Archive for September, 2010

Consumer health websites: Ooh pretty = Credibility (maybe)

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

The peer-reviewed Evidence Based Library & Information Practice (EBLIP) open source journal just published a review of Robins, D., Holmes, J., & Stansbury, M. (2010). Consumer health information on the web: The relationship of visual design and perceptions of credibility. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61(1), 13-19.

Here’s how the original study decided which consumer health websites to review:

Screen shots of 31 consumer health information sites chosen from the results of a Google search using the term “consumer health information” were converted to slide format and shown to participants. The 31 sites included 12 of the top ranked consumer health information sites derived from three sources: the Consumer and Patient Health Information Section (CAPHIS) of the Medical Library Association (MLA), the MLA itself, and Consumer Reports.

Findings included

A statistically significant correlation was reported between visual design preference and perceived credibility in 8 of the 31 sites (26%). In these instances where visual design is rated highly, so is credibility. When visual design ratings were ranked highest to lowest, credibility ratings followed the same pattern. Similarly, when credibility ratings were ranked highest to lowest, visual, design ratings followed.

However, part of the commentary notes

As an exploratory study, this is a very interesting and highly readable piece of research. It is, however, undermined by a lack of detail about the research participants and questions about the statistics.


Health sciences librarians are likely to find the list and analysis of the 31 web sites very interesting. It includes expected sites like MedlinePlus, but also drug companies such as Novartis and authoritative non-US sites such as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

The EBLIP review layout online briefly discusses the objective, study design, setting, subjects, methods, main results & conclusions including “The relationship is complicated and more research is needed on what visual design cues are important to credibility judgments.” Be sure to click through to the review PDF for the full scoop including the commentary. The original JASIST article is here, originally published online in October 2009, and the list of the 31 websites are the stimuli.

I still wonder about searching by the term ‘consumer health information’ though. My One and the same? entry explains my thoughts on that.

Even though I didn’t know about this study, I’m sure it was noticed and considered for some of the recent MedlinePlus redesign choices. Remember how MedlinePlus lost the top US government ranking for news & information websites in the American Customer Satisfaction Index last year? I wonder if it was less about social media incorporation and more about visual design, which has certainly gone in a different direction to be more similar to top ranked sites in the study now. It will be interesting to see what next year’s ranking is.

Other EBLIP reviews of interest from the current edition are Google Scholar Out-Performs Many Subscription Databases when Keyword Searching and Research into the Impact of Facebook as a Library Marketing Tool is Inconclusive.

Friday Foolery #103: Night of the Curriculum

Friday, September 24th, 2010

It’s been a long week of teaching and learning and webcasting like crazy at work in addition to life in general.

Our son’s school Open House was Thursday night and I suddenly realized this was the last one he’d ever have. From 4th grade on they have Curriculum Night. What is a Curriculum Night? I have never liked the word ‘curriculum’ and dedicating an entire evening to it sounds painfully boring, yet we’re responsible parents so we’ll go anyway.

The principal scared me during his presentation with something along the lines of ‘Most of your students will receive the majority of their education here and we take this seriously.’ A K-8 school means nine school years at the same place. Logically I already knew this but I’d never thought of it that way before.

Five of those years will involve Curriculum Nights. I think that realization made my own brain snap a little.

I’m envisioning a graphic novel entitled Night of the Curriculum with Bacon & Zombies.

Cover art includes a properly remix-licensed Creative Commons blend of Armless Zombies? by felix42

holding a BCN trying to escape by DiggzDE (WARNING: crass language including an f-bomb bacon chicken narwhal!! I must try the recipe)

and one of the Open source textbooks a “threat” to Texas education? by opensourceway

This will earn me the One Of Those Parents award for certain, right?

NLM APIs: Why medical librarians should care

Monday, September 20th, 2010

On Friday, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) announced the release of their application programming interface (API) web page via the Technical Bulletin.

It’s Monday and I know we’re all gearing up for a crazy busy fall so I’ll keep this short and sweet

What’s an API?

NLM’s definition from the API webpage: a set of routines that an application uses to request and carry out lower-level services performed by a computer’s operating system.

