Once you get past the ad and the gloating Canadians, fast forward to 5:12 in this video:
19 October 2010
16 October 2010
10 October 2010
If I might be permitted an observation, there is something wrong when, in a forum expressly for the purpose of bug reports and feedback, a user’s perfectly valid comments are dismissed out of hand.
It’s bad enough when an unaffiliated Nature staffer who does not have an active blog on Nature Network (and yet maintains a presence on the private forum) weighs in and completely misses the point. It is far worse when one of the admins says something patently untrue—and then implies that the user shouldn’t be so silly as to ask for pretty basic features.
First, WordPress comes with an ‘Admin login’ straight out of the box. Second, I have used a Moveable Type install where the login link was in plain sight—and connected to an entire University’s user database. They managed to solve the ‘logging in across different sites’ problem that seems to be beyond Nature Publishing Group’s ken. Third, bookmarks are not necessarily “always in a fixed location on the screen” as anybody with more than one bookmark will be able to verify for themselves.
And let’s get to the nitty gritty here. It’s one line of code we’re arguing about.
The comment made on 27 September was, actually, pretty good and said all that needed to be said for the time being (I suspect that was Lou). There was an apology, an understanding of the issue, and what looked like positive moves in the direction of working things out together with us, the users. Compare and contrast with what followed.
But apart from Lou, Nature Network isn’t that good at communicating with its users. Take this new Microsoft group blog for example: I know that a few people have been thinking “Pepsi“—but all we have heard from the Network is that “there’s no commercial connection here”. What does that mean? Does that mean Microsoft aren’t paying NPG for the privilege—and if not, why not?. Will Microsoft products or Microsoft-funded research never be mentioned in “The Fourth Paradigm”? At this stage, you know as much as I do, which is a truly woeful position to be in (and I should know).
Has Nature Network lost its way? Who is steering the ship? And is anybody left rowing?
9 September 2010
A question for the god-like entities inhabiting NPG: following yesterday’s speech by Vince Cable, was there a spike in traffic to naturejobs.com?
6 September 2010
Wahey. I’ve just installed the ‘Notify me of followup comments via e-mail’ plug-in for your delectation and delight. If I’m going to use this place as an alternative to Nature Network for your comments, it can only make life easier, right?
5 September 2010
(Cross-posted from http://blogs.nature.com/rpg/2010/09/05/on-web-20, for ease of commenting)
As promised yesterday, I’m going to write down my notes from Saturday’s final panel session of Science Online London 2010. But first, I want to say a couple of things about the Research Information Network report that Rob Procter discussed, If you build it, will they come? How researchers perceive and use web 2.0. (These concerns were raised in the twitter feed at the time, but for reasons I won’t bore you with, we didn’t have time to discuss them at the meeting itself.)
In the last half of 2008 I consulted for the Science Advisory Board (SAB) on a study looking at How Online Media Affects Traditional Publishing Methods. This study was, like the RIN one, a survey of scientists and their use of social media, or ‘Web 2.0′ (by the way, there was a tweet on the #solo10 hashtag mentioning the Britishness of saying “two point nought” rather than “web two point oh”. Was that really me?). This was an international study, rather than the British-centric RIN one, and surveyed 1500 scientists (vs 1300 in the RIN one).
What perturbed me on reading the RIN report was that the SAB study found that it was the younger and more junior scientists who were making more use of Web 2, whereas the RIN report seemed to imply that it was being driven by older scientists. In fact, one of my conclusions was that as the older guys died off we’d see more uptake. (Both studies bemoaned the low overall uptake of Web 2 tools, although the SAB was more upbeat in its assessment).
