Light Laptops

I’ve just noticed – after reading yet another person rave about how desperately light it is – that the legendary MacBook Air weighs more – at 1.36 kg – than my current work laptop, a Samsung Q40 at 1.14 kg.

The Q40 is nice and light but it’s not that light compared to what I’d thought from the puff the Macbook Air was!  Maybe I don’t want one after all. (!)

The Elonex – one for the reject pile

My colleague Will has been looking at the Elonex One.  He says

It’s being targetted as the one for education. I however am not so convinced but I’m hoping to get my hands on one to try out shortly.

It looks like a pile of pants to me, to be honest, but I should reserve judgement until I’ve seen the beast for real.  I’m always suspicious of technology specifically ‘for education’ – it’s usually overpriced and rubbish compared to the open market.  Elonex, RM and Viglen PCs all spring to mind here.

I can’t quite say what’s different compared to the Asus Eee, that means RM gets my vote here and Elonex doesn’t.  It does seem the wrong side of a significant line.  Perhaps it’s the line between value engineering and cost-cutting.

Anyway, on the more upbeat side Will mentions the new touch-screen Eee (which I think is very exciting) and remarks:

Anyhow I think that the Eee and one and other such devices are set to bring mobile computing to a much larger audience.

He’s right.  I’d say the iPod touch is another device along those lines.  As I mentioned last year, things like the Eee and the iPod touch offer a qualitatively different experience of the web, and can give you a daily vision of what the future will be like all over the place.

(And it’s so easy, too – the iPod touch is so astonishingly usable that my 18-month-old son sussed out how to unlock it.)

JIME: The Once and Future Future of Academic Publishing

I’ve just been to a meeting about the Journal of Interactive Media in Education, or JIME.

I’d been vaguely thinking that I may or may not be on the Editorial Board of it, but the meeting has usefully confirmed that I am as of this afternoon actually one of the three core Editors along with my colleagues Patrick and Will.

In 1996 it was a very exciting new development in academic publishing – it aimed, inter alia:

Through its innovative use of interactive Net-based media, to be an action research project which explores the changing face of journals, and more broadly, scholarly practice in the age of digital publishing and communication.

(Ouch. The site uses frames! Making linking to that aims page hard. Oh dear.)

It had a cool new idea about being a proper journal but freely available online, and about the reviewing happening in the open. After an initial quick ‘threshold’ review, the article appears, the reviewers make comments, and the authors respond. All in the open.

Alas, the current technical system to support all that is Broken. And not fixable for boring reasons, on top of the reason that fixing an out-of-date kludgy system that you didn’t build is a deeply boring task. Things have rather moved on from 1996.

So we need to do Something. We had some fun (and despair) thinking about what. I think we have two main principles for the journal:

  • Firstly, we definitely want a Proper Academic Journal. That clearly still has value, and is part of what JIME always was and could be. So that means a proper Editorial Board, and proper reviewing. And – note to self – proper indexing in major citation indeces, which indirectly probably means a regular publishing schedule, which is a serious – but not insurmountable – tension for a very-rapid publication model. (e.g. it might be possible to come up with a hybrid where things appear as ‘accepted’ as soon as they are, and then every four months we create an ‘issue’ which formally moves any and all currently accepted articles to ‘published’.)
  • Secondly, we want to continue to explore new, more open ways of doing that – being open access is a minimum. So teaming up with a publisher (which would get our hands on their lovely money to support the process) isn’t likely to be an obvious big win (since it would be extorted from academic libraries by means that would prevent us being openly available). I don’t know what our current licensing agreement with authors is – implicitly it must involve permission for open access – but that might want upgrading to a CC licence.

The current sketchy idea is to use Open Journal Systems (OJS) for the nuts-and-bolts of the threshold review and the publication process, then some cunning system where the reviewers post their review in their own blogs (opening up that process much more widely in a very interesting new way), and JIME picks that up via trackbacks. Ideally we’d do something clever where the initial submission appears in the author(s)’s blog(s) too, as well as their response/revised final article. Should be pretty easily do-able … just needs the time fiddling with OJS.

There’s much more we could do, it’s just thrashing out what it should be – and convincing people that it has value and then getting the resource to do it (!). We talked about deeper issues – in particular, Patrick’s fine theory that Word has set academic publishing back decades by inhibiting structured authoring and referencing, which were solved problems by the late 80s.

But following the Web 2.0 philosophy, we should do the least that would work as soon as we can, and build towards the bigger vision, rather than waiting to build the whole thing in one huge leap.

It is fun being a (small!) part of the revolution in academic publishing. We’re also looking to refresh the Editorial Board as part of this revamp – anyone interested in joining us?