Huh? What’s so exciting about that?

Agreed. We need to stop talking about technology to explain technology.

Let’s paraphrase Webpopedia: An API is part of a set of tools for building software applications. A good API makes it easier to develop a program. This is good for users because all programs using a common API will have similar interfaces. This makes it easier for users to learn new programs.

Oh, does that include mobile applications and such?

Yes, releasing APIs does make it easier to develop mobile apps.

Does that API page include PubMed too?

Yes, as part of Entrez Programming Utilities (currently third down).

Why should I care/know when I don’t write software?

As I learned in Woods Hole last year, the future in direct data access is now and we need to stay on top of the latest.

NLM has invited the public to develop computer and mobile interfaces and are seeking comments and recommendation for future APIs. I am hopeful NLM will also create resources including these third-party interfaces once they are developed so we don’t have to search high & low for them.

Now’s your chance to let people know this is in the works and submit your own recommendations to NLM for what you’d like to see developed.

Friday Foolery #102: Bacony fun with PubMed

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Thursday’s post research inspired me and I’m not sure why I haven’t tried this before.

Alas, there is no bacon[MeSH].

Life is so unfair.

I did the next best thing, winnowing the list as I scanned the results and ended up with a relatively accurate Bacon[ti] NOT (Francis OR Roger OR Kevin OR Selden OR Chow OR Harry OR Cyrus OR Josiah OR George OR Governor)

That still includes some mentions of Bacon As Person but not many. Swine flu update: bringing home the bacon was the only one that had anything to do with H1N1, about a dozen articles had variations of ‘bringing home the bacon’ as the title.

Perplexing international translations I’d love to have someone check for accuracy include

  • [Instruments, books and other objects memorable to (almost) forgotten opinions, therapies, buildings, etc. Bacon fatness meter in live pigs] (Dutch)
  • [One catches not only mice with bacon. An atraumatic treatment for cutaneous myiasis] (German & nasty, don’t click if you’re eating)
  • [“Worry bacon” in children and adolescents. A contribution from child-guidance and forensic-psychological practice] (German)
  • [Bacon as therapeutic substance in pediatrics.] (Undetermined language (!!))

Speaking of eating, how about Characteristics of a cream of cheese with bacon frozen soup concentrate? Mmm tasty!

The Bacon pull-through procedure is… probably something I don’t want to think  about. What appeared to be related (an article in J Assoc Off Anal Chem about uncooked bacon) is actually not since that’s the Journal-Association of Official Analytic Chemists. Maybe that abbreviation is why they went out of print in 1991?

Bacon therapy sounds inviting but in reality is also nasty and related to the German article above. You’ve been warned if you click to find out.

My favorite title is just a little older than I am:

While this appears to be my personal manifest destiny, it was a letter to the editor about prohibiting carcinogens in food that took things a little bit too far.

I still plan on having coffee & bacon for breakfast today though!

PubMed: Say Interactive Tutorial[pt]?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Michelle Kraft learned from the New England Journal of Medicine that their Videos in Clinical Medicine are indexed in PubMed under Interactive Tutorials[pt].

I thought I must not have been paying attention during the several short and one full-day PubMed training classes I have had thus far, and even double-checked the manual to see where it was covered. It wasn’t specifically except for mention of more Publication Types under the most frequently used types listed first under Limits, such as clinical trials and meta-analysis.

Not only was it news to me, apparently this was news to other medical librarians such as Mark MacEachen too. Two more have been added since she covered them bringing the total number up to 760 as of Wednesday night.

That requires poking around.

I popped in (“catheterization”[MeSH]) AND Interactive Tutorial[pt] and sure enough

That was definitely a NEJM video. The earliest result listed in this search was also a NEJM video from 2006, and Mark noticed was from 1991.

But wait, wasn’t this term from 2008 according to the MeSH Scope note defining Interactive Tutorials as “Consisting of video recordings or other files that reveal material selectively according to user guidance”?

