Archive for: July, 2010

Friday Fun: 5 Terms Social Media Douchebags Need To Stop Using

Jul 30 2010 Published by under friday fun, social media

Yeah, last Friday I threatened a sequel and here it is.

Too much fun. And once again, looking in the mirror is a bit tough on this one. I did do a quick search on my blog posts and none of the offending phrases shows up per se. But, some seem a little too familiar.

I'm not done with the douchebags.

After I wrote the 5 Signs You're Talking To A Social Media Douchebag, I was met with heavy feedback.

Social media douchebags used social media to attack me.

Damn it.

Should've seen that one coming.

Here goes. Read 'em and weep for the future of humanity. The elaborations on the original post are well worth checking out.

  • "Participate In The Conversation"
  • "Monetize Your Social Media Presence"
  • "Social Media Rockstar"
  • "You're Doing It Wrong."
  • "Social Media Is All About ..."

(Once again, it's all Walt Crawford's fault. Blame him if this cuts a little too close to home. I know I do.)

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SciFoo: The Joys and Sorrows of Blogging on a Network

Jul 29 2010 Published by under blogging, culture of science, education, scifoo10

A few of us are proposing this session at the upcoming Science Foo Camp at Google HQ this coming weekend:

The Joys and Sorrows of Blogging on a Network

What with the recent Pepsigate crisis at ScienceBlogs and some rumblings at Nature Network not to mention a bunch of new players on the blogging network landscape, it seems like a good time to take a look at what's going on out there. Let's talk about the past, present and future of science blogging on a network and, indeed, of science blogging itself. Join Eva Amsen, John Dupuis, Jonah Lehrer, Andrew Revkin and Carl Zimmer.

I thought in this post I'd gather some useful background links for the session. This isn't meant to be comprehensive or even representative of all the commentary that's out there. It's just a selection meant to be thought provoking and conversation starting. I'm going to try not to duplicate too much of what Bora linked to in his <a href="The PepsiGate linkfest.

Here goes:

My takes are here and here.

I like this quote:

Is that an ego thing? Maybe it is, but for the love of Pete I'm a blogger. If there's anything bigger than my ego I want it shot and brought to me on a plate right now.

Any links you want to add? Any questions you want answered?

Update 2010.07.30: Links worth checking out:

  • A Blog Around the Clock: Thank you! (Has links to a ton more relevant posts.)

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Futures Thinking and My Job in 10 Years, Part II

A few months ago I posted a fairly long essay on how I was approaching the challenge of thinking about the future. I modelled myself on a few articles by futurist Jamais Casico and focused on why thinking about the future matters, finding the right questions to ask about the future and recognizing that the future arises out of the present.

This time around, I'll use a few more of Casico's articles to explore further the challenges of thinking about the future, specifically mapping the possibilities (Parts I and II) and Writing Scenarios.

Mapping the Possibilities

As we scan the environment, as we ask questions, as we gather data, we begin to extrapolate the future from the present. We begin to map out possibilities and sketch out scenarios.

The goal of futures thinking isn't to make predictions; the goal is to look for surprising implications. By crafting multiple futures (each focused on your core dilemma), you can look at your issues from differing perspectives, and try to dig out what happens when critical drivers collide in various ways.

Whatever you come up with, you'll be wrong. (Mapping the possibilitie, part i)

What we have to do is consider a large number of possibilities and try and sort and classify, categorize and narrow down the ones that seem to make the most sense. The idea is to form clusters and patterns and use those to drive scenario building. Scenarios aren't definitive answers to the questions we've been posing, rather a variety of scenarios sketch out a range of possible answers.

In the aftermath of your "scanning the world" work, you will have come up with at least dozens and probably hundreds of interesting and potentially relevant data points and potential drivers. It's hard to work with hundreds, though; more useful would be about five or six. ...

What you'll then do is look for patterns and bigger picture categories that would encompass multiple topics. Try to focus the categories on subjects that are clearly important and hold a great deal of uncertainty. ...

