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Is this the age of the university press?

Is this, as Mandy Hill suggested in her keynote, “the age of the university press”? Certainly the timing of this conference (the University Press REDUX Conference, Liverpool, 16-17 March 2016) was well-nigh perfect. The organisers should be commended for thinking up the right event at the right time – it’s not every year that you get five or six new university presses founded in the preceding twelve months!

Getting a feel for sentiment analysis

An excellent session of the London Text Analytics Group (March 14) contrasted two approaches to sentiment analysis: one proudly (and publicly) ditches grammar, while the other uses grammar to disambiguate content. Both approaches made ambitious claims for their software; which is the best approach?

Stephen Pulman of TheySay, a start up from the University of Oxford, had the more traditional approach.  He pointed out that taking individual words by themselves can lead to great confusion. Just assessing whether something is positive or negative is not so simple: “Bacteria” is negative, and “kill” is negative, but “kills bacteria” is positive.  More complex still, the phrase “never fails to kill bacteria” is highly positive.  A bag-of-words approach is unlikely to pick up all these distinctions.

Should Sci-Hub be closed down?

 

 

sci-hub logoThere have been many comments on listservs in the past few weeks about Sci-Hub, the illegal Russian service that makes many scholarly articles available free of charge. I do not condone Sci-Hub for a moment – I have no doubt that it contravenes the publishers’ agreements with libraries, since Sci-Hub appears to be uploading articles via usernames and passwords obtained by deceit. But to believe that by eliminating Sci-Hub all pirating of scholarly content would thereby cease is unrealistically optimistic. Sci-Hub is just one of several services (others are listed here, including Library Genesis) providing access to academic articles, whether via proxies or by providing copies.

A glance at the pirate music and movie download industry suggests that book and article content will inevitably follow the same route - in fact it has already followed the same route. As fast as one pirate site is closed down, another site emerges. With a few minutes’ searching on the Web it is possible to find illegal PDF copies of pretty much any major textbook. Undergraduates admit this quite openly – one student even stated that they preferred the pirate sites to official sites since the access and download is faster!

How many answers would you prefer ?

“We find users prefer one answer.” This was the comment of Google’s Behshad Behzadi when presenting Google’s new Ultimate Assistant. In case you don’t already know, Google’s Ultimate Assistant will answer your questions, whether you key them in or (in Google’s opinion the most likely) you speak to the device. Most of Behzadi's presentation was based around his smartphone, not using the desktop at all. What kind of questions?

Some hypotheses about hypothes.is

My first response when looking at hypothes.is was uncertainty. I've seen quite a bit of publicity, lots of mentions in discussion forums about hypothes.is, but it wasn’t very clear to me on looking at the website just what was proposed. “Annotate with anyone, anywhere” doesn’t really explain very much to me. I have visions of researchers sitting in a circle and annotating together – not very likely.  

 

RefME and the principle of One Click

It is common knowledge that sales of compact digital cameras have fallen in recent years.  A fascinating graphic on PetaPixel shows clearly how digital cameras first replaced the analogue camera market, but then in turn have seen sales falling since around 2009 – by some accounts falling by two thirds between 2009 and 2014. Most likely this was caused by the dramatic rise of the smartphone during the same period. Why did Smartphones eat into the market for digital compact cameras?

 

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