There has been a lot of discussion on the blog about CiteULike and getting it to work with AnthroSource. But what does it all mean? And how does one use it? This post is intended to help get you started.
First, some background. (Skip ahead if you want to get your feet wet actually using these technologies right away.)
In my forthcoming Anthropology News article (accidentally posted to the web early because they told me it would be in the May issue, but then it got bumped till September), I describe the concept of folksonomy:
As opposed to previous systems, which required each piece of information to be classified by a professional archivist, as in the Dewey decimal system used by libraries, a folksonomy asks each user to classify information as they see fit, sharing the resulting classifications between users. This works with electronic documents because, unlike a book on a library shelf, each item can be filed in more than one place. Imagine a virtual library where everyone shelved books as they do in their own home. While some people’s shelving skills may be sorely lacking, the chances are that at least one other person would have filed Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific in exactly the same place you would expect to find it—under “ethnography.” If there are an infinite number of virtual copies it doesn’t matter that someone else mistakenly filed it under “astronaut.”
CiteULike is one of many new systems which use such “social tagging” to classify information online, but unlike del.icio.us which specializes in storing URLs, and Flickr which specializes in photographs, CiteULike specializes in academic literature. Specifically, CiteULike allows scholars with access to full-text databases not readily available to the public to bookmark and tag those references. That means you can use CiteULike with commonly used databases like JSTOR (and now AnthroSource), as well as public sites like Amazon.
Now, how to use it? There are actually two ways to answer that question. Rex has already described how he fits CiteULike into his academic research. So I will answer the more basic question, of how one actually gets started using the service.
It is actually quite simple.
First, you need to set up a CiteULike account. To do this, go to the web site, and then click “register” on the top right.
After filling in the requested information you will get a confirmation screen. You are now ready to begin!
To add the bookmarklet, go to this page. And either drag and drop the bookmarklet to your toolbar, or control-click and select whatever command your browser offers for adding this to your bookmarks. It is best if you add it to the toolbar – the list of bookmarks you always see in your browser window, since you’ll want to be using it a lot.
Third, you need to find something to bookmark. Go to AnthroSource (or any other supported site – but we’ll be using AnthroSource as an example here) and do a search for some topic you are interested in. Once you find it, click on the link to see the abstract, as I have done here with Chris’ article.
Now …. click on your bookmarklet!
That will cause CiteULike to extract all the information about the article and present you with a form where you can complete the process.
The fourth and final step is to add tags to the citation.
In the form you are presented by CiteULike is a section called tags. Tags can be anything you like. If you use commonly used tags they will be more useful for other people, if you use idiosyncratic tags then they will be unique to you. I tend to use a bit of both. For instance, “anthropology” will help everyone interested in the subject find most of my items, while “savageminds” is unique enough that only users of this site will be likely to use it. I like to create a whole word salad for each post – assuming that I can’t add too many tags, since I’ll always be able to remember or guess at least one of them. Others like to use just a few tags so that they can remember them all. Whatever suites you best.
CiteULike also lets you specify how important it is for you to read an item. That allows the site to function like a to-do list of sorts, although you can’t yet sort by priority within a specific tag.
Now that you are done, here is what your CiteULike library page looks like:
You can click on one of the tags to automatically filter your library for that tag. Or you can click on the number of users to see who else has that item listed (and what else is in their library). This is one of the really useful features of Folksonomies, since you will be likely to find new items that way, just as you do when browsing a bookstore or library shelf. Finally, there are options to export your data to desktop bibliographic software like EndNote.
One great feature of CiteULike, and other Folksonomy services, is that you can subscribe to RSS feeds of just about everything, allowing you to be readily notified whenever new items are added. CiteULike also offers RSS feeds for select journal titles, letting you know when a new issue is available.