Change to “Dean” URL

UBC Office for Learning Technology has suggested I go to the shorter URL (without the Google scholar extension): This is where you’ll find me….from now on. ~Dean

Wikipedia & Google Scholar as “pre-search”

Welcome to The Search Principle blog. It’ll take a while (for me and you) to get used to this new space. Do you like the new design?

Last week, I spoke to a group of librarians about Google scholar. I get weary talking of Google but realize it’s incredibly influential. However, I’ve branched out into other areas in my information practice and try to keep up with web 2.0 and web 3.0 issues, not to mention teaching and learning concerns.


That said, I do see Google scholar as an important browsing tool – and part of what might be called an ideal ‘pre-search’ tool. But what is a pre-search tool?

Use pre-search tools to orient yourself, to browse, ask questions and get acquainted with topics. Who are the leading authors in a given field? What articles are seminal? Pre-search as a concept is also applicable to Wikipedia. Think of mother Google this way (i.e. presearch) as well.

Both Google scholar and Wikipedia can confidently be called ‘pre-search’ tools. Let’s convince our faculty users who ban Wikipedia for undergraduate research that much can be learned by using these tools and critiquing them against better sources. It’s part of media and information literacy in the digital age.


There’s only one problem: recently, Wikipedia has gotten very technical on us (mentioned by Joho) and – gadzooks – removed its web 3.0 entry.

Why are murky topics (even those where there is so much disagreement) removed from Wikipedia (and other general wikispaces)? And why are some articles morphing into uncharacteristically long, discursive treatises? From my point of view, that’s not Wikipedia’s main function or purpose.


In the meantime, I hope users find their way to our entry on web 3.0 at the UBC Health Library wiki. ~Dean Giustini


1. Rankin, Virginia (1992). Pre-search. School Library Journal (Vol. 38, Issue 3, p. 168-171). Continue reading ‘Wikipedia & Google Scholar as “pre-search”’

Here Comes ‘The Search Principle’ – A new era

morph.jpgWelcome to my new blog, The Search Principle.

The new blog has been a long time in coming. Even though the new name has ‘search’ in its title, I won’t limit myself to search. I plan to write about issues of interest to doctors, health professionals, academic librarians and educators, and will include a wide range of topics including the impact of social media on our digital workflow.

The mission of the new blog is fairly simple: to talk about the basics of good searching. For without access to reliable information in the digital age, very little can get done and finding solutions to society’s most intractable problems will be that much more difficult.

All knowledge-workers should understand the search principle:

  1. First, to learn how to develop good search strategies every time (to save time); but also to learn more about sources of information
  2. Second, to know how ‘iterative searching & playing on the web (i.e. surfability)’ differs from ‘efficient finding & cumulating evidence‘;
  3. Finally, the future web will be more about media and peer-to-peer sharing, filtering and less about search.

Why? Google and Google scholar have changed how we, and our users in medicine, interact around health information. Even though Google scholar changed how academics find things – it’s not the huge threat we thought it’d be. We’ve learned that academic librarians still need to purchase access to proprietary databases in order to locate information efficiently.

The duality between open search on the web and proprietary search tools like OvidSP, EBSCO and MDConsult will continue to have an impact on our work in the digital age. Librarians need to articulate why we need these tools and why media literacy (not just information literacy) will be part of staying current.

This, for me, is the search principle. Welcome to a new era. ~Dean

Rebirth (Soon)

Back in late 2004, when Google scholar was first released to the world, the UBC Office of Learning Technology helped me start this blog. They helped me to enter the (at that time) well-established blogosphere in the best way. A shout-out to all the OLT folks.

I had no clue that five years later, I’d still be blogging – and that I’d want to keep blogging. I guess you could say I’ve grown to like it.


So when OLT decided to move its entire cadre of UBC bloggers over to WordPress, and approached me recently to move Google scholar blog, I had serious doubts about the direction I’d go. Would I use a more minimalist abject learning template? Would I concentrate on my blogging at Open Medicine?

I even contemplated On reflection, I realized blogging is an extension of my digital identity as a health librarian working in the Google age. I’m not interested in promoting myself as a speaker or using a blog for commercial purposes. I am very grateful that anyone wants to read what I have to say but am under no delusion it would make me a penny.

Which is to say – stay tuned, a new blog (a rebirthing) of my blog identity is coming soon. My hope is that any content built here will be available over at the new WordPress-enabled blog.

Thanks for the last five years, all. ~Dean

Twitter & the Pew Internet Project 2009

Mary-Doug and I finished writing our Twitter article about three weeks ago, but I am concerned that it is quickly going out of date. Yesterday, the Pew Internet group released a report entitled “Twitter and status updating” by Amanda Lenhart and Susannah Fox (the latter on my Twitter feed).

pew.gifIn the last few years, social media has given us all sorts of opportunities for sharing information about our work, our ideas and what we are doing. On Twitter, for example, users post messages about their status, their location and other projects. Some librarians have tried to use Twitter but abandon it because it takes time.

But have we really given Twitter a proper evaluation? Are academic librarians not ideally situated to evaluate information technologies such as Twitter?

According to Pew:

“The use of Twitter is highly intertwined with the use of other social media; both blogging and social network use increase the likelihood than an individual also uses Twitter. Twitter users and status updaters are also a mobile bunch; as a group they are much more likely to be using wireless technologies — laptops, handhelds and cell phones — for internet access, or cell phones for text messaging.”

