Tag Archives: Unsourced.org

Online tools are great – until they disappear

Closed Sign by James Alan, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

Closed Sign by James Alan, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

Facebook announced last week that the service FriendFeed would be shut down in April. I was a FriendFeed user, I even used to have a link to it here on the Skeptic History page – for those who wanted to see the daily history posts using that service. But it’s been increasingly less useful as it has been supplanted by newer services like Twitter and Facebook itself.

As we use online tools to achieve specific goals, we must be mindful that they do disappear like this. It’s always wise to have a good idea what benefit you are getting from which tools, and which alternatives are available should one disappear.

Let’s take a moment to consider a few tools that have disappeared recently, why that happens and some good strategies for might replacing them.

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Finding the Paper Behind the News Story: Two New Tools

Skeptic bloggers have always had a a love-hate relationship with science journalism, as Steve Novella mentioned on his blog last week. On one hand, they keep us in business by making mistakes that we can blog about. But on the other hand those mistakes also damage the public perception of science.

One small aspect of this is the common failure to link to sources online. The bread and butter of science reporting is an article about the results in a new scientific paper. And yet many of these articles will never mention the title of the paper, much less hyperlink to where it could be found online. This leaves skeptical readers at a loss to dig further on the topic.

Ben Goldacre has long hammered on this issue, and even badgered BBC to change their linking policy for quite some time.  Late in 2010 he succeeded in getting BBC to change their policy and to link to sources. But the BBC hasn’t been consistent about applying this policy since, and of course they are only one website.

Two new services emerged this week to attack this particular issue. Read on for more details.

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