Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Microsoft's version of Google Scholar?

I accidentally ran into this today. Microsoft has their own version of Google Scholar:Among other things, it will even generate aggregate statistics on a particular author you're interested in (number of publications, number of citations, etc.). In fact, it can even generate similar aggregates for journals and conferences (which augments the metrics you can already get from ISI databases).

Unfortunately, some of the candy tools (co-author graph and path – tools that have little functionality but lots of coolness) require Silverlight. I tried running them with Moonlight, which crashed Firefox but seemed to work in Chrome. I say "seemed" because the Silverlight/Moonlight applet loaded fine but was populated with no information. Moreover, doing searches within the applet also returned no information. However, I haven't tried it on a Windows (nor Wine) machine for comparison, and so maybe co-author graphs/paths just aren't ready for production yet. I realized yesterday that it might be wrong to interpret MAS as a product for research so much as a product still being developed within Microsoft Research.
LIBRARY ACCESS UPDATE: As of March 11, 2011, it is very possible that your university's library proxy is not yet configured to allow access through Microsoft Academic Search. If you try to access the search engine through your library proxy and it fails at the MAS address, try it again at the Journalogy address. Strangely, these two names resolve to the same address, but neither is a CNAME. Moreover, neither uses a HTTP redirect to the other. Regardless, many library proxies search their database of allowable hosts by name, and so trying either name may help. If neither name works, contact your library and have them add MAS.


Anonymous said...

thank you for mentioning Microsoft Academic Search. any initial feedback?

Ted said...

I like the way Journalogy aggregates data about authors, conferences, and journals. It's nice to see all of this data in one place, and it's a feature I have been looking for for a long time. Of course, similar indices already exist on ISI's database, but it is interesting to see them here in a slightly different form. Having said that, I would like to see more integration with the metrics used on ISI.

Furthermore, I was disappointed that so many features of Journalogy depend on having Silverlight installed. My department keeps a single Windows machine available for remote access for faculty and staff, but otherwise Windows is not very available in our research environment. There are Mac machines available (does Silverlight run on OS X?), but that still doesn't help the bulk of us who use Linux (there are more research tools available on Linux, SCM is easier to access on Linux, and build environments are more consistent on Linux; it would be too painful to switch to Windows). So it is annoying to see a dependence on Silverlight; it is not appropriate when targetting an academic audience.

Anonymous said...

thank you for your feedback. first of all, our project is called "microsoft academic search", the "journalogy" you mentioend is just one URL we tested.

for dependency on SilverLight, we needed a powerful tool for visualization, and SL is our choice. you can run SL on browsers on Mac/n*x platform (Mono project), but of course, we're not in control of that :)

last time we checked, SL is getting >60% penetration in the world, it was our bet that SL become less and less of an issue going forward.

please let us know if you can use SL via the Mono solution.

you can also comments on our forum, link to that is on our web site.


Ted said...

Several disclaimers on the Microsoft Academic Search site claim that they are copyright of/etc. That actually caused some confusion when I was originally testing the site because I told my script blocker to allow the academic search site, but I did not allow the journalogy site, and that prevented me from using some of the features of the site. So there probably should(?) be some more consistent branding.

I understand that SilverLight has good penetration in general, but I think the penetration in the academic community is much less. Having said that, you might be playing to the industrial research community where there's likely greater SL penetration.

I appreciate your point about Mono (and I'm surprised to hear Microsoft endorsing the use of Mono!), but I need my browser to be more readily available.

All of that being said, I still think that Microsoft Academic Search is a nice new tool. I definitely plan on returning to it.

Ted said...

By the way, I did try installing Moonlight (64-bit) for Firefox on my Arch Linux system. Any Moonlight applet crashed Firefox (even in some cases when Moonlight wasn't installed, strangely). However, Moonlight for Chrome seemed to operate.

When I visited the co-author graph in MAS, the applet showed up but nothing else did. The search in the left-hand side was empty. Clicking on "co-author path" told me there was no path (and both the left and right searches were empty). Trying to manually search in either search box (for the path, or for the single search box for the graph) returned no authors.

Ted said...

Also, during a first-round interview with Microsoft yesterday, I talked to a Microsoft employee who used to work with Bing (and now works with Windows Phone). I was surprised that he hadn't heard of MAS. I would have figured MAS would somehow be integrated with Bing (I think (?) Bing will show MAS results in some cases, right?).

I know Google Scholar is a tremendously important product in academic circles, and most university library proxies are automatically configured to allow Google Scholar access. However, I think very few university library proxies even know about MAS.

So perhaps you could publicize MAS more -- both inside Microsoft and out. It is crucially important to have it added to university proxy lists. It makes it much more convenient to do background research without being on campus.

Anonymous said...

there is a new version of Microsoft Academic Search, expanding into new domains, plus more features, you're welcome to check it out.

Ted said...

Now that Microsoft is getting rid of Silverlight, what will happen to the Silverlight-only features of Microsoft Academic Search?

News about Silverlight support being dropped: