O'Really?

December 20, 2018

Dry January: Can you switch off all your social media for a month? #DigitalDetox

socialmedia

Dry January: can you abstain from toxins like alcohol and social media for a month?

Here in the UK, there is an annual tradition known as¬†Dry January. It’s pretty simple, in the wake of all the festive indulgence (ūüćĽ), around 4 million people voluntarily abstain from alcohol for the month of January. Why? Because they can save money, sleep better, lose weight [1] and even raise money for charity in the process. If you haven’t tried it yet, Dry January is an enlightening (and enlivening) challenge.

But dry January needn’t just stop at alcohol. Other toxic social lubricants are also available. Have you ever wondered what life would be like without the distraction of social media? Ever tried going without? Go dry by switching off all your social media for a month – just to see what happens. Is social media as toxic as alcohol? Could going cold turkey (ūü¶É) for a month be beneficial to your health and those around you? Switch it all off, meaning:

  • No LinkedIn
  • No Facebook
  • No WhatsApp
  • No Instagram
  • No Twitter
  • No Blogging
  • No “voluntary panopticon
  • No [insert your favourite social media here]. How far you take it will depend on how you choose to define social media…

Abstention requires a bit of planning and preparation, but if you tell your friends now, you could experiment with switching off all your social media for the month of January. Will you be able to handle the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) [2]? Will your quality of life improve?

The idea of digital detox has been around a while and there are several ways of doing it. You can either go the whole hog like Jaron Lanier and just delete everything [3]. If that’s too drastic for you, try using blockers or timers set to zero minutes. Since the most toxic forms of social media are typically found on smartphones,¬†there’s a few options for detoxing:

Abstaining from alcohol can be beneficial for your physical and mental health. [2] Abstaining from social media could probably help too. Why not give it a whirl and see for yourself?

As this is last (and first!) post here for 2018, have yourselves a happy winterval and a healthy new year in 2019.

References

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_of_missing_out
    2. De Visser, R.O., Robinson, E. & Bond, R., (2016) Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during ‚ÄúDry January‚ÄĚ and subsequent alcohol use. Health Psychology, 35(3), pp.281‚Äď289. DOI:10.1037/hea0000297
    3. Lanier, Jaron (2018) Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Bodley Head, ISBN: 978-1847925398 jaronlanier.com/tenarguments.html

 

September 9, 2014

Punning with the Pub in PubMed: Are there any decent NCBI puns left? #PubMedPuns

PubMedication: do you get your best ideas in the Pub? CC-BY-ND image via trombone65 on Flickr.

Many people¬†claim they get all their best ideas in the pub, but for lots of¬†scientists their best ideas probably¬†come from PubMed.gov – the NCBI’s monster database of biomedical literature. Consequently, the¬†database¬†has spawned a whole slew of tools that¬†riff off the PubMed name, with many¬†puns and portmanteaus (aka ‚ÄúPubManteaus‚ÄĚ), and the pub-based wordplays¬†are very common. [1,2]

All of this might make you wonder, are there any decent PubMed puns left? Here’s an incomplete collection:

