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23 Things – Thing 23: Reflection

A chimpanzee ponders life

The Thinker by Keshav Mukund Kandhadai sourced from Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Thing 23 has asked us to reflect on our feeling about the course, and posed a series of questions for us to consider – my responses are below each question:

Were there Things that you particularly enjoyed?

Yes – I particularly enjoyed Thing 4 Digital Security, Thing 6 Accessibility and Thing 10 Wikimedia. 
Was there a Thing has has either had something in it that surprised you, or one you particularly enjoyed?

Thing 6 Accessibility was surprising – that was related to practical work things, website accessibility, that I can take away from the course and actually work on. Thing 4 Digital Security was also an eye opener – the number of apps on my phone that have/claim permissions that I would consider wrong/privacy invading was gob-smacking.

Have you been reading the community blogs? How did you find the blogging aspect of the course?

Yes – I’ve been reading some of community blogs. It was interesting to read other participants views on the various tools and how they’ve set up their blogs. I liked the blogging aspect and it’s probably one of the main things that I’ll take away from the course. Some of the tools we covered have no direct relevance to me in a work sense though some may be of use socially/privately.

Did you have any difficulties completing the Things?

No – completing the individual things wasn’t too difficult, but I did feel pressed for time at particular points on the course. This was due to personal work circumstances what with annual leave and particularly heavy work times coinciding with the course, especially at the start. I ended up doing something that I has said at the start I wouldn’t do, using non-work time to keep up to date.

If you were to do a course like this again is there anything you would change, or additional support you would like to see?

If I was doing a course similar to this I’d probably give myself much more time to complete Things. I’d also like to see different tools covered, specifically tools like Trello and Basecamp, which I’ve encountered before but would like to have more knowledge of.

If you wrote a blog post at the beginning on what you hoped to gain out of the 23 Things course, looking back on the post do you feel you achieved those goals?

In Thing 2 I wrote the following:

I’m taking part in 23 Things because I want to gain a greater awareness of the various digital tools/social media resources that are available, how to use them and to find out what the benefits (or otherwise) of such use are.

I certainly HAVE got a greater awareness of the various digital tools/social media resources that are available – in fact I feel a bit overwhelmed by the variety and diversity of the tools that are out there.

23 Things – Thing 22: Fun and Play

Thing 22 is entitled fun and play – not so much fun if you’re coming up against a deadline…..!!!!

I was in a real quandary on what to pick for this given that I don’t see the point of learning anything about Vine given that it’s about to be closed by it’s owner Twitter, and I’ve studiously avoided using Snapchat as it looks like “something for the kids” and I hadn’t even heard of Dubsmash. Allied to the fact that all of them required to be installed on a mobile device, and I’m not particularly fond of mobile devices………

However needs must, so I decided to go with Snapchat. Installation and account set up went OK and you can see the very basic result below:



My coming to this app wasn’t under the best of circumstances given the time pressures to get 23 Things done. It seems like fun but like all digital tools of this type, but will require practice to get the best out of it.

23 Things – Thing 21: Online Games and Learning Tools

For Thing 21 I tried both Kahoot and Hour of Code.

Kahoot initially appealed to me because I’m a big fan of quizzes of all kinds, on and offline. I have to say it took a bit of getting used to, what with the two website set-up – trying to operate it in the same browser on the same PC was a challenge…!! I looked at the video of how to set up a quiz and whilst it looked straightforward enough, I don’t think I’ll have any uses for it given that I’m not an educator.


Hour of Code lived up to its name, taking an hour to complete the topic I selected. I picked the Creating SQL databases from Khan Academy to try as a lot of my work is involved with databases but I know little about the underlying mechanics (or I’ve forgotten it…!!). The hour consisted of a combination of video watching and carrying out exercise which would have been beneficial if I had got myself into a learning frame of mind and came prepared with pen and paper to note things down!! Even for the unprepared the interface was easy to understand and I was able to work out what I had done wrong and proceed accordingly.

