Happy new year everyone! This week, some more news and views from the net…

Writing ‘hot’

Do you ever encounter students who think the only way to write ‘good prose’ is line by perfect line… and are slowly going crazy? Some people can write this way, but I certainly can’t. Such students might benefit from the web application 750 words. This site is an online version of the artist’s ‘morning book’. As the creator explains it on the site:

“Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in “long hand”, typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day.”

Encouraging students to, as Barbara Bolt puts it, ‘work hot’: write in short, intense bursts, can help them to start loosening up their writing habits. Another way, of course, is the Pomodoro technique, a form of ‘time boxing’ where students are encouraged to focus on one task at a time. Time boxing is a good way to help students deal with panic about almost any part of the writing process. Accepting that tasks like the literature review must be given time limits helps students see writing the thesis as a series of time bound tasks, not an endless unfolding of possibilities.

More apps please, we’re academics

I find my morning and evening commute a good time for catching up on my reading, using my phone or my iPad. But journal publishers have been slow to move into the smart phone app market. New from ExLibris is bx Hot Articles app which enables you to browse top articles in a number of fields, depending on your institution’s subscription. It seems to me that there is untapped potential to deliver articles to smart devices.

We encourage students to publish, but I’m not sure we spend as much time talking to them about what happens after their paper is published. We do know that Open Access models of publishing lead to higher citations, so should we encourage students to publish in this mode? I’m not sure there is an answer, but I think we need to make students more aware of the debates about Open Access, which have been hotting up hot up after the launch of the Cost of Knowledge petition.

The release of Web 2.0 tools like Scholastica HQ allow academics, if they have the time, to start up and run their own journal. It’s good to see that the conventional journal publishers are recognising the threat to their business models and are starting to talk about the structure of their industry. I found out about the “Spot on” conference in London via the Sharmanedit blog.

To their credit, the Spot on conference made a wide range of the talks available on You Tube. This session on “Alt-metrics beyond the numbers” had a series of interesting talks about how to fix the ‘broken’ journal system of esteem measures (such as H index). Conventional measurement systems can be ‘gamed’ by techniques like self citing. The second paper in the session about social network analysis and ‘academic matchmaking’ was fascinating.

Until next week!