Chempedia: A Social Medium for Chemical Information - Wrapup

March 25, 2010

I recently gave a presentation about Chempedia and Chempedia Lab at the Spring 2010 ACS in San Francisco.

The symposium that this talk was part of ("The Future of Scholarly Communication") was thought-provoking and at times visibly charged. I was struck most by the number of pay-per-view and subscription-based information services who seemed to feel obliged to explain the costs they were passing on to customers. Peer-review and quality assurance in scientific communication were also recurring themes that are inextricably linked to the problem of paying for this system we all use.

There was broad agreement about the importance of quality and accessibility to chemical information, and quite a few ideas about how best to achieve these goals.

There's nothing like giving a live demo to expose usability issues. During the Chempedia registry demo, I was (apparently) unable to log in through OpenID. It turns out that what I expected to see was this:

but what I saw was this:

Clicking on the lock icon in the lower-left gets you to the view in the top image, and sets a cookie to remember this view next time you visit the page. All of my practice demos had been with this cookie set, so when I didn't see the text field on the house laptop, it looked like there was something wrong with the OpenID component.

Long story short, there was no OpenID problem. But it's not difficult to see how some users might not know what to do on this screen because there's nothing that looks like a traditional login area.

During my talk, an audience member asked a question about whether Chempedia could be used to associate URLs with substances (btw, if anyone knows how I can get in touch with this person, please drop me a line). My response was that this subject would be covered later in the talk (Slide 38), but time constraints didn't permit me to go into detail.

The answer is that Chempedia doesn't yet support URL-substance associations, but this capability is central to Chempedia's mission.

I'll explain in detail what I mean in an upcoming post.