Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sharing notes of science papers not just on PLoS ONE

Niel just posted some examples of webtools to take notes of websites. I"ll pick up on the theme to show you another example - Diigo. Diigo is a collaborative note sharing webapp and it allows us to annotate (highlight and add notes) to a website and share this with anyone also using Diigo. I will go trough an example. I registered to the service and dragged a bookmarklet to the browser.

Then I went to have a look at this paper, that showed up in the Systems Biology Connotea feed, and clicked the bookmarklet:

The paper discusses the usefulness of machine learning methods to study dynamics of cellular pathways so I just added a link to the wikipedia entry on fuzzy logic.

Now anyone using Diigo can browse the article and see the notes I added (I think you can select to make them public or private). I do most of the reading on paper so for me this would be useful only to dissect papers with someone online. In a sense this is what PLoS ONE does but extended to any website. For example at the same time we blog about a paper, we could add the link to the blog post on the paper itself or add some of the comments directly on the paper if it makes more sense. You can also use Diigo to gather a clip to add to a blog post and create groups to share bookmarks and annotations.

The biggest drawback is that I don't know if there are any Diigo comments or annotations for this site without clicking the bookmarklet (I did not try the toolbar they have for instalation) . Even after clicking the bookmarklet there is no way of knowing how many (if any) notes exist on the site without scrolling to look for them.

As for most social applications, this becomes more useful if more people start using it. On the other hand if this (or a similar service) grows too much it will be to attractive to spammers. There are more examples of this type of tools on todays post on Techcrunch were I found out about Diigo. With so many ways to add annotations to a webpage it would be nice to have some kind of abstract way of communicating annotations between web applications. Something like trackbacks but able to convey more information, not just this content points to that content.