Jan 21

MedLib Blog Readers Survey: Preliminary Results

Marcus Banks has closed and posted the results of his survey (previously mentioned here) for “librarians who read blogs that are written by health sciences librarians and targeted to other professionals.”

Check out the results here.

I loved seeing the results of Question 5:

5. How do you follow blogs?: 256 responses (1o people skipped this question)

A. Bookmark/check periodically: 61/256 (23.8% of 256)
B. Subscribe via RSS: 188/256 (73.4% of 256)
C. Subscribe via email: 7/256 (2.7% of 256)

So glad to see that so many are sensibly using RSS. 🙂

Also interesting:

6. Of the choices below, what BEST describes the reason you read blogs?: 243 responses (23 people skipped this question)

A. Current awareness about new technologies and tools: 185/243 (76.1% of 243)
B. Source of discussion and debate: 39/243 (16% of 243)
C. Tips on what to read in the professional literature: 13/243 (5.3 % of 243)
D. To increase professional connections: 6/243 (2.5% of 243)
E. Other (please specify): 40 comments. As always, making comments depended upon selecting one of the options provided.

This is exciting:

7. How often do you attempt to incorporate what you read about in librarian blogs in your work?: 261 responses (5 people skipped this question)

A. Very infrequently: 23/261 (8.8% of 261)
B. Somewhat infrequently: 55/261 (21.1% of 261)
C. Somewhat frequently: 110/261 (42.1% of 261)
D. Frequently: 61/261 (23.4% of 261)
E. Very frequently: 12/261 (4.6% of 261)

So…this would seem to indicate that more than 70% of medical librarians who read medlib blogs “frequently” attempt to incorporate what they learn from blogs into their work! Wow!

Can’t wait to hear more about Marcus’ paper.

Jan 18

The Biblioblogosphere (and LibWorm) used in Library School

I got a great email from a friend who is currently in library school months ago that I never posted about. Bad, BAD David!

I love her description of how she used LibWorm to search the biblioblogosphere as a part of her research for a library school assignment:

…I was required to write a brief piece related to an assigned search tool. The point was to share with the class the latest news related to a particular site (I had the Librarians’ Internet Index). I used LibWorm to see what people were saying about LII. Julie Shen’s blog pointed me to a piece about Wikipedia’s plan to start Search Wikia, a community-based search service. I ended up using the article from the blog to discuss the niche LII has created in the market. Your site was really useful because the BBC article never mentions LII so I don’t know that I would have found the article without LibWorm.

This makes me feel warm and fuzzy. 🙂

Jan 14

Favorite RSS Resources and Tools

[Updated: 8/28/2008]

(My emphasis here is on free and low-cost resources)

Explaining RSS

Resources to help you choose a feed aggregator

RSS Plugins for Outlook

(2003 or earlier- Outlook 2007 has a feed aggregator built-in)

Google Reader Tips and Plug-ins

RSS-to-Email tools

Publishing RSS content on Web Pages

Web-Based RSS-to-Web-Page tools
Hosted RSS-to-Web-Page Tools

Feed mashing and filtering tools

Creating feeds for pages that don’t offer them

Sometimes called “scraping”

Creating feeds from PubMed

Creating feeds from LibWorm (/MedWorm)

Although structured slightly differently, MedWorm and LibWorm have similar interfaces and identical search operators.
LibWorm FAQ
LibWorm-Fu for Beginners
Intermediate/Advanced LibWorm-Fu (Power Searching)

Okay, your turn: What good stuff did I miss?

Jan 10

The Beauty of the Dialectical Process

Well, I was pretty hard on Dean Giustini’s BMJ Editorial.

I have believed in the value of the dialectical process since long before I knew there was a term for it and have always believed that honest criticism serves the criticized, the critic, and those witnessing the process.

So I LOVE that Dean decided to specifically address one of my criticisms.

I questioned Dean’s assertion that “Google’s search results are emblematic of an approaching crisis with information overload”.

Dean writes:

Google most certainly is emblematic (a visible symbol) of information overload, and in fact is the information specialist’s laboratory for it.

I see honest disagreement here.

