John Ben DeVette's Blog

Thoughts experiences & learnings about the world of academic publishing …

Building Crowds of Humans into Software – (MIT’s) Technology Review

Building Crowds of Humans into Software – Technology Review.

MobileWorks takes the business of crowdsourcing human work (as opposed to robotic or software-processing) to the next level. Crowdsourcing in its purest form is similar to the Wikipedia not-for-profit publishing model, where anyone (with sufficient knowledge about the topic) anywhere (with a computer and internet access) in the world becomes a contributor.

I applaud MobileWorks for its smart use of mobile phone technology (must be why they put “mobile” in their corporate moniker).  As I have mentioned in previous blogs and tweets: handheld / mobile technology, especially short-messaging-service (SMS) is the primary way the developing world stays connected.  Laptops and PCs are vastly outnumbered by smartphones (phones that can access the web).  SMS from any type of phone is simply faster and often safer (especially in China where email is regularly screened) than computer-based social networking solutions.

MobileWorks pays people (primarily Indian knowledge workers) to do the tasks that robots and software find difficult, like transliterating speech or describing a photo. Their turnaround time is minutes and promises better accuracy than 1st generation for-profit crowdsourcing business sites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Obviously, MobileWorks has teamed up with several data encoding, back office outsourcing, IT companies whose employees now keep their smart phones and iPads turned on 24/7. Win-win. Major corporations get a correct answer faster, and the Indian knowledge workers up their income while sitting in traffic (Bangalore’s favorite pastime)

30 August 2011 Posted by | Crowd Sourcing | , , | Leave a comment

PERMALINKS, TinyURL, and shortDOI …What’s the Difference? Which One Should I Use?

Permalinks, TinyURL and Mini-URL are all condensed, space-saving versions of an original full-length URL address.  As a link they are all permanent, as long as the original content is still hosted at the original URL address then a mini-URL “pointer” will take you the website just as effectively as a permalink.  However, all publishers eventually move their old content to a digital archive somewhere.  The better publishers of the world plan ahead and the URL that appears when an article is first published will stay with it for “eternity”, regardless of which server the fulltext is hiding in today.  But not all publishers are as technically savvy, and chose instead to offer us a permalink, which the publisher guarantees will always find the content even after being moved into a digital archive somewhere.  And, yes, permalinks are considered permanent.

Permalinks are 2-3 times longer than a mini-URL.  And they are obviously longer than the technology requires, but they also serve as a form of visual bookmark.  So if you want your blog readers to know exactly where the shortened URL is taking them before they click, permalinks do this.   This is especially helpful when pasting several URL links close to each other, using a permalinks instead of a TinyURL will certainly reduce confusion about which link is going to what website.  A TinyURL is usually shorter than a permalink.

The New York Times uses permalinks.  Here’s what one looks like: (80 characters)

As an example, I subsequently created a TinyURL link to the NYT’s permalink: (26 characters)

As you can see, if you want to go through the hassle, it is not difficult to make a (very short) mini-URL that points directly to the content VIA a (not as short) permalink.  Ergo. clicking on the TinyURL takes you directly and immediately to the article, AND it will continue taking you directly to the article five years from now because the TinyURL is piggy-backing onto the permalink which will always know where the content has been archived.

In conclusion, if you want the shortest URL possible:  Use TinyURL.  If you want the most durable:  Use a permalink.  If you want BOTH a short & durable link, then create a mini-URL that links to a permalink (or a DOI) that links to the content.

If you are still reading this post, you must be really interested in this stuff!

So, you will certainly want to know about a NEW SERVICE that shortens lengthy DOI URI addresses called shortDOI™ Service.  The shortDOI Service functions exactly like TinyURL, but is operated by the International DOI Foundation, whom the whole world trusts implicitly.

This is an excellent 149 word introduction to DOI:

DOI is the acronym for a Digital Object Identifier.  On the surface, a DOI functions the same as a mini-URL or a permalink.  But DOI’s are really only used for journal articles, academic books (book chapters), and soon datasets.  They are used primarily by the academic and scientific communities, and are created and managed by a small group of not-for-profit organizations ( ).  A DOI is really not an URL or an URI, but acts like one and it will always link to the same article or book.   Within the publishing industry DOI’s are considered 99.99% permanent (more reliable than TinyURL).  The main advantage of a DOI is when citation of the original content is required (footnotes, bibliographies, etc.).  The DOI is now an integral part of the global bibliometrics system whereby authors (professors, scientists, students, etc.) receive recognition and funding (money) based on how much they publish.  Short DOI


Have you seen my earlier post?  TINY URL – Now Everyone Can Make Permanent Mini-URL Addresses on the Fly (Just like Twitter)




