Friday, February 29, 2008

Adventure 29


Free Knowledge = Better Science

I am not battle-weary professor. Neither am sore after having my work rejected by multiple journals (not yet at least). I am a humble graduate student trying to prepare my first manuscript. In the process, I have discovered the pitfalls of multiple journals and their editorial policies; each with its own formatting guidelines, way of presenting ideas, kind of work expected, etc. While hunting for literature, I was faced with journals that my institution hasn't subscribed to; an article could cost upto USD 75! Thats when the ideas below occurred to me.

I believe that knowledge should be freely shared. Hence, I am against the practice of scientific journals charging exorbitant subscription fees to allow readers to access their online material. A better option would be to charge the authors themselves enough publication fees to sustain the cost of maintaining these knowledge databases. Most serious research projects are heavily funded, and there may be institutional memberships to get research published rather than access literature. Apart from allowing researchers with institutional affiliations to work from locations outside their organization, this would breed a lot of independent startups and amateur researchers who, without the need to buy expensive subscriptions, would be encouraged to contribute to scientific development, not unlike the 'hackers', who spurred great developments in computers over the last three decades. Furthermore, it would automatically put pressure on academics to publish, if at least to justify their institution's publication membership, which would be at a premium to subsidize under-funded organizations.

With the onset of the internet, I also believe that the practice of having separate journals for separate disciplines (sometimes a large number of journals of varying importance for various areas) should be rubbished. With the abolishing of journals and their impact factors, a research article will have no crutches to stand on apart from its own academic merit. Nobody will cite an atrocious article written by some heavy-weight of yesteryear with enough clout to bulldoze a peer-review process just because it appears in Journal X with impact factor 32.1 ortrash a perfectly good piece of analysis just because it appeared in Journal Y with impact factor 1.1. All articles should use the same formatting macro, and this editor could be freely available on the web (this is not some wild flight of fancy - check out the beautiful pages of Wikipedia) reducing the dependence on expensive and proprietary word processors (read MS Word), as well as the inconsistency of various LaTeX packages (I suggest the development of a markup language that incorporates both Wiki and LaTeX markups, as well as a few online toolbars for thosedisinclined to use markups - especially biologists, arts and business researchers). Apart from easy database searches (each article could have various tags, like most blogs nowadays do), this would weed out plagiarism and duplicate submissions and also facilitate a uniform format that everyone could follow. It would also allow such a database to be self-funding, with google-like text ads running alongside searches (a boon for project recruiters seeking expertise in specific domains, suppliers of scientific equipment and publishers).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Adventure 28

The World is Full of Suckers...

...who have made F1 the richest sport.
...who have made golf the second richest sport.
...who click on AdWords links.
...who comment on YouTube.
...who use Internet Explorer.
...who buy fairness creams.
...who participate in Indian Idol.
...who participate in MTV Roadies.
...who participate in Item Bomb.
...who participate in Nach Baliye.
...who believe "long equations = advanced math".
...who listen to Backstreet Boys.
...who listen to Megadeth.
...who listen to Amit Sana.
...who send SMS votes for Lead India.
...who send SMS votes for Indian Idol.
...who send SMS votes for Nach Baliye.
...who use del.icio.us.
...who frequent McDonalds.
...who wear Iron Maiden t-shirts.
...who wear Pink Floyd t-shirts.
...who wear Manchester United t-shirts.
...who wear Chelsea t-shirts.
...who wear Arsenal t-shirts.
...who wear Britney Spears t-shirts.
...who love Kentucky Fried Chicken.
...who use Shelfari.
...who love Microsoft Office 2007.
...who use MSN Messenger.
...who use LiveJournal.
...who pay real money for virtual Facebook gifts.
...who write posts like this.
...who read posts like this.

Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Adventure 27

Search Strings

Here are the top ten search strings that led to my page (information courtesy the Google Analytics script in this page). Though my blog has hardly a few regular readers, Google does throw it up among the top results for a few search strings. Here are the top ten, with some explanation for those who might be unfamiliar with these subjects. If you are smart enough (or you attend quizzes of the "connect, put fundaes , stage 2" variety), you will find a clear pattern linking most of these searches. Do tell me if you find that out. (The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of searches in the last 12 months).