I think Google is emblematic of the way that the clever application of technology overcomes “information overload.” The Web is huge, filled with an insane amount of information that is varyingly good, bad, ugly or [fill in your favorite adjective here]. But if one uses Google to search for Google Scholar Dean, the first four results are about Dean Giustini, the author of the UBC Google Scholar Blog. It took typing three words and I found EXACTLY what I was looking for in about 0.51 seconds. To me, this doesn’t paint an image of Google as a symbol of information overload.

Dean continues:

“It’s well-documented throughout the blogosphere that web 2.0 has resulted in too many RSS feeds, too much data and information from disparate sources with little connection to each other.”

First, there are many popular positions (technical, political, philosophical…) expressed in the blogosphere (and elsewhere) that I believe to be wrong-headed, foolish, unwise or silly. I also believe that decisions based on evidence and direct experience tend to get better results than those built on blogosphere buzz and hearsay.

Second, I’m sincerely flabbergasted to hear a librarian (or any information professional) complain that there is “too much data” or “too many RSS feeds”.

“Web 2.0” doesn’t cause an information glut. What causes an information glut is being an information glutton, taking on more than anyone can reasonably manage. There aren’t too many RSS feeds. Rather, there are users who subscribe to too many RSS feeds. The solution isn’t for less data to exist, the solution is smarter, more selective use of the data. The tools that help us filter and manage the information that we care most about are continuing to improve in power and sophistication.

The feeds I subscribe to are so carefully chosen and filtered that I started to worry about missing out on serendipitous discovery of information I didn’t know I needed. I remedied this by using feeds from the social bookmarking of medical librarians (and other beloved medical/technology information nerds) to keep an eye on what they find interesting. In this way, the tools that Dean sees as contributing to the “information glut” open me up to new ideas, thoughts, and resources that I would otherwise not have found. With the smart use of my aggregator, I can browse these quickly and easily, discarding what doesn’t suit my interests.

Dean also writes:

“99% of the information that we are finding in Google is irrelevant to medicine.”

Sure, but I’ve never heard a single physician claim Google is irrelevant to Medicine. On the contrary, many talk about how frequently they use it. Meanwhile, 99.99% of what’s findable via PubMed is irrelevant to a particular healthcare information need. So what?

Meanwhile, turnabout is absolutely fair play, and Dean reciprocates by sharing some criticism of my own writing. Because I’m really enjoying the direct discussion and believe in the dialectical process, I’m going to address each of his criticisms.

Dean writes:

“If you have some different ideas on where the web is, why don’t you write your own piece?”

I will absolutely be pleased to write an Op-Ed on the Web and health information at the invitation of the first prestigious medical journal which invites me to do so.

I’d might use the opportunity to demystify buzzwords, clear up popular misconceptions and/or call for a new sort of rigor in the way that writers in medicine and libraries use technology buzzwords in order to better empower each other and those whose needs they serve.

I could alternately suggest practical ways in which existing technologies could be leveraged to expand or improve information services for clinical patrons.

Dean writes:

“One thing about David’s blogging is that he doesn’t explore the social or cultural context for all the tools he introduces.”

That’s usually true. After all, I’m neither a sociologist nor a cultural anthropologist.

I usually talk about how Web tools might be applied in the setting of a medical library. That’s sort of what this blog is for- and I’ve said that from the very first post.

I run a hospital library and I solve problems that hospital-based users experience while using technology. I write about the things that interest me and that I think will interest others who do similar work and face similar problems. That’s what defines the general scope of this blog- and I’m happy with it.

Dean writes:

“It’s much harder to place information technologies in some context than it is to merely announce that you’ve found a new tool worth exploring.”

Although I really do think it is important and useful just to share the existence of tools that I think may be of interest or use to other medical libraryfolk, I often provide context. Some examples:

Both Dean and Dr. Ves Dimov (at Clinical Cases and Images) seem to think that I want to replace “Web 2.0” with some other term.

Dr. Dimov writes:

David seems to suggest the alternative term “Web Geekery” which does not sound much better than “Web 2.0.”

I have at no time suggested that my complaints with the (mis)use of “Web 2.0” would be solved by replacing it with ANY other term. “Web Geekery” is just the phrase I use to describe the stuff that interests me.I also refer to the words of smartasses as “smartassery” and refer to the deeds of dumb clucks as “dumbcluckery.” I don’t know why.

