Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Check yo self

FSP's post today on getting blogged about reminded me of something I meant to write about awhile ago. And that is - ways to actively monitor how others talk about you publicly.

I highly suggest setting up several Google Alerts. This is a great service that emails you whenever someone mentions your name on a site Google indexes*. You can set this up for general search results, as well as for blogs, twitter, and news articles.

You also can set up citation alerts in Google scholar, which will tell you if someone has cited you generally, or you can set one up for individual papers if you're so inclined.

For these alerts, I have quite a few variations of my name, for example:
(Ada A. Lovelace) OR (A. Lovelace) OR (Lovelace, A.) OR (Lovelace AND Analytic Engines) 

I've found these alerts invaluable, because over the years I have given several talks where my privacy requests were violated. This happened along the lines of:
"Can we have a copy of your slides?"
"Pretty Please? It's for those poor undergraduate students who couldn't attend your talk today."
"Pleeeeease? We promise not to put it on the internet."

Because I'm a pushover when it comes to pleas about wee undergraduate students, I acquiesced, and sure enough two weeks later, surprise! There are my slides.

But these alerts have also relayed good news, for example, I've learned of news articles about my research I didn't know existed, learned of entirely unexpected paper citations, and, I also discovered a really juicy paper basically trashing one of the subfields I work in. (Not trashing me specifically, just saying something factual about my publication frequency).

So, these alerts are worth setting up. Unless you're the academic equivalent of Lindsay Lohan, in which case I do not recommend this service.

(*) If you're a Bing person, sorry - there are no Bing alerts at present. Their academic.research.microsoft.com site offers RSS subscriptions, though I imagine there is a fair bit of overlap with Google scholar. 


  1. FCS - What harm would you expect to come from someone posting your slides to the web? Someone might come across your brilliant insights and want to hire you? Your powerpoint theme goes viral? Seems to me like it would be doing folks a service to have it up on slideshare and youtube and whereever else you could put it. If your stuff is any good, show it off, right?

    I've blogged about this stuff a lot, most recently here: http://www.mendeley.com/blog/academic-features/if-you-publish-a-paper-but-nobody-reads-it-does-it-make-a-difference/

    I do have some searches that I run, but I find Google Alerts tends to throw a lot of irrelevant stuff at you unless you really refine your query or have a totally unique name.
    One thing you can also do is keep an eye on http://www.mendeley.com/stats/ You can find some interesting stuff about your publication network, and there's much more to come there.

  2. The biggest harm from unexpected web slide-posting is me getting sued for using a uncredited copywritten image, video, or audio clip. If I am paid an honorarium for lecturing then my use of that image is not fair use.

    The second biggest harm is that sometimes I give lectures on topics that have not yet been accepted for publication. Some are under review. Some we are still analyzing the results and don't know how they are going to turn out. Etc. But I may still want to give a "teaser" during a presentation. I don't see why I have to make this permanent on the internet 4EverAndEver, leaving myself open to plagiarism. (Or embarrassment if the results turn out poorly.)

    There are times when I share slides publicly, but they are deliberate and on purpose, and I've given a lot of careful thought to it. Someone coming up to me after a presentation and begging me for my slides for their students, promising to just share them with a few people, and then posting them on an indexed googled website has just broken a social contract with me.

    I'm not so desperate as a scientist that I need random people to help me advertise my research for me. I am perfectly capable of doing so myself.

  3. And as for the stealth ad in your comment, which I'll let slide because I truly do like Mendeley --

    To be honest, I don't really care for the social media aspects of Mendeley as they stand now. I think it's great as a citation manager, and I think it's a reasonable way to send a group of articles to someone. I could see it being useful in some educational settings, for example, putting all of the assigned reading for a course in a Mendeley group. Or maybe getting a n00b graduate student up to speed on an area.

    But I honestly have no inclination to share articles with my fellow researchers using these tools. It's just not how we do things in my field. I have a friend who is a psychologist, and they really do mail physical journal articles to each other. This seems like it would be great for them.

    But we have no need for things like that. In CS, it's all about the annual conferences. The latest results are presented. Everyone who is anyone in your field attends the conference. They are on the program committees. They know the literature, they know all the people, they know all the people's graduate students. They attend the presentations of the papers to see who is up and coming, and they read the proceedings.

    In CS, if your paper is good, it will get cited, and people will talk about it. You don't need to worry a lot about it.

    At least that's been my observation, maybe Beki or John or someone else will have more to say on the subject.

  4. Good idea! I used to have a Web of Science alert for citations, but I actually didn't find it all that useful. After I reached a critical mass of publications (I am in a publication-heavy field), I stopped caring quite so much and found that many citations are for research that is only tangentially related.

    I do think your suggestion of setting up an alert for a specific paper is a good one, since I am very interested in who is citing my most recent pubs and what they are doing.