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Tag Archives: FriendFeed

One year of blogging – plans for ten years

Ethos Roundtable at Bob Doyle's Home - July 18...Image by Pathfinder Linden via Flickr

Following BioBarCamp I missed one year anniversary of this blog. With sixty something posts I cannot say I’m very productive blogger, but I didn’t aim at being one, as probably all other science-types. My goal was to be engaged in the conversation and I have reached it much faster than I expected. I got lots of help and encouragement from people I wouldn’t even dear to email a year ago. I know much more than I did on things outside of my research area. While it sounds all pathetic, advantages of being part of this community are hard to overestimate – I wrote about it couple of times already (and Neils did a great job summarizing why you should have a web presence).

Where is “Freelancing science” heading? That’s a question I asked myself pretty often during last 12 months. At first, I just blogged about interesting stuff around bioinformatics. Then I made a jump into freelancing as scientists (and this experiment goes pretty well). Statistics on keywords people are using to find this blog clearly show that there’s some interest within bioinformatics community in following this path. But the idea for this blog I have right now is not about freelancing anymore. Or rather it’s about freelancing on the next level, because today I think about starting a non-profit institute.

I believe that small research groups formed as a non-profit organizations will have enourmous impact on science within next ten, twenty years (more about it in upcoming post about the future of scientists). In spirit of freelancing they will jump from one project to another (see Deepak’s post about bursty work and follow-ups), developing solutions and making discoveries much faster (or cheaper) than it is possible in beaurocratic environment. We do have tools for effective collaboration online, we have new generation scientists that do not feel attached to academic system and we have science which starts to evolve about undestanding data, not performing experiments. Is it time to try such approach?

So, watch this space to see how the idea develops. I’m also interested in your opinions and experiences with starting and cooperating with non-profits if you have any.

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Posted by on August 11, 2008 in Career, Community, Research

 

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By any measure I’m average at most

Nature, Science and PNASImage via Wikipedia

As you have probably noticed, yesterday’s BioBarCamp was covered in depth over at FriendFeed and additionally Cameron was streaming video live from the event (it’s still available under the same address). One particular session drawed my attention, because it was about measuring impact of scientists. It’s something I have very strong opinion about since couple of weeks, so forgive me this rant.

Peter Binfield (PLoS) and Pedro Beltrao did a great job on presenting current status of the issue and presented potential way to measure impact of a publication (quoting after Shirley“your article received x citations, viewed x times, received x comments, bookmarked x times, rated x by experts, discussed on x respected blogs, appeared in x news media, etc etc” – instead of single “your article was published in journal with IF of X”). And while two months ago I was really interested in such discussions and willing to help, today I simply don’t care. The reason is simple and is presented in the post title: by any measure, I’m average at most.

That’s absolutely obvious that majority of scientists is at most average by any standard or measure. And that is not going to change, at least not much. Those who are at the top by Impact Factor today, will be at the top by other measure. Those who do some not-that-important stuff like me, will be still pretty average by other measure. One of the reasons may be all kinds of issues with normalization of the field size (there’s too much problems with biological ontologies to believe that dividing science space into fields is going to work much better). Another thing may be relative importance of the field (that’s something different from field size) – human research will always draw more attention than electrochemistry. And I could go on and on – all these issues aren’t novel and have been described and discussed in thousands of blog posts. The point is that even if such new ideal measure is going to be fair, it will not change life of majority of scientists. Not only because some of us do average things, but also because some of us have average money (BTW, I haven’t found much discussion on including in the measure research budget, which surprises me given the fact that amount of money spent on a project correlates pretty much with the IF of the journal it is published in afterwards).

So, I don’t really care if IF stays or not (although people working on improving measuring get my deep respect). Reputation-wise I’m going to be in the middle unless I will make something extraordinary. But honestly to make a scientific breakthrough the last thing I need is a number describing quality of my thinking.

