Time Suck or Time Saver?


The links and alerts come in as I boot up (with the Mac, simply move the mouse to instantly wake up) the computer, stumble through the dark for coffee and come back to a page of rabbit trails. Most are deleted straightway, but some are tantalizingly interesting, followed, and soon I’m not any place I’d intended or needed to be in a day’s work. I generally allow myself some of this free-form browsing guilt-free first thing and as reward for real work later on–tossaway moments that don’t really count.

This is a longwinded way of telling you this morning’s free time found a possible keeper called Pathway (sorry, Mac only) that is both interesting and potentially helpful in its own right (as a Wikipedia links visualizer as you see in the screenshot) and as a model for ways the future web can be organized in research so that, in pursuing a topic, one keeps sight of the relationship between where they are and where they have been.

Ah but wait: a simple click on the Science pod from the displayed Wikipedia home page on Pathway brings up an image of some science fiction looking construction that turns out to be REAL: the Falkirk Wheel. Amazing! And off I plunge, second cup of coffee, blissfully following my nose.

Hmmm. Now I’m rethinking online research–AGAIN–so have two divergent trails to follow from the morning’s freeform time: I downloaded DevonAgent for review to complement Devonthink I already have. And I will take another look at Zotero, a free Firefox plug-in created by researchers (at George Mason U just up the road) for researchers. If you haven’t seen this one, take a look at the video. It’s an impressive package I rejected a year ago because I had OneNote. Now I don’t.

Meanwhile, I remember I have more bug pix to show you, some on the pocket camera and some on the Nikon card. For later today…

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’ve been using DEVONAgent for almost 3 years and it’s my all-purpose, indispensable research tool. It can find anything that’s findable. And it’s extensible, so if it’s not searching a source you want it to, you can make it do so. You can edit and save search results so you can come back to them later, a valuable help.

    It’s fully integrated with DEVONThink Pro, so it can send search results and page saves directly to it. DTP works with DA well, also.

    I’ve used it for my main browser in the past, but since it doesn’t save bookmarks (it uses Safari’s), I use Safari for general browsing and DA for searches. I’ve got DA set up as my default browser, since it can open far more pages without choking than Safari can.

    The only drawback is that it has a moderately steep learning curve if you want to get beyond the basic searches. Read the manual like your grandmother’s will!

    And thanks for the tips about Zotero and Pathway. I’ll check them out.