Blogging for science: Trackbacks and folksonomies

I've already gone on and on about arxiv.org and the revolution in scientific publishing that it has begun in fields like cosmology: public access to essentially all recent research to anyone with an internet connection. Last year, they added RSS (aka "feeds") -- ahead of the curve on the latest internet buzz -- making it faster and easier to access the latest submissions. Now, they've added “trackbacks” which enables the arxiv to keep track of references to individual papers in blogs or other sites (although it only seems to be available on the main US site, and not the international mirrors). This is yet another step on the way towards using the internet not just to store our papers, but to actually facilitate scientific discussion. Usually, trackbacks go in hand with comments, but perhaps those are better handled in dedicated forums like CosmoCoffee and Physics Comments rather than the inevitable free-for-all that would result by hosting them right at the arxiv.

(Actually, I've just noticed that this has been in place for a while, at least: my blogging software has been automatically “pinging” the arxiv since this post and this one last month.)

Also, I've added yet another bit of internet buzz to this blog -- the “tags” you can see below. These are just a set of keywords that are indexed by sites like Technorati in the hopes of creating a classification scheme (a “folksonomy”) from the ground up, rather than imposing one from on high, like the Dewey Decimal System or Yahoo's Web Directory which predated internet search engines. Instead of “cleaving nature at the joints” (everyone's favorite quote when discussing this) we just nudge everything into its own heap.

Update: Mac users who want to stay up-to-date with the arxiv can play with this “dashboard widget” which will keep the current offerings right on your desktop.