The world of academia is booming. Advancements in digital technology make it possible to research more efficiently and share work with ease. The result is a massive volume of published articles and reports. There is not enough time in the day to even open all the links in your twitter feed, much less to read even a small portion of new scholarly publications.

Bibliometrics is a tool used by the academic community to measure the number of times an article is cited within academic journals. The implication is that the more a paper is cited the more impact it has. It’s kind of like the front page of the newspaper or a website. The highlights are presented up front so the reader doesn’t have to spend time combing through the rest of the paper to find articles of interest.

Metrics are a useful tool for navigating the massive volume of scholarly research being published. Alternative metrics (Altmetrics) are used to count to the number of citations an article has in non-traditional scholarly outputs. Also termed ‘grey literature’, non-traditional outputs include but are not limited to blog posts, presentations, academic posters, websites, social media, news articles.

One specific company offering an altmetric service is appropriately named Altmetric. While experimenting with the Explorer during this week’s lab session, I noticed a few similarities between it and the TAGS app I wrote about last week.

One obvious difference is that Altmetric sells its service while the TAGS app is available to anyone with a Twitter account and Google Sheets. The reason for that difference is technology based. Calculating altmertics requires a professional standard computing power, thus the client is paying for that service. TAGS is an API mashup of code offered for free by Twitter and Google. Running one simple search at a time is manageable on an individual computer. Altmetric has an advantage that by searching an article and not just a search phrase

Altmetric is still in its early stages, only a 0.1 product. There is room for more development to improve accuracy and reliability. One example of its limitations is the bias toward journals in the scientific community and not the humanities or social sciences. In the future we hope to see further expansion  into other fields.



Visualizing Twitter: A Memoir

Before I started this course I was a Twitter-nonbeliever. The term ‘social media’ turned me away because I was already using Facebook and that was enough for me. Or so I thought. 140 character posts, known as tweets, can be seen by not only the users who follow you but by anyone who searches for certain key words. If you’re like me, a ‘shrinking violet’, the idea of your thoughts being broadcasted renders you speechless. For you, I have a few facts that might bring you piece of mind.
Good news

  1. We’re competing for attention with 284 MILLION people
  2. There are over 500 MILLION Tweets per day
  3. Twitter search function only goes back 1 week due to the enormous amount of computing power it would take to go back further

In short, it’s extremely unlikely that our tweets will be seen by the masses, and they will be buried by tweet data like tiny JSON time capsules. Using tags gives you the immediate satisfaction of participating in a larger conversation where readers with similar interests will find your input useful, without the same lasting effect as writing on a Facebook wall.

Another effect of the massive amount of tweets is the need to represent the data visually in order to include the extent of the information. Visualization as a method emphasizes the group trends not the individual. For example, in DITA this week we experimented with an application named TAGS (Twitteralytics Google Spreadsheet). It is a mashup of two APIs, one which accesses Twitter data feed , and the other a Google Sheet. The purpose of the app is to export tweets of a specified search phrase into a spreadsheet, the archive of tweets can then be manipulated in meaningful ways. I generated this image from an archive of my classmates tweets, #citylis, specifically to demonstrate how quickly muddled the results can become.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.27.02 PM


Another example of what a Twitter community looks like was presented by the Boston Globe. The study visualizes how Congress connects on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 11.01.59 AM

I think it is safe to say that I feel differently about Twitter now than when I first started. It’s not so much an opportunity to vanity as it as an opportunity to represent yourself by the issues you care about and the groups you support. Scholar Dhiraj Murthy writes about Twitter and social identity in “Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age”. A very interesting read if you are into social theory. Many of Murthy’s theories are realized with visual  interpretations. Like I said at the beginning of this post, there is so much more to Twitter than I though.


2 Twitter Birds with 1 Stone

Not only am I practicing embedding a Twitter post with shortcode, but I’m also giving some press to the Library A to Z project.

The campaign provides free promotional and advocay materials to be used in libraries. Thanks to Twitter and WordPress this helpful resource can be shared to those interested.