You will eventually have a smallish group of categories with lots of members, and a largish group of categories with just a few. The big categories will be your key scenario drivers, and should appear in all of your scenarios in some form. The smaller piles will be minor drivers, and should be included in at least one. (Mapping the possibilities, part i)

All the data, all the questions, all the possibilities, it comes out of the other end of the futures thinking process as all the scenarios we imagine. The major and minor drivers for academic libraries are large and various. Some are huge and effect all the work we do, such as the incredible shifts in media and publishing business models that are part and parcel of the shift to an online world. Others are more particular to the various areas we operate in. Areas such as scholarly communications, collections, reference and information literacy all have their own drivers.

Let's Build Some Scenarios

The next step is actually taking all the information you have collected and the resulting lists of drivers and coming up with some ideas of how the future world will actually look.

Turning your drivers and data points into a sufficiently diverse set of multiple believable, internally-consistent worlds can be difficult, and most scenario developers rely on a set of heuristics to make sure that the worlds being built will both differ from each other in important ways and show clear and logical evolution from the present. (Mapping the possibilities, part ii)

Cascio has something he calls "futures architypes" that he uses to shape his scenario-building. He essentially takes four different takes on how the world will look (Mapping the possibilities, part ii):

  • The future is what I expect
  • The future is better than I expect
  • The future is worse than I expect
  • The future is weirder than I expect

For any given aspect of the world we're extrapolating, it can be instructive to come up with a different scenario for each of those possibilities. We in the library business often somehow tend to concentrate on one of those two: either the future being pretty well "what we expect" or in other words, a lot like the present or the future being "worse than we expect." I don't follow either of those dogmatically or in fact any of the four. What I do try and do is pick from those four archetypes and imagine which among them is most likely. Sometimes I will present one scenario as the most likely and sometimes I'll present one or more scenarios.

Writing Scenarios

But how can we actually present the scenarios? Cascio gives three main options for composing the description of the world that you imagine: "Scenario-as-Story," "Scenario-as-Recollection," and "Scenario-as-History." The first is couching the scenario as a sort of science fiction story, with a plot and characters. The third as a dry, detached, mock historical presentation. (Writing scenarios.)

The second, "Scenario-as-Recollection," seems to make the most sense for what I'm trying to accomplish with this project:

In Scenario-as-Recollection, the scenario narrative remains personal (usually done as a first-person perspective), but the structure is more linear and straightforward, with no pretense of a plot... The advantage of this approach is that you can easily add a bit of subjectivity to the scenario without making it all about the speaker. The reader can come away from the piece understanding that opinions may actually vary about some aspects of this world, just like in the real world. (Writing scenarios)

Which is more-or-less what I'm striving for in this project - personal but structured, subjective but grounded. It's about what I think the future holds, what I see as the scenarios and possibilities.

Making Sense of the Future

The point of all of this talk of Futures Thinking is not to turn this exercise in a scientific experiment or to somehow imply that the future is deterministic. There is no formula, there are no right answers, there isn't anything that I know that you or others don't also know. But, by putting down some scenarios and possibilities on paper, by thinking them through in a somewhat organized and systematic way, we can be prepared, we can guide our careers, we can advise others.

The same, better, worse, weirder, it's all there. It's all here. What I hope to offer as part of this larger project is some of the right questions to ask, a range of possibilities for our profession and maybe even a few plausible scenarios.

Each post, each chapter and section, will provide exactly that: some questions, some possibilities and some scenarios, some vision of what the world might be like in 10 years. Some of my ideas will seem more plausible, some perhaps less so. Some will seem more inevitable, to me or to you. Some will seem fanciful. Some will seem naive or pollyannaish. Some will perhaps seem to negative or dystopian. Some will seem to open up our roles as academic librarians too wide, to some to abstract or diffuse, too far from our core. Some will perhaps seem to narrow or restrict what we do, to hive off parts of our past and discard them or to close doors that perhaps could be opened wide.

And so be it. You'll all let me know when I'm wrong.

As usual, at this point I offer up the comments for comments and criticisms. Am I on track in the right ball park or just plain crazy?

(This will appear in slightly different form as part of chapter 1 of My Job in 10 Years: The Future of Academic Libraries)

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Must Read Library Blog: Library Babel Fish

Jul 26 2010 Published by under academia, blogging, librarianship

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I pay quite close attention to the InsideHigherEd web magazine. They cover lots of library issues and issues that are relevant to libraries, their blog network is pretty good with solid coverage of higher education issues and Joshua Kim's instructional technology blog covers a lot of ground, much of which is of interest for the library community.

