Saturday, February 18, 2012

Slow New Look

A while back we asked some designer associates to suggest some redesign options for Citation Machine.  Our two number one goals were easy appeal and operation, and almost now change in the layout and operation of Son of Citation Machine.  This may seem like an impossibility to many of you, but I think that they achieved it.

Even at that, we've decided to pursue the (slightly) new look in phases.  It seems that any time I try to enact an improvement, many people "freak" -- and rightly so.  The primary advantage of CM over other attribution tools is that it is quick and simply, and it stops being that when you have to figure out some new layout.

When you visit CM, you will see phase 1 of the change.  Mostly, it's a new logo, new color for the main menu bar, oh! and the squirrel's running the other way.

One important deviation from the new look suggested by the designers is that I'm keeping the squirrel.  I've become fond of the fellow.  Perhaps I can put a red hat on him.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Such Seriousness

It's 6:50 (EST) in the morning and in the last 10 minutes Citation Machine has cited:

 7,138 books, 
   841 encyclopedia articles, 
10,738 journal articles, 
 1,946 magazine articles, 
 2,230 newspaper articles, 
   630 chapters from compiled works, 
 1,468 government or corporate documents,  
   546 interviews, 
    96 conference papers, 
22,731 web pages, 
 1,185 web-based media objects, 
   745 blog entries, 
    65 online discussion comments, 
   586 documents from databases, 
   240 radio or TV programs, 
   690 films or videos, and 
   195 lectures.  

So many very serious people out there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Progress Report

New advertising to pay for additional RAM and the new uber server coming in December
This is a blog post that is way overdue.  A combination of economic calamity, rising young edtech stars, and a scheduled move to scale back my public speaking activities have had me in my home office -- mostly working on Citation Machine.  Some associations with teams running similar web services have bent my attention toward improving this popular tool, that has gone a long time without proper attention and TLC.

I started out wanting and needing to do a total redesign of CM and how it worked, which inspired some rather enthusiastic resistance from commenters about why I should think that something that works so well should be so changed.  Although I still believe that the changes made the tool more efficient, efficiency is a personal thing, and practice plays a big part in what makes something work well.  So I lamented and went back to the old design.

Since then, I have spent some time adding sources to and populating out the Chicago style section, and making corrections to the other three citation formats.  I've also, for a long time, been interested in a way to automate some of the format building.  One way was to tie in to Google's ISBN book lookup API, enabling researchers to simply type in a book ISBN, and having the available information plugged into the citation template -- automatically.  That worked well until its use far exceeded Google's limits on how many lookups were allowed per web service.

I'd also been interested in creating an automated way of doing Web address lookups and tried my hand at page scraping, which is a highly technical and occasionally successful way of writing software that looks at a web page and pulls pertinent information from its text.  This, surprisingly, worked far better than I'd expected, but not well enough to consistently make CM more efficient -- and it cost way to much computer processing for CM's web servers.  So I abandoned it for another solution.

Going back to the ISBN issue, I decided to take a leap and to start archiving book citations that included ISBN numbers.  This has quickly generated a database of, at this writing, 45,244 books.  So, if you have the ISBN of a book today, you can enter it at the opening CM screen (or APA or MLA book template pages), select either MLA or APA styles, and there's a pretty good chance that the following template form will at least be partially filled out by the database.  This seemed such a good idea that I started archiving Web sites as well, by URL.  At this writing there are considerably more Web sites in the database than books, showing 859,668.  So entering a Web add (with http:// included) avails a fairly good chance of saving some time with at least partially completed template forms.

This, too, costs CPU power, so we had to double the RAM on one of the servers ($), and have concluded that we need to upgrade to a new uber server during the December holidays ($$$).  This is the reason for the additional advertising.  But increasing the size of CM's pages to make room for a 200x300 pixel ad also provided more space for instructions.  So for each CM source there are now some fairly detailed instructions on each form element to be entered in the template form.

The thing that got me writing so early this morning is that I've done most of this in silence, in the closed confines of my man-cave office.  So I'm going to try to be more open about what I'm doing, not just here in my Blogger blog, but also through the Facebook page and perhaps even set up a Twitter account, posting periodic updates on what I'm doing with CM and why.

So pay attention!

