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March 02, 2012

Who is interested in my online profile?

Writing about web page http://uk.news.yahoo.com/who%E2%80%99s-been-looking-at-your-facebook-page--can-you-find-out-.html

This recent news article on Yahoo inspired me to have a little look at what I can find out about people interested in my work online: I already get e-mails from Academia.edu whenever someone googles me and clicks to see my academia.edu profile.

I have never before explored Google's Adwords: I'm not a commercial organisation(!), but it has an interesting "Keyword tool" that you can use for free. I gave it my name as a phrase, and it told me that on average there are 22 searches per month, over the last 12 months for my name. It also came up with 2 keyword ideas: "information science" and "scholarly writing".

You can also give Google Adwords a URL, so I gave it the one for this blog: this time there were 98 keyword ideas. I think that the idea is that you could pay for your advert to appear whenever someone searches for such keywords. Which I'm not going to do, but it could also be an interesting tool for researchers who are looking for keywords to enhance their searching! They could give it the URL or title of a paper of particular interest and see what is suggested, if they are struggling to come up with ideas for themselves.

LinkedIn also tells me how many people have viewed my profile there in the last 90 days, and how many times my profile has shown up in search results. Not quite so high as the figure from Adwords, but then it's only about LinkedIn. On LinkedIn I can see the profiles of the people who viewed my profile, along with some anonymous users... there is more information for those prepared to pay for it, too.

Academia.edu has a "stats dashboard" which tells me how many profile views and document views I've had in the last 30 days: even fewer than LinkedIn. I can also see what country the views were from and which referring site and keyword led them to find my profile/article.

Now of course, there is also Google Analytics which can tell me how many people have viewed my blog, and Twitter and Hootsuite between them can give me an idea of who is following me and how many people click on the links I share and so on and so forth... and if I had the time to track all of this then I might be able to see whether/which blog posts and tweets and activities in general are having some kind of impact... but still, I'm just happy that Google Adwords has suggested some words associated with my work interests!


November 17, 2011

Google Scholar Citations metrics tool

Writing about web page http://googlescholar.blogspot.com/2011/11/google-scholar-citations-open-to-all.html

Authors can have Google create metrics reports for them. I've not heard of the i-10 index before, but there seem to be new measures every 5 minutes. Read all about it on the GScholar blog!


August 22, 2011

Academic Search Engine Optimisation

Writing about web page http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/3336451.0013.305

I've linked to this article: J. Beel and B Gipp, 'Academic Search Engine Spam and Google Scholar's Resilience Against it', Journal of Electronic Publishing, 13 (3), 2010

The article discusses possibilities for academic search engine optimisation, and what happens when this becomes spamming activity. It has a very neat description of how people go about spamming search engines, and it considers some of the ways that scholars can manipulate academic search engines.

If (like me) you aren't already aware of all these nefarious techniques, then the article will be an eye-opener! The researchers experimented on Google Scholar, using the following approaches:

  • "When creating an article, an author might place invisible text in it. This way, the article later might appear more relevant for certain keyword searches than it actually is."
  • "A researcher could modify his own or someone else’s article and upload it to the Web. Modifications could include the addition of additional references, keywords, or advertisements."
  • "A manipulating researcher could create complete fake papers that cite his or her own articles, to increase rankings, reputation, and visibility."

I find it interesting that three of the sites they used in their manipulation were Mendeley, Academia.edu and ResearchGate. I've blogged about these sites and their ilk before and I've suggested to researchers that having details about their work on these sites would help them raise their profiles on the Web. The article says that only the papers uploaded to academia.edu were crawled and indexed by Google Scholar... which is kind of good news for the robustness of Google Scholar. And also an indication that for those searching for full text versions of articles on the web that they should go directly to the kinds of sites which might hold them (I do recommend Mendeley), and not only rely on search engines.

After reading this article, I want to know how to go about modifying a journal article after it has been published (including those not your own!), in order to add references. The authors didn't go into detail about how to do that, but you can imagine the havoc it would play with Google Scholar's citation scores if we were all doing it!

I note that the authors described the journal 'Epidemiology' as "a reputable journal by the publisher JSTOR". JSTOR is not a publisher, it is a content aggregator. 'Epidemiology' is published by Wolters Kluwer. It probably takes a librarian to know this, and I wonder whether it is relevant anyway. It could be a deliberate faux pas on the part of the authors, because it kind of illustrates their point that people don't know where content online is coming from! And the authors are right that a journal available on JSTOR is a reputable academic title.

