Posts Tagged ‘scholarly publishing’

Wanted: the ultimate mobile app for scholarly ereading

January 7th, 2011

Nicole Henning suggests that academic libraries and scholarly presses work together to create the ultimate mobile app for scholarly ereading. I think about the requirements a bit differently, in terms of the functional requirements.

The main functions are obtaining materials, reading them, organizing them, keeping them, and sharing them.

For obtaining materials, the key new requirement is to simplify authentication: handle campus authentication systems and personal subscriptions. Multiple credentialed identities should be supported. A secondary consideration is that RSS feeds (e.g. for journal tables of contents) should be supported.

For reading materials, the key requirement is to support multiple formats in the same application. I don’t know of a web app or mobile app that supports PDF, EPUB, and HTML. Reading interfaces matter: look to Stanza and Ibis Reader for best-in-class examples.

For organizing materials, the key is synergy between the user’s data and existing data. Allow tags, folders, and multiple collections. But also leverage existing publisher and library metadata. Keep it flexible, allowing the user to modify metadata for personal use (e.g. for consistency or personal terminology) and to optionally submit corrections.

For keeping materials, import, export, and sync content from the user’s chosen cloud-based storage and WebDAV servers. No other device (e.g. laptop or desktop) should be needed.

For sharing materials, support lightweight micropublishing on social networks and email; networks should be extensible and user-customizable. Sync to or integrate with citation managers and social cataloging/reading list management systems.

Regardless of the ultimate system, I’d stress that device independence is important, meaning that an HTML5 website would probably the place to start: look to Ibis Reader as a model.

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Posted in books and reading, future of publishing, information ecosystem, library and information science, scholarly communication | Comments (5)

The Social Semantic Web – a message for scholarly publishers

November 15th, 2010

I always appreciate how Geoffrey Bilder can manage to talk about the Social Semantic Web and the early modern print in (nearly) the same breath. See for yourself in the presentation he gave to scholarly publishers at the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors last month.

Geoff’s presentation is outlined, to a large extent, in an interview Geoff gave 18 months ago (search “key messages” to find the good bits). I hope to blog further about these, because Geoff has so many good things to say, which deserve unpacking!

I especially love the timeline from slide 159, which shows that we’re just past the incunabula age of the Internet:

The Early Modern Internet

We're still in the Early Modern era of the Internet. Compare to the history of print.

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Posted in future of publishing, information ecosystem, PhD diary, scholarly communication, semantic web, social semantic web, social web | Comments (3)

A Model-View-Controller perspective of scholarly articles

November 13th, 2010

A scholarly paper is not a PDF. A PDF is merely one view of a scholarly paper. To push ‘beyond the PDF’, we need design patterns that allow us to segregate the user interface of the paper (whether it is displayed as an aggregation of triples, a list of assertions, a PDF, an ePub, HTML, …) from the thing itself.

Towards this end, Steve Pettifer has a Model-View-Controller perspective on scholarly articles, which he shared in a post on the Beyond the PDF listserv, where discussions are leading up to a workshop in January. I am awe-struck: I wish I’d thought of this way of separating the structure and explaining it.

I think a lot of the disagreement about the role of the PDF can be put down to trying to overload its function: to try to imbue it with the qualities of both ‘model’ and ‘view’. … One of the things that software architects (and I suspect designers in general) have learned over the years is that if you try to give something functions that it shouldn’t have, you end up with a mess; if you can separate out the concerns, you get a much more elegant and robust solution.

My personal take on this is that we should keep these things very separate, and that if we do this, then many of the problems we’ve been discussing become more clearly defined (and I hope, many of the apparent contradictions, resolved).

So… a PDF (or come to that, an e-book version or a html page) is merely a *view* of an article. The article itself (the ‘model’) is a completely different (and perhaps more abstract) thing. Views can be tailored for a particular purpose, whether that’s for machine processing, human reading, human browsing, etc etc.

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The relationship between the views and their underlying model is managed by the concept of a ‘controller’. For example, if we represent an article’s model in XML or RDF (its text, illustrations, association nanopublications, annotations and whatever else we like), then that model can be transformed in to any number of views. In the case of converting XML into human-readable XHTML, there are many stable and mature technologies (XSLT etc). In the case of doing the same with PDF, the traditional controller is something that generates PDFs.

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The thing that’s been (somewhat) lacking so far is the two-way communication between view and model (via controller) that’s necessary to prevent the views from ossifying and becoming out of date (i.e. there’s no easy way to see that comments have been added to the HTML version of an article’s view if you happen to be reading the PDF version, so the view here can rapidly diverge from its underlying model).

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Our Utopia software is an attempt to provide this two-way controller for PDFs. I believe that once you have this bidirectional relationship between view and model, then the actual detailed affordances of the individual views (i.e. what can a PDF do well / badly, what can HTML do well / badly) become less important. They are all merely means to channeling the content of an article to its destination (whether that’s human or machine).

The good thing about having this ‘model view controller’ take on the problem is that only the model needs to be pinned down completely …

Perhaps separating out our concerns in this way — that is, treating the PDF as one possible representation of an article — might help focus our criticisms of the current state of affairs? I fear at the moment we are conflating the issues to some degree.

– Steve Pettifer in a Beyond the PDF listserv post

I’m particularly interested in hearing if this perspective, using the MVC model, makes sense to others.

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Posted in books and reading, future of publishing, information ecosystem, library and information science, scholarly communication, social semantic web | Comments (9)