Unfortunately, they've never had a very good blog by a librarian. Until now. (They did make an attempt at a library blog about a year ago. We will not speak of it anymore.)

Go check out the brand new Library Babel Fish: A college librarian's take on technology by Barbara Fister. For those that don't follow the library biz too closely, Barbara Fister is one of the best commentators out there on a variety of library issues, both at blogs and in professional publications. And don't forget Friendfeed.

Let's have a taste from the first two posts.

In the Library of Babel

Libraries are in a weird state of flux these days. On the one hand, they continue to have their traditional role in preserving culture; on the other, they change constantly. If you thought you finally grasped the fine points of searching a particular database, think again; its interface was probably "improved" in the past week. Feel comfortable finding your way around the Web site? Must be time for a redesign. To use a library is to wade into a stream of change. It's never the same twice - yet we look to libraries for continuity, for coherence, for an opportunity to exit the fast lane and coast into a more contemplative state of mind.

However contested its nature, one thing the academic library continues to be is the common ground for its institution. It's the one place on campus, both in its virtual and traditional forms, where all the disciplines mingle, where ownership is shared, where ideas are meant to collide and quibble and procreate. It's an organized free-for-all where students and faculty can interact with ideas, drink coffee, check a reference, check Facebook, take a nap, or make a breakthrough.

Assignments: Being Clear about What Matters

All of this is particularly interesting in view of what the research project had previously found about students and their research habits. They pore over the assignment, trying to interpret what the instructor wants; virtually all students use the Web for resources, and nearly all use library databases, but not many go to the library shelves. They avoid being overwhelmed by options by using the same databases for most of their research needs, whether or not it's appropriate for the discipline or not. And for the most part, they don't turn to librarians for help, except when looking for search terms; librarians turn out to be a kind of babel fish for scholarly discourse. Though in interviews, faculty described the ways the librarians provided support for their students, the vast majority did not mention librarians as a resource in their assignments.

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Read Bora Zivkovic's interview with CogSci Librarian Stephanie Willen Brown!

Jul 26 2010 Published by under blogging, culture of science

Bora Zivkovic for several years has been doing interviews with the attendees at the annual ScienceOnline conferences.

The latest interview is with my longtime blog buddy Stephanie Willen Brown, AKA The CogSciLibrarian!

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

Science needs good public relations right now, and I agree with @ErinBiba's essay in the May issue of Wired "Why Science Needs to Step Up Its PR Game." I'd like to play a small part in the merger of science and PR by training public relations professionals to do good research and generally supporting their academic endeavors. Libraries and news* (newspapers, news outlets, etc.) need good public relations too, but that's for another post.

Check it out! And while you're at it, check out Bora's interviews with me and my son, Sam. And don't forget my recently reprinted interview with Bora himself.

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Friday Fun: 5 Signs You're Talking To A Social Media Douchebag

Jul 23 2010 Published by under friday fun, social media

This is soooo funny. So funny it hurts. Ok, so maybe I've been guilty of one or two of these. Ok, maybe you have too. The more you're guilty, the funnier it is.

To many, the Internet is a world full of promise.

To others, a ripe field ready to be harvested by douchebags.

Both are true.

I think the first douchebag was the knight in medieval times. You just know he clickity-clanked across the village in that dopey metal armor and thought he was so cool.

Oh look at me. I have armor!

And then he'd return to the castle and push the jester around with his joust. Jousting him in the ass, perhaps.

Anyways, here they are:

  • Nobody Knows What They Actually Do. When you try to find out what a social media douchebag does, you're in for a dizzying deflection.
  • They Actually Think They're Internet Celebrities.
  • They Will Speak At Any Event.
  • They Recommend Their Friends Who Are, Coincidentally, Also Douchebags.
  • They Always Need To "Rate A Brand".

Come on, we're all friends here. (Or should that be "friends?") Fess up in the comments -- and give your own signs that you're talking to a social media douchebag.

(This one's via Walt Crawford in the most recent C&I. Blame him if this cuts a little too close to home. I might even do a sequel post to this one...)

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More on the future of bookstores

A great article in last Friday's Globe and Mail, Will the last bookstore please turn out the lights?

The main thrust of the article is that while there's a lot of doom and gloom in the industry, there's also some hope and, more importantly, some innovation.

