Twitter at ScienceOnline
This is the first time I've actively tweeted through an entire meeting, and found it to be a worthwhile addition. It was cool to see what other folks in my sessions were thinking (at times it was like passing notes in class), and also nice to be able to follow the sessions in other rooms. Over 300 active users participated (on and off-site), and over 17,000 tweets discussed the meeting (see this cool summary map)! It's this broad participation that took Twitter from just being a small piece of the meeting to an essential component - an important observation for groups like Society of Vertebrate Paleontology that might want to acknowledge (or even encourage) Twitter.
Some thoughts on the state of blogging
One perception I have after ScienceOnline 2012 is that blogging - as an activity and as a medium of communication - seems to have reached a relatively mature state. Sure, there are incremental advances and changes, but by and large I don't really get the sense that there is much substantively new going on (other than new people joining the blogging fold on occasion). This is somewhat reflected by the blogging-relevant sessions at ScienceOnline2012 - they are much the same kind of stuff you might have seen at ScienceOnline 2010, or 2009, or 2011. Topics like getting students involved in blogging, increasing acceptance of blogging in academia, use of images on blogs, etc., are important but really not much advanced beyond where we were a few years ago. [brief note - this should not be interpreted as me saying that I think things are just OK as they are - in fact, it is a rather sad thing that some of these issues are still issues!]
I don't mean this as a criticism, but just a state of how things are. In fact, stability is partly a good thing in that someone new to the world of blogging can jump in with clear role models, expectations, and pathways to success (whatever success may be). Many of the broad principles have been laid out, and now we're working on refining the details. Some big issues do remain (we can always increase the acceptance of quality blogging for academic career advancement, for instance), but many of these will probably just require the imperceptible cultural shifts that happen over time.
Some thoughts on the state of online science
Perhaps it just reflects my own intellectual trajectory, but it seems like we're approaching some measure of stability for many of the old issues in science communication. Open access - important, but not really novel anymore. Blogging - same thing. Social media - ditto. As all of these trends started, I took a wait-and-see approach before engaging myself. As such, I have missed out on getting in at the very, very beginning of some trends, but have also avoided wasting time with trends that haven't much gone anywhere or have fizzled out (e.g., SecondLife and GoogleWave, to name just two). Based on my attendance at ScienceOnline 2012, the areas to watch include:
- Crowdfunding: Small donations can add up to decent funding for a focused project, and present unique outreach opportunities. In a field of shoestring budgets like paleontology, I see crowdfunding as a potentially important new trend.
- Article-level metrics and data set archival and citation: I've tied these two topics together because they reflect a major advance beyond the old journal-level metrics like Impact Factor. Neither topic is completely new, but I saw plenty of new tools at ScienceOnline that may move the discussions and usage of these metrics forward. Furthermore, there is still a long way to go for community buy-in.