I will point out, though, that not a single person has ever needed me to explain what I mean by “Web geekery.”

For the record, Ves- I don’t think there was anything wrong with your description of “Web 2.0 and Medicine” in 2005. You were talking about applying the trends O’Reilly described with “Web 2.0” to the needs of medicine. Still, I dearly hope that many of the current uses of “2.0”, “3.0” and (yes, really!) “Web 4.0” will go away. The metaphor threatens to outgrow and eat what it was supposed to represent.

Jan 08

Disliking “Web 2.0” and Hating “Web 3.0”

I was asked recently in an interview:

“You’ve written quite a bit about Web 2.0 tools and medical librarianship […snip…] Are there ways in which you see health sciences librarianship 2.0 as differing from Library 2.0?”

I answered that I’m actually not all that fond of the the “2.0” suffix, whether it is applied to “Web,” “Library,” “Medicine” or “Health.”

This answer was lame and incomplete, something I’m not proud of. Even though I’m not entirely happy with it, maybe this one will be better.

The term “Web 2.0” is a metaphor representing the idea that the Web is in it’s “second version”. It is not, in my view, a particularly good metaphor.

Some trends commonly associated with “Web 2.0” are tools for collaboration (and other “social” activities), applications that live online and in your Web browser, rounded corners (and other aesthetic choices), and the blurring of the line between content consumer and content creator. The term “Web 2.0” can be a useful shorthand with which to describe these tends and in aggregate and I’m not opposed to the idea that these trends are, taken together, significant enough to collectively merit a term referring to them. My impression is that this term is most especially useful when marketing Silicon Valley investment opportunities to potential investors.

Some other critics of the term have asserted that “Web 2.0” as a term is meaningless. I disagree. This piece by Tim O’Reilly does a great job of explaining what he means when he says “Web 2.0.”


  • The Web hasn’t been upgraded. There’s no new version of the Web. The longer a medium is around, the more interesting things people figure out how to do with it. This isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) surprising. Tim Berners-Lee, the person generally credited as having invented the World Wide Web, saidThe entire transcript of remarks by Berners-Lee on this topic is available here.:

    “Web 1.0 was all about connecting people. It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along…the idea of the Web as interaction between people is really what the Web is. That was what it was designed to be as a collaborative space where people can interact.”

  • Many things that are new and cool on the Web are not “Web 2.0.” Sometimes, new and cool things are the Web are just new and cool and really don’t need a numeric versioning suffix.
  • Although some might see it as semantic nit-pick, I believe that there’s no such thing as “using Web 2.0I may not like the title of Phil Bradley’s book- but I think the book itself is quite good. (Way too expensive, but quite good.) and that Web 2.0 doesn’t have “features”.At least Berci has the excuse of not being a native speaker of English, so I don’t usually give him a hard time for such things. He’s also a really nice guy with a great blog that I subscribe to. “Web 2.0” isn’t a program, a movement or a standard. It is jargon used to describe a set of trends in the sorts of things people are doing on the Web.

There’s nothing wrong with jargon in and of itself- but the term is now so widely and varyingly used that it needlessly creates more confusion among those who most need clarity. More and more, I read things about “Web 2.0” that drive me up the wall.

And now we’ve got people talking about “Web 3.0”

There are a number of things about Dean Giustini’s recent BMJ Editorial on “Web 3.0” with which I am unhappy.I should also point out here that it is a lot easier to criticize an editorial in BMJ than to write one. I admire Dean, I admire the way he promotes librarians as agents of technology and change, and I admire that he makes himself visible in this way to the greater world of healthcare professionals.

First, to continue and enhance the confusion that now comes with every use of a versioning suffix by using “3.0” is a significant disservice. Librarians should be demystifying confusing terms and clarifying definitions. I’m disappointed that neither BMJ nor Dean decided to describe some of the the ways that evolving Web technologies may impact healthcare. Instead, the article appears impressive to people who aren’t familiar with the buzzwords (most of BMJ’s readership are not, I am guessing, professional technologists) and says almost nothing to those for whom these buzzwords are all too familiar.

Second, the entire editorial about “Web 3.0” or “The Semantic Web” lacks a definition either term. Is the assumption that perhaps these terms are familiar to the average BMJ reader?

