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ScienceOnline09 – Day 3

by Eva Amsen

The Sunday program of ScienceOnline09 contained demos, which were shorter than the full-length sessions. I started out by going to the Nature Network demo. Not that I need help, but I wanted to see Corie’s demonstration. The wifi connection at Sigma Xi was sub-par, but Corie was prepared for this and had previously made screenshots of the pages she wanted to show. If you click around on the links at the top of this Nature Network page, you can re-enact the entire demo.

After the demo I spent the rest of the first session slot drinking coffee and eating a bagel, and Skyping my family in Holland. Anton took a picture of me doing this, so I can’t even pretend I didn’t skip class sessions!


The next session was “Hey, You Can’t Say That”, in which four panelists discussed things they could and couldn’t say on their blogs. Some key points made in the session were that you can’t start out blogging under you own name and then switch to being pseudonymous, but you can do it the other way around.

We heard some tales of employers wanting to reap the benefits from their employees’ blogs if they were good and/or popular bloggers, even when the blog had nothing to do with the employer. Some comments were made about journalists having similar problems, but I don’t agree with that, and I’ll quickly add my thoughts to that: journalists who blog or write freelance columns for outlets other than their main employer are professional writers and their main employer (a newspaper for example) employs tons of people just like that journalist who all do some writing on the side. They know how to deal with things much better than a research institute where the main workers are not writers. (I didn’t voice this in the session, because I hadn’t found the proper words yet.)

The last session this day was about science blogging networks. It was hosted by Cameron and Deepak again, but they had panelists this time: Anna Kushnir represented Nature Network, and Erin Johnson and Arikia Millikan were there on behalf of Scienceblogs.

To summarize: the benefits of being in a blog network are that you are pretty much ensured some readers who you didn’t know before, you “belong” somewhere (and the scienceblogs.com and network.nature.com urls make your blog look more professional) and someone else takes care of the site maintenance.

The drawbacks include being pigeonholed into a perceived niche because you share a blog network with other blogs who may be more popular than yours and sort of form the overall flavour of the network. Cliques also came up. Meh. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing if people comment on each other’s blogs a lot. It forms connections. That’s how you meet people in the first place. “I like your friends, but don’t you want to meet some new people” sounds like every teenager’s mom, and hearing how we’re supposed to be “less cliquish” makes my inner recalcitrant teenager want to do just the opposite. I don’t think it’s true either, because I found out that weekend that I have a lot more readers than I thought I did. (Yay!) They (by which I probably mean you, yes YOU!) just don’t comment all the time. But what was most interesting was that cliques are not a result of blog networks. There are also tight-knit groups of bioinformatics bloggers and open source advocates and ocean bloggers, who all know each other and comment on each others’ blogs regardless of where the blogs are. So if there is cliquishness going on, the blog networks are not to blame.

The day’s program ended with lunch, during/after which I interviewed some people for the music project. I still need to listen to those and find some snippets to upload. I’m not uploading everything people told me, because it’s research material for the doc, but I’ll put short segments on the blog so you can hear what I’m interested in.

After lunch, I still had a few hours to spare until my flight, which were spent socializing in the hotel bar again. At the airport, we experienced what is referred to as “bunching” on the Amazing Race recaps on TWOP: six of us were on the same flight to Toronto.

Waiting for the flight to Toronto.

The flight was delayed, because of the weather somewhere. What else is new.

When we finally landed in Toronto, five of us were almost home, but Victor still had to catch a flight to London. I gave him my cell phone number in case he didn’t make it, but when I passed customs I got a text from him: “Ran and made it on board – was the last person!”. It really was just like the Amazing Race.

My customs experience was the usual boring event. Meanwhile, Michael had a much more fun time two booths over: when he told the officer that he was returning from a science blogging conference, she said “You’re a blogger!?” and “What’s your favourite XKCD comic?” Why don’t I get those customs people?

Outside, Glendon and I waited another 30 minutes for a bus that comes “every 15 minutes” before being able to make our way downtown. John and Sam had taken a cab and were probably already asleep by the time we got on the bus, but I tried not to think about that and started mentally processing the conference instead. I had a great time! I didn’t meet that many new people (maybe 5 or 7 or so), but I really enjoyed seeing old friends again, and meeting in person people I had only met online.

It should be mentioned that many people brought up “the next blogging conference in London”, so get on that, guys! (I know, I know, Matt left, and clearly the whole business is in shambles and nobody else is capable of organizing a science blogging conference, but just call a date and reserve some space and we’ll come. “Build it and they will come” may not work for social networks, but the unconference movement has shown that it works perfectly fine for conferences. On that note, if anyone has access to free or very cheap conference space in Toronto please drop me a line.)


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steffi suhr January 27, 2009 - 8:27 PM

Eva, I think this is your 100th post, isn’t it?

Eva Amsen January 27, 2009 - 8:44 PM

Is it? Really? [mad clicking around the site] It is! I didn’t even know. Uhm, party?

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