Wikipedia on your coffee table!

So I recently thought I had this awesome idea that you could take the “featured articles” in Wikipedia and turn them into a book or volume of books that people could buy and just keep one on their coffee table.  You may agree with me that there’s a certain serendipity associated with traditional binded books or journals that is hard to replicate when browsing the web on a desktop, laptop or iPad-like device.

I was not too surprised, a little disappointed, and pretty excited to find out that this has been done.  The most comical creation of a Wikipedia book has to go to Rob Matthews for actually attempting to bind all the featured articles.  On a more serious front, I was happy to see that PediaPress, wiki-to-print publishing service, is partnered with the Wikimedia foundation to do exactly this.  It’s integrated quite well with Wikipedia so you can click on the articles you want to include in your own book or you can select books that have already been compiled by PediaPress.

As an alternative to purchasing a book, you can also generate a PDF that you can print at your own leisure.  My only gripe when immediately trying this is that scalable content Latex equations are embedded in the PDFs as if they are images.  It still looks decent, though, and is pretty cool!

PubCasts for Journals

To practice a presentation I recently gave on a paper, I recorded myself speaking (an odd experience).   It seems that a very common way people hear about research is through presentations, so why not take this to the next level and post a nice screencast with an article you publish?

Well, this actually happens quite a bit, and after a recent lunch conversation, I was motivated to look more into the sources of “screencasts for papers” that I have watched in the past.

While I think many students and researchers are familiar with video lectures (such as MIT’s opencourseware or, one form of screencasts that focuses on research articles stood out to me as having technical enough content to properly motivate a full research paper: SciVee.

This website promotes YouTube-like screencasts of research papers and has coined the term “PubCast“.

I’m definitely all for this, so what’s the problem?

Thankfully, due in large part to the open access movement, I find myself visiting the journal sites themselves more and more for the content and supplementary information.  Especially for open access journals like PLoS, researchers have less of a reason to post a PDF version of their article on their web page.  Rather, why not just link directly to the open access content which makes the article visible in HTML and PDF?

While SciVee is partnered with PLoS (awesome), I noticed that the associated PLoS pages never link to the SciVee video (as far as I can tell).  Moreover, PLoS Bio and Comp Bio videos seem to stop existing on SciVee after around 2008 or so.

This is a shame, because even if there’s a lot of great video content out there associated with these papers, no one knows about if they visit the journal’s home page.  Why not just stick the video link here?:

I think the basic idea is out there and there are some early-adopters of this technique (not necessarily limited to SciVee’s services, of course).  What I think it needs is better marketing and accessibility from journal websites.  Intuitively, it seems like well-done screencasts promoted by the journals themselves (perhaps even made a part of the editorial process) could really be good for getting the journal and its papers more attention.