Now, with apologies, some fisking:

Dean writes:

“Each new version of the web should be a better iteration of its predecessor, and web 3.0 should be no exception.”

Except that there has been, as Berners-Lee points out, no new version of the Web. Part of the problem with the hype surrounding “2.0” is that people who should know better forget that it is a metaphor.

Dean writes:

“In medicine, we should focus on the ability to locate trusted clinical information, while creating the means to produce new knowledge.”

What, because we don’t focus on these things now…?

Dean writes:

“Information retrieval in web 3.0 should be based less on keywords than on intelligent ontological frameworks, such as the National Library of Medicine’s Unified Medical Language System, Medline’s trusted MeSH vocabulary, or some other tool.”

I do not believe that we will live to see a time where the World Wide Web is thoroughly indexed and made searchable with a controlled vocabulary like MeSH. It is a poor analogy for what technologists mean when they speak of “the Semantic Web” and it is a disservice to lead librarians to think that searching the Web will eventually be like searching MEDLINE. It won’t.

Dean writes:

“The question of whether http://del.icio.us and www.connotea.org—two popular social tagging sites—will be useful in web 3.0 remains doubtful.”

This statement confused the hell out of me. Allan Cho (with whom Dean collaborated in writing this article on the Semantic Web) has said one of my favorite things on this topic:

“…use of folksonomies could help overcome some of the inherent difficulties in ontology construction, thus potentially bridging Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web. By using folksonomies’ collective categorization scheme as an initial knowledge base for constructing ontologies, the ontology author could then use the tagging distribution’s most common tags as concepts, relations, or instances. Folksonomies do not a Semantic Web make — but it’s a good start.”Confession: I literally clapped my hands while sitting at my desk the first time I read this quote by Allan and wished I’d written it.

Nicely said, Allan.

Dean writes:

“In medicine, finding the best evidence has become increasingly difficult, even for librarians.”

I don’t think I can agree with this premise. I think that Web tools have made the best stuff increasingly easier to find for those with the skills to use the tools.

Dean continues:

“Despite its constant accessibility, Google’s search results are emblematic of an approaching crisis with information overload, and this is duplicated by Yahoo and other search engines.”

Huh? How are Google search results emblematic of information overload?

Dean continues:

“Consequently, medical librarians are leading doctors back to trusted sources, such as PubMed, Clinical Evidence, and the Cochrane Library, and even taking them to their library bookshelves instead.”

Okay, maybe- but how is this a “Web 2.0” trend? Haven’t librarians always struggled to get their patrons to use the best tools?

Dean continues:

“Unless better channels of information are created in web 3.0, we can expect the information glut to continue.”

Dean has previously blamed “Web 2.0” for “information overload”, now he seems to say that Google is responsible for an “information glut”. Both of these assertions are just silly.

The Web makes a whole lot of information easily available to a whole lot of people (which I see as a good, desirable thing) and many people lack the information skills to get just the stuff they want- but to assert that “Web 2.0” or Google cause information overload (with absolutely no support) is just beyond my ability to comprehend.


Because in the hands of a skilled user, Google is a powerful tool for filtering out the chaff. Because I routinely use “Web 2.0” tools (like RSS feeds from del.icio.us or blogs) to benefit from the readings and tags and opinions of friends and colleagues- this helps me stay focused just on the good stuff. How else would I keep on top of all the stuff this blog covers?

Okay. Enough fisking.

What about “Medicine 2.0” and “Health 2.0”?

“Medicine 2.0” bugs me perhaps even more than “Web 2.0”. It is a way of marketing tools that apply newish Web trends to the needs of health professionals. How does the term serve anyone but investors and those who have something to sell investors? Why the heck should healthcare professionals embrace and adopt this marketing schtick when they could instead demand terms that are clear and descriptive?

“Health 2.0” is term for hyping the application of newish Web trends to the needs of healthcare consumers. Again, it appears to be useful in selling investment opportunities. Do the rest of of need the term? No. We can instead refer with more clarity and simplicity to Web sites and Web services for healthcare consumers.

