What we read this week (22 June 2018)

Welcome to Things we read this week, a weekly post featuring articles from around the internet recommended by BMJ’s Digital Group members.


As the Frankl token sale and the Scienceroot bounty program draw near Ian Mulvany has a thoughtful piece about blockchain technology in STEM. I’ve yet to see a killer application for blockchain, I can see how a blockchain based experimentation platform which uses smart contracts, something like breadboard, could be useful but it’s a fairly niche application. Perhaps The Remarkablz  team  can build a CryptoKitties style trading game where we can trade scientists and do strange breeding experiments to see what happens if you take Mary Anning (English paleontologist) and merge her with Zhang Heng (Chinese inventor and Astronomer)… or perhaps not!


Swiss news publisher Neue Zürcher Zeitung has built a payment system that is personalized to the individual based on hundreds of criteria. Interesting data:

“Since 2018 it has scored registered users on some 30 different attributes, like time spent on articles, frequency or how many newsletters that receive, to score them on a propensity to subscribe scale. When readers reach the top 20 percent of the propensity score they are served the payment prompt that suits their needs. For instance, heavy users who have registered but not yet subscribed tend to convert higher when they see an offer for an annual rather than a monthly subscription. NZZ has also linked article metadata with user journeys, so someone who has read a high number of articles on banks in Zurich, for instance, will receive a payment message on the next relevant article they read. Adding personalized greetings to landing pages increased conversion by 25 percent.”

Whilst STM publishing is moving quickly towards open access, Sweden, Finland and Norway are successfully convincing large portions of the population to pay for news with publishers working together and collectively implemented paywalls.


Lynn Silipigni Connaway has an interesting post about container collapse. If you take away the visual context and cues that print containers provided to help individuals identify a document’s origins and measure its value how do people discern what’s a quality publication or not?

“If the old rules for determining the identity and value of a container no longer serve, how can we expect students to assess the information they discover?”

Perhaps journal brands will become even more important in the future? The question of how academia will  judge if not by impact factor? Is picked up by John Tregoning in Nature.

Product Development

Luke Johnson, from NHS Digital has a great description of how they tried to use the Jobs to be Done approach and outlines what worked well and not so well. Trisha Greenhalgh has an interesting new paper which looks at why so many health tech projects fail and outlines an ‘ evidence-based, theory-informed, and pragmatic framework to help predict and evaluate the success of a technology-supported health or social care program.’ Navid Bazari introduces Elsevier’s reviewer recommender and describes the product management side of the project including understanding needs, identifying the problem and testing the new system.

Digital mental health

Bloomberg Technology’s Pia Gadkari talks to pediatrician Dr Michael Rich, whose research shows there are mental health repercussions for some children who spend hours online. The Guardian reports that some researchers say World Health Organisation’s warnings over ‘gaming disorder’ are premature and say other factors affect child wellbeing. If you want to investigate further The National Elf Service is a building up a list of papers looking at youth digital mental health issues.

Visit Pubtechgator to find more publishing technology news stories.

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