Aggregating online references from books

I’ve started to tag all the external references in Adam Greenfield’s new book, Everyware on I did it for Peter’s Ambient Findability when it came out too. The reason why I did it was because I was checking all these references as I read through and I thought how nice it would have been if someone had 1. already presented me with the full references online, and 2. cross-referenced them with the pages I was reading in the book.

All references in these two books are interesting, but typing up long URLs suck. We are lazy people – I think we are less likelly to check the references for more information if we see that long boring link printed on the page. Maybe we’ll check a few, but imagine how much more interesting it would be to experience these books if you could easily access any references and glance through them all as you were reading?

I don’t think this applies to all kinds of books, but these two in partcular discuss a new reality and in many ways require you to think about a world that doesn’t exist yet. It’s not sci-fi, it’s just a near-future that hasn’t been revealed, so the more support you have in reading them, the most you can make out of them. Thus the tagging frenzy.

References from Everyware

References from Ambient Findability

My entirely non-scientific method of observation and talking to people tells me that there are two reason why one would go online to check a reference from a book: To learn more about a topic the book explores to some extent (dig deeper), or to learn about the background on something that’s referenced in a book (high-level) that you don’t really know much about.

I’ve found that I’m more likelly to do the first because it’s more fun (“hmmm interesting new/cool/exciting thing, let me find out more”). However, I will definitely go for the second when my ignorance about the topic is making me struggle with the book at hand (“oh so it’s like UML? Nice, but I can’t remember the first thing about UML. Let me recap…”)

If I can go somewhere and see the aggregated references sorted by the order I am reading the book, it becomes so much easier to do any of these things. When are publishers going to start doing this as part of the publishing process?

Post-scriptum: I failed to mention I am NOT a fan and I never really saw much value in it for me personaly. It was only when I started to tag these books that it became meaningful to me. I still think the method used to tag references is rudimentary and could be lightyears ahead.

Note: I’m getting tired of the word tagging already. It’s used to represent so many things that it’s losing meaning. I’m only talking about the action of adding an identifier – a tag – to something.

8 thoughts on “Aggregating online references from books

  1. adam

    Well, it can’t be said often enough: thank you. I’m delighted that you’ve taken the time and trouble to do this. It’s a real service to the readership, and to me as well.

  2. Livia Labate

    Oh how cool. Thanks! Looks like a step forward from
    Post-scriptum: This is brilliant, I’ve been playing with it for five minutes and I’m ready to dump

  3. adam

    You kinda have to sorta love a place where one of the top tags is “yeast.” That said, I can’t imagine this replacing – for me, anyway. But then, I’m not an academic.

    A few words, Livia, in defense of it’s been an invaluable tool for me as a discovery agent during the writing of Everyware. It’s come closer, in fact, than any other tool or service to being a real-world instantiation of some of the stuff Thomas Vander Wal talks about, and in a way that was particularly relevant to what I was working on.

    The reason has a lot to do with the nature of the “ubiquitous computing” field at the time I started writing. It was so contentious, and people would think of things as being sort of parceled out among a scatter of domains and subdomains: *this* was “ubiquitous,” *that* was “pervasive,” yet another was “rfid,” and so on.

    By paying attention to the patterns of tag usage – and especially by seeing which alternate tags people used to describe the same link – I developed a really rich appreciation for the problem space. It definitely helped me focus my thinking and writing on some areas over other lines of inquiry I had intially been pursuing, because helped me see how tangential they were to the thing I “really” wanted to discuss.

    I’ll never be in the position of telling someone they’re wrong about a given tool – de gustibus non disputandum est – but I’ve found invaluable, and they’re also really response to comments and feature requests. For the life of me, I don’t understand why e.g. Magnolia think that what they have to offer is a meaningful improvement: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  4. willard

    just to add a couple of notes on citeulike.
    1. Its not trying to be delicious.
    2. its real power is how you add references – it does the filling out of the various parts of a reference for you. (a reference is a lot more complicated than just a url and a title)
    3. it allows export to bibtex. a pointless feature for most. invaluable for the academic.

    nb: I use delicious for links. citeulike for references. simple as that. there are two camps using citeulike – 1. to find other similar academic references within a shared community – much like what you are discussing adam and 2. as a reference manager.
    the mixing of these two approaches doesnt always work – but seperating out the wheat from the chaff is certainly easier than trolling throuh google scholar or the numerous other academic engines..

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