Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dangers of blogging

So in a blog post from last October which was mostly devoted to mocking Stephen Wolfram, I casually insulted HistCite, a citation network navigation program developed by Eugene Garfield, who basically invented the very idea of citation networks. So half a year goes by and then I get mail from Dr. Garfield complaining about this slander. I was rather taken aback that someone of his prestige would take the trouble to respond to an offhand remark by a mostly-anonymous blogger, but I backpedalled fast and responded apologetically:
Please forgive my offhanded nasty remarks; I have the greatest respect for your work, and I'm honored that you'd take the time to respond.

Google and similar web services have spoiled us (or spoiled me at least) -- we expect everything to be free and instantaneous and very easy to use. I was just wishing out loud for something that would let me see citation networks without fuss, bother, or cost. I apologize for calling HistCite "ugly", what it really is (in my opinion) is a complex tool for a professional information analyst, rather than a simple tool for casual browsers, which is what I was idly wishing for. So much academic work is now available casually to non-specialists now (through Google and elsewhere); it would be nice if the citation relationships were equally available.

Since professionally I work in IT for life science and other areas where information and software costs money, I don't really believe everything can come for free.

Well, that's why I blog with a pseduonym, so I don't have to worry too much about saying nasty things and having it come back and bite me. What else is this for? Still waiting to hear from Stephen Wolfram.

The lesson that things on the internet stay around forever and can come back and bite you is of course not new. When Google Groups made usenet postings from the early 90s part of the permanent public record, it caused me some personal embarassment that persists today. For some reason my dumbest posts still seem to come out on top, I suppose because they produced the largest number of dumb responses.

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