Need It Simpler? Simple English Wikipedia Is For You

I know what you’re thinking. Simpler Wikipedia? If you find yourself struggling with the language in some of the more technically challenging Wikipedia articles, then maybe you see the utility. Simple English Wikipedia is a version of Wikipedia, indeed a Wikimedia property, that contains simple, straightforward and to the point articles on various topics. Unfortunately, not quite as many topics as the big cousin, English Wikipedia. 86,169 compared to 4,032,663. CTangent, an Admin for Wikmedia’s “simple” cousin, explains it thusly on Reddit:

 

SEWiki was designed for non-native speakers of English that are hoping to improve their command of the language. SEWikipedia, unfortunately, has been used as a political platform at the cost of the integrity of the project. For aspiring administrators of the full English Wikipedia, being an admin of the SEWikipedia is a nice thing to put on the resume. Many of these people would make very terrible administrators for various reasons. However, since SEWikipedia is so small, they can often gain adminship on this smaller wiki and use it to slingshot to a position of power on the English Wikipedia. In fact, when I was there, one of the founding members was de-adminned and banned by the other admins (including me) because he was using the SEWikipedia to prove a political point to the members of the English Wikipedia, who had banned him before. In principle, though, it’s a good idea. Technical articles are simplified for the layman, and non-technical articles are written so that non-native speakers can learn the language. There was a simple english Wiktionary too, but I think that got killed by the powers that be in Wikimedia.

 

I get it. Power struggle. All machinations aside, I can see why it could be useful even for English-speakers, particularly on highly technical articles. Some of the scientific articles I have read have left me bleary-eyed and cotton-brained. And I practice insurance law and read policies for a living. Having a simple English explanation for string theory would, at the very least, make me sound like I sort of know what I am talking about when my child asks me for help with his science homework.

 

So, how does Simple Wikipedia look and compare? Take the following two examples on the heading “Jurisdiction”, the first from Simple Wikipedia and the second from English Wikipedia. While I understand which version offers a better education on the topic, let’s be serious here,which would you rather read?:

 

 

 

 

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Qwiki & PostPost – Two Great Consumption Tools

I have been playing around with a couple of web tools and thought I might share with the class. Both offer filters, or perhaps lenses, for content with a focus on presentation.

The first one is Qwiki, a tool that has been in closed alpha testing for a while, but has just been released to the public. Qwiki bills itself as a multi-media search engine, but I see it as more of a visually stunning wiki tool. Visit Qwiki and you will find the usual search box. A nice touch – suggested results show below your typed term offering you options. Qwiki includes more than 3 million reference terms, mostly nouns such as people, places, and things. Enter a term and receive an “information experience” – a selection of videos, photographs, maps, and more, as well as links to related topics. You get a narration and scrolling text of the “answer” to your query running throughout the video / slideshow. Share the Qwiki you happen to be viewing via social media links, email it, or embed it in another site. The wiki part for me was being prompted via button at the top to “improve” the Qwiki, such as suggesting video and images that might go with the subject matter. Combining user-participation with such a stunning experience is intriguing. It is SO science fiction. While Qwiki might have limited appeal now, due to its smallish database, imagine its impact when it can access a database of information the size of Wikipedia. And, consider “reading” the morning news on your smartphone with a Qwiki interface. Businesses and professionasl should run and not walk to Qwiki to develop their own brand – what a great way to leverage web presence in an information environment. Not so far-fetched and definitely appealing.

The second is PostPost – a social newspaper for Facebook users. Do you like Flipboard? Do you like Facebook? Then you will probably enjoy PostPost. The “real time” social newspaper is Web-based. Simply log in with your Facebook credentials, authorize the free app, wait a moment, and get a really nice magazine of your friends’ Facebook content. The page will show links, photos, and videos, offering an experience akin to paper.li’s treatment of Twitter. This is meant to serve as a real-time layout, with intelligent grouping of similar content, making it easier to read and share. You can control the experience by moving content between sections and change the size of the newspaper. Filter and block what you don’t want to see and emphasize what you do want to see. A real boon for large friend lists or overactive sharers.

Either way you slice it, making content more visually appealing and stimulating will improve retention and enhance consumption. Both Qwiki and PostPost are aiming to do just that. Check it out and check back in with your comments!

