther's notes about the limitations of surveying as a technique and the usefulness of other methods. He is quite right to note the ease with which spurious survey returns can be created; conversely, a toxic situation can be inflamed by insinuations that some survey returns are bogus, even if the insinuations have no basis in fact.  Luther's reference to 'grounded theory' took me on to unfamiliar territory, and I look forward to exploring this further.  Trying to relate it to my my own experience, I suppose it was something like grounded theorizing when I examined the free-text responses to a Haddon Library user survey, and when I asked library users informally why they thought a particular teaching session had had zero take-up.  In both cases I was trying to see if any patterns emerged.

Of these things, more when Qualtrics is in.  And any superpower survey responses.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Thing 16: Crowdsourcing and citizen science


Georgina's post for this Thing has led me to re-familiarise myself with Kickstarter and Patreon, on both of which I have responded to appeals in recent years.  So far as I can tell, the main difference between the two sites is reflected in their names: Kickstarter enables contributions to get projects started, Patreon enables long-term support.  Composer Kathryn Rose has released some good music, and music in progress, via Patreon, and interesting accounts on her blog and Twitter stream about how the site impinges on the creative process and her business model.

I can see I'd do well to follow more on both sites.

"Do you have an idea for a project that could be crowdfunded?" asks the post.  Sorry, no.  I am intrigued to read the caveats from A Waterfall of Consciousness and Library Spiel about the risk that crowdfunded projects may repel friends and regular funders, especially noting that in Library Spiel's case this caveat is evidently based on experience.  Here's an idea that I did have at one time; it has now run out of steam, and crowdfunding is not sought.  I had better admit that my own kin never thought much of the project.

Citizen science

"What do you think about the democratisation of research and science through citizen science projects?"

It's probably a good idea.  Here's an article my science-journalist wife wrote about developments in this area some four years ago.  Note that the article doesn't present citizen science as an irreversible triumph: in 2013, chemistry was less keen on the idea.  Despite the successful application of citizen-science practice in some chemical research, the question was "Should chemistry join the gang?" and reservations were quoted from some chemists.  I don't know if it's significant that Zooniverse's current project list includes no reference to chemistry.

Related to both chemistry and citizen science is another movement drawn to my attention by Clare: that of the expert patient.  A flagship for this movement is Patientslikeme.  New research mentioned on this site on the day I write, 1 January 2017, includes developments in clinical trials, new ways of indicating levels of pain, and improvements in patients' self-management and self-efficacy.

The question uses the word 'democratisation'.  Democratisation is the benefit that citizen science confers.  Research abc writes that "Hopefully more people appreciating this process will increase public confidence in scientific statements."  

That's better than an unquestioning acceptance of what experts say.  And better than a generic distrust of experts.

I suppose citizen science stands up better against sociopaths and demagogues than those other states.  But I bet a determined troublemaker could spoil even citizen science.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Thing 15: Collaboration tools


Of the three tools described in the post, Evernote is the only one with which I was unfamiliar.  I have taken it for a spin, listing the roads one would use for a car journey from a Yorkshire place to a Berkshire place while adopting a selective approach to motorways. But I, like Librarian at Heart, know the value of "the very low-tech but aesthetically pleasing option of an actual paper and pen notebook".  I can whip out a notebook and pen quicker than I can do the login(s) necessary for reaching the Evernote app.  The notebook, being a stage removed from the online world, is a little bit more secure.  The "elephants graveyard of notes I can’t understand anymore" recognised by Research abc would, in a notebook, be likely to have at least the virtue of chronological order.

I hope my view does not sound too much like the claim, in a 1990s spoof, that undesirable results from a mythical Microsoft product were "a feature not a bug".

I will continue trying with Evernote and see if I get to like it any better.


I told of my enthusiasm for Doodle in the 2010 round of 23things.  I continue to use it today.  Doodle is not to be blamed for the user error of forgetting that anything requiring a Doodle poll probably needs more than a Doodle poll: a poll to set up a meeting will not necessarily ensure the meeting takes place, and is not a major action on the issue behind the meeting.

Google Drive

I use Google Drive extensively.  It is very helpful for the planning committee of an event, allowing details of venue &c to be circulated rapidly and acquire modifications and comments.  I'm not sure of the best answer to the data-protection questions that Google Drive can present.  Is there a place where private individuals can store things like a Christmas card list or address book online?

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Thing 14: Sourcing and using good images

Write a blogpost about reusing images and what you have done in the past 

I found myself nodding in agreement with Researchabc and Thelibrarianerrant, both of whom owned to a measure of restraint in the use of images.  I excuse my own lack of pictures, when necessary, by reference to television jokes about the Lord Privy Seal.

