Viewing research alerts – full text within Google reader

Summary

Google reader has introduced two interesting features, “share” which allows uers to share interesting feed items to users who follow you on Google reader (or to the shared item page) and the newer “Send to” feature which allows you to send interesting feed items to be posted on various services including delicious, facebook and citeulike.

These features are useful, particularly when reading full feeds of normal blogs where all information on the feed item is available within Google reader and the decision whether to share can be made immediately. But this isn’t the case for feeds of research alerts from say sciencedirect or a typical journal table of content feed. In most cases, you would need to go to the vendor site to read more before deciding to share.

Even if one could tell just from the research alert rss feed item that the item is interesting enough to share, one would still typically need to click on the feed item to go to the vendor site to download the full-text, and to export to citation manager.

So one would need to vist the vendor page anyway.

I suggest that one can install Better GReader which loads the vendor page in Google reader itself. This allows you to work within Google reader all the time. You can download full-text, import citations into your citation manager, share with users all without leaving Google reader!

Introduction

In a prior posts, I talked a lot about use of RSS feeds for research alerts, particularly in “Aggregating sources for academic research in a web 2.0 world“. The idea here was to use your RSS feed reader has a discovery tool, before importing it into your citation manager.

The workflow would be as follows.

1. Click on rss feed to view what’s available.
2. If article appears to be interesting, click on it to go to the article on the vendor’s site, eg. ScienceDirect, Web of Science etc to see full details.
3. Download the full-text. If you have not treated the RSS feed using the method I described here, you will need some method to handle ezproxy links (see post here showing 5 different methods).
4. Import the citation into your reference manager.

This work-flow requires that you leave your rss feed reader to visit the vendor site and then carry out steps 3,4 there.

But is it possible to actually do all that without even visiting the vendor site?

Using Better GReader to view all contents in Google reader

Yes! You can handle all this within your rss feed reader without even visiting the vendor’s site if you happen to be using Google reader to read your feeds and in addition install Better GReader.

Normally you would click on the title “Financial Market Volatility and Primary Placement” and a new window/tab would open and you would be brought to the vendor page.

But with Better GReader installed, this would be shown instead as the page loads within Google reader

From there you can download the pdf directly (I’m assuming you are using the method described here or are using Zotero’s auto-proxy function)

You can also export citations normally. Incidentally this works fine with Zotero’s normal citation export as well (click on icon in the url address bar).

Google reader’s send to feature

But what if you want to share the item with friends using other methods? You might want to share it on a bookmarking site like delicious, send to social networks like Facebook, or even to blogs like Blogger, Posterous etc. Normally you would use a bookmarklet, but as you might expect it doesn’t work here using this method.

This is where Google reader’s new send to feature becomes useful. “Send to” feature allows you to send selected articles to various places from social bookmarking services like delicious, to blogs like Blogger, Posterous, to social networks like Facebook, MySpace, to microblogging platforms like Twitter and more.

As the send to feature is customizable, there has being an explosion of ideas, with people using the feature to send stuff to Evernote, rememberthemilk addtoany, google bookmarks , sharethis and more here and here.

But possibly the most exciting is the ability to send to Citeulike – a free web-based citation manager. The instructions are here.

As Citeulike and Mendeley (another free citation manager which has both web-based and desktop versions) are collaborating this means it will link to Mendeley as well.

So if you use either of the two has your citation manager, you have a quick way to send articles to them as well.

Somewhat related is that you can share/share with note interesting articles with users who follow you on Google reader.

Whether it’s a librarian sharing with a patron, or researchers sharing between colleagues, or a student sharing with his supervisor, this can come in handy. What if the person you are sharing with does not use google reader? No problem point him to the google shared list page
which is a webpage that lists all your shared items.

Sharing items and the ability to transfer items to citation managers etc within Google reader are very useful features, but as mentioned before the research alerts received via RSS are partial feeds, in other words, they show only some minimal information, and you would definitely have to visit the vendor page itself to get full information.

Certainly you can’t download the full text from within your RSS feed reader, so you would definitely need to visit the vendor site. Similarly, chances are you would like to read the article first, before you shared with others.