So what about “Library 2.0”?
I think that I have come to agree with T. ScottThough I still think T. Scott was, in this instance, unfair to Casey and Savastinuk. The work is important and good, but the term is not. I urge librarians, particularly bibliobloggers, to use the term carefully (if at all). We don’t need it to describe the application of Web trends and technolgies to library work, we REALLY don’t need it in order to describe making libraries more patron-centric, and when we use it (usually failing to explain/define it) we add to the confusion and needlessly alienate potential ALLIES for improving computer literacy in libraryfolk and in patrons.

I like Wikis and blogs and RSS and APIs and mashups and portable data and rich user experiences and social networking tools and online productivity tools and social bookmarking. I’m fascinated by the new and interesting things people keep doing with the Web. I believe that librarians need to be technologists and need to know what “Web 2.0” means- but that doesn’t mean they need to add to the existing confusion. It means they need to help smooth it away.

Jargon is fine in small groups of specialists- but information professionals, I think, have a special responsibility to help others overcome and dismiss jargon when it gets in the way of sharing information. Not only to bring the benefits of these new technologies to all our colleagues, but to all our patrons.

For that reason and to keep me sane, please: No more talk of “Web 3.0.”

In case it isn’t obvious by now: I’d like to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree with mine. Leave a comment, wouldja’?

Nov 28

Contribution d’un francophone (to the List of Medical Wikis)

Gaétan Kerdelhué, a medical librarian at Rouen University Hospital and author of this list of French-language medical wikis has translated entries into English so I could add them to my list. Thanks so much, Gaétan! The list of medical wikis is up to 56 entries now.

Also- Gaétan blogs here– so if you read French you’ll want to check it out. If you don’t read French, you read a version translated into English by Yahoo Pipes. Heck, you can do what I just did and subscribe to this English language version of its feed. 🙂

Below is an embedded Grazr thingamabob you can browse to preview the sort of stuff Gaétan blogs about:

Nov 26

Subscribe to the JAMA Report via RSS

I knew that the The JAMA Report, “a weekly video and audio medical news service from the Journal of the American Medical Association,” was available from its home page at thejamareport.org, but The MARquee points out that JAMA also posts episodes to Blip.tv at thejamareport.blip.tv. Even better, you can subscribe to these videos as an RSS feed.

If you want, you can even embed Blip.tv’s player in your Web site and let your library’s patrons watch these videos from the comfort of your library’s own intranet presence. Easy instructions on how to do this are here.

Edit: Sorry! I failed at first to link the post at The MARquee! This has been remedied above.

Nov 26

How to: Get Exactly What You Want From YouTube via RSS

Berci asked:

David, do you know how can we subscribe to searches on Youtube? I mean, I’d like to follow the RSS feed of the search term genetics on Youtube, for example.

Jan answered:

You can create RSS feeds for tags. FI: rss for genetics will be http://www.youtube.com/rss/tag/genetic.rss.

For search related rss-feeds on YouTube you could try referd.info.

The feed that Jan suggests will only contain videos that have been tagged “genetic.” It won’t contain videos that have the word “genetics” elsewhere in their metadata.

To capture videos that have “genetics” anywhere in their metadata, try this feed:

Unfortunately, this simple way of creating a search-based YouTube feed (http://www.youtube.com/rss/search/[search terms].rss) will limit the search results to 20 items.

If we want to get more than 20 results in our feed, we need to use the YouTube API,
which is powerful and not especially difficult to play with.

If we want a feed that captures the most recent 50 videos, we can use this feed:


Neat, huh? Still, I don’t subscribe to these sorts of feeds.
Unfortunately, both the feed for the tag “genetics” and the feed for the search term “genetics” are too full of junk (including spammy, awful ringtone advertising) for me to deal with efficiently. I once had search feeds like these from YouTube fed into LibWorm, but removed them because the results returned for the search term “library” were frequently inappropriate and wildly distant from Librar*/LIS topics.

If one was determined to make such a feed useful, one could use a tool like Yahoo Pipes to filter out the worst and most obvious of the junk items, producing a feed like this one. It is far from perfect, but most of the junk is gone and little of the good stuff is missing.

(Please feel free to copy this Pipe.)

However, a Pipe used for this purpose would probably need semi-routine maintenance and updates to its Filter module to keep the junk out.Note for nit-pickers: Yes, I considered more aggressive filtering by category either through the API or Pipes, but there are valid hits across a number of unexpected categories.