  • PubCrawler¬†pubcrawler.ie¬†‚Äúgoes to the library while you go to the pub…‚ÄĚ [3,4]
  • PubChase pubchase.com is a ‚Äúlife sciences and medical literature recommendations engine. Search smarter, organize, and discover the articles most important to you.‚ÄĚ [5]
  • PubCast¬†scivee.tv/pubcasts¬†allow users to ‚Äúenliven articles and help drive more views‚ÄĚ (to PubMed) [6]
  • PubFig¬†nothing to do with PubMed, but research done on face and image recognition that happens to be indexed by PubMed. [7]
  • PubGet¬†pubget.com is a ‚Äúcomprehensive source for science PDFs, including everything you’d find in Medline.‚ÄĚ [8]
  • PubLons publons.com¬†OK, not much to do with PubMed directly but PubLons helps you “you record, showcase, and verify all your peer review activity.”
  • PubMine¬†‚Äúsupports intelligent knowledge discovery‚ÄĚ [9]
  • PubNet¬†pubnet.gersteinlab.org¬†is a ‚Äúweb-based tool that extracts several types of relationships returned by PubMed queries and maps them into networks‚ÄĚ aka a publication network graph utility. [10]
  • GastroPub repackages and re-sells ordinary PubMed content disguised as high-end luxury data at a higher premium, similar to¬†a Gastropub.
  • PubQuiz¬†is either the new name for NCBI database search¬†www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gquery¬†or a quiz where you’re only allowed to use PubMed to answer questions.
  • PubSearch¬†&¬†PubFetch¬†allows users to ‚Äústore literature, keyword, and gene information in a relational database, index the literature with keywords and gene names, and provide a Web user interface for annotating the genes from experimental data found in the associated literature‚ÄĚ [11]
  • PubScience¬†is either “peer-reviewed drinking” courtesy of¬†pubsci.co.uk¬†or an ambitious publishing project tragically axed¬†by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). [12,13]
  • PubSub¬†is anything that makes use of the¬†publish‚Äďsubscribe pattern, such as NCBI feeds. [14]
  • PubLick¬†as far as I can see, hasn’t been used¬†yet, unless you count this @publick on twitter. If anyone was launching¬†a startup, working in the¬†area of ‚Äúlicking‚ÄĚ the tastiest¬†data out of PubMed, that could be a great name for their data-mining business. Alternatively,¬†it¬†could¬†be a catchy new nickname for¬†PubMedCentral (PMC)¬†or Europe PubMedCentral (EuropePMC)¬†[15] – names which don’t exactly trip off the tongue. Since PMC¬†is a free digital archive of publicly accessible full-text¬†scholarly articles, PubLick seems like a appropriate moniker.

PubLick Cat got all the PubMed cream. CC-BY image via dizznbonn on flickr.

There’s probably lots¬†more PubMed puns and portmanteaus out there just waiting to be used. Pubby, Pubsy, PubLican, Pubble, Pubbit, Publy, PubSoft, PubSort, PubBrawl, PubMatch, PubGames, PubGuide, PubWisdom, PubTalk, PubChat, PubShare, PubGrub, PubSnacks and PubLunch could all work. If you’ve know of any other decent (or dodgy) PubMed puns, leave them in the comments below and go and build a scientific¬†twitterbot or¬†cool tool using the same name ‚ÄĒ¬†if you haven’t already.

References

  1. Lu Z. (2011). PubMed and beyond: a survey of web tools for searching biomedical literature., Database: The Journal of Biological Databases and Curation, http://pubmed.gov/21245076
  2. Hull D., Pettifer S.R. & Kell D.B. (2008). Defrosting the digital library: bibliographic tools for the next generation web., PLOS Computational Biology, PMID: http://pubmed.gov/18974831
  3. Hokamp K. & Wolfe K.H. (2004) PubCrawler: keeping up comfortably with PubMed and GenBank., Nucleic acids research, http://pubmed.gov/15215341
  4. Hokamp K. & Wolfe K. (1999) What’s new in the library? What’s new in GenBank? let PubCrawler tell you., Trends in Genetics, http://pubmed.gov/10529811
  5. Gibney E. (2014). How to tame the flood of literature., Nature, 513 (7516) http://pubmed.gov/25186906
  6. Bourne P. & Chalupa L. (2008). A new approach to scientific dissemination, Materials Today, 11 (6) 48-48. DOI:10.1016/s1369-7021(08)70131-7
  7. Kumar N., Berg A., Belhumeur P.N. & Nayar S. (2011). Describable Visual Attributes for Face Verification and Image Search., IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, http://pubmed.gov/21383395
  8. Featherstone R. & Hersey D. (2010). The quest for full text: an in-depth examination of Pubget for medical searchers., Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 29 (4) 307-319. http://pubmed.gov/21058175
  9. Kim T.K., Wan-Sup Cho, Gun Hwan Ko, Sanghyuk Lee & Bo Kyeng Hou (2011). PubMine: An Ontology-Based Text Mining System for Deducing Relationships among Biological Entities, Interdisciplinary Bio Central, 3 (2) 1-6. DOI:10.4051/ibc.2011.3.2.0007
  10. Douglas S.M., Montelione G.T. & Gerstein M. (2005). PubNet: a flexible system for visualizing literature derived networks., Genome Biology, http://pubmed.gov/16168087
  11. Yoo D., Xu I., Berardini T.Z., Rhee S.Y., Narayanasamy V. & Twigger S. (2006). PubSearch and PubFetch: a simple management system for semiautomated retrieval and annotation of biological information from the literature., Current Protocols in Bioinformatics , http://pubmed.gov/18428773
  12. Seife C. (2002). Electronic publishing. DOE cites competition in killing PubSCIENCE., Science (New York, N.Y.), 297 (5585) 1257-1259. http://pubmed.gov/12193762
  13. Jensen M. (2003). Another loss in the privatisation war: PubScience., Lancet, 361 (9354) 274. http://pubmed.gov/12559859
  14. Dubuque E.M. (2011). Automating academic literature searches with RSS Feeds and Google Reader(‚ĄĘ)., Behavior Analysis in Practice, 4 (1) http://pubmed.gov/22532905
  15. McEntyre J.R., Ananiadou S., Andrews S., Black W.J., Boulderstone R., Buttery P., Chaplin D., Chevuru S., Cobley N. & Coleman L.A. & (2010). UKPMC: a full text article resource for the life sciences., Nucleic Acids Research, http://pubmed.gov/21062818

