« June 2008 | Main | August 2008 »

July 31, 2008

Cool Toys Conversations 2008-July-29 (Campus Community)

Conversation was the big focus on this month's Cool Toys Conversation! We met at Kinesiology, and thanks to Jean Hunt for hosting the event. Next month we'll be meeting in Room 1601 at the North Campus Acute Care (NCAC) (2901 Hubbard) at noon on August 26, thanks to Betty Sheldon. Attending were folks from kinesiology, computer science, distance learning, UM-Dearborn, engineering, University Libraries, and University administration.

Tuesday was real conversation, with wandering themes and folks swapping business cards. We started with Second Life (SL). Some folks were familiar with it, other not, about half and half. One person has a grant to develop an education project in SL, which got a lot of interest. We talked quite a bit about what value there is in SL, whose there, and what are they doing.

This lead to Plurkshop (http://plurkshops.com/?p=22) in which I participated the evening before. A plurkshop is workshop + Plurk. I was a featured "plurker" at the ones this week on "Second Life - The Value of Immersive Experience".

Plurkshop: Plurkshop #11: Second Life - The Value of Immersive Experience: http://www.plurk.com/p/1vohp

A plurkshop is kind of like a public chatroom on a specific theme that allows the discussion to be archived permanently. Anyone can join who is interested in the topic. It has some real potential as a collaboration and education tool as well as for preliminary surveys or focus groups.

While we were talking about that, I promised to include a few tools for making your own chatrooms for a class or distance learning. A couple weeks ago, Kathy Schrock (the famous educator) put a call out on Twitter for folks to test out ChatMaker with her. We had a good time and good discussion, and as a tool I really liked it. Another that was recommended but I have not tried include Chatzy.

ChatMaker: http://www.chatmaker.net/
Chatzy: http://www. chatzy.net/

You might also be interested in Kathy's list of Web 2.0 tools at Diigo.

Diigo: Kathy Schrock: web20tools: http://www.diigo.com/list/kathyschrock/web20tools

The Plurkshop made a really interesting example of the blending of various social tech tools, since it was using microblogging as a chat tool for conducting what amounted to a professional session and training introduction on Second Life, an online virtual world. Next in the discussion was another example of blending a variety of social media to do something we might not expect. I think we spent about twenty minutes talking about woodworker Keith Burtis, which was so interesting I will do a full blogpost just on that. Next.

Conversation veered over to distance learning and using online social networks as spaces to recruit future students and present accurate information about our disciplines. The question was asked how to find out which social networks or virtual worlds are the ones most used by teens. This was a great graphic for this.

KZero: Updated: Virtual world analysis for tweens and teens: http://www.kzero.co.uk/blog/?p=2288

We also poked around in the results of these two Google searches, seeing what turned up most (MySpace) and I showed folks how I save searches to reuse later in my Delicious account.

Google Search: (myspace OR facebook OR del.icio.us OR youtube OR flickr OR twitter OR "social technology" OR "second life" OR "web 2.0" OR "social tech" OR "social media" OR slideshare) (teens OR adolescents OR youth): http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%28myspace+OR+facebook+OR+del.icio.us+OR+youtube+OR+flickr+OR+twitter+OR+%22social+technology%22+OR+%22second+life%22+OR+%22web+2.0%22+OR+%22social+tech%22+OR+%22social+media%22+OR+slideshare%29+%28teens+OR+adolescents+OR+youth%29&btnG=Search

Google Search: pew internet (metrics OR statistics) (~teens OR ~adolescents): http://www.google.com/search?num=50&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&q=pew+internet+(metrics+OR+statistics)+(~teens+OR+~adolescents)&btnG=Search

Delicious: http://delicious.com/rosefirerising/websearch+web2.0

We also talked about issues with safety, security and organizational presence in teen virtual worlds. Here are a few links we had up on screen.

Worlds in Motion: Virtual Worlds Collaborate for International Justice: http://www.worldsinmotion.biz/2008/05/virtual_worlds_collaborate_for.php

Global Kids Digital Media Initiative: [why] Global Kids Brings Kofi Annan into Whyville: http://www.holymeatballs.org/2008/04/why_global_kids_brings_kofi_an.html

From here, we talked about transparency in public online spaces, distance learning, and the University of Michigan's new open courseware initiative.

Open Michigan: https://open.umich.edu/

That got us onto the problem of verifying intellectual property rights for materials we plan to use or share in online spaces and how to find images that are safe for use.

TinEye: http://tineye.com/
NOTE: Search engine that allows you to load a picture to find more like it.

Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Last but not least, Eye-Fi was mentioned - a memory card for your digital camera that will upload pics whenever you enter a wi-fi zone.

Eye-Fi: http://www.eye.fi/

I will admit, I was pretty tired by the end. :) Hope you all enjoyed this!

Posted by pfa at 08:16 PM | Comments (0)

A Blogpost in Unexpected Places

I have the honor of being a guest author on the blog for our library director, Jane Blumenthal. Here is my first blogpost in that location.

Health, Science, & Libraries: Insight in Unexpected Places: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/hsldir/archives/2008/07/insights_in_une.html

It begins with this quote:

"Health is personal. Health Care is not. The term is a euphemism for Condition Treatment, and it's not about patients. It's about systems, and most of those are both proprietary and closed."
Doc Searls. "The Patient as the Platform" LINUX Journal. http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/patient-platform

and explores how social media brought me to it, with various ramblings along the way. Twitter is mentioned, as are other social media.

Posted by pfa at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2008

New Search Engine - Cuil

The tech buzz this AM is that a bunch of folk from Google went off on their own and have now released a new search engine - Cuil.com.

Cuil - Search

Being a person who has been tracking search engines and writing about them for many years, my ears went BOING! and perked right up. Sounds really interesting!

Cuil (pronounced "cool" or "kewl") is supposed to have the largest search engine database ever. So far, so good.

Cuil - Search

They address one of the really big recent concerns with Google, too - privacy.

Cuil - Search

I know certain people this is really going to attract! Very important, and glad to see them do this.

And the interface? OMG, made me salivate, I swear. This is GOOD stuff! A lot of other search engines could learn important lessons from Cuil when it comes to the interface. They have beautifully integrated a number of recent trends in interface design - clustering, semantic search, visual thumbnails.... They even have two layers of clusters - the tabbed topics across the top and the suggested terms for narrowing a topic over at the right. Here is a screenshot of a sample search on the word "diabetes".

Cuil - Search

I liked the way they selected the most important topics for the right hand topical clusters and gave the option to expand to include more. Mousing over a topic gives more detail, so you can easily browse in by topic to a really decent level of granularity.

Cuil - Search

I just loved that when you mouse over the bottom level suggested search terms Cuil even provides a definition! w00t!

Cuil - Search

Where this all broke down was in the implementation. I tried clicking through the DIET section and selecting the subtopics. Of the four suggested -- low carbohydrate diet, low fat diet, dieting, and fasting -- only two of them were actually valid for search. I'd show you a screenshot, but their servers are down just this sec. ("We’ll be back soon... Due to overwhelming interest, our Cuil servers are running a bit hot right now. The search engine is momentarily unavailable as we add more capacity. Thanks for your patience.") I was curious because two of the four topics suggested are actually bad ideas for diabetics, at least the last I heard ("low-fat diet" and "fasting"). Indeed, those were the two suggested topics that, when clicked upon, tried to add the search terms to the search, and came back with zero results. I was baffled why the search engine would suggest inclusion of nonviable concepts.

The next concern that popped up for me was when I clicked through one of the subtopics that did work.

Cuil - Search

Personally, I rather enjoy spiritual reading and websites, however, I cannot consider them a top level source of content on most healthcare topics. I confess I was more than a bit concerned that for a search on "diabetes low-carbohydrate diet" Cuil returned as the top result a web page on Alzheimers from the BibleLife organization. Uh, oops?

I have already gone on record as having concerns about Google losing their edge for search result relevance as SEO has become more effective, so I wondered if the results would be similar in other search engines. I popped over to Google and tried running the same search.

Cuil - Search

Ahhhhh, much better. :) Leading research journals and professional organizations on diabetes seem much more relevant to my mind. So it isn't that better results weren't available, it is just that for some inexplicable reason, Cuil felt BibleLife's pages were more appropriate than the American Diabetes Association professional publications. I think some tweaking is in order here. I went back and dug a little more, and suspect that this is related to what they say on their main Information page*: "Rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance." Perhaps they should consider some way to include authority or credibility in that analysis?

*BTW, Cuil? The link to "About Us" on the main page is broken. Was tricky to find this.

So what do I really think? Here is the short and sweet from the discussion at Plurk.