Oh!  And then there's the squirrel.  But we'll talk more about him later ;-)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Design to Citation Machine

You've noticed, no doubt, that I made some changes to the design of Citation Machine. My intent was to make the changes as minor as possible while making its operation as simple as possible. I realize now, after many e-mail queries and complaints that although I maintain that the design is simpler, I have also changed the process a little more extensively than I'd assumed.

So here, I'd like to post some of the questions I've gotten and the answers I have returned. This may be viewed as something of an FAQ for Citation Machine (next number up).

  1. For the APA format does not show options such as printed book, non print magazine article etc
  2. One of the goals of the new CM design is to simplify its operation. Therefore, I have combined print and non-print. When you select APA Journal, there is a place to enter a Web URL or digital object identifier. If the document is print, then those textboxes are left blank, and the citation is formatted as print. If a URL or DOI is entered, it indicates a digital or some other type of non-print document, and the citation reflects a non-print source. The result is that the list of sources to select from is shorter - by half.

  3. There is no resource list for me to click ! Just some silly memory of my recent usages. Who cares?
  4. I've gotten quite a few similar notes, but when seen how the new design actually works, people are fairly pleased. My goal is simplifying the usage, specifically cutting down on the amount of scrolling you had to do previously in order to find the source you want to cite.

    Today, the styles are at the top. You simply click the tab for APA, and a source panel appears. Click the source you want, and it will remain in your "Recently Cited" tab on the left.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top 20 Well-Read Cities in the U.S.

Much has been written lately about the dramatic increase in eBook buying and reading, and the decline of paper-based books. But Amazon, at least largely responsible for this trend also is in a position to tell us more about how we read and who's doing it. The ecommerce giant just released a list of the top 20 well-read cities in the U.S., since January 1, 2011. Here's how they made the list. The Next Web reports here:
Well, by compiling sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales across all formats – in digital and print – since Jan. 1, 2011. included cities with more than 100,000 residents and it was calculated on a per capita basis. So who came out on top? Cambridge, Massachusetts, of course. As home to the prestigious Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge also topped the list for reading the most non-fiction books.

Boulder, Colo., lives up to its reputation as a healthy city by topping the list of cities that order the most books in the Cooking, Food & Wine category. Whilst Alexandria, Va., residents topped the list of the city that orders the most children’s books. Florida, the sunshine state, was the state with the most cities in the Top 20, with Miami, Gainesville and Orlando making the list.
So the top 20 most read-cities are:
  1. Cambridge, Mass.
  2. Alexandria Va.
  3. Berkeley, Calif.
  4. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  5. Boulder, Colo.
  6. Miami, Fla.
  7. Salt Lake City
  8. Gainesville, Fla.
  9. Seattle
  10. Arlington, Va.
  11. Knoxville, Tenn.
  12. Orlando, Fla.
  13. Pittsburgh
  14. Washington, D.C.
  15. Bellevue, Wash.
  16. Columbia, S.C.
  17. St. Louis, Mo.
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Portland, Ore.
  20. Atlanta

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seth's Blog: The future of the library

Seth Godin recently wrote a post about the future of the library and of librarians. It's an interesting question, "What's the purpose of a library and it's keeper, when virtually all of the information we need on a daily basis is just a mouse click, or touch away?"
He writes..
Want to watch a movie? Netflix is a better librarian, with a better library, than any library in the country. The Netflix librarian knows about every movie, knows what you've seen and what you're likely to want to see. If the goal is to connect viewers with movies, Netflix wins. 
Post-Gutenberg, books are finally abundant, hardly scarce, hardly expensive, hardly worth warehousing. Post-Gutenberg, the scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data. 
The library is no longer a warehouse for dead books. Just in time for the information economy, the library ought to be the local nerve center for information... 
read on here:

... Sent from my iPad ...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Self Setting Preferences

CM now remembers your 
most used sources
I have long felt that the most valuable feature of Citation Machine is its simplicity and resulting ease of use. I believe that it still requires too much scanning and reading to make the selections for a specific source, so I am trying to increase the tool's simplicity by including some Cookie features that will cause your computer to remember certain things about how you use CM.

If this all works (I'm doing the programming at this typing), then when you select a style (MLA, APA, Chicago), CM will remember that selection so that the next time you open the tool, it will automatically click out that style.

In addition, I am rewording the expanding button from Fewer and More to Frequent and All. CM will now record on your computer (via Cookies) the content sources that you use, and then list only those when you select FREQUENT. Clicking ALL will return all sources.