Okay, that was fun! Any other feed questions?

Nov 26

BioMed Central on YouTube

BioMed Central announced on Friday that they’ve launched a YouTube Channel.

In addition to our YouTube channel, we are working with SciVee to ensure the visibility and linking of PubCasts featuring BioMed Central articles. For example, SciVee currently features a pubcast by Apostol Gramada in which he describes the research he published in BMC Bioinformatics.

Berci seems pretty excited about the prospect of more publishers doing the same, but I find myself wondering how much money and time publishers (or writers/editors) are going to invest in producing video content to compliment or promote their written works.

Should be interesting to keep an eye on, regardless.

Fun Little Hack:
If you’d like to subscribe to new videos that are posted in this channel without having to log into YouTube, you can subscribe to this RSS feed.

Oct 26

More MedWorm Enhancements

I’ve been meaning to post a few notes about MedWorm for a while now.

First, my friend and LibWorm partner Frankie DolanQuick note for John Sharpe: Frankie is a woman- you may want to switch out a few pronouns. 🙂 has been blogging at Frankie Speaking Frankly and you should subscribe to its feed.

Second, registered users can now make use of MedWorm’s new subscribe-by-email feature. Writes Frankie:

It is now possible to receive updates to your favourite MedWorm medical feeds via email. First register with MedWorm by giving an email address, user name and password of your choice. Then subscribe to any of the thousands of feeds you see listed in MedWorm, by clicking on the My MedWorm chicklet next to a feed listing. Finally click on My Account to select how often you would like updates emailed to you.

Frankie has some thoughts on this feature that are worth reading.

Third, you can now discuss any item indexed by MedWorm. Writes Frankie:

It is now possible to open medical and health related discussions on MedWorm by clicking on the comment icon that appears next to every MedWorm item. You will be prompted to logon when posting comments – registering takes less than a minute and is free. All comments will appear in related discussion categories, such as by medical speciality or medical condition, which you will be able to view via the discussion links throughout MedWorm. Each discussion category is also accompanied by its own RSS feed. The link here shows all current MedWorm discussions.

Frankie rocks. Now I have to convince her to roll out some of MedWorm’s enhancements at LibWorm

Oct 18

Ranking Healthcare Blogs (again)

I’ve posted previously about the concerns I have about attempts to rank blogs (healthcare blogs, biblioblogs or any other sort of blogs).

Please keep those concerns in mind when you read at eDrugsearch.com that, if measured by the number of subscribers via Google Reader or iGoogle, davidrothman.net is (just barely) ranked in the top 10 healthcare blogs.

Sep 07

Getting Started with RSS Feeds (JHL)

It looks like the article I wrote for the Journal of Hospital Librarianship is going to appear in print in Volume 7, Issue 3.

My hope was that this article would be a painless, step-by-step guide to help the medical librarian set up and start using an aggregator right away.

Many health sciences library staffers who might benefit tremendously from the utilization of an RSS aggregator are intimidated by the mistaken impression that setting up and using a feed aggregator is difficult or requires technical knowledge. The truth is that anyone who can use an e-mail client can quickly learn to manage an aggregator, and can begin benefiting from its use right away. This article seeks to walk the less technologically inclined health science library staffer through the necessary steps to begin reaping the benefits of utilizing RSS feeds, including setting up an aggregator, finding useful feeds, subscribing to feeds, and managing them. This is accomplished with only an absolute minimum of geekspeak or technobabble.

Sep 05

Two Medical Library RSS Services

I think it was a little over a year ago that I gave up on the idea of building my own portal for medical information RSS feeds because I had started chatting with Frankie Dolan (of MedWorm and LibWorm fame) and suggesting ideas to her instead. I still get most of my medical RSS feeds from MedWorm, but I’m enjoying seeing how others are building medical RSS portals.

Today I’m looking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Ebling Library for Health Sciences RSS E-Journal Feeds by Subject and at the Harvey-Semester JournalBot.

