Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Awoken from my change slumber for Week 34: where articles go to die?

I have come out of Change11 retirement (lurking status) this week (and probably the next few weeks).  I was reading the Change11 daily yesterday when I noticed that George Veletsianos was facilitating the topic of Scholars' online participation and practices. I've been following George for a couple of years now, and I was really looking forward to this week, so I am back!

I download the articles he has as reading, and I will get to those in a few days once I read them.  At the moment I want to tackle the Del.icio.us vs. Academia.edu issue. George point out that (some) have said that Del.icio.us is where links go to die, and asks us whether Academia.edu is where articles go to die. By the same token, someone might ask is Scridb where documents go to die?


To be honest, I had never thought of delicious as the place where links go to die, but in my own practice it's where they go to be frozen in carbonite. In the pre-google days and pre-RSS days, I did use bookmarking extensively. I used it as a memory aid. There were a number of websites I went to on a regular basis, and it was just easy to boomark things.  Then, a few hard drive reformats later, I decided that it was best for my bookmarks to reside online because I did not want to lose them - enter delicious! Now, OK, some of my bookmarks were public, but the majority of my bookmarks were private. Delicious for me wasn't about social bookmark sharing (at least initially), it was about personal backup - an inward looking activity.  Later on I did discover some good bookmarks from friends, but the service was really more of a private thing for me (with the exception of my work account which was all about sharing info)

The funny thing is, that as the web got better, and as Google became better, and as RSS and Google Reader (and its competitors) got better, my need for personal bookmarking diminished. All the of the websites I follow are using RSS, so I use Google Reader to keep track of things (so in essence, google reader takes care of 300 or so bookmarks).  I still maintain delicious accounts, but I wonder how many of them are active.  In the end, I decided to just use google reader and the "share item" function to publish anything interesting on my shared items list (which still works!). Then, of course, we had a brief period where we had the Delicious v. Diigo (which is better?); and the fact that Chrome can sync bookmarks between devices, so I gave up on Delicious and social bookmarking in general.

Now, as far as Academia.edu goes - at least for me - it's not where papers go to die. Why?  It all comes down to use and intent.  Delicious, for me, was all about inward facing bookmark storing. When other services came out that did the same thing (or better things), it was time to move on.  Academia.edu on the other hand isn't about an inward facing activity, or something as ephemeral as bookmarks. Speaking for myself at least, academia.edu is more about:

  • Sharing my own articles with others (an outward activity)
  • Seeking out other Subject Matter Experts and connecting with them; and reading what they have contributed to their professions (also an outward activity)
  • Placing my own articles in a place where others can get them free of charge (an outward and altruistic activity).
I think that Academia.edu might be a place where not a ton of activity happens (things don't certainly look too busy the last few times I've gone there - but things seem to be picking up a bit), but it does provide for a place to share your articles for free (which may otherwise be behind paywalls) and it allows you to network. Sure, the first goal (of sharing your publications) can be done with a simple HTML profile page on your school's webserver, but the social connection aspect cannot. Research articles do have a "best by" date, but I think that there is value in a historical accounting of past research.  Bookmarks on the other hand just give you a 404 error when they're past due (and sometimes archive.org isn't much help). So, in the grand scheme of things, while delicious might be a place where links go to die, I don't think that academia.edu is where papers go to die.

Thoughts?
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