I can see uses for myself in work and leisure situations with things like Hour of Code, but it’s just a taster. For more in depth learning you’d need to use platforms like Khan Academy, Code Academy or Kahoot, I’m not so sure about

23 Things – Thing 20: LinkedIn/

I wasn’t entirely sure where to begin with Thing 20 which asked us to:

Choose one of either LinkedIn,, or ResearchGate and have a look at their websites as a potential user.Reflect in your blog on the merit, or not, of professional social networking platforms for you at this stage in your education/career. Have you used any of these site before? Could any of them be beneficial for your professional development?

I have never used any of these site before, and I’m pretty sure that two of them will not be of much use to me given that I don’t produce academic research. I’ve heard of LinkedIn, but never thought of it being much use to me at this point in my life. The other two sites, and ResearchGate were new to me and I was intrigued with the premises behind them. Scouting round their About pages I learned that

ResearchGate is built by scientists, for scientists.

It started when two researchers discovered first-hand that collaborating with a friend or colleague on the other side of the world was no easy task.

Founded in 2008 by physicians Dr. Ijad Madisch and Dr. Sören Hofmayer, and computer scientist Horst Fickenscher, ResearchGate today has more than 11+ million members. We strive to help them make progress happen faster.

Our mission

Our mission is to connect the world of science and make research open to all.

and that is a platform for academics to share research papers. The company’s mission is to accelerate the world’s research.

Academics use to share their research, monitor deep analytics around the impact of their research, and track the research of academics they follow. 45,800,149 academics have signed up to, adding 16,719,010 papers and 1,970,561 research interests. attracts over 36 million unique visitors a month.

These last two intrigued me a bit, so I plumped to investigate a bit more. I signed up for the site, though before I did I had a quick look at its terms – one of the things that was troubling me about this site, and ResearchGate, was how do you share papers which are under copyright?’s general prohibitions include the following statement:

You agree not to do any of the following:

Post, upload, publish, submit or transmit any Content that: (i) infringes, misappropriates or violates a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy;

How on earth does the site actually work then, given that published academic papers are under some form of copyright not usually owned by the author(s) of the paper?? What exactly are academics sharing on this site given that is claiming 16 million plus papers have been added by its users??

Once into the site, you are prompted to upload papers or add a biography which I bypassed at this stage. I searched for University of Edinburgh and found lots of people and content and found that one of my questions was immediately answered – some of the papers are unpublished works, bits of large works e.g. theses, report type material that may never be published via traditional academic publishing means and bits of as yet unpublished works i.e. non-copyrighted work or work that the author still holds the copyright in.

I also decided to see if some of the works discover-able in was discover-able outside of it – lo and beheld it can be, at least some of it can, which leads on to the question just what is the unique selling point of is?? Is it the sahring aspect or is it the social aspect?? I can’t help feeling that well intended though and its ilk are they just add a layer of complication to the finding of academic research.

23 Things – Thing 19 Altmetrics

I’ve been looking forward to this particular Thing for a while given that it is of relatively direct relevance to my area of work – measuring the impact of research output like journal articles and books. My work is involved with making resources like this available to the University of Edinburgh community. This look at Altmetrics is necessarily brief because it’s a big field and the time I can devote to it is limited.

Various metrics exist to measure the impact of a given resource. There is a big body of literature on the field of bibliometrics and all of the various methods in common use, citation impact, impact factor, h-index etc, all have their drawbacks.The problem with all of the various methods is that they are proxies for something else – the quality of the paper which is immeasurable – and can be gamed by those who know how. Altmetrics is another addition to the field.

I followed the instructions to install the Altmetrics bookmarklet to my browser, easy enough, then searched for an article that I was interested in. I recalled one from earlier in the year that was of great interest to me as it was relevant to one of my hobbies – playing the bagpipes. I did a bit of investigation of the article earlier in the year as I was gobsmacked by how shockingly poor the journalistic coverage of the article was in the mainstream media, but that’s another story. The article in question is Bagpipe lung; a new type of interstitial lung disease? (access is subscription dependent), published as a case report in Thorax by BMJ Publishing Group.

Screenshot of Thorax article page on

Screenshot of Thorax article page on

Clicking the “Altmetric it!” button on the browser tool bar brought up a little box in the right hand corner of the page which when clicked opened a page at Altmetrics which provided a lot of information about the article’s impact in social media – apparently this article has been mentioned by:
105 news outlets
6 blogs
2850 tweeters
6 Facebook pages
2 Google+ users
3 Redditors
10 Mendeley


Altmetric page screenshot for Bagpipe Lung article

Is this good or bad?? Who knows without comparing many articles.The article I searched for got an Altmetric Attention Score of 1150 which appears to be good but without a closer analysis of how the number is calculated it’s difficult to tell.