Organizing Your On-Line, Real-Time Research

Now that you have your RSS feeds organized, how do you collect and digest the great information you find there? Try Mashpedia (link here) – a real-time tool that searches and collects feed information and displays it in an easy-to-read format. Start off with a search-engine looking box and enter your topic of interest. You will then be directed to a page with results, including definitions, videos, Tweets, and other items. You can also view clickable semantic links between the search results.

Show or hide individual streams or feeds. Customize individual articles.  Static content and real time flow sit side by side, greatly increasing the depth of informtion on your given topic.

Mashpedia is another great application to aid the on-line researcher in staying up to date on a given subject.

Hat tip to ResearchBuzz and MakeUseOf.

Where Have All The Good Books Gone?

100-1116 Huey P Long Bridge Baton Rouge northwest
Image by Chris[topher] Lin via Flickr

Studio readers know that I love the internet. I adore it as a source of information and enlightenment, engagement and development. I truly appreciate what the internet offers to researchers and data gatherers and content junkies.

But I really must relate the experience that I had earlier today. It speaks to our growing reliance on the internet / Wikipedia as not just A source of information, but THE source of information. I am not sure this is the correct position for all applications and it certainly shouldn’t be the “be all and end all” of the researchers tool-kit.

Today, as my children and I were traveling by car, we passed over a bridge. My eldest son, a 9 year-old, relayed to me that a boy he met on the beach had told my son that he had traveled over the world’s longest bridge: a span running from New York City into the ocean and terminating on an island in the Atlantic. I replied that I did not think that the world’s longest bridge was in New York, explaining that I had traveled on a seven-mile-long bridge in the Florida keys.

I asked him where we could find information on the world’s longest bridge (“WLB”) and he answered that the 2007 (?) version of the Guinness World Book of Records would have the answer. I then suggested that we would be passing right by an honest-to-goodness library filled with reference books and that perhaps we should stop there for our answer.

So we did. A nice local library positively filled to the ceiling with real paper, ink and board books! We walked straight to the spacious desk bearing the grand sign – REFERENCE. The youngish, maybe-early-20’s gentleman behind the counter asked if he could help us. I explained to him that we were in the car talking about the WLB and decided to stop at the library to get an answer as to how long it is and where it might be located. He gave me this knowing wink and grin and immediately turned to his computer, located right in front of massive stacks of reference books. In under 20 seconds, he had found HIS answer to the question, and spent about four or five minutes printing several pages. I stared at him during this printing process and asked him “gee, if you were going to look in a reference book to find the answer, which one would you use?” He thought for a moment and answered “The Guinness Book of World Records. Or, maybe, an encyclopedia.” He glanced at his printed pages, explained the WLB was in Japan and proudly handed the sheets to me.

Along the upper right hand corner was printed the Wikipedia URL. The title of the entry was longest suspension bridges.

A few thoughts:

  • why wouldn’t the reference librarian leap at the opportunity to teach children about the value of book research, an asset unique to libraries – institutions desperately seeking to maintain relevance in an increasingly on-line society?
  • why wouldn’t the reference librarian either ask the customer a few questions about what kind of information he or she was looking for before assuming that he or she is interested in the subset of suspension bridges, a decidedly shorter construction method than other bridge-building techniques?
  • if the reference librarian must use the internet, why wouldn’t he or she use Wolfram Alpha, rather than the sketchy likes of Wikipedia?

A good researcher is both an able detective and a willing educator. A good researcher is not content with the quick answer, although efficiency certainly is a desired trait. A good researcher takes advantage of the best tools available and prides himself or herself on keeping up to speed with the latest and greatest techniques, be they on-line or in the real world. A good researcher should never “come up short” and should seek to “bridge” the gaps between the question and the answer with the strongest, most comprehensive structure to be crafted with the tools at hand. And a good researcher should never forget the research “roots” – honest-to-goodness reference books!

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Zimmerman’s Legal Research Guide Free and Online

Andrew Zimmerman, Director of Library Services at Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander LLC in Baltimore, Maryland, has been compiling tips, tricks and tools for legal research into a “guide” over the past several years. He calls his guide, which started as a collection of notes and papers, a “work in progress.” Zimmerman’s “work in progress”, a/k/a “An Online Encyclopedia for Legal Researchers”, is now being offered online for free at LexisNexis InfoPro.  The guide offers alphabetical browsing by topic, as wll as keyword searching, and covers a broad range.