14 October 2010 Posted by | Archival, Self Publishing, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

INTERDISCIPLINARY LEARNING EXERCISE for Archivists, Archivalists, Perpetrators of National Memory Projects, Storage Fans, and People Who Are Losing their Memory has collected an excellent series of websites and videos that all pertain to memory: human, machine and corporate. Entertaining and instructive at the same time.
Here it is:

If you’re not sure you want to spend the time watching each video, here is an 2-minute summary article “The Future of Memory” from the New York Times online edition which includes a few of the more popular items. Here is the link to the NYT article:


23 March 2010 Posted by | Archival, Digital Publishing | , , | Leave a comment

Speed Bump by Dave Coverly on – A Syndicate Of Talent

Cute comic about the difficulties of e-books versus traditional print books.

Book clubs are for

Speed Bump by Dave Coverly on – A Syndicate Of Talent.

1 March 2010 Posted by | Digital Publishing | , , , , | Leave a comment

TINY URL – Now Everyone Can Make Permanent Mini-URL Addresses on the Fly (Just like Twitter)

Its amazing how long some URL addresses are. Sometimes the URL is longer than my content! Have you ever envied the way Twitter or WordPress is able to automatically generate the cute little 20 character URL addresses that conveniently squeeze into a 140 character tweet? Well, now you can DIY (do it yourself) with TINY URL. Go here and check out. You’re going to love it!

The URL is ‘durable’. You can assume it will always work.

[INTERESTING TANGENT FOR SENIOR INFORMATION INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS] Back when I was making megabucks at EBSCO (that’s a joke), part of our standard sales presentation for EBSCOHost and A-to-Z linking tools was that our URL addresses were a durable URL or a permanent URL. We used to call them DURL or PURL. Oliver Pesch (a great guy who still works for EBSCO) was even on a standards committee at the Library of Congress to create standards for permanent links. So, frankly, I am amazed that there is now a free website that makes PURLs for the general public. Who finances these things? Click-through advertisers?

In addition to space saving and longevity, TINY URL offers a statistics tracking feature. But be warned! They only give you the chance to save the link once. To quote (I’ve pasted this from the TINYURL website):

After you click the “Tiny it!” button, A line will appear that says: “Track how many people click your tiny link here” Clicking the “here” hyperlink on the home page – at the time you make the URL will take you to a traffic stats Web page for that Tiny URL. Each Tiny URL has its own statistics page (with unique ID and code). This is where you can trace your newly made link. Please bookmark or note the URL of your stats page immediately after it is made because that is the only opportunity you will have to note it.

So, bookmark it or save it some place where you can find it later, or its gone.

Lastly, when you create the new TINY URL, you can add a few letters or a word of your choice to the future mini-URL you’re creating. Its a nice way to ID some thing before you click it open, even though its already been compressed into a permanent statistical TINY URL!!!

[SECOND INTERESTING TANGENT FOR SENIOR INFORMATION INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS] Any one who has been paying money to have someone create permanent URLs, in theory, can now use TINY URL to do the same thing.

Could something like this eventually replace the DOI and put CrossRef out of business? Or rather enable them to focus on something harder?

Thanks to Peter Binfield, publisher of PLOS ONE, for recommending (and using) at SCIENCE ONLINE 2010.

25 February 2010 Posted by | Digital Publishing, Self Publishing, University Publishing | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CROWDSOURCING: Short Movie “LIVE MUSIC” Shows What Online Virtual Communities Are Capable Of Producing

“LIVE MUSIC”, a new 5-minute movie about a guitar and a violin falling in love, is a successful example of CROWDSOURCING or VIRAL publishing. The company Mass Animation used Facebook as their online interface, supplying 266 contributors with propriety software that was accessed or downloaded from the Facebook site. Later, the created content, was uploaded back to Facebook, voted upon by the contributors, and the editors at Mass Animation pulled it all together.

Overall cost of production was only a fraction of normal animation costs.

Increasingly, free social networking tools are being adapted to facilitate the creation of original content. A new backbone of online functionality exists today that allows authors and artists to team up and build things faster, cheaper, and at times radically different from what humans have ever done before.



20 November 2009 Posted by | Crowd Sourcing | , , , , | 1 Comment

WHY Kindle e-book reader failed to impress Princeton undergrads

Kindle e-book reader failed to impress 50 Princeton undergrads during trial run. Are any e-book readers ready for college textbook applications?

If e-books and e-book readers continue to be only read-only and do not include ways to interact with the document (some form of note-making and then sending those notes to others. ergo. social networking), the e-reader will never become a popular device for the academic world. The Princeton trial failed for this reason, regardless if it was used on a Kindle or an iPhone.

29 October 2009 Posted by | Digital Publishing, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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