I have used images in the Haddon Library's PowerPoints for presentations at induction time and in the Alumni Festival.  I'm not posting these, as they would make no sense without the accompanying spoken text, but I can say that I've paid due respect to copyright, and enjoyed searching Flickr's Creative Commons area for images to use.

Find a really good picture that is shareable and embed it in your blogpost with appropriate credit

New Bridge by Cycling Man  CC BY-NC-ND
The picture shows Christchurch Bridge in Reading.  I haven't yet photographed this bridge myself, or cycled over it, but I have kinsfolk in Reading, and probably will do those things.

Write about how you found using the tools to find images and crediting the image itself

My exploration of the sites recommended in the blog post was unsystematic, with searches at different times for images of fire, demolition, rivers, cathedrals, and bears.  The picture I eventually chose for this blog was from none of those searches: I returned to the familiar Flickr Creative Commons area and looked for that specific bridge, a kind of substitute for pedalling a bike over it.

I hope the licence is correctly made.  It's not my first use of a CC licence, but as this post is an exercise, I looked at Creative Commons' own site for i's to dot and t's to cross, and believe I have done so.

Exploring the blog post's other recommendations was fun. I expect to use Pixabay, Unsplash, Morguefile, and Photopin again, next time I'm looking for pictures in earnest, and I may recommend them to friends making posters and church magazines.  I'm afraid I still can't see how to search Travel Coffee Book and New Old Stock, and am less likely to revisit them therefore.  I failed also with HaikuDeck; but PowerPoint, Open Office Impress, SlideShare and Creative Commons will between them probably do me what HaikuDeck would have done.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Thing 13: Creative Commons

My main use of Creative Commons licences, up to now, has been with regard to other people's work. For the 2011 round of 23 Things, I made the experiment of stitching a CC BY-NC-SA logo to a piece of artwork I embedded in my blog.  I expected then that I would be making more extensive use of such logos on artwork copied in the Haddon Library blog, but in fact I have not yet done anything of the kind.

For Alumni Festival presentations at the Haddon Library, however, I've made a point of seeking images first in the Creative Commons area of Flickr.  The reproduction has the CC keyboarded into the credits, even if the logo has been lacking.  And when readers have asked for images they can reproduce, Flickr CC is where I refer them.

I'm glad that the posts by other participants in 23 Research Things reflect a similar diffidence -- gladder still that the view is, for so many of them, "CC is great and now I've looked at it properly I'll use it more."  That's more or less what I said in 2011, I know, and I haven't used CC all that much more since then.  But I'm having to prove myself in a lot of areas at the moment, and greater mastery of CC licensing is clearly one that's worth it.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Thing 12: Presenting and sharing

The post for Thing 12 offers some helpful thoughts on presentation, independently of any electronic aids: think what exactly you're seeking to put across, who you're hoping to put it across to, what's the best structure for your message.  Indeed.  Those things are far more important than electronic aids, and may even lead you to decide that a given presentation should be done without electronic aids.  I follow public-speaking guru Max Atkinson on Twitter having first come across him, back in 2009, strongly disrecommending PowerPoint for facilitating presentation without skill.

I note that Max Atkinson's blog hasn't covered PowerPoint since 2011.  Has his influence led to public speakers being more skillful and restrained in their use of this tool?  It's only just occurred to me to ask on Twitter if people have noticed any such trend, and I have not set the Twitterverse ablaze thereby.

My subjective impression is that people are not using PowerPoint any less.  For the skill, I suppose I had better offer comparisons with my response to other media.  I can't recall a PowerPoint that frustrated me as much as an overhead projector presentation I remember from the 1980s (the presenter wrote her ideas on to the slides while speaking, and took each slide off before I had finished copying it into my notes).  But neither has a PowerPoint made me stand in the street and applaud (as a Carling Black Label ad once did, for its technique not its message) or moved me to tears (as an anti-drink-drive TV commercial once did, for everything).

My own offering is about washing up.  On my computer it has 5 slides, and on SlideShare, for some reason, slide 5 appears twice.  I'd better admit that I used Open Office Impress rather than PowerPoint, and perhaps there is some glitch between the open-source file and the other programs the upload led it through.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Thing 11: Communicating for free

The assignment this time is to nominate one YouTube video and one podcast and say why.

For a YouTube video, I propose the tour of Cambridge University's Social and Political Science Library, presented by Jenni Skinner. The SPS Library is a sibling of the library in which I work, and seeing what they could do, when they first loaded this video, inevitably gave me ideas.  In the Haddon, the ideas have so far come to nothing, but perhaps some day we might rise to the occasion.

For a podcast, I nominate a brief extract from David Hendy's documentary about BBC Radio 3: a recollection of continuity announcers Tom Crow and Patricia Hughes.  When they were active, I was in my teens, and much more drawn to radio than to television.  Podcasts are the 21st century's adaptation of that medium, and I can't think why I haven't explored them more.