Yes, and there was specific information shared about Interactive Tutorials and their retroactivity in the Nov-Dec 2007 NLM Technical Bulletin about 2008 MEDLINE data changes, worth a read that I’ve quoted below:

Interactive Tutorial
Interactive Tutorial describes items published online and consisting primarily of non-narrative text, such as a video recording or other interactive content in which the sequence of content presented depends upon interaction from the user. The only narrative text may be the abstract; otherwise there is little or no “traditional” narrative text.

Examples are:

  • “Videos in clinical medicine” that appear periodically in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • “Multimedia article” that appears periodically in Surgical Endoscopy.
  • “Learning on the Web” that appears in the journal Heart.

This new publication type will not be applied if a video or other interactive content is only a part of the supplemental or other minor portion of a published article.

In the near future, NLM will apply this new PT retrospectively to existing citations that qualify. When used, no other PT is assigned. Even though treed under Review [pt], the number of references, if they exist, will not be counted nor appear in the MEDLINE citation.

I honestly don’t know what the scoop is with the 1991 citation.  Was it really a very early Web resource? Anyone have access to find out?

Friday Foolery #101: Library Duct Tape Saga Continues

Friday, September 10th, 2010

I came back from our California road trip to find a puzzling new development at work that no one can explain:

Here’s the corner view too, the first picture shows the careful right triangle tapering to better connect a double row to a single row of duct tape squares:

Someone said the architect who is coordinating our new carpet did this, but what does it mean?

In other news, with the journal reshelving project and increased book truck traffic our staff entry duct tape is getting worse than it was before.

We need the architect here more than the previously non-duct-taped carpet did.

Rethinking Research

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Andrew Wilson (whom I’ve long been a fan of) launched a social media research collaboration call just as we were packing up for the several thousand miles of fun a good West Coast road trip brings. He notes in particular

…practitioners of social media in the gov 2.0 space need to have greater awareness of the research being conducted in social media, social networking and mobile technologies.


Certainly, this is only the start of the process. Effective and substantive integration of lessons learned and best practices from the research community will be a long-term endeavor and will require numerous approaches.

If you are aware of research, please jump in to contribute! He credits me for help but all I did was connect him with Lorena O’English who truly blows my mind when it comes to Zotero. I’m still processing the wealth of information she shared with us on a webcast.

On the back burner of my mind as we drove through Washington, Oregon & California then back again (my entire family went insane at the same moment about 100 miles north of the CA/OR border) was this:

  • What exactly counts as research in these ever-changing areas of communication and technology?
  • Are there valuable perspectives in these areas that are not following traditional research methods & publication channels?
  • How do you find, promote and include them if so?

For example, the ever-helpful Disruptive Library Technology Jester documented Using Twitter For Service Outage Awareness complete with JavaScript code and CSS file very well in a blog entry that serves as an excellent case study.

What about the proceedings of conferences and symposia, such as the upcoming Health Care Innovation in the Age of Social Media?

Is research of social media considered to be of value in academia, driven by tenure, or more a nebulous type of activity? I suspect the latter since the list of what “counts” for tenure in academia is updated rather infrequently and progresses in coverage of new areas at a slothlike pace. A social media channel, such as Google Wave, could easily be started then die before a research study is put together let alone make it through the publication process. This article put into words what I’ve seen but not able to articulate well. Maybe change is on the horizon there with the similarly slothlike pace of peer review itself, as Mark MacEachern highlighted in Web-Based Peer Review.

Does social media research require new approaches since traditional research methods may not always apply when the channels, population and usage of social media is constantly changing? What do you think?

Friday Foolery #100: Going Whole Hog

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

We’ve been on a whirlwind road trip of California, which would not be complete without stopping by the biggest bacon sculpture I’m aware of.

Towering into the sky between two buildings on Sonoma State University‘s campus is Bacon & Eggs. The eggs, which our son is standing on, are blue and the back side of the bacon is black but this side looks good. Not pictured nearby is a Starbucks kiosk named Toast.

Next time we’ll tour the library (all new since I was there) since our 8 year old has been great and very patient throughout many miles, but it would seriously test his limits to put up with the amount of time his librarian mom wants to spend in there.