But as I sat on the Tube on the way home last night, I realized there were a couple of major flaws with the RIN study. The RIN sent its survey to 12,000 scientists in the UK, and got a 10% response rate. That’s a pretty lousy statistic. Here, we’ve selected for people who have both the time and inclination to respond to a random survey. Most of the SAB respondents were selected from the SAB’s membership (currently nearly 50,000) to receive the questionnaire, and were rewarded for their participation (the SAB operates a points system: if you respond to questionnaires and whatnot you can accumulate points which can be exchanged for physical goodies). The response rate was a lot higher (I don’t have the exact numbers to hand) and we might assume that the quality of response was correspondingly higher, too.
A more worrying question, however, is how were those 12,000 people (who received the RIN survey) selected in the first place? Turns out that these are ‘scraped’ email addresses, which makes me think there was already some bias towards older, more well-established scientists in the first place. Young researchers not only have had less time for their contact details to be established on an institutional website (and indeed, pre-tenure, have probably moved around a lot, relatively speaking. Google me, for example; the second hit is me but the email address in it was defunct five years ago) but are possibly also more security conscious and less willing to have their email address available for scraping.
I think those two concerns might well go some way to explaining the ‘surprising’ results from the RIN study.
So, what did I say at SOLo 10, after all that? Here’s my notes (like Ed Yong, I have to refer to my Moleskine notebook. No copy & paste here, and it’s not a transcript!):
< fx: English accent, ginger hair>
This is a room full of very special people <fx: laughter>. If we didn’t believe in online technology, the value of it and the coolness of it, we wouldn’t be here today.
And over the last couple of days we have seen some very neat stuff. This morning, Aleks talked about the Growing Knowledge project; Peter Murray-Rust showed us a really cool experiment this morning, and we’ve had a whole heap of open- and linked- data stuff–semantic web, if you like. Real nerdgasm stuff.
But, we have to remember, we are special. We are the early adopters, if you like. To borrow a phrase from technology business development, we haven’t yet crossed the chasm to mainstream adoption of these cool toys, as Rob has just pointed out.
The vast majority of jobbing scientists simply haven’t signed up yet, perhaps for the reasons Rob listed. We, here in this room, are a load of technology evangelists, there are a few companies here who share that vision and who have demonstrated some of their toys, but people as a whole?
Of course, they’re into Web 1–email and websites and whatnot, but Web 2, Web 3? Not so much.
We’ve given reasons over the last two days why people should adopt these technologies, but there’s been a lot of stick, and not enough carrot, I feel. What should we do? Encourage–or bully–people into using this stuff, just because it’s there, just because it’s cool?
I don’t think so.
I think, rather, that it comes down to two things, and my thesis is very simple. People, as a whole, will only adopt these new technologies for one of two reasons.
First, these new tools allow you to do something necessary, something you have to do anyway, something that exists outwith cyberspace but that you have to do, but that is made so much easier, so much more efficient with internet tools that people will WANT to do it.
Obvious examples are PubMed–anybody remember Silver Platter?–and online journals themselves. When did you last use a photocopier to copy a journal article?
Say what you like about PDFs, didn’t life get a lot lot easier in the late ’90s and early 2000s?
The second thing that works is something that adds value, and that value can include ‘fun’, but a value that just can’t be gained from anywhere else. A compelling value. For example, Facebook and Twitter are great Web 2 tools that allow people to communicate in new and exciting ways.
It’s slightly less Web 2, Web 1.5 perhaps, but Faculty of 1000 I think is such a tool. We’re addressing the filtering, the information overload problem, adding value to the published research. We don’t care, actually, whether it’s Open Access or where it’s coming from: we’re just providing editorial, if you like, content on top of the literature. And you can’t do that, effectively, without cyberspace. It won’t work.
The challenge, really, is not to have a smart idea. There must be oh, how many people are here? 120 bright ideas in this room alone. But you have to figure out where that value is, that compelling calue that will make the vast majority of scientists want to use this stuff we’ve been talking about.
This includes things like blogging networks, like data visualization, like linked datasets.
and then we were out of time. There was some ad-libbing in there, but that’s the gist. Oh, and I had no slides.
