URLs of wisdom (15th November)

URLs of wisdom is a weekly round-up of interesting links about topics at the intersection of people, science and technology.


  • How numbers on Facebook change behavior A new study looks at what happens when you remove all the metrics indicators (likes, +1 etc) from Facebook “People realized when the numbers were gone, they had been using them to decide whether to like something,” he tells me. “I certainly didn’t expect these tendencies of people saying, ‘I literally don’t know what to do [without knowing the metrics].”
  • The issue formerly known as privacy “I’m less worried about what people think of me and more concerned about assessments and judgments that are made behind the scenes, processed by algorithms and potentially affecting my experience online.”
  • On passion projects – post by Brooke Borell: “Most importantly, I think, all of us relied heavily on our networks of colleagues and friends to make sure we’d hold ourselves accountable to our projects. There’s nothing worse than telling someone about the big project you’re so excited about, only to have to admit, the next time you see them, that you’ve let it wither from neglect.”

Academia online 

Studies of academics online

  • The last time that Facebook use by the Russell Group universities was analysed was in 2012 – now there’s some more recent data to compare.
  • The quantified anatomy of a paper – intriguing post that looks at how much time is spent on the various aspects of creating a research paper – including disseminating the data.
Breakdown of time spent on producing an academic paper Image credit: Mohammed AlQuraishi http://moalquraishi.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-quantified-anatomy-of-a-paper/

Breakdown of time spent on producing an academic paper Image credit: Mohammed AlQuraishi http://moalquraishi.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-quantified-anatomy-of-a-paper/



  • Join the Twitter chorus – Jonathan Lawson discusses the use of Twitter at academic conferences “I’ve been to several conferences now, in fields where Twitter has been openly embraced (mainly science communications, outreach and journalism). In these events Twitter adds a much-needed extra dimension to every session and it breaks down many of the perceived social walls that stop people at these events from interacting with one another. Yet, academic conferences (or at least the ones I’ve been to) are still lagging far behind when it comes to using Twitter and an overall online presence.”
  • With Twitter’s poor signal-to-noise ration, should social academia look to less corporate and more localised networks? “Critical pedagogues stress critical use of technology, freedom from corporate decision-making, and the lack of singular “best practices.” If that’s our attitude towards textbooks, curricula, and so-called Learning Management Systems, we shouldn’t be beholden to a corporate network for our scholarly and social discussions.”


  •  “The science of science blogging – the complicated task of defining a science blog” – Paige Brown explains what she’s studying for her PhD.
  • Am I a blogger? – Danah Boyd on the challenges of being a blogger “I made a decision to live certain parts of my life in public in order not to hide from myself, in order to be human in a networked age where I am more comfortable behind a keyboard than at a bar. But I also had to contend with the fact that I was visible in ways that were de-humanizing. As a public speaker, I am regularly objectified, just a mouthpiece on stage with no feelings.”

Web and social media developments

  • Net neutrality is so much more than access to “the tubes” – Danah Boyd on other sources of online inequality: “Unlike in China, where the government restricts its own people from accessing many non-Chinese sites, many West (and perhaps East?) Africans are restricted from accessing American sites by the American companies behind those sites. Whole populations are excluded from sending mail through certain webmail services because it’s assumed that they’re all spammers, scammers, phishers, and other “bad” internet users. Websites outright block country-level IP addresses because West Africans aren’t economically viable customers; the advertising ecosystem is not mature enough. Other sites block whole countries because they don’t trust “African fraudsters.”
  • “Dark web” version of Facebook shows a new way to secure the web “If you access Facebook’s .onion address, your Internet service provider or authorities won’t be able to tell that you did so. That could be useful to people trying to share news of protests from inside a country where the Internet is monitored and censored, such as Syria. Once you are logged onto Facebook, the company will log your activity as normal.
  • The challenges of online education – will MOOCs be flukes? MOOC enrollment has soared, but completion rates are abysmal. According to a 2013 study, an average of only five per cent of the students in seventeen Coursera classes offered through the University of Pennsylvania actually finished their classes. Other estimated completion rates hover below thirteen per cent. And not all of the students who completed their courses necessarily passed.”



Just for fun

xkcd wins the internet again this week for this awesome cartooning of the Philae landing on comet 67P. See the full set of images here.

Landed! Image credit: xkcd - see the entire gallery here: http://xkcd1446.org/#142

Landed! Image credit: xkcd – see the entire gallery here: http://xkcd1446.org/#142



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