The Social Bookmarking Phenomenon!

Lately it seems that everywhere you turn, there is a new social bookmarking site of some sort. These sites are interesting, and serve an important purpose. According to Wikipedia, social bookmarking is “a method for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages with the help of metadata (i.e. tags).”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_bookmarking

To me, these sites are useful in that they offer an alternative to search engines for organizing and rating content. It is actual web users who find and rate the content, not just a computerized search algorithm.

Below, I have chosen my top five social bookmarking and news sites that are competing and vying for your attention and time:

Digg.com

Digg2

what makes this site stand out?:

  • anyone can submit a Digg site, and anyone can comment on it
  • you can vote and comment on links and stories
  • you can “dig” and “bury” stories
  • an effective marketing tool for entrepreneurs

address: http://digg.com/

Reddit

Reddit2

what makes this site stand out?:

  • this is a social news site that allows users to post links to web content
  • has a “what’s hot”, new and controversial lists
  • the site has a really fun “feel” to it!
  • there is a WTF link at the top – hours of fun!

address: http://www.reddit.com/

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon2

what makes this site stand out?:

  • allows you to take advantage of a vast network of dedicated Web searchers who are finding utterly brilliant sites, and sharing them with you. (see: http://websearch.about.com/od/bestwebsites/tp/freebookmarks.htm
  • the quality of the sites is amazing
  • a form of “channel-surfing” on the web
  • have fun clicking the Stumble! button over and over again!

address: http://www.stumbleupon.com/

Delicious

Delicious2

what makes this site stand out?:

address: http://delicious.com/

Slashdot

Slashdot2

what makes this site stand out?:

  • this site has a nerdy bent to it
  • a gathering place for computer nerds and geeks
  • features user-submitted and editor-evaluated stories about science, computer technology, politics, science fiction etc.

address: http://slashdot.org/

*picture credits to http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-bookmarking

Find me on Twitter: @jacbird and @masitblog

Medical Software Technology: “Expert Systems”

http://rhapody2000.free.fr/images

Arnie1 copyI work in the medical software industry, and quite often, people will ask me what is involved with that. In my mind, medical software involves many things, including image scanning, electronic health records, bioinformatics, and much to my surprise artificial intelligence technologies such as “expert systems”! Today, I would like to talk about this hot topic in the medical software industry – “expert systems”.

So what is an expert system? Wikipedia gives the definition that it is “software that attempts to reproduce the performance of one or more human experts.” And also, “an expert system uses a knowledge base (or rulebase) and an inference engine to simulate the reasoning process that a human expert uses to analyze a problem and arrive at a conclusion.” This might be accomplished using “confidences” or certainty factors that are meant to imitate the confidences humans use in reasoning, rather than use the strict probability rules of mathematics.

The architecture behind expert systems is not too complicated. Basically, an expert system just consists of a very large knowledge base (or rulebase), usually consisting of “IF / THEN” type statements, and an inference engine that might operate by using forward or backward chaining logic.

The end-user will usually be required to answer a series of questions, and the large knowledge base will then be queried in order to spit out some sort of conclusion. For example, the conclusion could be a disease diagnosis based on a number of symptoms that the patient has. Or, an expert system could be designed to alert a pharmacist of potentially harmful drug interactions when entering a prescription order.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea of these expert systems was met with quite a bit of skepticism. People might wonder how successful these systems really are in practice. In my mind, these systems could be very helpful to doctors and nurses in the decision making process, but should not be used to try and replace these experts.

Here is a list of some common pitfalls:

  • The systems are prone to making errors that humans would easily spot (i.e. lack of common sense)
  • The knowledge base has to be constantly updated and maintained to keep it up-to-date
  • Too many alerts and reminders could overwhelm doctors and nurses, causing the alerts to be ignored altogether
  • Workflow integration difficulties – will the system slow the physician down?

But here are some benefits:

  • Expert systems can catch things a human might forget
  • Provides consistency to patient care
  • Chances for negative drug interactions or wrong diagnoses can be avoided
  • The system can be kept up-to-date with the latest research and findings

Check out the resources I have listed below to learn more!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_software

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expert_System

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_decision_support_system

http://www.ciap.health.nsw.gov.au/hospolic/stvincents/1993/a04.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12925543

(full text)
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=12925543

Technical “Writer’s Block”

As a Technical Writer, I often wondered about getting “writer’s block.” I mean, it’s not as if you have the choice to have it or not when you are at work. If the deadline is there, or you are working by the hour, you’ve just got to be productive and write.

I’ve seen the cartoons and the movies just like you. The frustrated writer sitting in front of a typewriter with a trash can behind them, and loads of crumpled and torn papers thrown into and around it.

The fact is, I don’t think I have ever suffered from writer’s block as a technical writer. It could be that the work is more black and white than say, creative writing. But even still, you have to think about the best and clearest ways to present complex information, so there is still a creative element. It could be that I do get writer’s block, but by doing the following have managed to mostly avoid it. So below, I will present you with my top ten list of how to avoid writer’s block as a technical writer.

These are things that have worked for me:

  1. Multi-shuffle your tasks. (i.e. if you get stuck on one task, have other tasks ready that you can switch to).
  2. Think about ideas in the back of your mind even in off hours.
  3. Start your work, then come back to it the next day, or even the next week (if time allows for it).
  4. Research for inspiration!
  5. Go out for a walk to free your mind.
  6. Bounce ideas off of a coworker or friend.
  7. Create an outline of your thoughts and ideas.
  8. Deal with the more complicated writing tasks first thing in the morning.
  9. Practice writing all the time, by writing in a journal or blog.
  10. Join a writing society or group where you can meet and learn from other writers.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writer%27s_block
(includes a list of strategies for overcoming writer’s block)

http://www.essortment.com/all/howtoovercome_rsjm.htm
(this person says writer’s block isn’t real!)

http://thefuturebuzz.com/2008/12/03/how-to-overcome-writers-block/
(15 tips on overcoming writer’s block)

Find me on Twitter: @jacbird @masitblog

An Overview of Internet Aggregators!

