Eyeballs

Apr 26 2009 Published by under Blogging, Tribe of Science

This week's little excitement what with the Pro-Test rally and poll crashing the LAT poll on animals in research (the anti's have fought back from their 90/10 deficit again, poll is running about 63/37 right now, go vote some more!) has me thinking about the ol' tribe of science, group action for common goals, calling out the clans and all that activism jazz.
I've done a little bit of exhorting in the past but never really worried about specific effects, like winning a dumb little web poll or turning out names to sign an online petition or whatnot.


This week has been really positive but give YHN a few days and the reflections on the glass half empty and who drank the water commence.
This has coincided with some discussions elsewhere about reaching new people through blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other online entities in a more general sense. I've found turning the questions over to you, DearReaders, is a very good way to inform myself.
So what would you do to reach more people just like yourself. Do people around you IRL read blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc in an open manner? Do people forward you a bunch of stuff from online sources regularly? Or do you exist in a sekrit bubble of the blogosphere, hiding your timewasting from your friends and colleagues? Can you remember when/how you first heard of ScienceBlogs or scienceblogging? Do your academic societies or journals try to have an active breezy, social/newsy web presence (blog, twitter, Fb, etc)? Is it working?

13 responses so far

  • anon. says:

    Funny how DrugMonkey discovers the value of community building when it actually matters to him. But your barn door ... well, it may not even have any hinges left after all the crap you've doled out to those who could have been your allies.
    Too bad you lack the humility and self awareness to learn from this experience.

  • N00b says:

    DM doles out crap? Sounds entertaining- where??? Share already.

  • Luigi says:

    "Or do you exist in a sekrit bubble of the blogosphere, hiding your timewasting from your friends and colleagues?"
    Generally, yes to this one. Although I have pointed out Sb to a few students, and CPP's grantwriting posts to a colleague. But I have done so as I would any other piece of found information worthy of being passed along. There's nothing special about it being on the internet.
    I have no idea what anon is getting at, but if you're open to criticism (and I assume you are, or you are obviously a fool for having a blog), then I guess the only comment I could make regarding this post in particular, DM, is that you may suffer from a particular self-delusion common to bloggers, in that you assume readers actually care about your 'mission'. I doubt most do. To most, your work here is merely a bit of jetsam on the vast Google seas. Or perhaps I should have said 'flotsam' (Look it up if you're not clear on the difference. Honestly, science blogs, though not necessarily Sb, seem more often than not the detritus of wrecked or sinking scientific careers).
    If ScienceBloggers were really interested in informing the public rather than indulging in narcissistic blather, you'd post far less and collaborate more often to cover subjects well instead of simply redundantly. I recognize that certain people believe opinions, if allowed to flow freely, will somehow converge toward truth. Unfortunately, I think that's just a naive (and potentially dangerous) fantasy.
    Of course, this is just my opinion. File it accordingly.

  • Art says:

    I think Sb is pretty good at explaining science. Perhaps not in the way most might think it should, but still, in vary important ways.
    Now Sb isn't too much of a how-to manual. Your not going to learn the mechanics of how to do science. You get a few specifics now and then but not too much.
    Sb also isn't the sort of place a scientist doing research would come to plumb the depths of the existing science or use as a reference to catch up on the current state of the art. Yes, there are announcements and explorations of new discoveries quite often but they are not really exhaustive, reference-grade pieces.
    If those sorts of posts and atmosphere are what your looking for Sb might be a disappointment.
    That said SB does a really good job of exploring science from a perspective that is otherwise pretty much impossible to find, how scientists think and feel about the world.
    The pragmatic aspects of dealing with the soft, lesser science of applied psychology needed to deal with politics and gain grants. The disappointment when wide swaths of people misunderstand simple scientific facts or are misled as to what science is and how it works. The anger at people who deceive the public, distorting their perception of reality, for personal and political gain.
    The brains of scientist are not neat, well organized places. There is some comfort in this. Too often scientists are presented as emotionless robots or distracted specialists or passionless demi-gods sitting above it all. SB goes a long way to show that science is undertaken by people. People who get distracted, and have passions and worry and have problems. People who are pretty much like everyone else you meet on the street. Save for two points. Most are very smart, and they use reason and the scientific method, to the best of their ability, to discover how the world works.
    IMHO if your thinking about getting into science as a career, or you want or need to deal with scientists, or you are interested in how scientists think then SB is a good place to spend time.
    And, while your here soaking up the vibe, your probably going to learn a good bit about science and become much better informed as to what is going on within the field and the science behind current events. The coverage of the swine flu has been exceptional.