Just for fun, I hit the jump to “insurance.” Zimmerman offers this guidance in the first couple of introductory paragraphs:

Statutes, regulations, insurance department opinions, and other primary materials are published for all 50 states in the multi-volume National Insurance Law Service (NILS), or you can get them from each state’s statutes, administrative codes, etc. In addition, most insurance materials are available on Westlaw – either in the Domestic Insurance Compliance Materials database (MULTI-INS) or the individual state or practice area insurance law databases (see the Westlaw Database Directory or call Westlaw at 1-800-773-2889 for assistance).

The leading insurance law treatises are Appleman’s Insurance law and practice (Matthew Bender) and Couch on Insurance (West). Appleman is available on Lexis (INSURE;APLMAN). Couch is available on Westlaw (COUCH).

There are some full-text secondary source materials in a Westlaw insurance databases, notably materials by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and law review articles. To find insurance-related articles, search Westlaw’s INSNEWS database or the appropriate files in the Lexis INSURE library. Alternatively, you can search the abstracts of the Insurance Periodicals Index (Dialog File 169), which probably covers more periodicals.

The Davis Library at the School for Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science (formerly the College of Insurance) in New York City is an excellent source for insurance-related materials. They do research and document delivery for students, faculty and members of the Insurance Society of New York; non-members can use the library only by coming in person and purchasing a day pass. For more information, visit the Library’s Web site or call the Library at 212-815-9263.

Ad you can see, the Guide also offers links to related materials.

I appreciate Zimmerman’s (and LexisNexis’) evenhanded recommendations regarding materials available on Westlaw – it encourages the feeling that the Guide is offering an objective  snapshot of where to find information. And while the entry is simplistic from the point of view of a veteren insurance law practitioner, I would find  entries on unfamiliar topics a great starting point for research in uncharted waters.

Thanks Andrew and thanks LexisNexis for another useful research tool at the right price!

Hat tip to Ross-Blakely Law Library blog

Zimmerman's Legal Research Guide Free and Online

Andrew Zimmerman, Director of Library Services at Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander LLC in Baltimore, Maryland, has been compiling tips, tricks and tools for legal research into a “guide” over the past several years. He calls his guide, which started as a collection of notes and papers, a “work in progress.” Zimmerman’s “work in progress”, a/k/a “An Online Encyclopedia for Legal Researchers”, is now being offered online for free at LexisNexis InfoPro.  The guide offers alphabetical browsing by topic, as wll as keyword searching, and covers a broad range.

Just for fun, I hit the jump to “insurance.” Zimmerman offers this guidance in the first couple of introductory paragraphs:

Statutes, regulations, insurance department opinions, and other primary materials are published for all 50 states in the multi-volume National Insurance Law Service (NILS), or you can get them from each state’s statutes, administrative codes, etc. In addition, most insurance materials are available on Westlaw – either in the Domestic Insurance Compliance Materials database (MULTI-INS) or the individual state or practice area insurance law databases (see the Westlaw Database Directory or call Westlaw at 1-800-773-2889 for assistance).

The leading insurance law treatises are Appleman’s Insurance law and practice (Matthew Bender) and Couch on Insurance (West). Appleman is available on Lexis (INSURE;APLMAN). Couch is available on Westlaw (COUCH).

There are some full-text secondary source materials in a Westlaw insurance databases, notably materials by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and law review articles. To find insurance-related articles, search Westlaw’s INSNEWS database or the appropriate files in the Lexis INSURE library. Alternatively, you can search the abstracts of the Insurance Periodicals Index (Dialog File 169), which probably covers more periodicals.

The Davis Library at the School for Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science (formerly the College of Insurance) in New York City is an excellent source for insurance-related materials. They do research and document delivery for students, faculty and members of the Insurance Society of New York; non-members can use the library only by coming in person and purchasing a day pass. For more information, visit the Library’s Web site or call the Library at 212-815-9263.

Ad you can see, the Guide also offers links to related materials.

I appreciate Zimmerman’s (and LexisNexis’) evenhanded recommendations regarding materials available on Westlaw – it encourages the feeling that the Guide is offering an objective  snapshot of where to find information. And while the entry is simplistic from the point of view of a veteren insurance law practitioner, I would find  entries on unfamiliar topics a great starting point for research in uncharted waters.

Thanks Andrew and thanks LexisNexis for another useful research tool at the right price!

Hat tip to Ross-Blakely Law Library blog