Cuil - Search

Posted by pfa at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2008

eTBLAST - Paragraph search yields journal/author recommendations

eTBLAST is an interesting search tool that allows you to search by either typing freetext keywords or pasting in an abstract of paragraph of a real publication.

eTBLAST: invention.swmed.edu/etblast/etblast.shtml

Right now, it searches MEDLINE (a.k.a PubMed) as well as NASA technical reports, IOP (Institute of Physics?) and CRISP (the government awarded grants database for NIH). Forthcoming (soon, I hope) are the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), PubMed Central (PMC), Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM), and DrugBank. My examples will all be in PubMed since health information is my primary context.


eTBLAST is pretty fast if you search just a couple keywords, but you can do that in PubMed itself just as well. What is different is being able to put in an abstract or paragraph from an article, or to even upload a text file! If you do anything beyond a few keywords, it is not going to be fast - pretty slow actually. Go have a cup of coffee or do something else and come back (or assign it to an assistant). Hey, if you're in research, there are a lot of things for which it is "hurry up and wait", right? So this is a paragraph search.

eTBLAST: Original Search

Notice the link to show what textwords it selected for searching and what MeSH terms they were mapped to. This means you could also use this at the beginning stages of a MEDLINE search to discover possible MeSH terms to include in your own search strategy. So this could be a search tool or a search strategy development support tool.

This is what the initial results look like.


Now things get interesting. When I'm working with systematic review teams, there is something I recommend to the teams doing hand searching. What I do is take all results, sort by journal, look at what journals account for 80% of the citations, and then we will do the hand searching in those titles. eTBLAST makes this process a whole lot less cumbersome, breaking out and listing the titles of the most frequent journals in the results set. Not that this was a systematic review search, mind you, but still a useful tool. It does the same thing with authors as with journals, so it is easy to break down your search results in a useful and granular fashion.

You can also map the search results in a variety of ways. I will confess, I don't understand all of them, and did not find all of them useful. I did find the publication history graph useful.

eTBLAST: Publication History Graph

Perhaps some of the other methods will make more sense to you? Let me know!

Posted by pfa at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

Open.Michigan for Academic Healthcare at UM - How?

Last week I was privileged to attend a presentation about the Open.Michigan open courseware initiative, which is focusing on providing high quality healthcare educational content in a curricular framework to the world. The project is especially focusing on access for third world countries lacking a strong healthcare infrastructure.

This presentation focused on the technology and collaborative aspects of the project, known locally as dScribe, as well as the intellectual property clearance aspects. It was a very interesting discussion. You might want to take a look at the slides, below.

Posted by pfa at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2008

Cool Toys Conversations: HSL Staff 08-July-22

At today's Cool Toys Conversations lunch, we talked about the following resources and tools.

Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments (DUETs): A resource to help prioritise new research: http://www.duets.nhs.uk/
NOTE: "The Database of Uncertainties about the Effects of Treatments (DUETs) has been established in the UK to publish uncertainties that cannot currently be answered by referring to reliable up-to-date systematic reviews of existing research evidence"
NOTE 2: We played with this a bit and found it hard to find things with a very technical or specific search. For now, it seems best to use broad terms and assume few results. Still, what is most intriguing at the moment are the "Uncertainties identified form patients' questions". These seem to imply a clinician - patient dialog related to the evidence that is intriguing.

eTBLAST: http://invention.swmed.edu/etblast/etblast.shtml
NOTE: Allows you to search MEDLINE (and other databases) by pasting in an abstract or uploading a text file. Results include finding the most published authors and journals for the topic, as well as a graph over time of the publication history for the topic. Full blog post to follow.

caBIG: https://cabig.nci.nih.gov/
NOTE: "The National Cancer Institute is launching a 21st century information initiative that will transform the way we do cancer research. We are creating a network that will freely connect the entire cancer community. In doing so, we are leveraging valuable resources and saving precious time toward new discoveries."

StreetAnatomy: Modality Brings Anatomy to the iPhone: http://streetanatomy.com/blog/2008/06/15/modality-brings-anatomy-to-the-iphone/
NOTE: This is the first medical application for the iPhone that I know of. Any others?

FontStruct (build, share, download fonts): http://fontstruct.fontshop.com/
NOTE: Build your own font with wingdings or special characters not supported in regular fonts, such as the Rx symbol.

MedStory: http://www.medstory.com

Eclectic Librarian: CiL 2008: Widgets, Tools, & Doodads for Library Webmasters: http://eclecticlibrarian.net/blog/2008/04/cil-2008-widgets-tools-doodads-for-library-webmasters/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/
Plurk: http://plurk.com/
Plurkshops: http://www.plurkshops.com/

Q: How do you find cool people to follow on Twitter and Plurk?
A: (1) Many professions have published collections of folks to follow (such as biotechers for the life science community). Sometimes these are on wikis, sometimes blogposts. (2) Sometimes there is a group account in twitter (such as @medlibs or @biotechers) to facilitate communication and discovery for that community. (3) Once you find one cool person, check who they are following. Explore and pick the ones that interest you. (4) Watch conversations and topics. See who's saying the most interesting things. Follow them.

