Buying tech: the importance of desktop real estate and other things

October 26, 2011

Just bought myself a new iMac with a 27 inch screen. A thing of beauty. After a decade or more of working from laptop computers (or notebooks..what are they called now, anyway?) I decided to have one gi-normous heavy desktop again and synch the important content using SugarSynch and Dropbox.  It’s the cloud baybee!  And not lugging my MacBook around has made my back happier.

One thing I have learned is that desktop real estate is a big deal: a large monitor, or two small monitors (say a notebook and a 20 incher) allows me to write more efficiently: my manuscript and bibliography open, and Google Scholar and Devonthink lurking ready to pitch in. And monitors are comparatively cheap nowadays.

I had a choice between two versions of the iMac, a 2.7Ghz and 3.1Ghz model for about a $350 more. When I asked the Apple guy if it really made much of a difference, he scrunched up his face for a millisecond and said, “No. Not really”.

A nice article by Sam Grobart at the New York Times, on rules of thumb when buying tech backs up that judgement.  Read the rest of this entry »


Choosing a title

October 26, 2011

This from the folks at Research Trends:

Research Trends decided to conduct its own case study of scholarly papers published in Cell between 2006 and 2010, and their citations within the same window…

comparing the citation rates of articles of different lengths revealed that papers with titles between 31 and 40 characters were cited the most…

the few papers with questions marks in their titles were clearly cited less…

but titles containing a comma or colon were cited more…

and only one (uncited) paper with an exclamation mark in its title.

Also, on the subject of humor…

An analysis of papers published in two psychology journals…found that “articles with highly amusing titles […] received fewer citations”, suggesting that academic authors should leave being funny to comedians.

Note both analyses are for manuscript citations. If the standard protocol when skimming journals (or having webots do it for you) is to look for keywords and phrases, this all makes a bit of sense.

However, if your grant proposal is sitting on a stack with another 19 or so, and you want to be one of the first read (and believe me, you don’t want to be the last read) your gambit may be to attract some attention. And the best way to do that is to stand out. In Advanced EEB this semester, each student proposed five titles for their NSF Pre-Doc, and we “market tested” each set by vote of hands.  Most of the time, it was the short, jargon free, titles that posed a question or a challenge, often with a clever turn of phrase, that won out.

My working hypothesis:

Grant title: maximize the “intriguing” content;

Manuscript title: maximize the information content.

QOTD: Oscar Wilde

October 26, 2011

“An idea that isn’t dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”


Be bold.