One source of Bleumer's optimism is the "ferocious" level of reading she sees going on among young people. Those ferocious readers will be the regular book buyers of the future. What stores need to do, she insists, is not only focus on old-fashioned face-to-face customer service, but also remain flexible enough to adapt to whatever comes along in the years to come.

Christopher Smith, manager of Ottawa's Collected Works, agrees with the notion that independent stores must evolve or die. He sees two streams of bookselling emerging. In one, bookstores will "transform themselves from mere book purveyors to cultural emporiums or meeting places." Each store will be a "place for minds and activity. ... In a way, the bookstore could be become the new 'salon'" - albeit a salon that offers not only books, but art, music, gift items, coffee and maybe even food and wine. In the other stream, he sees a "new breed of small, specialized book retailers. Bookstores selling books and books alone. Stores that focus on the 'classic' notion of what a bookshop is. Bespoke bookselling, so to speak."

Which isn't to say Smith doesn't have an eye on the e-horizon. He says he daydreams "that in the future I will finish a hand-sell by asking my customer, 'And how would you like that - hardcover, paperback, audio or e-book?'"

*snip*

But how do those same big-box retailers see the future?

Joel Silver, president of Indigo-Chapters as well as a member of board for Kobo, the e-book service and reader that recently partnered with Borders in the U.S., is, like most booksellers, reluctant to predict the shape of things to come. The industry, he says, "is completely dynamic right now." Silver states that, "the threat of the e-book is a very powerful tool to mobilize a lot of parties in the industry to some new and innovative things." All the same, he comes off like an idealistic indie when he talks about the enduring qualities of a bricks-and-mortar store: "There's a certain energy that a bookstore gives off if it's done well."

As long-time readers know, I've often tied the future of bookstores with libraries, which while not a perfect comparison is one I think has some validity. In this article I like the ideas of creating social learning and intellectual discovery spaces and tying that in with the notion of providing content in whatever container the patron find the most appropriate for their work.

It's exciting times in the book business and it'll be interesting to see how the players realign over the next few years. It's kind of like the way it was in the academic library business 10-15 years ago as the first big waves of web-based journals and databases came online.

The Globe has been running a very nice series on the bookstore business. Most of the articles are very interesting and well worth checking out. Once again, I think all same trends affecting bookstores have valuable implications for the library world. Here are links to the first four:

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From the Archives: Interview with Bora Zivkovic, Crazy Uncle of the Science Blogging Community

Jul 20 2010 Published by under blogging, culture of science, interview

What with the recent blogospheric developments, I thought it would be a great idea to reprint a post from a couple of years ago where I turned the tables on Bora and interviewed him about science blogging, science and ScienceOnline. The original post is from March 13, 2008. I'd also like to point you to the interview Bora did with my son Sam after the 2009 conference.

And yes, I think "Crazy Uncle" is perfect. Science blogging is like family and I think Bora fits perfectly not as our father or our brother or our cousin, but as our uncle.

==============================

Welcome to the latest installment in my occasional series of interviews with people in the scitech world. This time around the subject is Bora Zivkovic, Online Community Manager for the open access journal PLoS ONE. Bora is also well know as a prolific science blogger at his blog A Blog Around the Clock. In yet another persona, Bora has organized two science blogging conferences and edited two anthologies of the best of the science blogs.

One of the great things Bora did in association with the most recent North Carolina Science Blogging Conference was host a series of interviews with various attendees on his blog (myself included), all of which are well worth reading. So, I thought I'd turn the tables a little bit and get Bora to answer many of the same questions he posed to his various subjects.

I'd like to thank Bora for his enthusiastic, insightful and fun responses. Enjoy!

Welcome to the Confessions of a Science Librarian. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your scientific background?

I grew up in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), reading books and riding horses since an early age. I majored in biochemistry and molecular biology in high school, then went to vet school with the intent to specialize in equine medicine. In 1991, I sold my horse and saddle and bought a ticket -- train to London, then plane to JFK. The war started a week later, breaking the country into several smaller pieces.

After a summer in Hendersonville, NC, working in a summer camp, and about a month in Boston and New Hampshire, I came back to North Carolina, to Raleigh, to work in a horse barn while dealing with the Immigration bureaucracy. On my first day in Raleigh I met Catharine who, a year later, became my wife. We have two kids -- a son and a daughter -- as well as a dog and three cats. We moved to Chapel Hill five years ago and love it here.

