Well I’m still bitterly working my way through the assignment on software engineering. I guess not so bitterly actually though. Having spoken with the horse, and taken words directly from its mouth – life is much simpler. I worked for about 16 hours yesterday, and figuratively speaking broke the back of the report, even leaving time to contemplate my special topic towards the end of the day; a topic that I was to present today! Despite one of my peers saying to me, immediately afterwards – “well… I see you were making it up on the spot” – I thought it went well though. I wasn’t making it up on the spot, although I’d done scant reading or proper research before getting up and speaking.
The three doctors in the room – Patrick Stacey, Keith Cheverst and Martyn Evans – all seemed relatively positive about the concept, unformed as it was, so that’s a pleasant surprise. I think coming up with an idea, and articulating why I think that’s interesting is one of my strengths. At the same time I’m very aware that the counterpoint to that is one of my most fundamental weaknesses: the trouble I have with taking the ideas and putting the flesh on them. I’m not knowledgeable enough about knowledge to do it intuitively, and I’m not experienced in the techniques required to develop that knowledge, put the argument together cohesively, and then deliver it. I know that it’s within my ability, that isn’t the problem… it’s more an issue of frustration and maybe laziness. This is in fact why I ended up choosing this topic to pursue in ‘Special Topics’.
I haven’t mentioned the topic! So… now would seem like the right time.
Well, it isn’t very honed yet, but I hope I can frame it in a meaningful way…
Referencing, when producing academic and/or scholarly ‘stuff’. That’s the general area. Specifically, there are two things that I think deserve some research, and they also upset me and annoy me (both good motivational factors). Firstly, access to journals (for both readers, and writers, but I’m focussing just on the readers really..) is, in my view, ridiculous. Asked rhetorically… these are my questions: Why are articles so expensive? Why do Universities only subscribe to some of the available journals? Why is it that I know the paper I want is there, but I can’t access it? Why isn’t all scholarly data in the public domain? Okay. So that’s the first issue. The second one is that of referencing. Again, rhetorically asked, these are my questions: Why is referencing, for want of a better term, such a ‘ball-ache’ to do? Why hasn’t anybody done anything to distinguish honourable citations from those that are really included in papers to further somebody’s careers somehow? Most importantly, most significantly, why isn’t the data that describes the relationships between papers (who has cited who, and why)…. why isn’t that data available? Could the principles of the semantic web and linked data be applied to this problem?
So those are the two issues I’m concerned with.. which are, admittedly, massive. Where to go from here is the problem.
To be reflective for a moment, I have mixed feelings about this ‘new’ area that I’ve become enticed by. I’m really excited… probably the most passionate I’ve been about anything since starting the HighWire programme. However, it’s yet another distracting idea to be concerned with. I’m not sure how I feel about that, is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Will this phenomenon of constantly being distracted by something new lead into a problem. I don’t know. But for the time being I’m riding the wave, and trying to soak up the excitement of it, plus who knows, maybe I’ll end up fixing both of those problems. Unlikely, but I think there’s value in the dream.