My thoughts on Altmetrics

  1. It provides quick information – this article was published in August but already there is information about its impact in social media. More traditional methods have a significant time lag.
  2. Non-Scholarly sources tracked – many of the sources that Altemtrics tracks are non academic in nature and these haven’t been included in more traditional measures of impact.
  3. How accurate is it – on all of the Altmetric article pages that I’ve viewed, it states that this Attention Score is “in the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric”. That just can’t be true for all articles – is this a bug??
  4. Scholarly sources ignored – traditional sources are ignored when compiling Altmetrics, maybe because the exist elsewhere and Altmetrics isn’t intended as a replacement but a complement to other sources.
  5. Not all social media outlets tracked – what about sharing and commenting that happens outwith the sources tracked by Altmetrics? These aren’t counted at all. Are there other tools out there that take measurements from different sources??
  6. Still just a proxy – whilst Altmetrics undoubtedly complements more traditional sources, it doesn’t measure article quality.

Can I see a use for Altmetrics – undoubtedly, but I think the tool may be more useful for researchers and article authors rather than Librarians, and it would have to be used in conjunction with more traditional tools like citation impact. I am aware of Altmetrics Explorer for Institutions which give a different flavour of Altmetrics.

23 Things – Thing 18 Augmented/Virtual Reality

Thing 18 asked us to “try playing around with one or more of the Augmented and Virtual Reality tools and share your experience on your blog”. I decided to with the Anatomy 4D which promises to “use a combination of posters that can be freely printed and the app to provide students with a 4D interactive image various organ systems.”

Navigating to the Anatomy 4D website was straightforward as was printing off the posters, though it struck me that something so basic that it’s probably not event considered as technology by many, a printed piece of paper, was fundamental to the operation of this augmented reality experience – where’s your paperless office now….!!!

Downloading the Anatomy 4D app was easy. Make the app work was equally easy, just a case of pointing the mobile device on which the app is installed at the piece of paper and letting the app work its magic – it was quite impressive how the basic images on the printed page came to life via the device screen. Changing the image was also straightforward introducing various layers of body systems. Here is a screenshot:

Screenshot from Anatomy 4D app

Screenshot from Anatomy 4D app

Whilst the app itself was impressive, I think to get the best benefit out of it you would have to use a device with a big screen. I used a Samsung Galaxy S4 mobile phone and the interactive image, though clear and fully functional, was pretty small. My final impression was that good idea and useful though this tool might by for certain users it seems limited – only two posters are available, one for the main body systems and one for the heart. The usefulness of the app would increase if more body systems were available.

I also can’t help thinking that the claims on the Anatomy 4D website for this app are a bit over the top – “Anatomy 4D transports teachers, medical professionals, and students of all levels into an interactive 4D experience of human anatomy.” I suspect this is far too basic a tool to be of use for medical professionals (but it does have the advantage of being free) when there are resources like Acland Anatomy Online and Anatomy TV available. It struck me that it would be of more use to school students.

23 Things – Thing 17 GeoLocation tools


The Meadows

Thing 17 required us to explore geolocation tools. From a work point of view such tools are unnecessary as I have no need to locate anything anywhere. However, as this work week has been particularly stressful, I decided to combine a lunch hour away from my desk with an exploration of Geocaching in the locality of my office in central Edinburgh.

Prior to my adventure, I visited, signed up for a free account and downloaded the app to my phone. Harking back to Things 4, I notice that the Geocaching app requires a lot of permissions on your device. Anyhow, to the task….


University of Edinburgh Main Library

It didn’t go well. According to the map on the Geocaching app the nearest geocache was in the Meadows so off I duly trooped, but despite standing on top of the location as indicated on the map – which was in the middle of a flat grassy area so where on earth could the Geocache be hidden (unless it was buried)?? I could find no Geocache in the location. I think I got something wrong somewhere along the line….

I did get a couple of decent photos and some fresh air but my first attempt at Geocaching was a failure. Maybe I’ll try again sometime.