Posts Tagged ‘acawiki’

Quoted in Inside Higher Ed

July 17th, 2010

Earlier this week, Inside Higher Ed published an article about wikis in higher education. I’m quoted in connection with my work1 with AcaWiki, which gathers summaries of research papers, books, etc.

The article was publicized with a tweet asking “Why haven’t #wikis revolutionized scholarship?

Of course, I’d rather ask “how have wikis impacted scholarship?” — though that’s less sexy! First, the largest impact is in technological infrastructure: it’s now commonplace to use collaborative, networked tools with built-in version control. (Though “wiki” isn’t what we’d use to describe Google Docs nor Etherpad or its many clones). Second, wikis are ubiquitous in research, if you look in the right places. (nLab, OpenWetWare, and numerous departmental wikis). Third, “revolutions” take time, and academia is essentially conservative and slow-moving. For instance, ejournals (~15 years old and counting) are only just starting to depart significantly from the paper form (with multimedia inclusions, storage of data and other, public comments, overlay  journals, post-publication peer-review, etc). Wikis have been used for teaching since roughly 20022, meaning that academic wikis might be only about 8 years old at this point.

Other responses: Viva la wiki, says Brian Lamb, who was also interviewed for the article. Daniel Mietchen thinks big about the future of wikis for science.


  1. I used to be AcaWiki’s Community Liaison and now contribute summaries and help administer the wiki. []
  2. see e.g. Bergin, J. (2002). Teaching on the wiki web. In Proceedings of the 7th annual conference on Innovation and technology in computer science education (pp. 195-195). Aarhus, Denmark: ACM. doi:10.1145/544414.544473 and related source code []

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Posted in future of publishing, higher education, information ecosystem, scholarly communication | Comments (0)

When an abstract is not a summary: check the audience

October 27th, 2009

I’ve been arguing with Jim Pitman about how abstracts are different from summaries. The audience, I think, determines whether a text is suitable to be used as a summary.

This seems like a good example:

Lumley, J., Gimson, R., & Rees, O. (2007). Endless documents: a publication as a continual function. In Proceedings of the 2007 ACM symposium on Document engineering (pp. 174-176). Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: ACM. doi: 10.1145/1284420.1284463

Variable data can be considered as functions of their bindings to values. The Document Description Framework (DDF) treats documents in this manner, using XSLT semantics to describe document functionality and a variety of related mechanisms to support layout, reference and so forth. But the result of evaluation of a function could itself be a function: can variable data documents behave likewise? We show that documents can be treated as simple continuations within that framework with minor modifications. We demonstrate this on a perpetual diary.

This is a really interesting article from a team at HP Bristol (UK). They seem to be talking about the benefit of publishing as you go along (i.e. blogs or medical records). They call these “continual documents”.

I picked it up1 because the abstract seemed bizarre, but the topic seemed interesting. “Continual documents” struck me as “continual functions”. And the mention of XSLT hinted at transforming a document using its underlying structure.

Surely, I thought, this abstract couldn’t describe its contents. After glancing through it, I’m not sure: This abstract may well summarize the contents of the article. But for me, the abstract really didn’t serve as a summary: I don’t know the field, so the terminology (e.g. document engineering, Document Description Framework2) didn’t clue me in.

This difference gets at what AcaWiki is trying to do: provide a place for people to discuss/summarize research articles, in the way that Wikipedia is a place to discuss/summarize topics. Neither is a place for research but both are places for experts to share knowledge, for would-be-experts to describe what they know, and for non-experts to glean a deeper sense of the world than they might have had otherwise.

  1. I came across a conference on ‘document engineering’ [ACM digital library, may have a paywall] while sifting through articles for my literature review. ‘Document engineering’ includes lots of stuff that’s out of scope. Some material, on structural markup,may be relevant to online argumentation. []
  2. One interesting line stands out: “In DDF documents most program elements are <xslt:template/> trees.” []

Posted in argumentative discussions, PhD diary, random thoughts | Comments (1)

Onward and upward

September 4th, 2009

Today is my last day at Appalachian State University.

Monday I begin a new adventure as community organizer, helping launch Acawiki, a “wiki for academic research”. The brainchild of Neeru Paharia, Acawiki strives to make research papers easier to access and understand. Go write your own summary!

The next month will find me living in Massachusetts, my adult home, while preparing for a move to Ireland!

In October, I’ll be joining the Social Software Unit at DERI for a fellowship. The group does fascinating work on social software and the semantic web. This is a 3(or 4)-year Ph.D. project, where I’ll be working on modeling online discussions/arguments. More about that soon!

I’m looking for practical advice of all sorts—about community organizing, about moving to Ireland and living abroad, about success in Ph.D. studies. Consider this your personal solicitation for tips, tricks, and advice!

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Posted in computer science, higher education, library and information science, random thoughts | Comments (6)