So ideally to take advantage of the two latest google reader feature, you would need some way to read the article (or at least look at the full details) on Google reader , without leaving google reader.

And I just showed you how.

Credits

The idea of using Better GReader came from “sphoke” posting in the zotero forum.

Aggregating sources for academic research in a web 2.0 world

Introduction

In this rather long post, I will talk about the different sources one could add to stay on top of one’s research area. These include RSS feeds from traditional databases (citation alerts, table of contents of favourite journals), library opac feeds of searches and new additions, book vendor sites (e.g Amazon) book sharing sites (e.g LibraryThing), social bookmarking sites both generic (e.g. Delicious) and research 2.0 sites (e.g. citeulike), Google alerts and more
Next I cover three main types of RSS aggregators one can use including traditional RSS feed readers (e.g. Google reader), Startpages (e.g Netvibes) and lifestreaming services (e.g Friendfeed) that one can use.
Lastly, I mention why I think using RSS aggregators this way is not ideal mainly due to the lack of bibliographic management functions, and that existing services and products like Mendeley, Zotero, 2collab should incorporate RSS aggregation features.

What sources should I monitor?

When I do research, I’m pretty through in the Literature review phase. I’m the one who does the broadest possible search in Google scholar and then ploughs through over 300 results looking for anything relevent.

But thoroughness in terms of going through results is pointless if you look at the wrong places.

In the “old days” it was “easy”, you basically setup alerts for your favourite journals/databases and you were done.
Today this isn’t sufficient, thanks to the explosion in social networking sites as well as the rise of Science 2.0 and open science models means that the research that you need can be found in blogs and wikis.
More importantly, the rise of web 2.0 services means that more online communities exist, where members rate/recommend/like/comment on books, articles, links. which gives the smart researcher an edge if he is able to leverage on such sources to spot ‘hot’ research. On the individual level, you can follow or watch research collegues or other researchers in the same area and see what they are reading.
Some like Zotero and Wizfolio are evolutions of traditional bibliographic managers like Endnote and Refmanager. Others like 2collab and Nature Network are services from traditional Journal publishers like Elsevier.
How can one keep track of all these diverse sources? Forunately, pretty much everything can be consumed via a RSS feed (or you can screen scrape (another list of services here) if you are desperate) and the smart thing to do is to put them all together into a RSS reader.
I was just musing over the types of sources you would want to include, and I realized that there were several different possible sources, though you might not add all of them, some might be useful.

Type of sources

Academic databases like Scopus, Web of Science, Open source archives etc.

This would be your traditional sources where you create/setup

1) Keyword search alerts
2) Table of contents for your favorite journals
3) Citation alerts of your papers or very relevant papers

Remember to use this trick to insert the ezproxy stem if needed.

Book/library sources

Many libraries now allow you to run searches in the catalogue and export the results as a RSS feed. Some maintain a “new additions” RSS feed by subject etc. Definitely add this to your stream to keep update with latest books published in your area.

Many of the new generation OPACS, allows you to do tagging, and you or your research colleges could tag the books you are interested in and create a RSS feed for that to import into your stream.

Still chances are most libraries don’t have an active enough community doing tagging on their catalogues to be worth tracking tags. However book sharing sites like LibraryThing, GoodReads, Weread, Shelfari might have a sufficient mass of users. I know LibraryThing provides outputs in RSS, is it likely the rest do as well.

You are not limited to your library of course. Try WorldCat (you can create rss feeds from user created lists, and new additions, might be possible for keyword searchs but requires a api key), or OpenLibrary or even Amazon (use built-in API or Yahoopipes)! How about Google books?

Want to catch prepublication books? Maybe try one of the book vendors like Globalbooksinprint, Blackwell Book services etc, not quite sure if they offer RSS feeds though.

Popular blogs

This is somewhat rare, but if you happen to be fortunate enough to be in an area, where there are relevant blogs covering the area (For instance my old research area was on measuring information quality of Wikipedia, and there were 2 or 3 high quality blogs covering research in that area), you would definitely want to include that as a source.

