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PatientsLikeMe: how good a community site?

A site entitled PatientsLikeMe states its goal very clearly - this is a site for sufferers to share experiences and views, and with 240,000 registered users (or 220,000, the site lists two different totals) it clearly meets a need. How does it rank as an example of a community site?

<--break->I started by looking for a condition, which is where I imagine most users would start. I keyed Alzheimer's, and the resulting screen started with a definition of the disease, followed by a table:

Table of symptoms

Unravelling Ravelry: how to build an online community

There can never have been a more appropriate name for a website. Ravelry can refer not only to the practice of knitting (of which this site must be the definitive community) but also to the astonishingly intricate structure of the site. Ravelry comprises not one but five interlinked databases, covering pretty much the entire activity of a practising knitter. It's a very impressive capture of the activity of knitting - not just buying things, which most community sites would start with, but also evaluating patterns, dreaming about projects, and even remembering which needles you own.


Safari Flow - can you improve on Safari?

O'Reilly's new initiative, Safari Flow, which is currently available in beta form, is a timely prompt to review the success, and the qualities, of its elder brother, Safari Books Online. For several years Safari Books Online has been a great exemplar of digital publishing. For some users, including me, it represented a far more fundamental shift to digital delivery than the later, and seemingly more successful, rise of e-books.


The Accidental Taxonomist

Hedden, H., 2010. The accidental taxonomist, Medford, N.J.: Information Today.

Heather Hedden has written an excellent introductory manual for anyone involved in setting up, running or expanding a taxonomy or thesaurus. Unlike many books on the subject, this is one for the practitioner, based on lots of practical experience — as Patrick Lambe describes it in his foreword, “this is taxonomy from 100 feet”.

Still more ontology definitions

Regular readers of this blog will notice an ongoing series of definitions of the term "ontology". Here is another one, by Tom Gruber, dating from 2009 (in the Encyclopedia of Database Systems, Springer-Verlag, 2009).

an ontology defines a set of representational primitives with which to model a domain of knowledge or discourse

The definition may be perfect, but as a description of a concept in terms that an untrained reader might understand, it scores about zero.

Digital humanities: the real revolution

Glancing vaguely at a mildly interesting book on the shelf: 50 literature ideas you really need to know, by John Sutherland, I started to think about what has changed in the last 30 years or so of studying literature. Judging by Sutherland's book, terms like "epic", "irony", "lyric" are still around, as they were years ago, but what has changed as a result of digital texts? The only reference to digital publishing in Sutherland's book (published 2010) is "The e-Book".

Product owners: the new face of digital publishing

A seminar at the London Book Fair (April 15th 2013) asked the question: how will publishing interact with technology in the future? Stephen Devlin, CTO of Macmillan, had the fascinating answer: via product owners. The product owner, is the person in the organisation who defines the demand for digital systems, and, intriguingly, is not only not a technical person, and would not be based in the technical area, but at the same time not an editor. Why not? Because editors can never finish things, can never let go (I hasten to add that this was Mr Devlin speaking, not me!).