March 4, 2014

CoderDojo, CodingDojo or CodeJo?

CC-BY licensed picture of a Hacker Dojo by Mitch Altman.

A dojo (or a dŇćjŇć) is an event where people train to perform a given task. So for example, software engineers organise code dojos to hone their skills in making software. The term has become widely adopted, so much so, that you’ll often find many flavours of dojo in your local area. In Manchester, there are at least three variants and these often get confused, usually by me. So here’s a quick explanation of what the different dojos do and how they are different.

CoderDojo: @coderdojo & @mcrcoderdojo etc

CoderDojo.com¬†is an¬†open source, volunteer led, global movement of free coding clubs for young people. You’ll find Coder Dojos¬†all over the world, the Manchester Coder Dojo meets once a month in The Sharp Project, and like many coder dojos is very popular and frequently over-subscribed.

CodingDojo: @uomcodingdojo & @codingdojodotco

A group of students at the University of Manchester organise a Coding Dojo @uomcodingdojo¬†see fb.com/uomcodingdojo. They practise problems in TopCoder and other puzzles [1-5] in order to compete in the¬†ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. They do this because it’s fun, improves their skill and prepares them for the kind’s of problems that are commonly found in a Coding Interviews ¬†– a variant of the infamous Microsoft / Amazon / Google / Apple / Facebook / Twitter interviews. [6,7]

(The Manchester Coding Dojo are nothing to do with¬†codingdojo.com¬† an outfit in Seattle and Silly Valley who claim to “teach you programming in 2 weeks”¬†see @codingdojodotco.)

Codejo: @manc_codejo

The Manchester Codejo is monthly coding meetup in Manchester, where developers improve their skills by performing Katas Рexercises designed to improve coding ability through repetition. So at their last meeting for example, Gemma Cameron @ruby_gem recently ran a Codejo session on the Class-responsibility-collaboration card at manchester.techhub.com.

In other words…

So¬†@coderdojo ‚Ȇ @uomcodingdojo ‚Ȇ¬†@manc_codejo ‚Ȇ¬†@McrCoderDojo etc. Hope this clears up some confusion…

References

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dining Philosophers
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight queens puzzle
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower of Hanoi
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling salesman problem
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two Generals’ problem
  6. McDowell, Gayle Laakman (2011) Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions Career Cup ISBN:098478280X
  7. Poundstone, William (2013) Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?¬†Fiendish Puzzles And Impossible Interview Questions From The World’s Top Companies¬†Oneworld Publications ISBN:1851689559

December 14, 2012

Born Digital, Born Mobile or Born Slippy?

Born Digital

Born Digital? Mobile, mobile, mobile! Creative Commons licensed image via Youth and Media

Thoughtworks¬†is an Information Technology consultancy which started in Chicago and now has offices all over the world.¬†This year they’ve been running some interesting events called Quarterly Briefings which discuss topical technology, with the help of some case studies.

So for example, back in October some Google Guys ‘n’ Girls looked at Big Data. Following on from this, last Wednesday tackled the emotive issue of mobile with¬†Move Over Desktop, Mobile is here! looking at agile software development using the¬†mobile part of LastMinute.com¬†as a example.

These events are fun, good for networking, handy for keeping abreast of what’s happening – all lubricated with free food and drink – what’s not to like?