If you are just looking for some general reading rather than something specific, you can use the method here find top blogs and to filter/rank the results using Postrank

Social bookmarking sites – E.g. Delicious, Twine, Diigo or Social media sites like Slideshare, Scribd

The paradigm example would be Delicious.

Two main approaches here, you subscribe to relevant tags, or better yet identify people in your area and subscribe to their bookmarks (and or tags). To do the later, a very crude approach is to search for a link/paper that you feel is very relevant to your research and look at who else is bookmarking it. You can do the same for tags or better yet tag bundles

Once you have done the search you want, you can get the results via RSS

Lifestreaming aggregation sites

As discussed in an earlier post, Lifestreaming aggregators allow users to pull all their activities from various web 2.0 services and or RSS feeds into one centralized area. The paradigm example here is Friendfeed where there is a thriving community of life scientists apparently.

Why is this helpful?

You find a guy who seems to be in your area posting on Delicious. But Delicious is not the sum total of all his activities. He might be doing stuff on twitter, posting documents on Slideshare etc.

If he has a Friendfeed account, and he has thoughtfully added them all into his Friendfeed account you can get one aggregated feed to use into your stream!

Chances are though, you might not want to import his whole lifestream since it will include personal tweets etc. No problem! Friendfeed has the most advanced search I have seen from showing only results from a particular service (e.g. Delicious only) or particular person or if it has a number of “likes” or comments and of course on keywords. See below

Social networking/bookmarking sites for academics. E.g Labmeeting, citeulike, Mendeley, Connotea, 2collab, ResearchGate, Nature Network, Zotero, Wizfolio etc (see list here and here).

The problem with generic social bookmarking sites not designed for research is that most links shared are likely to be non-academic sources. But citeulike and their cousins are designed explictly for academic research, so it solves this problem.

Most of them remind me of old school Citation managers like Endnote, Refmanager but adding social bookmarking and networking options. Zotero in particularly had zero social networking features until 2.0 (currently beta), and they just announced supporting of RSS feeds of public Zotero libraries.
They not only allow you to keep track of citations but also incorporate web 2.0 sharing options.
Keep track of what people in your research area are reading, or what are the most popular articles on an aggregate level. The same advise above applies on finding people to watch, tags to follow.

Others

This could include everything from Google alerts (you can also do it for Google scholar only using these yahoo pipes), real-time searches (Twitter) or aggregators like Social Mention, Samepoint, WhosTalkin? for searching across web 2.0 services. Maybe even wikis (Scirus topic pages ?)

Filtering

Obviously you should customize your rss feed to provide targeted and relevant results, and this is often possible (e.g. RSS generated from results from a powerful Boolean keyword search in Scopus) , but in many cases you can’t.
If your RSS aggregator has powerful filtering options (or even recommendation systems), the problem can be lessened, but still you might consider filtering the rss feed first before pushing it into the stream.
There are many options out there, Yahoo! pipes is the most powerful, but you can see some options in lists here , here.

Type of RSS aggregators

There seem to be 3 main classes of such services/software that you can use to aggregate all your sources but unfortunately none of them were designed for the academic researcher in mind, so there are some problems with using them to keep track of research.

1. Traditional RSS feed readers – e.g Google reader, Feed Demon, bloglines
These are traditional rss feed readers. They tend to come in two forms, either web-based or program based.
As they were created back when the sole purpose of RSS was to read blogs, traditionally they tend to be relatively weak on the social sharing aspect (Note: Google reader has being slowly moving improving on this allowing you to “like” or share articles and connect with friends, while Feeddemon has similar etc.)
A sub class of these aggregators allow you to “build” your own newspaper from RSS feeds, essentially these are just RSS feed readers but with more innovative layouts that mimick newspapers (in pdf etc).
Examples include FeedJournal, Feed Chronicle
Of course most modern browsers including Firefox and Internet explorer 7+ as well as email desktop clients like Thunderbird, Outlook 2007 support RSS feeds natively so that is yet another option, though they tend to provide very basic functionality
In addition Firefox has several addons but Feedly (which works with Google reader accounts) is probably one of the best.
There are many more RSS feed readers, see this long list compiled in 2007 and this list in 2009.
2. Startup pages – e.g. Netvibes, Igoogle, Pageflakes

Such services resemble their web-based cousins but allows you to embed not just rss feeds but widgets (e.g. search widgets) as well. They are typically much more flexible in terms of layouts and provide some minimal sharing features.