Q: What is a Plurkshop?
A: Plurk + Workshop = Plurkshop. Kind of like a themed discussion via chatroom archived on the web. Useful topics. Hosted by a given individual, organized in advance, open discussion. Example with synopsis and original:

BrandBox: 29 JUNE 2008, Plurkshop #4: Fractured Conversations and How to Manage Them: http://thebrandbox.blogspot.com/2008/06/plurkshop-4-fractured-conversations-and.html

PLURKSHOP: Social Media dialogue across multiple channels: managing and learning from it. http://www.plurk.com/p/v4rf

Posted by pfa at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2008

Data Visualization by Darlene Fichter / via Slideshare

A really great data visualization slide show. This presentation by Darlene Fichter not only illustrates types of tools, but types of visualisations, with thoughts about when what is appropriate or useful.

Posted by pfa at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2008

Twitter, Plurk, Microblogging for Work, Wellness, Healthcare etc.

Tuesday I gave a presentation on Twitter to a select but extremely engaged audience at the School of Dentistry. We had a great discussion (more on that below).

Here is a link to the podcast and audio:

Here are the slides.

OK, now for a live example. While working on the presentation, I wondered about other microblogging tools. I use quite a few, but mostly depend on Twitter and Plurk. I thought about listing what's available in the presentation, but wanted to find a good list of all of them out there. Turns out there is not a good list. I have Plurk set up to post to Twitter automatically, so when I send one post, it appears in both places, and I can engage in the conversation in both places. Conversation, you say, what does she mean by that? Well, take a look at this.

I post a question, and get a lot of response. In Twitter these will be scattered all over, but in Plurk they are collected all nice and neat so you can really see the conversation happening.

Web 2.0: Plurk Conversation

The conversation kept growing from there, and folks listed a lot of other interesting tools. Some of it was joking around, but a lot of it was useful information I will be exploring. You can pull out a conversation on its own page to track and reference. Here is the same conversation on its own page, but notice the number of replies now.

Web 2.0: Plurking about Microblogging Tools

You can find this conversation here if you want to explore the clickable links.


Now, since I am talking about conversations, here is another example of social media connecting with health and health care and conversation. A friend of mine on Twitter, Andre Blackman, was a guest last night on a web show about using social media to promote the public good. He sent me a tweet to let me know about it. The web show was set up to allow audience participation. This is a small snippet. I tried to make sure I grabbed a pic that did not say anything revealing about anyone, but also showed the usefulness of the dialog. Also, notice at the end everyone is saying, "Let's carry on the conversation in Twitter."

Web 2.0: Jonny's Partay: Marketing 4 Good

Social media. All about talking with other people. The conversation in the presentation was about using Twitter with folks who are low literacy or low income. One of the observations was that texting may be more accessible to people that formal literacy. Well, hey, maybe we need to redefine literacy? Something to think about.

Posted by pfa at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2008

Lively - Virtual World from Google

Tuesday Google announced their own virtual world, Lively.

ReadWriteWeb: Google Launches Virtual World: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/lively_google_launches_virtual.php

Here is the Lively homepage, http://www.lively.com/.

Lively - Google Page

It doesn't like Macintoshes (and is kind of persnickety on PCs, even).

Lively - Testing

I borrowed a PC to test it out. It requires that you download a browser plugin, but has the handy feature of being accessible completely from within the web browser. Neat idea, and one I've heard coming forward for other virtual worlds. It has a help forum in Google Groups, but I found the actual help in the browser kind of tricky to navigate and use. Easier to ask other avatars once you get in to the Lively world.

The way it worked when I tried it was (a) make an avatar; (b) pick a room to enter; (c) wait a really long time; (d) explore the various buttons to figure out what controls what, and use the mouse to move things around; (e) folks flirt and chat; (f) wonder what the heck happened when the computer crashes.


Lively - Testing

Lively - Testing


* Usual Variety

Lively - Testing

* Popular Rooms

Lively - Testing


Lively - Testing


Lively - Testing


Lively - Testing

* Notice the Embed Code?

I am totally enthralled by the idea of being able to embed the room into a web page, but did not get a chance to check that out or test it.

