Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Embracing the digital article

This is one of the best texts I have seen on the whole tablet reading experience, "Embracing the digital book" by Craig Mod. Not only very informative and well-argued, but also beautifully designed, which is of course the whole point of his article/journal.

But why do I mention this in this lab blog? Just imagine the possibilities if there would be a similar platform for scientific articles, that implements his ideas on "the network (or, e-reader 'social' features)":

So consider this: 10,000 of us reading the same Kindle book, each of us highlighting and taking notes. Would the aggregate of this not be illuminating? If I want to publicly share my notes with fellow Kindle or iBooks readers, shouldn’t there be a system in place to do this?
Show me the overlap of 10,000 readers' highlighted passages in a digital book. This is our ‘Cliff Notes.’ We don’t need Derek Sivers' brilliant summaries[14]anymore (sorry Derek!) — we’re collectively summarizing for each other as we read and mark our digital copies.
Show me a heat map of passages — ‘hottest’ to ‘coldest’. Which chapters in this Obama biography should I absolutely not miss?(FIG 7)
Let Stefan Sagmeister publicly share the passages he’s highlighted in the new Murakami Haruki novel. This is something I want to see. And I bet you do, too

 Replace "(Kindle) book", "novel", "biography" with scientific article, and all the authors with scientists you admire, and you have indeed the perfect tool to stay on top of the current literature, even outside your field of expertise.

His Fig. 7 illustrates the power of this approach, by automatically generating a crowd-sourced one page summary of an article with all the important sections highlighted or extracted:

You currently have several tools that implement some of these ideas:

  • Faculty of 1000 (expert opinion on recent literature)
  • Plos One (collect user notes on articles)
  • Zotero (annotate your research sources and share this with collaborators)
However, this also illustrates the problem: different implementations, platforms, philosophies. So I guess I will have to wait another 10 years before I will see something like this implemented?

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