Category: Tools

Internet Tools for PhD

This week I belatedly took at look at the Guardian Top 100 Website listings for the year ahead (2009). This is always an interesting read. New Entries vie against previous success stories, and the chart’s Non-Movers are frequently a good indication of developer’s hard graft and continuing innovation.

The list covers several areas. For fellow (PhD) researchers and those interested in potential educational tools, I’ve shortlisted and annotated the topics I found most relevant:


Visualisation is the final category on the Guardian list, but I begin with it as it is the most relevant to those seeking new tools for data manipulation.  Three sites are listed, foremost amongst them being Google Visualisation tools,  featuring dozens of tools for making data more comprehensible. Of these tools I noticed Motion Chart, a temporal-visualisation of data that appear to be surfacing from Google’s acquisition of Hans Rosling’s GapMinder project. Notably there also appear to be tools for creating Sparklines, an efficient visualisation originally pioneered by the ‘Da Vinci of Data’ himself, Edward Tufte. Other sites recognised by the Guardian are Many Eyes, IBM’s visualisation tools, similar to Google’s and DabbleDB which allows you to create online databases and analyse them.


As someone desperate to avail themselves of Apple’s Keynote for presentations, I was interested to check out 280slides cited as ‘A presentation create presentations online. Very slick.’ Alternatives to PowerPoint always bear investigation – although this appears to be a fairly PPT dependent app so far.  Dipity is also listed and offers the opportunity to build multimedia timelines. If you’re plotting the course of your studies, or want a reflexive tool for realtime use, this could reward experimentation for those using varied sources. My addition to this category might break the no-download rules, but I’d also recommend the Open University’s Compendium for wicked problems and solo or communal mind mapping.


Research diaries and journals are vital to those developing reflexive practice, blogs also offer the opportunity for PhD students to share research and develop an academic presence online.  An increasingly streamlined category, this year the Guardian cite only WordPress for content creation and Bloglines for managing your feeds.  The management of social information is a strong theme in this year’s list.

Physical from virtual

I’ve previously blogged on available small scale printing from Blurb and others. The Guardian also raise London based Moo for business cards and Lulu another stop for book, photobook, calendars and other sorts of publishing. I’m still dreaming of a 4-colour thesis.

Twitter, and associated

For those trying to surveille the social web, Monitter offers a useful service for watching keywords on Twitter. Importantly, no log-in is required (as of April 20th).  Again, this is the second highlighted service that deals specifically with filtering mass generated social information.


If you’re looking to share video consider Vimeo for better rights control than YouTube and a cleaner interface.  My addition here is Easy YouTube a more accessible interface built over YouTube that removes a lot of the complications and distractions users have to wade through. This was developed in response to the AbilityNet Web 2.0 conference, which highlighted (amongst other things) the inaccessibility of Web2.0 tools for people with learning disabilities.  There are also rumours of developments for captioning (subtitles) on YouTube circulating at Accessify. Exciting times!

Virtual worlds/MMORPGs

Second Life is notably absent from this year’s list. Moshi Monsters crops up as an “educational” virtual world for kids.

And finally, The Guardian lists Cartoons, as ‘eveyone needs some relaxation’. Absent, but nontheless essential viewing for postgraduates everywhere is Piled Higher and Deeper, the only PhD based comic strip you’re ever likely to need.