4 September 2010
I’ve just got back from a tiring but awesome couple of days at the Science Online London conference (which—conflict of interest declaration—I helped organize). I’ll be writing up my speaker notes for the final panel tomorrow, I hope, but in the meantime I’ve just been challenged by Ruth Seeley on twitter to explain the scientific method:
I’d LOVE it if ONE scientist would take on the challenge of CLEARLY explaining the scientific method. Wikipedia sure doesn’t.
Martin Robbins took up the challenge straight away, but in the interests of clarity (and non-jargon) I’d like to see suggestions that might replace the Wikipedia entry. As far as I’m concerned, these explanations should be lay-readable; understandable to a high school student, say.
Please feel free to have a go, and then, seeing as the Wikipedia article is the first Google hit for ‘scientific method’, let’s edit the bloody thing to something more like.
11 August 2010
It’s no secret that I’m currently somewhat vexed by The Borg, I mean Nature Network. Kristi made an insightful comment on my latest:
@ Cath: We need a good collective noun for blogs. A navelgaze?
I suggest a “stroke” of blogs, which could refer to genius, insight, lightning, ego, or … other things. In some cases I would also recommend the collective noun “bloat”.
In a stunning demonstration of one of the many things wrong with Nature Network, here is a snapshot of the ‘Featured Posts’ this morning:
Never mind the good writers making interesting posts, let’s tell the world how incompetent we are. At least they’ve finally got rid of the months old Local Hubs blog calling for new writers in Boston.
Yes, I’m whingeing. Deal with it.
22 July 2010
So, just as an intellectual exercise, if I were to set up a community of like-minded bloggers, how to best go about it?
I envisage something like
http://example.com/ – aggregation page for blogs, recent content from fora
Will the multiple user thing that WordPress do that? Or would I need separate WP installs, or Drupal, or what?
Let’s assume I can get chunky hosting (a reseller account, in fact) for this. All thoughts gratefully received.
Other considerations: each blogger to take responsibility for own blog w.r.t. design and plugins, but some subtle branding to be applied across all to identify it as part of the community.
3 June 2010
No, not that sort of coupling.
As has been known for decades, bacterial transcription and translation are tightly coupled. What’s interesting about the recent work is that the presence/processivity of the ribosome appears to feedback on the rate of transcription by stopping the RNA polymerase from going backwards. (I can’t help but think there’s also a link between this phenomenon and the observation that rare codons slow translation, but that’s something else to worry about.)
Now, when I was working on nuclear trafficking I managed to get our lab’s website into the first page of Google hits for that term (about third, I think). That’s irrelevant: what is relevant is that I left the field nearly five years ago, and at that time we all assumed that, just as in bacteria, translation and transcription were tightly coupled in eukaryotes. How can this be, seeing as they’re in separate compartments? Well, we figured that the messenger RNA was being exported through nuclear pores while the arse-end was still being transcribed. All the RNA-binding proteins seemed to interact with enough of each other that we could happily hypothesize a continuum from chromatin through RNA polymerase through the splicing machinery to the nuclear pore.
Besides, we couldn’t figure out what made mRNA go in one direction through the pore (i.e., out)—although we were pretty certain that it was ribosomes clamping down on the mRNA as it poked out of the nuclear pore, stopping it going back in, and equilibrium dynamics doing the rest (in much the same way this paper postulates that preventing back-tracking is how ribosomes control RNA polymerase)—so this made intuitive sense and seemed to answer a lot of awkward questions. The actual mechanics were simply a matter of time, we figured.
So, coming back to this morning, I was a little surprised to find the sentence
In contrast to bacteria, transcription and translation in eukaryotes take place in different cellular compartments and are not coupled
in a Research Highlight in Nature Reviews Genetics.
Um, has the field done a complete volte-face while I was noodling away at zinc fingers and websites? Were we wildly ahead of our time, or just completely wrong? What is the latest thinking on this? Anybody got a Stryer?
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