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Posted by on August 8, 2008 in Career, Comments, Research

 

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FriendFeed: where the conversation happens

The start of this post (see the image above) may be a good reason for many people for not to join FriendFeed 🙂 . It shows what happened to number of visitors to this blog after I joined FF – it had dropped by half (actual numbers aren’t relevant, graph shows monthly statistics). The reason is pretty obvious for any long-time blogger – no posts, no visitors. I don’t post as often as before for a good reason – sharing news, interesting links and the whole conversation around these happens on the FriendFeed. While I didn’t set up a dream system I wanted to (see my comment on previous post on the FF), I don’t have any issues with so-called “information overload“. Actually, I don’t believe in any information overload – we are just pretty bad at managing incoming information – but that’s a story for another post.

Rooms are neat feature of FriendFeed – they act a filter and keep the conversation focused. Instead of looking at a stream of titles ranging from linux hacks, through hardcore programming stuff and other bioinformatics-related topics, up to cancer research and science philosophy, I can just go into one of the rooms and see only items related to a particular topic. Yesterday Deepak wrote on the new rooms at FF (for Python, Ruby and R for Bioinformatics) that were created by people from life-science community. There is also a room for Science 2.0 and Open Science, DIYBiology and even a room which collects links to a must-read material – BioGang classics (since I started this post, Ricardo had created OpenWetWare FriendFeed room).

Rooms help in keeping the flow of links under control, but the conversation is the key point of using FriendFeed. Almost every single item posted into The-Life-Scientists room generates comments, sometimes turning into pretty long discussion. Because FF aggregates Twitter updates, majority of “Dear Lazyweb” Twitter requests result in FriendFeed based conversations. And there’s more and more people participating (The Life Scientists room has over 200 members). As usual, there’s a catch – focus and depth are not good sides of FF comments (for example, compare reaction to the recently posted very nice essay by Michael Nielsen on The Future of Science: number of comments on his blog and on the FF are comparable, although discussion/arguing with the essay points happened mostly on the blog). But that’s not a problem – it’s just a result of a speed with which items appear and disappear on the FriendFeed (some of you have seen that tracking real-time stream from concurrent sessions on the recent ISMB conference).

Even such shallow and quick interactions with people on the FriendFeed generate some level of trust, and that I think will lead to couple of interesting things:

  • more people will try how does the online collaboration work (for example, in reflection after recent Cameron’s talk Brian Kelly from UKOLN wants to write his article online)
  • PI-level scientists will join FF to participate in the discussion (we see that already, although so far there’s only very few of them)
  • there will be serious articles why FriendFeed, Twitter and online collaboration are bad for scientists and how these can break their academic career, in similar way as there were for blogs (see recent Pedro’s post)
  • we will see (and read, since it’s going to be open-access) first peer-reviewed publication from an idea that originated at FF/Twitter

Is FriendFeed going to be a hub for science? I don’t really think so. At the time, when mainstream science will pick up FriendFeed I think we are going to be already somewhere else, because there will be more interesting and more useful platforms for scientific collaborations (like for example cyn.in – looks promising, although it’s not yet optimized product). But the time spent at FF will give us an advantage: connections, collaborations, wide spectrum of information and advice from smart people.

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Posted by on July 28, 2008 in Comments, Community

 

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Blogging overtaken by life streaming

I don’t post new things as often as I used to couple of months ago, but it’s not all my fault. FriendFeed and Google Reader (especially the newest feature of adding notes to shared things) create so much better space for rapid thoughts exchange than a blog, that I comment, link and share most of the things over there, and that includes even making scientific collaborations. This blog is going to loose a little of its dynamics, but already after few weeks I see advantages (like saving time) of moving micro-posts to World Wide Talk Show, as Robert Scoble calls FF.

Amount of interesting conversations at FF and Twitter combined is so huge that I don’t do random web browsing anymore (and I’m not the only one who says that). And I don’t even subscribe to thousands of people – it’s less than a hundred in total on both services. This list includes scientists (here’s probably already outdated list at Nature’s blog Nascent of scientist at FF), technologists and other interesting chaps.

So join us at Twitter or FriendFeed – my login at both services is “freesci”. Life is about interesting conversations, isn’t it? 🙂

UPDATE: Pierre Lindenbaum has obviously similar thoughts.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2008 in Comments

 

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