Life

An experiment in altmetrics (or how I might have broken the blog)

Keep following Annals of Botany for all the latest news about plants. We just made a minor change to this blog to give the authors whose work we feature more credit.

The reason behind this change is to improve how the blog works for paper authors in Annals of Botany and AoB PLANTS. However, the effect for readers means that some things will be different. Overall they could be better, so this post is to explain what we’ve done, why, and where you can give us your opinion.

I’ll start with why.

At the moment Annals of Botany or AoB PLANTS publishes a paper. We blog something like a ContentSnapshot saying briefly what the paper is and stick a big Get the Paper button by the title. You can get the paper, or not. What then happens is that the blog automatically tweets the blog post, as well as sending it to Google+ and Facebook. Anyone seeing the post there has to click to get to the blog, and then on to the paper if they want it.

If someone likes the paper they might retweet or share the link, but the link that gets shared is the link to the blog post, not the link to paper. This is a potential problem for altmetrics.

Altmetrics are alternative ways of measuring the impact of a paper, by tracking how often it gets tweeted, shared blogged about and so on. To an extent it’s another number to chase. In our case, we may be reducing the value of the number by getting the blog tweeted about instead of the paper. If was purely about the number, then we could ignore it. What makes altmetrics more interesting is that a few of the sites pursuing this are making transparent the notes where a paper is being blogged etc. So, for example, connecting the Phytophactor’s post on the rain-pollinated orchid to the original paper would let people see where the post is being discussed.

That last link is from altmetric.com, but there are other altmetrics companies tracking posts too.

For paper authors, we need to push the links to the papers a bit more to the front. So here’s what I’ve done.

If a post appears in ContentSnapshots then what should happen now is that the RSS link will point to the original paper. They’ll work the same way our direct link posts do. You can still read the post here on the web, but if you’re reading in an RSS reader, or see the tweet on Twitter or a post on Facebook clicking the link should take you direct to the abstract page. For Twitter it shouldn’t be too confusing, the tweet will be the paper title and link to it, so if anything that should be simpler. From Facebook, the connection is probably simpler, though it might jar if you’re not used to it. For people reading in an RSS reader it’s either one click less (to get to the paper that the post is about) or else a bit annoying not going to the blog. In this case, the full text from the blog should appear in the reader, so it shouldn’t be a case of reading click here for more info and ending up somewhere else.

There will still be posts about Annals of Botany papers that will be full posts. These won’t automatically direct you to the paper from the RSS feed. These will be the longer posts that are more than just a summary or abstract of the paper. Depending on how the results go and what the reaction is, we’ll do the same for AoB PLANTS papers.

We’re planning to run this as an experiment for a month to see what happens. If you find this a nuisance I would genuinely like to read it below in the comment box, as I’m not aiming to mortally annoy our readers. Mid September we’ll look at if/how it’s working and try to either improve or scrap it.

I’m aware this might not be entirely clear. Basically, if something odd happens here over the next couple of weeks, it’s probably due to me. If after a week your reaction is something like below, I want to know so I can fix it.

facepalm
I hope it won’t come to this. Photo: César Astudillo/Flickr.

Image: Denial by César Astudillo/Flickr. This image licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc licence.

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