The discussion section of the paper describes that it is a lot of effort to spam academic search engines, that the benefit is not immediate or measurable for academics, and that academics are unlikely to undertake such work because their reputation is so valuable and could be permanently damaged if a search engine were to ban all his/her articles once spamming activity was discovered. The authors raise the matter of whether a journal or conference might engage in search engine spamming: they don't mention academic institutions, but I believe that Universities could also have a motivation.

I do worry about where we draw the line between authors or journals raising their profile in legitimage ways, and where spamming begins. I have long advised authors to include key words in their article titles because of the way journal indexing tools work in ranking results, and this seems to me to make good sense from both a "discovery optimisation" point of view and from an academic accuracy perspective. I also believe that self-citation is a good idea, in that I think false modesty is pointless and potentially damaging, but authors ought to know whether their earlier work is relevant to their latest article or not, and how well such practice is accepted in their own field and therefore be able to self-cite with caution.

The big question about all such profile raising practices, for me, is how far should we go? This article doesn't give the answer, but it describes an awful lot more about what could be done. They also conclude by suggesting: "the academic community needs to decide what actions are appropriate and when academic search engine optimization ends and academic search engine spam begins."


August 06, 2010

A librarian who loves Google

Writing about web page http://uksg.metapress.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&id=doi:10.1629/22131

It's not that unusual for a librarian to love Google really. We just like to grumble about it as well! Google is brilliant for some things but you do need to be able to use it in a sophisticated way and know when to use other tools if you're going to carry out academic searches.

This article by a young librarian offers a balanced view. Claire Duddy offers her opinion on how we can value Google and get the most from it and I heartily agree with her that this is the best approach. One of the things that always came up in the feedback as the most useful part of my info skills session was the part where I showed students how to use Google Scholar to pick up on library subscriptions, and how to construct proper queries with Google's search language.

Claire offers her perspective on the value of Google...

PROBLEMS

  • Search engine crawlers navigate via hyperlinks. If your content isn't linked to, they will miss it... and so will our researchers.
  • If you don't use recognised formats for your content, the crawlers will also miss it, although of course they aren't so picky about html only any more.
  • Lots of academic content sits behind subscription or other access barriers. Publishers will often make it accessible to crawlers so that they can charge you to read it, but not all academic content is available to search engine crawlers.
  • Not all academic content has a stable URL, eg those which include your session ID in the URL once you've logged in: this makes it impossible for crawlers to index it. 
  • What you get in your search results on Google isn't always of academic quality or relevance.

ON THE PLUS SIDE

  • Academically relevant resources can be found through Google Scholar, even if Google is less selective.
  • Blog content can be found through Google and the Google Blog search tool. This more informal material might be a source of the latest thinking and research results.
  • If you have to be more evaluative about your search results then you will develop important information skills of relevance beyond academia. Such skills have always been needed.
  • The "Google generation" might well be amongst those creating content on the web and so they are likely to be circumspect about what they find there, because they will know it could have been created by people like them.
  • Google is great for searching for basic facts such as "dates, names, places, citations half-remembered". (It is too, and my top tip would be to use Google rather than Google scholar if you half remember a citation because Google is better at finding open access articles.)

USEFUL "FACT" FOR LIBRARIANS TO REMEMBER!

  • the 2005 OCLC report on "Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources" asked library users about where they begin an electronic information search, and 84% confirmed that they started with web search engines.

August 03, 2010

JURN – a curated academic search engine

Writing about web page http://www.jurn.org/

As the web get's ever more difficult to navigate, Google custom search engines like this one might become more valuable to researchers. It's somewhere to search in addition to Google Scholar and all the library databases if you're doing a thorough literature search, because it finds open access content.

Search the JURN in place of Google Scholar if you want to be sure that you'll find full text content without having to pay for the privilege and you want just a few articles as a route into a topic... although I'd actually recommend the library databases above JURN for this kind of searching.

Read all about it at the JURN blog site: http://jurnsearch.wordpress.com/about/

As with all search engines, you'll need to be able to put together some advanced search queries to get the most out of it. This page has some neat summaries of useful Google operators: http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html

JURN's tips and tricks on the blog itself offer a lot of great advice on using search engines and it also includes links to other academic search engine sites. The short guide to academic search-engines and tools is very useful indeed:

http://jurnsearch.wordpress.com/a-short-guide-to-academic-search/


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