My transcripts from the vet school in Belgrade did not count for anything here, so instead of just finishing up in a year or so I would have had to start all over again. Instead, and after talking to horse vets at the barn for a couple of years, I decided that the situation here is quite different than in Yugoslavia. On one hand, the equine veterinary field is quite competitive, leaving little choice as to the location where one has to move to. On the other hand, one can actually do top science in the USA and biology was always my first love.

My interest was always in evolutionary biology, but I was often dismayed with some of the theoretical stuff that seemed to ignore the way the organisms actually work. My vet-school background, heavy on physiology, made it pretty easy for me to get into the NCSU Zoology program where I could integrate physiology, behavioral biology and evolutionary thinking into a single project. I did my MS on the physiology of circadian rhythms and photoperiodism in Japanese quail with Dr. Herbert Underwood, one of the pioneers of chronobiology, and continued with my PhD work in the same lab expanding both down to the level of the molecules and up to the evolutionary context. As you know, I have not defended my Dissertation or published any of that work yet...

After almost ten years in grad school (and after three deaths in the family in succession) I became depressed. The political situation in the USA was depressing as well. I spent more and more time online, reading and commenting on political blogs (including on the Edwards campaign blog), and less and less time writing my thesis. After the 2004 election, I got tired of political blogging and started blogging about science on a new blog instead, with immediate success (my very first post on the science blog got many thousands of hits from BoingBoing and others within the first day of the blog's existence!). In 2006, I got invited to move my blog to Seed ScienceBlogs.com. The rest is history.

What do you want to do/be when you grow up?

When I was a kid I had this great idea to be the first person to win both an Olympic medal and a Nobel prize. I am older and wiser now. Four years out of the lab, and fifteen years off the horse, the childhood dreams are over. And last time I checked, dealing with comment trolls does not qualify for the Peace prize. Jobs come and go. Passions come and go. But passion for making the world a better place for our children never goes away. I want to do whatever I can toward that goal. And, of course, be happy with my family and have lots of friends.

If Janet Stemwedel is the Cool Aunt of the science blogging community, you have to be the Crazy Uncle (only in the best way, of course). No one is a bigger supporter and cheerleader for the science blogging community. Can you explain a little the inspiration that's led you to edit an anthology series and organize a couple of conferences around this community? And what's next!?

I guess I am a gregarious type. Also, while blogging for a few years I have looked at the ways by which blogs get recognized and become popular, how top groups get entrenched and how much more difficult it is to make a break now than it was just a couple of years ago. So I feel an obligation to find and promote good new blogs as much as I can.

I have also quickly realized that I have made many good friends online and in many cases their own writing resulted in me knowing them better than many people I know in the meatspace. Meeting an online friend in person is like meeting an old childhood friend after a long break. No need to go through the rituals of "getting to know each other", you just hug and continue -- off line -- the conversation that started online. And having met in the real world, we understand each other better online afterwards (and are likely to be nicer to each other). One reinforces the other. There is something particularly strong about friendships that happen both online and off line. And this is something that Anton Zuiker has recognized a long time ago and showed us all, through meet-ups and conferences, how cool and powerful this idea is.

Thus, wanting to get my online friends, the science bloggers, together was a natural next step. And the way to do it was to organize a conference. And then another one. And we are working on the next one already. The idea is not just to have a giant meet-up where science bloggers get to share a beer, but to do something productive at the time as well -- put together people who probably would never meet otherwise: scientists, students, science bloggers, web developers, science journalists, science writers, science librarians, publishers, teachers and let the cross-fertilization of ideas produce magic!

There are still many people, scientists included, who are not very Internet savvy. Blogs have received quite a lot of bad press from threatened op-ed writers over the years as well, making people even more reluctant to check blogs out. We thought that one way to break this vicious cycle would be to present the best writing on science blogs in a medium that such people are comfortable with -- a book. The first anthology was a big hit and we hope that the second one will get even broader coverage and readership. And of course, we are already planning the third one.


Your real life job is Online Community Manager for PLoS ONE. Could you tell my readers the amazing story of how you go that job and what it consists of? Is herding cats a too gentle phrase to describe it?