With the vast amount of information now available on the world wide web, it’s no wonder that people are feeling overwhelmed and bombarded with information. How can a person possibly go about sorting it all out? One possible solution is to use good Google search terms, and narrow your searches so that only the exact information you need will appear. But even so, how can you be sure that the information coming your way is up-to-date, contains quality content, is accurate or even relevant etc.? Also, with so much information out there, how can you be sure that you’re not missing the “good bits”?

Below you will find a list of several of the most popular aggregator sites on the net, many of which are my favourites. By no means is it intended to be exhaustive, but perhaps you’ll discover one you’ve never seen or used before!

Web-based News Aggregators:

Probably the most common and original type of aggregator, these sites gather breaking news articles from various sources and present them in one convenient place.

Alltop – The Online Magazine Rack

Alltop - The Online Magazine Rack

Alltop – The Online Magazine Rack

  • An online “magazine rack” of popular topics
  • Stories are updated every hour
  • Allows you to search by topic
  • A new feature allows you to create your own personalized “magazine rack”

 

Google Reader

Google Reader

Google Reader

  • Google’s solution to news aggregation
  • Excellent recommendations and easy to add feeds
  • no download needed
  • Google Trends and iGoogle integration

Other popular web-based aggregators:

Google News

Google News

Google News

Yahoo News

Yahoo News

Yahoo News

Application-based News Aggregators:

These are news aggregators which require the installation of software on your CPU

Cooliris

Cooliris provides an 'out of browser' experience

Cooliris provides an

  • A visual experience that takes you beyond what a standard browser can deliver
  • Browse through videos, photos, news stories faster than ever before
  • Shop, explore, and research tool all in one beautifully designed package
  • Available as an “add on” for most major browsers

Mozilla Thunderbird

Open source at its absolute best

Open source at its absolute best

  • Mozilla Thunderbird is a free open source email and RSS feed reader all in one
  • The fact that it’s open source means that you’ll have the most up-to-date version at all times

Search Term Aggregators and Analytics:

Google Insights

Google Insights gives you the whole story behind popular search terms

Google Insights gives you the whole story behind popular search terms

  • There is so much fun to be had by all with this one! Enter in a search term to produce a graph of interest in that search term over time (scroll your cursor along the graph to get date information). A bar chart graph is also displayed which shows interest in that search term by country.
  • Over at the top right in the Filter section, you can use the Worldwide drop down menu to select a country, and see what search terms are popular by country.
  • Note that Google Insights is an extension of Google Trends. www.google.com/trends

Conversation Aggregators:

Twitter Search

Twitter Search gives you the most up-to-date scoop on unfolding news events

Twitter Search gives you the most up-to-date scoop on unfolding news events

  • Twitter search allows you to search Twitter conversations in real time. For example, you could enter in a search term such as eLearning to bring up hits of conversations about that topic as recently as a few hours ago.
  • Discover what people are saying about a unfolding news event in real time
  • See this blog post for more info on this new and powerful search tool

Aggregator of Aggregators:

www.popurls.com

Popurls is an aggregators of aggregators, bringing you the latest in web buzz from Digg, Reddit, Delicious and copious other sources.

Popurls is an aggregators of aggregators, bringing you the latest in web buzz from Digg, Reddit, Delicious and copious other sources.

Book and Journal Article Aggregators:

Google Scholar

Google Scholar allows you to search millions of published academic journals, books and articles

Google Scholar allows you to search millions of published academic journals, books and articles

  • Are you a scholar, or are you not? It doesn’t matter! With this spectacular Google service you can find and read all of the latest research articles. In some cases a journal subscription may be required to read the full article, but in many cases it is not.

Media Review Aggregators:

Metacritic

Metacritic aggregates reviews on media from around the internet and gives media (movies, music, video games) a score based upon those reviews

Metacritic aggregates reviews on media from around the internet and gives media (movies, music, video games) a score based upon those reviews

  • Aggregates reviews of music albums, games, movies, TV shows, DVDs, and books. Gives a numerical score for each review with a color coding.

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes - the premier movie review aggregator

Rotten Tomatoes – the premier movie review aggregator

  • Rotten Tomatoes is a movie review aggregator, that gives movies a binary rating of “fresh” or “rotten”
  • Actual humans decide whether or not the reviews are positive or negative, then tabulate the fresh reviews as a percentage of the total number reviewed. 60% positive reviews will get the movie a rating of fresh.
  • Rotten Tomatoes is one of the most popular movie review websites on the net

Job Site Aggregators:

Wowjobs Canada

WowJobs.ca brings Canadian job listings under one roof

WowJobs.ca brings Canadian job listings under one roof

  • WowJobs is a job posting aggregator for job postings all across Canada. This service will pick up postings from all the major employments sites such as Monster and Workopolis, in addition to postings from individual company sites and organizations.

Blog Posting Aggregators:

Technorati

Technorati is the internet's largest blog aggregator

Technorati is the internet’s largest blog aggregator

  • A web-based search engine for blogs with an easy to navigate categorical database of hundreds of thousands of blogs
    Browse popular blog postings from all areas of the net

Find me on Twitter: @jacbird and @masitblog

Do you have any suggestions of some less popular aggregators not mentioned here? Send me your comments and I’ll include them in my next installment!