  1. Harathi Reddy (31) - Bangalorea-based supermodel. Erstwhile queen of Bangalore Times' page 3. Currently appears to be either shunning the limelight or on sabbatical to Delhi Times or Hyderabad Times. Overwhelming search volume proves that the public is dying to see her more often in Bangalore Times.
  2. Pavithra Halakatti (28)- Bangalore-based socialite. Reigning queen of Bangalore Times' page 3. A party isn't a party without her. Equally at ease in a chiffon saree or an Aki Nirula gown. Close second to Harathi Reddy in the number of searches.
  3. Carun Carumbaiah (8)- Bangalore-based supermodel. Was hot on the scene when Harathi Redy was at her prime. Was her favourite arm candy. A distant third to Pavithra Halakatti in the number of searches.
  4. Pashmeena Barker (8) - Stunning wife of DJ Rohit Barker. Bangalore-based socialite and supermodel and page 3 regular.
  5. Rubi Chakravarti (7)- Bangalore-based comedienne, party hostess and page 3 regular. Shot into fame for hosting the Times Food Guide awards recently, where she had the audience and later the readers of Bangalore Times in splits with her outrageous one-liners.
  6. Rani Jeyraj (5)- Bangalore-based supermodel and former Miss India World. Now trying her hand at making films. Like Aamir Khan, her sporadic page 3 appearances always elicit rave reviews from fans.
  7. Jai Prakash Nath Publications JPNP (4)- Famous IITJEE book publishers. Have immortalized the likes of M.L. Khanna & J.N. Sharma (Mathematics), O.P. Agarwal (Chemistry) and Gupta & Gupta (Physics). Have repeatedly vanquished pretenders like Tata McGraw-Hill to occupy the pole position in IITJEE study material. Pioneered the use of holograms to protect their wildly popular tomes from piracy.
  8. Priscilla Corner (4)- Singer, diva, supermodel, socialite, star-mum. Mother of supermodel Sarah Corner. Wife of top jockey Robin Corner. Bangalore-based socialite, among the first few regulars of Bangalore Times, way back in the mid 90s.
  9. Raghu Mukherjee (4)- Bangalore-based supermodel. Former Mr. India.
  10. "Harathi Reddy" (3)- Yes, the same Bangalore-based lady who appears at no. 1! Dissatisfied with the results of a plain search, some obsessed stalker refined his/her (ego?) search with an exact match, again proving the lady's popularity.
I sometimes wonder about the demographics of the population whose searches lead them here. Do the seekers of JPNP truths also fantasise about Harathi Reddy? Is Pavithra Halakatti the latest muse of all the IIT wannabes? Is Rubi Chakravarti the next Rauf Lala? Wish Google Analytics could answer some of these questions as well...

Note: The original search strings are all in lower case. The author has introduce caps wherever deemed appropriate, to improve readability.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Adventure 26

Microsoft Office 2007 Sucks

Why do people rave about the exciting new Microsoft Office 2007? Because they are morons! Office 2007 is singularly the shittiest suite of software I have seen. Hold it - before you laugh me off as some linux geek - I am not. I still use MS Office 2003 and prior versions (whose features I have grown used to ). And I haven't figured out how to use either vi or emacs!

So whats so shitty about Office 2007?

  • Microsoft has shown scant respect for users who got accustomed with their old suite. This new one has too many buttons all over the place. Its one hell of a pain in the ass trying to find the print button, or for that matter any formatting button in the applications.
  • Excel 2007 sucks harder than the average DPS student. Its so shitty that I feel like banging the monitor every time I see a graph plotted by it. The default graphs are just plain ugly. Its hard to format graphs. The axis tickmarks and their labels are horrid. The list goes on and on and on...
  • Word 2007 blows like the answer in the wind. One would have expected those geniuses at Microsoft to introduce a simple form of equation numbering atleast now! Also, what about some pdf generating feature (even the shittier OpenOffice Writer has that feature!).
  • Forget about PowerPoint. I convert my presentations to pdf format anyway. Who wants to risk having all the fonts distorted and pictures skewed due to compatibility issues!
  • I don't use Outlook. I used to use Thunderbird a long time ago, but nowadays I am content checking mail on the web.
  • Is Internet Explorer a part of the Office suite? I couldn't care less... been ages since I last saw it; just use it to recharge my cellphone online, since my bank is probably run by some Pagalguy members, who attended MBA classes wearing red blazers and purple ties, who have never heard of Firefox, and probably never will.
I hope Microsoft buys Yahoo! That way both those shitty companies will end up screwing up each other's happiness. Now is the time for all of you out there to see the light and migrate to Gmail or AOL. Keep your yahoo accounts to subscribe to those newsletters which you wouldn't open unless you are your company's system administrator. Yahoomail is anyway slower than Indian Postal Services many a time. And before you accuse me of being some Google freak as well, I exhort you to never log onto Orkut again - unless they disable the mass scrapping feature and allow unfettered access into each and every photo album and scrapbook. Till then, go to Facebook, where you can spank each other, throw sheep, become a biting zombie or just buy virtual handcuffs and Teddy Bears. However, if you are in IISc, just be content browsing scientific literature, because India's premier research organisation, breeding ground for future Nobel laureates, Turing awardees, Fields medalists and Bhatnagar awardees, just cannot muster enough bandwidth for you any longer! Amen...