My cats are marching in a perfect formation! Scientists....not yet... 😉

When PLoS ONE was launched a year ago, on the new TOPAZ platform that incorporates readers' commentary, PLoS decided to hire a manager for the online community. Liz Allen was doing the search and, among other things, she sent e-mails to people who could potentially help identifying the right person, i.e., someone with both a scientific background and an experience online. One of the recipients of her e-mail was Anton Zuiker, my friend and co-conspirator in various local blogging activities, including the Science Blogging Conference and the anthology. Anton immediately forwarded the e-mail to me insisting I apply right then and there. Well, it was Friday night, so I thought I'd spend a weekend thinking about it, talking to my wife, fixing my CV, then applying on Monday morning. But, being a blogger, I could not resist posting the job description on the blog and asking my readers to let me know if this job was right for me or if I was just fooling myself. The readers started piling up in the comments, urging me to apply and urging PLoS to hire me. One of the comments, on Saturday morning, was from Chris Surridge, the Managing Editor of PLoS ONE, who wrote: "So should we take this blog post as a formal application?" The rest, as they say is history. So yes, I got the job in the comment thread of my own blog. Who said blogging is bad for your career?

So, my job is primarily to try to get people to post comments, notes and ratings on PLoS ONE articles. This means I have to keep making friends -- online and offline -- in the scientific community, to educate about Open Access, about PLoS, about TOPAZ, etc. I also manage the PLoS Blog, use my own blog to inform my readers about news from PLoS, and I sometimes evangelize OA at meetings.

When, how and why did you become a believer in Open Access publishing? In discussions of Open Access on science blogs, at meetings, between scientists and publishers, most people talk about Gold, while sometimes we librarians seem to prefer the Green approach to Open Access. Given the recent Harvard announcements about the Green approach, what's your current feeling about the balance between Green and Gold?

Back in grad school I was a fanatical downloader and reader of scientific papers. I read papers old and new in my field, in several related fields, and in some unrelated but interesting fields. I read, carefully, several papers per day. Then, a few months after I left grad school and started science blogging, my password expired for the school library and suddenly I realized what I never thought of before -- papers are actually NOT free and available for everyone to read. And I needed my daily dose of papers, both for blogging and for my, at the time, illusion of writing a Dissertation. I had to resort to begging friends for PDFs. When I look back, even to the early days of my science blogging, more and more of my blog posts were about papers in OA journals, mainly PLoS Biology (to which e-mail I was subscribed from the very beginning of the journal's existence).

I have mixed feelings about Green approach to Open Access. On one hand, it is a Good Thing -- papers previously unavailable become available for everyone to read. This is definitely an improvement over Toll Access. On the other hand, I have two main problems with it. First one is technical/practical: papers deposited in many places are more difficult to find and papers deposited with different formats are hard to machine-mine for data. I think all the papers should be in the same format, searchable from a single place and interconnected. Second problem I have is tactical/psychological. Settling for a semi-Good solution will slow down the movement towards the Good solution. Many people will be smugly satisfied with Green and will be hard to recruit to fight for Gold.

How do science blogs fit in the entire ecosystem of scientific publishing, communication and education?

Ah, we had two conferences on this question and we are not sure we have the answer yet! Every now and then, the science bloggers do a round of navel-gazing: what is science blogging (see the discussions from 2006 and the 2008). I could probably make this interview really long by writing a treatise on this, but let me try to point just at a couple of main functions, keeping in mind that every blogger has somewhat different motivations, methods and goals for blogging.

Science blogs are an educational resource. Some are actually used as teaching tools in the classrooms, while others are open to everyone (see, for instance, the series of Basic Concepts). Google loves blogs and many science blogs have high traffic and high ranking in search engines. This brings students (and teachers and other interested people) to science blogs when they search for scientific terms and concepts. My posts with the greatest longevity (and total traffic over time) are my educational posts, e.g., my BIO101 lecture notes.

