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…

A brief ecological interlude: iNaturalist

Recently, I was toying with ideas for fun side projects involving web applications. “Here’s a good one”, I thought, “a place for amateur naturalists to record their observations.” They could upload photos, place items on a Google Map, tag items and all manner of web 2.0 stuff. Over time, with enough users, such a site might even become a valuable conservation resource, allowing data miners to see interesting changes over time.

Today, via FriendFeed, I discovered that someone else also likes the idea. I’m delighted, since I’ve long since abandoned all hope of even starting a fun side project; I lack both the requisite skills and the time to learn them. If these ideas appeal to you, please visit iNaturalist. Better still, post some feedback at their Google Group.

It’s a site that will only succeed with users and for that, they need a slick interface that makes data entry simple, quick, fun and comprehensive. Not quite good enough to persuade me to enter observations just yet, but I’ll be following their progress with interest.

More wikis in biology

Hot on the heels of WikiProteins comes:

Huss, J.W. III et al. ( 2008 )
A Gene Wiki for Community Annotation of Gene Function
PLoS Biol 6(7): e175 | Open Access

Which anyone can read, because it’s open access. It’s a realistic assessment of community annotation, focusing on the creation of gene stubs for editing within Wikipedia. Early reaction at the OpenHelix blog and a thread at FriendFeed.

Thanks to Andrew Su, who was kind enough to send me a preprint.

Update: more FriendFeed threads via this search

Well, everyone else was doing it

wordle Everyone seems to be having fun with Wordle. Except for me, until I realised that all my machines were cursed with something named “icedtea-gcjwebplugin”, as opposed to the Sun java plugin. Problem solved.

So there it is. But for the prominent “bioinformatics”, you’d never guess I was a biologist, would you. I do believe that this is telling me something.

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:

Google Health Live

The much-vaunted Google Health is online.

There’s a good early review at TechCrunch. Expect further coverage from bloggers who cover personalised medicine issues; you know who they are.

Questions that occur to me are: (1) how much personal information do you need to enter for the service to be useful; (2) how much will users be willing to enter? This will be a real test of the degree to which people trust Google with personal information.

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 ;)