Isn’t this – the Twitter trend – emblematic of the future of finding, sharing and using information? Shouldn’t librarians be a part of this future? . ~Dean

A New Social Blog by Google

Trying to keep up to Google scholar is hard enough. I began this blog with that lofty goal in mind but at some point started to comment on all things Google.

Now, only into our sixth week of 2009, it seems obvious the search giant isn’t hibernating this winter (or during the recession). New products are coming and going as fast as you can say Obama! (See Google labs).

Yesterday (I think) Google announced a new blog – called Google Social blog – to cover “News and updates about Google products that are helping to make the world more social.” This is apparently Google’s 80th official blog

“We are launching this blog for anyone interested or involved in helping to make the web more social. Whether you own a site and want to add social features to increase community engagement, or you’re developing a great social application, this blog is for you.” (See yesterday’s gpeerreview, for an example of what Google is facilitating for the developer community.)

Google Goes ‘Peer review’ – announcing gpeerreview

Google is always pushing the proverbial envelope and facilitation of new tools. Recently, a peer review tool was created using Google Code called gpeerreview that reflects the rise of social media. From the point of view of academic libraries, web 2.0and open access, gpeerreview looks interesting and worthy of mention here.

**************************groups_bar.gifFirst, what is gpeerreviewGPeerReview is a command-line tool that makes it simple to write a review of someone’s work and digitally link them.

Does a peer review model based on social networking ‘a web of trust’ pose issues of concern for you? On the one hand, someone’s credibility may be enhanced by obtaining multiple reviews beyond what was originally obtained. And a holistic view of research can be useful when groups of reviewers collectively provide assessment – one that reflects the collective intelligence of a community.

This is where groups of respected peers, experts and authority figures are connected over a digital web and can even be visualized using link and graph analysis.

**************************However, will this be a secure system or completely open? Doesn’t this idea sound similar to Pagerank given its emphasis on linkages of popularity? What implications do you see for using a tool like gpeerreview for university libraries, academic publishers and other journal-based organizations? ~Dean


1. UBC Health Library wiki - Peer review

Possible Implications of Location-Sharing – Google’s Latitude

logo_latitude.gifGoogle has announced a new location-based tracking feature that will integrate with Google Maps called Google Latitude. It’s being launched as a maps application for mobile devices such as the Blackberry, Google Android and WinMo. Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch are said to be enroute and there’s an iGoogle widget.


But what are the implications of sharing your exact coordinates on a local map online anyway? Why be telling your network of friends where you are? Ain’t this taking social media narcissism and openness to a whole new dangerous level? Simply put, isn’t Google just using this to push more ads at us? ::Le sigh::

Google searchers are already monitored by what they search and ads are already displayed for our delectation based on our IP location. Similarly, contextually-relevant keywords are highlighted in other social media such as Facebook.

Monetization is one of the negatives of Google but only if we let it get to us. About Google Latitude, the question is whether it might have any application in medicine. I keep returning to the simple question: Is it a good idea to be able to track people at all times using technology? Sure we can do it – but do we want to? You decide.


Google’s Impact on Brain Morphology & Cognition

As we move into Google’s second decade, some of our attention is turning to measuring its impact on how we think. Recent research suggests that the simple act of Google searching (and to some extent other digital, intellectual work) changes patterns of thinking and cognition. To borrow from Peter Morville, it may in fact be true that “what we search changes who we become”.


googbrain.jpgTo my knowledge, there is very little evidence that Google is having any impact on the way humans think or learn. However, in this month’s American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry an interesting article was published entitled Your Brain on Google: Patterns of Cerebral Activation during Internet Searching.

Researchers at University of California’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience examined twenty-four seniors from 55 to 76 years of age, of whom half had minimal Internet search experience (Net Naive group) and half had extensive experience (Net Savvy group). The groups were asked to perform Google searches while brain pattern activation was measured using MRI technology. The study found that Google searching engages a greater extent of neural circuitry than text-based reading controls.


While more scientific research is needed, particularly in younger web users, this study comes as I am reading “Proust and the Squid: the Story and Science of the Reading Brain” by American academic Maryanne Wolf. Wolf argues that humans were not born to read but that our brains have adapted over five thousand year of reading text, what she calls the reading brain.

Some questions that arise from her arguments: Is there any difference in the way that we engage with texts online? If so, what are those differences? Does reading online affect our ability to engage with complex texts and ideas? Is the fragmentary, elusive nature of knowledge online detrimental to developing cognitive abilities? The author argues convincingly that a new brain is emerging in the digital age, one that threatens to displace the reading brain.

Clearly, human beings are deeply affected by search and the information they find on Google. Given the central place of search tools in our work, librarians are advised to keep up to emerging research (both scientific and social) in this area. If possible, we should engage in information ‘search’ research ourselves and contribute to better understanding of it at a time when all kinds of tools are competing for our time and attention.

Library of Congress (LOC) Joins Twitter

A number of librarians, library, archival and information organizations (see VPL) are taking notice of Twitter. Today, it’s the Library of Congress – Twitter. No word yet out of the Library and Archives Canada though here is the Nova Scotia Archives. Long seen as an innovator, here’s the twitter feed for McMaster University Libraries.

Next Page »



Spam prevention powered by Akismet