(PS - Don't I Look Good? (althought I had nothing to do with it, of course - generic avatar))

Lively - Testing


No picture here. :(


What I thought was intriguing (beyond what is mentioned above) was the amazing variety of people in LIVELY already. I noticed a strong presence from people around all the other virtual worlds coming together here. I expect that LIVELY will quickly become an important location for developing consensus and collaboration across virtual world platforms, that people will share information about their favorite features and content of other virtual worlds, and that Google Lively will become both an important location for shared content and cross-fertilization of virtual worlds.

Posted by pfa at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2008

Online Outliners, Concept Mapping, Mindmapping, Graphic Organizers, etc

Here are the slides from today's surprisingly popular presentation.

Posted by pfa at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2008

ETechLib at the IADR

I just returned from the International Association of Dental Research meeting in Toronto. Fascinating, for me at least. It was also very interesting how many connections and how much relevance there was to both emerging technologies and general health. I hope to talk more about specifics, but will start with just a quick overview of some of the items that most captured my attention.

It turns out that tests of health literacy partially predict how well people communicate with their doctor, but not really with their dentist. Oral health literacy content reviews show that most materials about oral health problems are written way over the head of most Americans (duh). There was an interesting discussion about whether we are approaching the concept of health literacy the right way. For example:

- Should we instead teach hair dressers and barbers (for example) about oral health as way to more effectively disseminate information into the community?
- Should we consider assessing functional literacy rather than reading literacy?
- Should we use non-print media rather than print? Is a person literate if they struggle with reading but can identify appropriate images and videos, then assemble them into a coherent multimedia presentation?
- Should we consider disseminating information via social networks and dating sites for persons over 50?

There is a lot of buzz about the relationships between systemic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etcetera) and oral health. A lot of buzz about the role of tetracycline-family meds both in preventing gum disease, but also in preventing/reducing/slowing other health problems related to the underlying issue of inflammation -- including some heart disease, cancer growth, cancer metastasis, skin disease, asthma, some preterm births, and much more. Inflammation seems to be the common element between oral health and the systemic diseases. This didn't connect so much with ETech, but it sure did with general and systemic health!

A researcher I worked with reported that in schools supporting low income families, roughly 60% of students reported having mouth or tooth pain severe enough to sometimes stay home from school and teachers reported that 0 kids had dental problems or pain. Tracking this info at the level of the local school, reporting back to the teachers what their kids had said then resulted in drastic improvements in teacher willingness to incorporate oral health lessons in their teaching curriculum. Other motivator was to provide them with collections of lesson plans and teaching resources from other teachers showing how to include oral health awareness in regular lessons. The website is here:


The del.icio.us account in which I gathered the collection of links for review is here:

The most exciting presentation I saw was about a partnership between architecture students and dental students to create oral health literacy materials for underserved populations. Architecture students supplied design expertise, design software training, and advice. Dental students supplied expertise on content, researched the evidence, and created the end products. VERY impressive work, and an exciting and surprising partnership. Lots of potential for opening doors to other kinds of partnerships, as well as adapting the educational materials to other media. They were excellent!

I was part of a team presenting about Second Life and its potential for research and training. The folks at the symposium on oral health literacy encouraged us to remember to include researchers in our travels throughout the SL health landscape, so that there is data to support or justify grant applications and developing quality resource materials, so that we know who uses health information in Second Life and how the populations there differ from those reached through other media and venues. I will talk more about our SL presentation over the coming days.

Posted by pfa at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2008

Dipity + Flickr = Embeddable Timeline Slidshows

I've been talking a lot lately about xTimeline and Dipity as educationally interesting timeline tools. I think the idea of a small group of students collaborating on a case study or other temporal data to be presented, incorporating multimedia and doing this all wiki-style and reducing the need for as much face-to-face (F2F) time ... well, seems pretty cool to me. :)

I recently discovered that Dipity also has a couple interesting mashup tools, connection the timeline function with either Flickr (with the mashup version known as Tickr) or YouTube (mashup known as TimeTube).

Tickr: http://www.dipity.com/mashups/tickr

Dipity: Tickr: Iowa Flood

TimeTube: http://www.dipity.com/mashups/timetube

Dipity: TimeTube: Iowa Flood

Now that bit right there is VERY interesting for exploring emerging trends and new events. To take it to another level, the Flickr mashup (Tickr) creates an embeddable view you can share with others and use on your blog or website. Could be extremely interesting for a public relations or conceptual type of course or project.

Here is an example from the recent Iowa Flood. See what you think. Remember, this is interactive, so go ahead -- scroll around in it, use the buttons, click on pictures -- see what happens. Fun!

Tickr (by Dipity): Iowa Flood:

Posted by pfa at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)