What I learned from Clay Shirky about science online

The “science online” community has somehow compiled a required reading list (thanks John!), from which many ideas and quotes are mined. I recently finished reading an entry on the list: Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky.

I enjoyed the book – much of it was familiar to me, but it makes good use of specific examples to convey general principles. Of more interest to me is the application of these ideas to science online. Here’s what I think we can extrapolate from the book – and this is purely my personal interpretation.
Read the rest…

Spreading the message, a few minds at a time

Given my passion for online science networking, it’s surprising that I’ve never given a talk on the subject [1]. So a big thank you to William who invited me over to his institute for an informal chat about the topic with a small group of staff.

I learned that:

  • A good quote from an internet guru goes down well
  • Everyone loves an xkcd cartoon
  • Many biologists still don’t know what an RSS feed is

My slides are embedded, below or visit Slideshare – best viewed full screen.

1. Oh wait, I work in a university
See the slides

Why you, young scientist, should have a web presence

Three good reasons why you should be writing something, somewhere on the Web:

  1. Egalitarianism
  2. I hadn’t thought much about this aspect until a conversation with Roland at ISMB. Put simply, the Web democratises the science career ladder. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Honours student or a tenured professor; if you have good ideas and can articulate them, you can bring them to the attention of others and build a community around them. Previously, you would have had to wait until the stage of your career where you’re invited to give keynote addresses – and who has the time for that, these days?

  3. Connecting with the right people
  4. Ideally, we would all work in dynamic, stimulating environments, surrounded by talented, like-minded individuals keen to bounce ideas off each other. In practice – well, you know. No matter, because the Web allows you to find people on your wavelength, with whom you can interact. Increasingly, we’re seeing great examples of scientific collaboration established in this way. The process isn’t limited to science of course; Goth kids in small country towns find a friendly support network in just the same way.

  5. The big picture
  6. It’s all too easy in research to become obsessed with the minutiae and the day-to-day trials. It’s also easy to avoid writing until the time comes to publish a paper or apply for a grant. Writing something regularly on the Web can maintain writing skills, force you to assess critically your goals and progress and provide timely reminders about “the big picture”.

Those are my top 3 reasons: add yours in the comments (here or at FriendFeed).

FriendFeed “best of” the week

The new best of FriendFeed feature is proving to be a hit. It also provides material for people who are too busy to write real blog posts. Here’s my top 10, according to FriendFeed, from the past 7 days:

Too beta to be live

Yes, I’m referring to you, SciLink.

  • I create an account
  • On trying to add contacts from my address book, 7 alert windows pop up with the message “the page at scilink says error” – fixed
  • The page then hangs with a spinning icon
  • Some time later, the site spews errors including “Exception org.springframework.web.util.NestedServletException”
  • Not to be deterred I try to edit my profile
  • The “extensive database” finds 6 13 of my 23 publications and provides no easy way (e.g. PubMed ID) to add the rest
  • The dates of my education are saved incorrectly (1988-92 not 1989-93, 1992-96 not 1993-97) – fixed
  • Apparently I will be in my current post until the year 9998fixed
  • The final insult – no link to delete my account and escape

Can you tell that I’m annoyed? This is not the way to encourage social networking in science. Tip: don’t go live until your website works.

Update: I’ll say this for SciLink; they are very responsive and tolerant! Fixes and improvements are on the way.
Update 2: No, I’m just not impressed. Removed all scilink info and added a pointer here. And I want to delete the account.

Now officially living in my browser

firefox screenshot Firefox screenshot, from left to right:

  • Vertical tabs, courtesy of Vertigo – because you can never have too many tabs
  • Main window: the feeds roll into GReader
  • On the right, almost all the functionality of FriendFeed (except search) in fantastic new extension MySocial 24×7
  • On the right? Yes, because sidebars look better on the right IMHO, made possible by MultiSidebar

Tenuous bioinformatics connection: well, you work more effectively if you’re happy with your browser setup ;)

Around the open science, social web

This blog seems to become more about social networks/open science and less about bioinformatics every week. Perhaps that’s no bad thing. Here’s a few highlights from the activity stream this week.