November 6, 2007

What’s The Point of Blogging?

I am a hard bloggin' scientist. Read the Manifesto.
Sometimes I wonder what what the point of blogging is and just how much time people (myself included) waste reading and writing them. Let’s face it, most leading scientists are too damn busy to pay much attention to the blogosphere, especially when it descends (as it frequently does) into “uncontrollable verbal discharge”. This unfortunate medical condition is also known as Blogorrhoea. A free-flowing blog is unlikely to directly increase a scientists productivity (as approximated by the infamous h-index), and might even decrease it. Now, we all know that powerpoint can be PowerPointless, so is blogging also a pointless activity? Or to put it another way: Nodalpoint or Nodalpointless?

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of scientific blogging is, you should read the following, (if you haven’t already):

So what the heck, if blogging is fun and helps you communicate ideas with people, why get all uptight about questionable metrics for measuring scientific productivity? Wherever you blog, blog hard, blog fast and enjoy it. At the very least, it will fill the gaping void left on the Web by traditional scientific publishing. Who knows what the other benefits might be?


  1. Jorge Hirsch An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2005 November;102(46):16569-16572 DOI:10.1073/pnas.0507655102
  2. this post originally on nodalpoint with comments

August 6, 2007

Scifoo day two: Good Morning Mashup

Vince Smith, Brian Berman, Paul Ginsparg, Linda Miller, John SantiniSome of the most interesting conversations you have at Science Foo Camp (scifoo) are in the corridors, foo bars and even the bus that shuttles between the Googleplex and the hotel…On Saturday, for example, I ride the bus with David Hawkins who is a laywer working in the area of climate change. He tells me all about the legal issues, how climate modelling works and little on Bjørn Lomborg, who is also here. I tell him about workflows on the web and bioinformatics. We work in completely different areas, and we’d never normally meet. But in a short conversation, we manage to learn a little from each other and find connections. The problems that climateprediction.net face, turn out to be quite similar to the problems that genomics faces in integrating data on the web. When we arrive at the Googleplex, it’s time for Open Science… (more…)

August 4, 2007

Scifoo day 1: Turn up, tune in, drop out

Filed under: google — Duncan Hull @ 9:38 pm
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Scifoo campersMy boss, Douglas Kell, who has kindly allowed and paid for me to attend Science Foo Camp (scifoo), says to me “tell me what you get up to”. So here goes. Scifoo day 1, A chance to meet and around 250 engineers, scientists, philosophers and other odd people from all over the world.

Shortly after arriving at the Googleplex, California and being fed by gourmet chefs, it all starts . There is a quick round of introductions from everyone in the room, the conference schedule gets put up on a big board, and interactively edited like a wiki. Sounds chaotic, but it actually works.

The introductions are followed by some lightning talks by selected people, chaired by Tim O’Reilly and Timo Hannay.

  1. Drew Endy from OpenWetWare talked about biotechnology. He drew analogies between civil engineering and bio-engineering. Today we can build wonderful bridges like Viaduc Millau in France. But it hasn’t always been that way. In the stone age, we used rocks as they were to build the likes of Stone Henge. Then we moved to to quarrying rock more systematically, so we can build simple bridges. For biotechnology to succeed in the same way as civil engineering, we need to synthesize DNA in the same way as we synthesis concrete to make bridges. But currently, biotechnology is still in its stone age.
  2. Charles Simonyi gave a talk about his recent trip as a Space tourist. I’ve never met an astronaut before, and never wondered what it smells like or what the quality of your sleep is like in space. You can find out more about Charles in Space</.
  3. Felice Frankel: Visualisation, visualisation, visualisation! (although she doesn’t like that word)

After all this, theres some time for “corridor conversations” with other delegates, which is where most of the interesting stuff goes on. Its difficult to pull out a narrative, because theres all kinds of people here: some people I managed to speak to (note form, sorry!):

In his introduction, Tim O’Reilly described scifoo as “making new synapses in the global brain”. You take a load of people from different disciplines, stick them together, and they find all sorts of interesting connections that they might not otherwise have found. It might sound pretentious, but I think its true. Unlike larger conferences, scifoo is small and intimate enough to be able to talk to lots of different people which is one thing that makes it special. This year, they’ve lifted the blogging ban, so everything is public unless stated otherwise. Which means you’ll be hearing lots more about it from bloggers like me at the conference.

Day two will be fun, theres lots of demos, and more people to meet: Martin Rees, how do we survive the twenty first century given that we’re all going to die?…Must try and pluck up the courage to talk to Sergey but I’m completely starstruck. Brian Cox, Hello, I’ve seen you on the telly…Esther “always make new mistakes” Dyson, Anne Wojcicki, George Church, Eric Lander, Paul Z. Myers Theres a tonne of bio-people here….So many people, so little time!

[this post originally published on nodalpoint]

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