Science blogs remove filters. A scientific paper is usually dry, dense and difficult to read. Most people outside of the particular field need some level of translation from Scientese into English (or whichever other language). Traditionally, this is the job of the Press Officer at the researchers' institution, often a person who does not have the requisite background in that scientific discipline and may thus make mistakes. The press releases are then picked up by journalists who write their articles based on these. They also usually do not have scientific background and find it difficult to read and understand the actual scientific papers. Thus, they add another step in translation which may, and often does, distort the meaning of the published research. Science bloggers are scientists and they tend to write about the research in their area of expertise (as I would write about chronobiology papers and leave physics to others). They read the actual papers. They tend not to make mistakes. And, as only a small proportion of scientists write blogs, the science bloggers are self-selected for love of writing -- so, at least after a few months of doing it, they become very, very good writers, often as good (or better) as the professional science journalists. And, as they tend to point out the mistakes in press releases and media articles, they keep the journalists' feet to the fire, making journalists better at their job in the process.

Science blogs protect science. Most working scientists do not have the time, energy and inclination to actively fight against various pseudoscience and anti-science movements. Many science bloggers do. And, as blogs tend to have high search-engine rankings, their responses to such attacks on science usually show up higher than the original attacks. Every time someone says something stupid or pernicious (for personal, financial, religious or political reasons), a chorus of science blogs dissects the quasi-argument and replaces it with correct information. This is what people will find if they search the relevant terms.

Science blogs are starting to change the way science is done. The examples are few for now, but Open Notebook Science, i.e., the publication of daily lab notes on a blog or a wiki (the way, for instance, Jean-Claude Bradley does it), is slowly gaining adherents. Sooner or later, hypotheses and data published on blogs will routinely get cited -- I have published both hypotheses and data on my blog before, and I had a blog post cited as a reference in a paper. In the other direction, scientific papers (like those published in PLoS journals) enable bloggers to leave trackbacks. This will become more and more frequent in the future.

How is a scientific paper going to look in 20 years from now? How is that going to affect the way scientific research (and teaching) is done?

It is hard to make predictions (although I did before), especially with such temporal precision -- things may happen much faster or slower than I think. It depends on the state of science in 20 years -- its global size and power, its global distribution (will the US science, with its US-specific culture, still be dominant in 20 years?), the technological breakthroughs and societal/political environment.

Most scientific disciplines go through cycles. A new technology (microscope, telescope, computer, gene-sequencing machines) suddenly allows people to gather previously intractable data. A whole industry develops around this new technology and over some years or decades, mountains of data are produced, yet the analysis and understanding of data is still quite superficial and preliminary. So the field swings to the other part of the cycle -- data analysis and interpretation and construction of new theoretical scaffolds, also a time for bitter theoretical battles within the discipline...until it is settled, by which time usually there is a new technological invention that allows for collection of new kinds of data and the cycle moves on again.

Right now, some fields, e.g., astronomy and genomics, are in the data-producing phase. Much money and manpower is dedicated to the production of enormous amounts of new data, with little time to stop and think about them. So, it is in the interest of researchers to make the data available to others for analysis. Thus, they are dumped online (where else? reams of printer paper?). Is publication of a new genome a scientific paper? It is just a lot of raw data, after all, with minimal and highly formalized Introduction, Methods and Discussion sections.

My prediction, probably false, but I'll go out on the limb here, is that a scientific paper of the future will be a work in progress -- with different people with different skills and talents contributing to a body of work sequentially: one has the idea, another turns it into a hypothesis, another designs the experiments, another runs them, another analyzes the data, another visualizes them, another interprets them, another places several such pieces of work together into a historical and philosophical context and finishes writing the "paper". The bits and pieces of it are independently searchable and citable and they are all interconnected by links until the final version is put all together in one place. After all, science as the work of a lonely genius is pretty much a myth -- it has been, for the most part, a very collective endeavor. The readers of the paper then keep adding their commentary, links to subsequent "papers," etc. The unity of the paper -- a single date, journal, volume, issue, page -- will be gone. All of science will become interdisciplinary and interconnected.

Bora -- the question that everyone wants to know the answer to: how do you manage to be such a prolific blogger and still hold down a job, edit anthologies, organize conference and maintain a life outside all that stuff.

It helps that most of it is a part of my job. I love my job, I love blogging, I love learning, and I love making friends -- and all of it is interconnected in my life right now. I do not sleep enough (but I do, every night, despite rumors to the contrary), I do not go out to commune with nature enough, and, unfortunately (and that HAS to change), I do not find enough time any more to read books as much as I used to.

When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?

