bims: 2023 statement

This is the fifth state of bims statement (sobs). Sobs comes out every 30 of January. It commemorates the first sober meeting between Gavin and Thomas on 30th January 2017. This statement contains a part by Gavin and a part by Thomas.

Gavin writes:

2022 has been a year of frustration in terms of expansion of Biomed News reports. Our reports tend to be centred around our home ground of mitochondria and metabolism. This may discourage users from outside this area. We have remained between the 70 and 90 number of active reports. I am trying all recruitment I can think of. Cold calling does not seem to be effective.

We have tried some ways to boost interest through a blog post in The Biochemist magazine, and a poster presentation at the 2023 Festival of Genomics. A new mastodon account is now set up so we are on as many platforms as I can think of. Perhaps the current methods of communication have been saturated.

On the positive side, there is a noticeable increase in activity on social media platforms. There, issues attract quite a lot of attention with some posts gaining more than 100 positive interactions and numerous positive comments. It seems like what we do is popular.

Finally, we do have something new to cheer about this year. In the past, we never thought about having a “Bimser of the Year” Award. But this year we had a winner waltzing in for whom the award needed to be created.

When Sebastion J. Hofer asked us to create a report on “Polyamines in health and disease”, Thomas recalled that we already had a report bims-polyam that Alexander Ivanov had run between 2019–03–31 and 2020–12–13. So the backlog was getting close to two years. Thomas suggested Sebastian could take over the report. Sebastian had a trial run with the 2020–12–20 issue on 2022–09–25. Sebastian took over the report. Between 2022–10–16 and 2022–10–30 he completed issues 2020–12–27 to 2022–02–20. Finally he completed 2022–02–27 to 2022–12–25 on 2022–12–25. Poor Santa found himself comprehensively outbimsed.

Thomas writes:

There are two aspects to Bims. One is that expert users get a tool to watch the new items in PubMed. The other one is that the results of their choices are made publicly available. Up until now this publication was only on the web site. There, the report issues were passively hanging around. Selectors had to take action to disseminate them. Some have done so via twitter. I am not aware of a way for us to do that on selectors behalf. I am not aware of a possibility for us to centrally tweet all reports. Even if this is technically possible, it is risky. In general working with a proprietary systems, there are risk that the owners the system change policy. You risk loosing all the effort you have invested into the system.

As you may know, Bims is a clone of “NEP: New Economics Papers”. That service had dissemination via email since its start way back in 1998. Now you may wonder why did bims not get an email dissemination system right at its start six years ago? Well it turns out that NEP’s email system was based on Mailbase, then JISCmail, and finally it had its own GNU Mailman installation. These three system have one thing in common. They are mailing list systems. They were written for discussions on email lists. Surely they can be used in a situation where there is only one person discussing. But they suffer a fundamental limitation. All users get the same message. Incidentally, this is also true for Twitter. If you post something on twitter all your followers get the same tweet. With retweets you may see the same items many times over. It’s annoying but it seems to be part of the course. We ought to do better than Twitter. But we need the right approach.

If you think of it theoretically, no two people are alike. There in no way we can cover exactly all the papers that a person can be interested in without opening a report that is specific for that person. But not all biomedical researchers will open their own reports. Even my fantasies of grandeur don’t reach that high. However, we can approach an ideal source by having a lot of selectors open lots of small reports. Readers can subscribe to any of them. Sounds wonderful but the retweet nuisance comes in. If a papers is relevant to several reports, readers see it many times over. Thus we need a personal dissemination system. This system takes account of the papers a reader has already seen an eliminate the overlap. Doing that is not rocket science. But it needs specific software. I wrote such software, and I called it “nitpo”. It is the new items poster. I wrote a funding application and it was approved. Given the funding success for €5000 euros, my main work has been getting nitpo written and running. Incidentally, nitpo also runs for NEP. Thus just like ernad, it needs to be highly configurable. This means a level of abstraction between nitpo the software and several nitpo implementations. It had to be done by October. It consumed most of my energy until then. And after I had finished the parts I promised to the funders, I still had to write another part of nitpo. This is the one that deals with the bounces from non-delivered emails. This is an important aspect of running nitpo at NEP, where we have a 30000+ subscriber base.

Both write:

Once again, we thank you for your support and the time you spend to keep your reports up to date and your comments to improve the system. Wishing everyone a successful 2023.