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LabSpaces.net
LabSpaces.net

This is the LabSpaces site blog. You will find news and site updates here or posts on press or other coverage of the LabSpaces community

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Last night, I retweeted Genomic Repairman’s request for the twitterverse to sign up for an account at LabSpaces. He wanted users to join in on the discussions he was having in the group he created. We were greeted moments later by a tweet from DrugMonkey saying that THE Facebook for science is dead. Considering I just wrote a blog post on that exact topic, I found his tweet Ironic. The emphasis in that previous post being that there probably will never be ONE single social hub for scientists, but that doesn’t preclude the formation of multiple niche venues. Please excuse me while I get this out of my system:

(rant)What exactly is a FaceBook for science anyway? Is any site with a science spin, groups, a forum, and/or user profiles a “FaceBook.” If that’s the case, then there are hundreds of FaceBooks for science out there. I’d argue that the term is deprecated. Many sites employ social tools, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So can we please get away from the “Oh, that’s just a FaceBook for X” nonsense.(endRant)

Since there still seems to be confusion about what LabSpaces is, I’ll try to explain it once again.

What I’m trying to do with LabSpaces is create a community centered on discussing science, ideally composed of scientists and those in the public interested in science. My idea goes well beyond what the standard blog networks currently do. The model employed by Science Blogs, Scientopia et al. is to group bloggers together in one place to increase the visibility of the bloggers and sell ads. There’s a main page that lists all of the most recent blog posts and/or a side column on each page with featured posts. The goal is that readers will visit the site to read their favorite blog and then maybe click on a few other related posts in the sidebar or on the main landing page. In this model, the hope is that the bloggers with the highest number of visits will trickle their traffic to the bloggers with fewer hardcore followers. This slowly builds up the user base of the lesser known bloggers and enriches the user experience (and pageviews, and ad clicks, etc). This is obviously a successful system, and I can’t knock it because it’s the first layer of what goes on here.


Credit: Jeff Hire
However, I originally coded LabSpaces as a social network, so we have the ability to take things a step further. We give visitors the option of creating a permanent profile on the site which allows them to interact with other users in the forum or in user created groups. My point is, I’ve already coded in all of these additional features. If people want to use them, that’s great, they just have to make an account to do so, which seems to be the crux of the argument. It takes approximately a minute to sign up for an account (Name, email, password, captcha, wait for an e-mail). In the past I had thought about enabling twitter/facebook/openID logins, but if my goal is to build a community, then letting people login cursorily as if the site were a revolving door, wouldn’t generate the desired community experience. Further, there was a suggestion late last night that I offer teaser accounts using openID and then come down with an iron fist and force users into making an account at a later date. I feel like the dual system that the site already employs does just that. Users can comment all they like on the blogs and news articles with a guest account, but to be a part of the community, they have to become a member. Maybe if I was only in this game for pageviews and selling ads, I’d enable logins through other website portals. Then people could make hit and run posts in the forum or in the groups, never to be seen again. I would much rather develop a community that’s dedicated. Forcing users to take a minute out of their life to register isn’t asking too much. I also think it provides a great primary filter for quality users. Registering is just annoying enough that users will only do it if they plan on staying around for more than just one forum troll. Those are the users I really care to have in my community.

Finally, my main question out of all of this is: Why am I being chastised for trying to add value to the user experience? Science Blogs and Scientopia are great, but I think they focus too heavily on individual bloggers. Sure, guests can comment on the blogs (just as easily as they can here), but then what? There’s no other interaction beyond that point of contact, there’s no true “community.” I think it’s great that BiochemBelle, Jade Ed, and Genomic Repairman have taken it upon themselves to set-up groups where they are not the stars of the show, where they let their dedicated readers and others in the LabSpaces community interact with them in a way currently not offered by the other two aforementioned networks. If that makes LabSpaces a FaceBook for science, then call me Mark Zuckerberg.

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AmoebaMike
Independence Science
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I like what you've done here.

It's understandable that you want an active community, and you're doing what you feel is best. I don't think anyone can fault you for that.

As to why drugmonkey thinks you should care about his thoughts given that he's on someone else's network, I don't understand. You've got your own network to think of.

Genomic Repairman
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Dude we're supposed to get our paychecks on Fridays right? I like the groups section. For me its a place to post some sciency and not so sciency stuff that isn't appropriate for my main blog. Is your preview image a possible Tshirt from Zazzle?

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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@Mike, I think they're just jealous :P

@GR LOL, don't even start talking to me about posting appropriate things on your blog. Admit it, you have no filter ;)

Evie
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Sorry dude, you don't look like a Mark.

Great post, as usual.