Since I started as a political blogger, it is no surprise that the first blog I encountered was The Intersection, at the time when Chris Mooney was starting to write his material for The Republican War On Science. His blogroll then led me to Pharyngula, Deltoid and a few other science blogs. After that, by jumping from blogroll to blogroll, as well as through blog carnivals, I discovered hundreds of others.

It is impossible any more (for at least a year now) to keep up with all of them, so I tend to rotate them -- some I check daily for a few months, then move to others, while checking the others only sporadically. I'd love to have a thousand Favourites (just check my blogroll!), but it is just physically impossible. I read all of my SciBlings pretty regularly (it is easy by checking The Last 24 Hours page), visit my old friend Archy just to say Hello every morning, check Peter Suber for professional reasons, and enjoy the fresh new young voices, e.g,. that of Pondering Pikaia or Laelaps. Like most of my interviewees, I encountered the delightful Inverse Square Blog at the Conference, as well as The INFO Project blog, the OpenHelix blog and will keep an eye to see how Space Cadet develops over time.

Is there anything that happened at this Conference -- a session, something someone said or did or wrote -- that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

It's hard, when you are the organizer, to quit worrying about the organization, choose a session and settle down with a full focus on the conversation. I actually had to watch the videos and read the blog posts afterwards for most of the sessions. In my mind, the most important development is the realization, reached by both sides I think, that former adversaries, the professional science journalists on one side and the science bloggers on the other, are really on the same side and need to find ways to collaborate.

Another focus for me, during the entire year of organization as well as during the meeting, was finding the ways to fully include people who traditionally were not invited to the table when scientists talk -- not only concerning gender and race, which are important, but also age and formal qualifications, e.g., undergraduate and high school students, writers, journalists, amateur naturalists, middle school teachers, elected officials and parents. I think that the Conference was quite successful in those goals, but I am already concocting plans for making the ScienceOnline09 even more inclusive if I can.

It was so nice to finally meet you and thank you for the interview.

It was great meeting you, too. It was a pleasure. See you next year at the conference.

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Bora leaves ScienceBlogs, ground shifts under our feet

Jul 19 2010 Published by under blogging, personal

The fallout of the Pepsigate scandal continues.

Bora's recent relative blogging silence left me with a bad feeling, an ominous feeling. A feeling like the other shoe was about to drop.

Well, it did. Bora is leaving ScienceBlogs.

As with most of Bora's giant summary zeitgeist posts, you just have to read the whole thing yourself. The comments too are incredibly heartfelt.

For me, Bora always epitomized ScienceBlogs. He was always the ultimate SciBling and I was so thrilled to be blogging her next to him when I joined. Bora's also always really epitomized science blogging as a whole to me. As such, I always felt that he was shepherding and guiding all the rest of us. He was also one of the first non-library blogs that every noticed my humble blogging efforts.

Bora = ScienceBlogs. Bora = science blogging.

He'll be missed. But, being indefatigable and incorrigible and undefeated and incredible and unbelievable (and pretty well every other un- and in- you can think of!), he continues blogging and shepherding and all the rest.

It's a beginning as well as an ending and while we mourn one we should also celebrate the other.

As for the rest of us, it really does feel like it changes everything, like it's a point of no return or a foreshadowing.

(To check out more online reaction, follow the #IoweBora hashtag on Twitter.)

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Friday Fun: Batman's 34 greatest tweets

Jul 16 2010 Published by under friday fun

So, it appears that Batman is on Twitter.

From the newly renamed Blastr site, I give you a selection of Batman's 34 greatest tweets:

Watch out criminal scum, I'm trying to kick caffeine again. And we all remembered what happened last time, don't we? DON'T WE!!!

Going to help with the clean up effort in the Gulf. And by "clean up effort" I mean breaking some BP exec's knee caps.

Hey Tony Stark, there's a "Rich Drunk Douchebags Anonymous" meeting tomorrow. I'll sign you up for a seat. With my fists.

Arkham is a disgusting, human rights-violating hellhole. It's like my Disneyland.

What do I call my iPhone? The BATiPhone? The iBatPhone? These are the things that keep me up at night. Well that and the face punching.

No Alfred, I DON'T know what PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE means. Why don't you EXPLAIN it to me.

Clearly this is the Dark Knight Batman, not the swinging 60's Batman.

I'm curious. Which amusing and/or bizarre Twitter feeds do you follow? One of my favourites is Big Ben.

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