Cosyne 09, Or: How I learned to stop ignoring Web 2.0 and love the Twitter
I joined Nature Neuroscience in March, 2007 with little more experience in Web 2.0 technology than posting to my postdoctoral lab’s internal wiki page. A couple months into the job, I was asked by then Chief Editor Sandra Aamodt to try my hand at blogging. I had never done such a thing before, but said “Sure.”
Initially, I rekindled the flame at the Nature Neuroscience blog Action Potential with a number of posts, some of which I actually became quite fond of, and suddenly found myself thrust squarely into the Web 2.0 arena. My transformation into an advocate for whole-heartedly adopting a Web 2.0 mindset in science as well as into a social networking wannabe/poser was only complete following my collaboration with Hilary Spencer, in which we examined the relationship between immediate individual paper downloads and eventual citations (this culminated in an editorial written for Nature Neuroscience and a more-detailed blog post about the analysis). Hilary introduced me to such a broad range of technology, software, database relationships, and general Web 2.0 goodness that I became hooked.
I began to read more about this stuff. I joined the team at Nature in July, 2008 and started this blog on my own. I began to participate more beyond just this blog. I joined Facebook. I started a friend feed. I started sharing things via Google Reader, having them feed into the previous two sites. I was updating these feeds via my iPhone on the train to work. I clearly saw the awesome power that these integrated programs could have in disseminating science and facilitating serious technical dialogue. Then I read this. And the monster was cut loose for good.
I had known about Twitter, heard people discuss it, etc., but never had any interest in it. That is because I never really gave it much thought. Joerg Heber forced me to think about Twitter again and although having an information outlet like Nature Materials highlighting interesting content via tweets is not conceptually novel (geez, I sound like an editor…), my new mindset and having other NPG colleagues “tweeting” (Nature News, Timo Hannay, Brendan Maher and many others) inspired me to follow. I joined last weekend as @noahwilliamgray and plan to provide my own stream of neuroscience goodies and opinions.
I can’t promise that it will be “all neuroscience, all the time”, because that’s just not me. I reserve the right to indulge in tweets covering some of my other interests (ecology, environment, evolution, politics) and passions (soundz, bass, tunes, the beat). So there. But I’ll try to keep the value-added:self-indulgent tweet ratio high, even if you are desperate to follow the musical tastes of a neuroscience editor.
In addition, since joining Twitter and becoming an instantaneous convert, I now clearly see how monolithic and plodding Facebook is in comparison to the more nimble Twitter microblog as an information-rich dissemination missile. Experiencing Twitter also finally allowed me to put my finger on why I always felt less than satisfied by most “live blogging”. Live blogging can sometimes be a forced and painful affair, whereas using Twitter for live updates is more natural and interactive, with instant feedback perhaps even shaping the direction of coverage by the transmitter, allowing for the feed to become tailored to the live audience. And in Twitter, each thought is kept as a separate thread, held together by a common theme (#——-). This is how many live blog posts turn out anyway (i.e., a string of one-liner comments), but the thoughts all become mashed up in the single post, making it difficult to follow or organize the subsequent discussion in the comments.
I am currently in Salt Lake City, UT for the Cosyne 09 conference and will make my first attempt to “live-tweet” my conference highlights and impressions. If interested, follow along with this – #cosyne. If all goes well, I intend to do the same for the Keystone Symposium on the Epigenetic Basis of Neurodevelopmental Disorders.