Two of the speakers, John Crosby (LastMinute.com) and Renee Hawkins (Thoughtworks.com), offered lots of food for thought, more than I can document here. However, three things stuck in my head:

  • Renee pointed out¬†twenty-somethings often have the best ideas, innovation comes from¬†Generation Y. Senior staff, decision makers and leaders in many organisations are often baby boomers or Generation-Xers. When they think of software applications, they often think of web first, then mobile. The current generation of undergraduates and graduates from our Universities were born after the invention of the web. They aren’t just born digital [1,2], they’re born mobile too, iPhones and Androids aren’t new – they’re just normal. Desktops and web-applications are old school to them, its tablets and mobile smartphones where all the action is – that’s what many of them are now growing up with. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Generation Y often have good ideas in science & technology.
  • Renee also talked about doing agile vs. being agile:¬†many organisations claim to be doing agile software development: they have the stand-up daily scrum meetings, kanban boards covered in post-it notes and practice¬†pair-programming but they’re often just ticking the boxes – they’re not actually able to deploy software quickly. They look agile, but really they are doing agile, not actually being agile.
  • John quoted Googler Eric Schmidt¬†on mobile first from a few years ago, who said something like organisations should put their best software developers on mobile projects. Schmidt said this a while back, and many people at the time thought, ‚ÄúHmmm, yeah maybe‚ÄĚ. The current trajectory of mobile technology is proving Schmidt right…[3] despite the strange Android Engagement Paradox.

So when it comes to software applications, are you born digital, born mobile¬†or born slippy? The latter¬†drink too much¬†and are usually Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers…

…and if you’re interested in¬†attending similar events to the above in your area keep an eye on¬†join.thoughtworks.com/events¬†and¬†thoughtworks.com/radar.

References

  1. John Palfrey and Urs Gassey (2008) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (ISBN:0465018564) Basic Books
  2. Sean McLane (2012). What Is It With These Kids? – A Generational Insight into Student Workers and Customers SIGUCCS’12 DOI: 10.1145/2382456.2382481
  3. Mary Meeker (2012) Internet Trends @ Stanford, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

July 19, 2012

Is word play friendly branding the key to successful technology?

ő≤őĪŌĄŌĆőľőŅŌÖŌĀőŅ / Raspberries by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

The Raspberry Pi (not pictured above) is currently blowing raspberries at its competitors at an impressive rate of four thousand per day. Creative Commons licensed picture of Rasberries by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos on wikipedia.

The key to successful technology is not just the tricky combination of innovation, determination and investment but also word play friendly branding.

Consider two technology companies, Google and Raspberry Pi:

So is word play really the key to technological success? Successful technologies often encourage word play, but word play does not make technology successful. Correlation does not imply causation and the examples above are very anecdotal.

Still, word play is fun and probably helps brands without doing them any harm [2]. Raspberry Pi is a particularly ripe brand for punning, are there any other #TechnoWordPlay examples?

References

  1. Rory Cellan-Jones (2012). Raspberry Ripples from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, BBC News
  2. Guy Swillingham (2005). Shop Horror: The Best of the Worst in British Shop Names, Harper Collins ISBN:0007198132

March 15, 2012

Be nice to nerds … you may end up working for them

Thought for the day: be nice to nerds because you might end of up working for them.

This sound advice comes from DARPA defector and newly appointed Googler Regina Dugan (see picture below).

Regina Dugan by Steve Jurvetson

What’s that you say? You’re not sure exactly what a nerd is? There are many definitions but the graphic below sums it up better than the Oxford English Dictionary ever could.

Are you a nerd, geek, dork or dweeb?

But beware! Many self-confessed nerds may actually be dorks, dweebs or geeks. It’s a grey area out there in the Venn of Nerdery, not quite as clear cut as the diagram above. To be sure of treating nerds right, you’ll need to be nice to dorks, dweebs and geeks too! See video for details…

[Creative Commons licensed picture of Regina Dugan at TED via Steve Jurvetson]

April 17, 2009

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Google

GoogleVia the Official Google Research Blog at the University of Google, Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig and Fernando Pereira have published an interesting expert opinion piece in the¬† March/April 2009 edition of IEEE Intelligent Systems: computer.org/intelligent. The paper talks about embracing complexity and making use of the “the unreasonable effectiveness of data” [1] drawing analogies with the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” [2]. There is plenty to agree and disagree with in this provocative article which makes it an entertaining read. So what can we learn from those expert Googlers in the Googleplex? (more…)

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