Some libraries have used these services as sources for research on a general subject (also see my more detailed blog post), but it could obviously be used by an individual with a more specific focus.

3. Lifestream aggregators – e.g Friendfeed

Friendfeed has already being mentioned. As Friendfeed allows you to add unlimited number of rss feeds as well as specific web 2.0 services into your stream it can be used to aggregate rss feeds you are reading as well.

There are in fact some Friendfeed accounts created solely for that purpose. For example this is a Friendfeed account that aggregates Library 2.0 related feeds.

A big plus about using Friendfeed to aggregate your sources is that it clearly has the most powerful search.

On the social front, while it is no Facebook, it does have a very loyal following and was clearly designed to encourage networking (though by no means for academics)

It was the first to allow other users to “like” (as well as comment) on entries and allows you to filter results based on how many “likes” or comments a particular entry has allowing you to spot hot topics.

Friendfeed also allows you to be informed about updates (or update the stream) in myraid ways from email to instant messaging (or to be exported into RSS if you prefer).

Another virtue of Friendfeed is that it implements “Real-time” push technologies if available (e.g for Twitter (details)), compared to just straight RSS which uses the slower polling technique.

There is a ton of similar services around (e.g. http://www.plaxo.com/ etc) but few offer more features than Friendfeed , though I personally feel the layout of Friendfeed is inferior to say Streamy.
If you are tired of Friendfeed type aggregators, have a look at Genwi or some of the “smarter” systems that try to learn what you like , e.g http://www.feeds2.com/ , though personally I’m not a big fan of automated learning/recommendation systems.
Disadvantages
So you have made your choice and you have all your sources aggregated nicely and formated in one place. But there’s a catch, as these tools weren’t designed in mind for academic research, you will find that there is no way to do citation/bibliographic management!
Want to attach the pdf to an article or save the webpage? Too bad you can’t. Want to convert all your sources and cite them in APA style? No can do.
The best you can do it seems is to use a class of services already mentioned – networking/bookmarking sites for academics.
As these were designed from ground up for academic research, they also basically incorporated citation manager features of Endnote, Refmanager etc. They also have the advantage of being geared of allowing profiles to be tailored more academic research, compared to the more generic fields of other social networks.
As they are designed for academic use, they have many powerful features like support for ezproxy, openurl, doi), provide useful analytics, and other little nice touches like allowing you to annotate pdf, full text pdf search (features from Zotero, Wizfolio, Mendeley etc.
So why not use one of these services instead? I think this is where, they have missed the boat, they don’t offer RSS aggregation services!
For “discovery”, social networking features are fine as it goes, but given that most researchers are not on such specialized networks (I found only 5 relevant papers shared in 2collab – though to be fair it is probably the the best example of such services), the main source of discovery still comes from rss feeds from other sources! (I think some services allows you to search directly some databases and even save searches?)

For now, the hybrid approach would seem to be best. Use one of the RSS feed aggregators above for discovery, then pull them into say Mendeley or Zotero in the usual manner.
So what do you think? Are there social networking sites/services for researchers that help discovery the way I am using RSS feeds for? What types of rss feeds do you add for your research that I didn’t mention?
References
Doing science online – About open science models

An information dashboard for your library service points (I) – Using email, RSS and FriendFeed

Librarians are often overwhelmed by the mass of fast moving information they need to keep track of. Particularly in large libraries for librarians manning information desks, keeping up to date with the latest changes in policy and instructions is often a challenge.

One can use Wikis, or tools like Etherpad to manually update a “news page” or to make changes to the documentation, but often the latest changes and news is propagated through email from top management who are too busy to update the wiki. You also don’t want to update the wiki with something that is of short term utility and won’t apply after a week.