  • anonymous says:

    I've actually found this whole Pro-test movement to be the first time I've shared 'political' (for lack of a better word) opinions on facebook (well, except the election but that was more just sharing the mass excitement). I attended the rally as did everyone I know professionally, and we all have been posting facebook links to articles, the Pro-test website, some of the online polls, etc. This has not particularly included blogs, although many people posted the series of posts over at Adventures in Ethics and Science.
    It has actually been very interesting... some people have been offended (as they always are) but there have also been opportunities for some interesting interchanges with people that we all know outside of our professional life and are people that this topic might otherwise never come up with. In some ways, I think sites like that may even be the ideal way to initially reach non-scientists, given that you're probably likely to give at least a little more consideration to something someone you already know says. In terms of reaching out to scientists, most scientists I know don't actually know much about scienceblogs, but I have pointed it out to a few... I don't know if non-scientists would be particularly interested, but more scientists would if they were more aware of it.

  • DuWayne says:

    I just wanted to respond to some of the criticisms being leveled here, because I think that there are several folks on this thread who have an overinflated view of their own opinions.
    First of all, I suspect that a lot of the folks who regularly read DM's blog, or any blog, probably support many of the same causes or "missions" of those bloggers. Part of the reason people are inclined to be regular readers of a particular blog is because they happen to agree with a lot of the issues that the blogger in question writes about. The fact that you might not happen to have any interest, doesn't mean that a lot of regular readers don't.
    Second, I think it's important to recognize that the science blogs do serve a reasonable purpose that some folks really appreciate. On a number of fronts, the conversations I have engaged in on various blogs, have profoundly impacted my life.
    This blog in particular, has had a huge influence on the direction I've chosen for my education and future career. And the discussions that Dm's fostered have pushed my explorations in directions that I find increasingly important. The more I learn about addiction and the intersection of lab research and clinical treatment models (or more accurately the lack of intersection), the more clearly I see the importance of both informing the other.
    At the same time, there are other discussions here that I find equally important, especially as I am trying to make informed decisions about how to proceed with my education. Getting an understanding of the environment that various types of institutions are going to offer is a huge benefit to me and my decision making.
    I guess I just think it's silly to make assumptions about what other people who read a blog are thinking about the content. Likewise, I think it's silly to assume that bloggers should write the way you think they should. The really awesome thing about blogs, is that if you want to see a blog that does something the way you think it should be done, you can start a blog that does just that. Or perversely, you can simply ignore posts you don't have an interest in. There are a lot of posts by every blogger I read, that I have no interest in reading and as such, I just ignore them.

  • becca says:

    A fair number of people around me IRL use Facebook, but as far as I can tell it's mostly viewed as entertainment.
    I only know one other person who reads blogs like I do.
    So yeah. Mostly sekrit bubble.
    Although I did first find out about science blogs (and indeed, blogs generally) from a "best of" list in Nature (Pharyngula was on it. So you can all thank PZ for bringing in the snarky obnoxious grad students).
    When he was at my institution for a talk, I asked Dr. Mentor-the-Neuroscientist-Greybeard about career advice on Teh Internets. He seemed to be convinced that the lack of personal connection would be fatal (and he was a relatively hip Greybeard, with his pandora on his iphone and whatnot). I think the internet as a source of mentoring has not yet entered the general scientific consciousness as much as it should (aside from bloggyfun, I've found MentorNet to be an excellent resource).
    Podcasts do seem to be picking up a lot of speed though, as more and more journals seem to be getting them. I love them, because I can listen to science on long drives or while doing benchwork.