I learned that UW-M libraries were up to good RSS-ish things from Ratcatcher’s post the other day that contained an abstract of an upcoming paper:

Developing and Marketing an RSS Journal Service for your Library
Authors: Erika L. Sevetson, MS, Christopher Hooper-Lane, MA, AHIP, Allan R. Barclay, MLIS, AHIP, Ebling Library, University of Wisconsin – Madison; Deborah Copperud, MA, School of Library and Information Science, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Abstract: More and more journals are making their tables of contents available via RSS feed; however, barriers still exist between the user and the content. A working group at a large, Midwestern academic health sciences library set out in Fall 2006 to “explore possibilities for developing an RSS current awareness service that would categorize health sciences RSS feeds and integrate them with SFX, document delivery, and RefWorks.” We developed a 4-phase plan, including overhauling our existing RSS journal feeds pages, developing bundled OPML packages for quick subscription to several journals, developing a shopping cart-like application for users to easily create customized collections, and developing instructional and promotional plans for staff and patrons. This panel will provide an overview of the project, focusing on work process, technology, marketing, and instruction and education. The panel discussion will include 15 minutes for audience discussion.

(Since I won’t be able to make it to this event, could someone please send me lots of detailed notes? Transcripts? Video recordings? Holograms?)

A little digging turned up this page at Ebling which lets the user select a subject, then see available RSS feeds for journals covering that subject (without reloading the page- a nice AJAXy touch). For example: Say we’ve got a hypothetical cardiologist: she could click “Cardiology” and get a nice list of TOC feeds for journals (through EZproxy) of interest to cardiologists.


Since the feed is retrieved through EZproxy, I’m guessing that these feeds will allow the user to click on an item in an aggregator and log in through EZproxy to get the full text. I also like that it offers an OPML file for ALL the feeds in the subject. Awesome. (Next, maybe they could add filtering functions to let our example hypothetical cardiologist user filter the journal feeds she selects for keywords she cares most about.)

The Harvey Semester JournalBot takes a sort of a “wizard” approach, guiding our hypothetical cardiologist through a process of creating a personalized feed (via PubMed API?) tailored for her specific needs and preferences.

First, the JournalBot asks the user to select a subject from a drop-down menu:

(The JournalBot can also let the user enter a MeSH term, but if the user had mastery of MeSH, she wouldn’t need the “wizard.”)

Next the JournalBot prompts the user to select a specific cardiovascular disorder:

Now JournalBot prompts the user to select from which journals she wants articles on this specific cardiovascular disorder…

…and asks the user to choose how many articles from each journal she wants and how old the articles can be:

Lastly, JournalBot offers the user a vanilla feed and a link to add the feed to Google Reader or iGoogle:

I love to see that academic medical libraries are developing services like these, and can’t wait to see what else is coming.

Aug 25

More Tweaks for Google Reader

It isn’t any secret that I’m a big fan of Google Reader, but Firefox and Greasemonkey can make it even better as they tailor it precisely for your preferences and needs.

Mashable has posted a list of 50+ Google Reader Extensions & Scripts for Firefox that is worth checking out. There are several here that I use and enjoy:

Because my list of feeds and folders is large, I really like Google Reader Optimized because it makes better use of screen space than the default display. (Requires Stylish or Greasemonkey)

Smart Google Reader Subscribe is awesome. A small button in the corner of the screen notes that a page has a feed and will subscribe to that feed in your Google Reader account if you click on it. Even better, it indicates visually whether or not you’ve already subscribed to that feed in Google Reader.

I don’t use the iGoogle (formerly known as the Google Personalized home page) because I find it sort of annoying and slow. So when I click a “Subscribe with Google” link somewhere, it is also annoying and slow to have to keep specifying that I want to subscribe in Google Reader, not iGoogle. Auto add to Google Reader solved that problem- it bypasses that screen and just subscribes using Google Reader every time.

But I’m not satisfied yet. My biggest complaint with Google Reader is that I want the left panel to have adjustable width so I can see the full names of feeds and folders. Has anyone come across a solution for that problem yet?

Jul 12

Presentation: Social technology in health library practice and outreach

Eugene Barsky gave a presentation on Monday at Vancouver Coastal Health on social software and health libraries. As always, Eugene has generously made his presentation slides available via PDF and via Slideshare (embedded below).

I have to admit how much I enjoyed slide three…

…not only because it appears as though Eugene may have read and liked this post, but because it is flattering to see one’s own name in such good company.

Thanks as always, Eugene. 🙂