In the past, I used to just move these emails into a “policy” folder but that was unwieldy. Not to mention the fact that I would often miss such emails among the crowd of other emails in my inbox.

Creating a information dashboard

A natural idea here is to try to create a information dashboard for librarians manning information desks that puts essential information at one place.

It seems to me that the information dashboard would serve 2 purposes

(1) Providing fast access to commonly used resources (e.g. common search widgets, lists of phone numbers etc)

and

(2) It would bring together data about the latest changes in Library policies, things to take note of etc.

In this blog post, I’m more concerned with (2) – a future post might address (1). What is the most effective and efficient way to manage such information? The idea here is to setup something that is light weight, easy to use for all librarians of different skill levels. Ideally they would scan this information dashboard before they started their duty to remind themselves of the latest information.

One would of course set up desktop widgets using Google desktop, Yahoo! widgets etc on the computer used at the service point, but that would not be a very simple solution. You can also have a poor’s man desktop widget using Active Desktop (Windows XP) , an idea I might cover in a future post.

The other option would be to use web-based startpages like Netvibes, Pageflakes or Igoogle etc. The idea is simple of course, get the updates you need in RSS, and then feed it into the start page.

You could get the RSS feeds of your news portal (or do screen scraping if required), calender events etc (ical to rss) and put it into whatever startpage you like.

Some other odd ideas, how about pulling in your internal Twitter accounts used for communication , so one can leave messages for whoever is taking over next?

In this blog post, instead of using the usual suspects such as Netvibes, I used Individurls – a service that displays RSS feeds. There are other choices but I chose it because of its simplicity and elegent displays.

Email to RSS

Okay it’s obvious what to do with RSS feeds and you can feed news sources if they come in RSS, but what about emails?

My institution has access to Confluence Wiki, a enterprise level wiki which allows you to generate RSS feeds of any page, including “news” pages and “mails” pages.

What “mails” does is that you set up a POP/IMAP account with Confluence wiki, and any emails sent to that email account will be posted on the Wiki.

From there, one can then generate a RSS of that mails page and pull it into Individurls (or any RSS reader or display widget). If your wiki is password protected you will need to set up your RSS feed with the user name and password string.

So all you need to do is to tell people who want to send important internal mail to cc that email address, and the information there will be automatically posted.

Here’s how it will look like.

No access to Confluence Wiki, or any Wiki that has this feature? You can try services like MAILtoRSS , or any service that accepts input in emails but can output in RSS such as Posterous. I’m sure there are others.

One thing that concerned me was the delay involved. While the email to RSS portion seems to be negligible , RSS feeds takes a while to update (and even more delay if you need to do screen scraping). I did some testing and it can take about 10-20 minutes to update via RSS.

I tried using Pingshot service from Feedburner (similar service is Pingoat.com and more here), which speeds up updates to selected services, including MyYahoo! . MyYahoo! incidently allows you to display RSS feeds so one can burn feeds using Feedburner, turn on the Pingshot service and plug the resulting RSS feed into MyYahoo! In theory, this should speed up RSS updates. But it was still slow to update in my testing.

Using FriendFeed to create a information dashboard

How about using Friendfeed? It is already set up as an aggregator of feeds and unlike RSS feed readers it displays images too. On top of that, the page autoupdates in real-time, so you can keep it open and watch without reloading.

You can also update FriendFeed using email and that will show up immediately on the Friendfeed page.

First register/update the email addresses you will be updating Friendfeed with (you can add more than one). From the registered account, you then send an email to share@friendfeed.com, and “The subject becomes your entry title and anything in the body of the email is posted as a comment. You can even attach a photo to be included in your post”.

You can also, install the FriendFeed Desktop notifer, which will pop up whenever it receives something new.

This gives you both a page listing the recent changes, as well as instant updates via a popup.

Sadly you can’t do anything about information that is aggregated on Friendfeed via RSS as that will still have its normal delay(though there are solutions like simple update protocol (SUP) that speed up updates for supported services like Disqus and Backtype) ,

One way of working

When you start duty at the service point, you go to the Friendfeed page to refresh your memory about the latest news. The information there will be updated in near real time if it is pushed via email. You can continue to monitor that page, or you can just rely on the FriendFeed Desktop notifer to update you instantly of any other changes that occur while you are on duty.