  • MassivePharma recently started a "CEO Blog", so that we can all.. I dunno.. feel closer to the CEO or something. Of course, it comes across as fake and forced, because the communications group is ghost-writing all his "posts", and nobody feels empowered to make any comments. At this writing, there are a dozen or so posts up on his blog and a tiny handful of sycophantic comments. This is representative of a large entity trying to engineer something that happens organically, and how it doesn't work.
    Social interaction media like blogs are a great source of information. I like finding people with situations similar to my own, which essentially gives me another "n" and another perspective on how someone else dealt a situation. Similarly, a blog can serve as a fair warning for a situation that you may encounter in the future (the tenure track, academic politics, etc). It's often hard to trust the veracity of information from pseudonymous sources, and I think that only a sub-group of all scientists would be willing to take mentoring/advice (or further, seek out mentoring/advice) from characters on the internet. This percentage will likely not change much, regardless of what kind of promotional events Sb puts on.
    I like the description of blog-writers as "characters" - how you present yourself on your blog may not be 100% who you are IRL, but who cares? The "character" represents a real person, with real experience and insight, and you can take their experience and insight for what they're worth. Do you really need someone's social security number before listening to their opinion?
    Of course, getting an opinion about blogs by posting a question on a blog isn't going to net you the most objective set of responses..

  • Nat says:

    I like the description of blog-writers as "characters" - how you present yourself on your blog may not be 100% who you are IRL, but who cares? The "character" represents a real person, with real experience and insight, and you can take their experience and insight for what they're worth. Do you really need someone's social security number before listening to their opinion?

    This objection about writing as a pseudonymous character mystifies me. It implies that in real life, people act in a way more true to their inner self. I reject that premise out of hand.
    In many ways the expression that arises from writing as a character might be more authentic to their self.

  • (I realize that my first comment did little to address DM's questions...)
    What would I do to reach more people like myself? People like me enjoy finding out how other people do stuff/react to stuff/think about stuff. Blogs are an obvious place to "meet" these people. IRL I met most of the people like me at graduate school, which is like an incubator for geeks like me (despite not actually *attending* graduate school).
    Do people around you IRL read blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc in an open manner? Most of my friends "openly use" facebook, and mock me fairly frequently for not having a facebook account. None of my friends openly use twitter. Only one of my friends openly blogs, one other friend openly reads blogs, and I keep my blog to myself - not even my husband knows about it.
    Do people forward you a bunch of stuff from online sources regularly? I do tell people about things I read from science blogs, when it relates to them specifically (or if it's a freaking funny story). Are we talking about random shit off the internet as well? If so, my friends & I are constantly emailing each other this sorta thing.
    "sekrit bubble of the blogosphere" Quite secret! But then again, I don't know what I gain from disclosure of my little timewasting secret. I also don't tell these same friends what I had for dinner last night, or what things I bought at Target this weekend, because (like blog-reading) they're small details that aren't really relevant to anyone but me.
    Can you remember when/how you first heard of ScienceBlogs or scienceblogging? The first science blog I read belongs to Jenny F Scientist, and I found all my other blogs through there, and then through the second connections, third connections. I think I've been reading science blogs for two-plus-ish years.
    Do your academic societies or journals try to have an active breezy, social/newsy web presence (blog, twitter, Fb, etc)? Is it working? As I mentioned above, MassivePharma has a CEO blog, which is largely ignored. We do have a pretty nice internal wiki. I've found it quite helpful for a lot of things - seeing if there are other groups who might have a plasmid so I don't have to re-clone it, keeping up with the work of friends or people I saw present something cool at a seminar, etc. Other departments make heavy use of Sharepoint to collaborate internally.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Nat, that is a disturbing thought.

  • becca says:

    DM- I think it's only disturbing to people who know CPP.
    "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

  • SockMonkey says:

    I think it's only disturbing to people who know CPP
    ...and Laden, and Isis, and DM, and Feelgood, and Sol, and Dave, and ....

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