Once a month, someone reviews all the news and decides which ones if any, should be updated in our Wiki.

I suspect that there are better ways , cleverer ways to do this by chaining several services, but all this might be moot, as Googlewave might just blow them all away. 🙂

Rss feeds, Library databases and yahoopipes

This post will discuss how to use RSS feeds from library databases. It’s surprisingly tricky to do it compared to subscribing to normal RSS feeds from most blogs. This is due to the fact libraries generally provide access via a proxy – ezproxy to provide remote access to databases off campus.

As most readers of this blog are probably reading this off a RSS feed, I won’t explain what a RSS feed is. If you have no idea what it is, please consult this guide.

The basic idea is this, do a search on a library database, create a RSS feed of the results and put it into your favourite feed reader (Google reader, Bloglines, FirefoxInternet explorer 7 , Outlook 2007 etc), After which you can watch new results come in as and when the database is updated in it without needing to run the search again or visit the database site again.

Some library databases that provides results and alerts vis RSS include ScienceDirect (via NUS Libraries), Scopus (via NUS Libraries), Engineering Village (via NUS Libraries) databases on ProQuest (e.g. ABI/Inform via NUS Libraries),  Ebscohost (e.g. Business Source premier via NUS Libraries) , OVIDSP (e.g. EconLit via NUS Libraries) etc.  How you get the rss feed url differs but generally you click on the RSS button that appears on the results page (see below for example from Engineering Village)

However, if you try to just stick the url given by the database directly into your feed reader (see image below) you will be doomed for disappointment, it doesn’t work!

The technical reason and solution for this can be found here .

However for now there’s a work-around.

The method describes below is specific to databases subscribed via NUS Libraries, but any library (e.g. NTU, NLB) using ezproxy to provide remote access should be able to do something similar by removing the particular proxy stem.

You need to delete the part that says “.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg” before pasting the url into your feed reader.

NLB users should remove “.libproxy.nlb.gov.sg” , while NTU users should remove “.ezlibproxy1.ntu.edu.sg

Most guides I have seen on library webpages stop here. While this works, and the results will be pulled into your RSS feed reader (see below), you will be disappointed when you click on the link in the feed reader.

Because the rss feed url you enter lacks the  ezproxy proxy stem, the outgoing links you are sent lack it as well, and when you click on the link, it brings you to an unsubscribed version (where you can’t see the full-text) of the page at best, or at worse you get an error page (see below).

One way to solve this problem would be to add the proxy bookmarklet here to your browser (specific to NUS Libraries, NTU version is here ) and then clicking on the bookmarklet will log you in from the error page above.

But that gets tiresome as you will have to do the same for each link you click from the RSS feed.

A smarter method would be to modify the RSS feed you get to automatically append the proxy stem, libproxy1.nus.edu.sg (for NUS Libraries, for other libraries edit the yahoopipes accordingly) to outgoing links. This can be done via a simple Yahoopipes filter (you will need to make very minor modifications if you are from some other libraries).

1. Go to http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.info?_id=bfa397d618763affe6e2c1e4affc0532

2. Enter the rss feed url (the one that does not have the string libproxy1.nus.edu.sg)

3. Click “run pipe”

4. On the resulting page, click on “Get as RSS” and on the resulting page, copy and paste the url into your feed reader.

5. You will find that this time, the resulting rss feed will have links that work properly now. It goes without saying that if you haven’t logged in this browser session yet, it will prompt you to  log-in first.

Some libraries discourage the use of RSS feeds because they worry the constant polling for updates will cause unnecessary number of accesses. The method described above avoids this problem.

As results are pulled into your Feed reader, there is no access via the institution library, Until you click on the link to gain access to the database,  the vendor doesn’t count it has an access from you.

I might do a post about ezproxy, and other creative uses of Yahoopipes in the future.

Until later

Aaron Tay