Evie
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Also, Re: Drugmonkeyblog's tweet.. Wow! WTF?!?

Jason Goldman
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I'll admit, I didn't want *another* login and *another* password to remember, etc etc. But I got tired of seeing "guest member" or whatnot when I posted comments so I gave in. And I still can't see what having a membership does other than allow me to have a picture of myself next to my comments. I can't figure out for the life of me how to add someone as a "friend" (or, really, what function that serves), etc.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Will you be my friend, Jason? Being a member let's you win nifty prizes, post replies in the forum, create your own personal group/forum, submit news links, and select your own personal avatar. If you're adventurous you can add your lab information ;) But really, the community aspect is centered more around forum/group discussions and NOT the FB4Sci modules that are lying around for a rainy day.

Genomic Repairman
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Jason, that shit allows you to win Jameson did it not?

Jason Goldman
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Genrepair, are you saying if I had commented as a guest instead of a member I wouldn't have won?! In that case, I fully support membership.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Liquor FTW!

Dr. O
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Jason Goldman said:
Genrepair, are you saying if I had commented as a guest instead of a member I wouldn't have won?! In that case, I fully support membership.


If the Jameson doesn't get more people signed up, I don't know what will. At least broke grad students. And perhaps cheap/still-broke PIs.

Thomas Joseph
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I'll admit, I didn't want *another* login and *another* password to remember ...

For reals? People use different logins and different passwords for different sites? I must be crazy, going around as Thomas Joseph with the password 12345 everywhere. ;)

biochem belle
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For transparency's sake, I'm cross posting my comment from Dr. Isis's place here as well (with an added note at the end).
----------------------
In the interest of full disclosure, I currently blog at LabSpaces. Hopefully what I'm about to say won't get me voted off the island, so to speak.

You are absolutely right, Isis, regading community aspects of the blogosphere. It's one of those things that sprung up because of the people-not the platform-involved. I was blogging for a year before I moved to LabSpaces, and I was connecting with other bloggers through other channels before I knew anything about LabSpaces.

Blogging networks/collectives might promote more interaction between bloggers there than would occur if we were all flying solo. The forum aspect at LabSpaces has certainly prompted less visible chatter, ribbing, and shenanigans among the bloggers. Would that still happen over email and/or twitter in its absence? Maybe-I really don't know.

I respect what Brian's trying to do in trying to engage non-blogger commenters, to give them a space to share their opinions or info, and to promote science literacy and discussion. No offense intended to Brian, but I think the jury's still out here-then again, that opinions based on my personal usage of the site, which is heavily weighted on blogging and a select few forums (because even as a postdoc with no life I don't have the time to keep up with everything going on there). The whole "facebook for science" is semantics. Honestly I don't even use the real Facebook that often, for many of the same reasons I don't use the fb4sci sites that I have accounts for.
Blogging at LabSpaces-like blogging anywhere-I have a core readership, most of whom (I think) have followed me over. I've picked up some additional exposure and commenters. The hulabaloo regarding logins is a moot point from the blogging end. Anyone can comment (even anonymously) without creating an account.

Just like with blogging, forum discussions also have a core of readers/commenters, regardless of login requirements. If poeple are interested enough to login and leave a post on a thread, awesome. If someone doesn't want to create a login for this, meh-there are other ways to connect and voice opinions. If it promotes discussion somewhere, then, in my opinion, it's achieving at least part of its intended goal.

Sorry for getting a little long winded.

biochem belle
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Here's the added note, since I went over the character limit.

I am in no way knocking what you're doing, Brian. I think it's great that you're passionate about this. I would also say, though, take comments (especially on Twitter) with a grain of salt. Many in the blogosphere (myself included) are prone to hyperbole. Add in the character limits of Twitter, and things can come off sounding harsh-sometimes, I think, harsher than intended. It's good to respond to criticisms/misconceptions, as these are opportunities to clarify things, to look for improvements that can be made, and to solicit suggestions--I just wouldn't take it too personally.

That is to say, Brian, keep on keepin' on :)

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I'm sad they took my "true" community quote as black and white to mean NO community. That's not what I intended and even after re-reading that section of my post, I don't see why either Isis or DrugMonkey are harping so heavily on that point. We're defining community two different ways. Get over it already.

Genomic Repairman
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Stick to your guns bro. We are a community site where you can be as involved as you want to be. Just want to post some comments, that's not any different than anywhere else. But if you are going to go to the trouble of posting protocols or lab information, then what is an email address sign in so bad? Here is the core of the issue, if you don't want to use it, don't use it.

Thomas Joseph
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Someone needs to tell DailyKos that they're doing it all wrong. Login's are so passé.

biochem belle
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OK, the council might convene to boot my ass out after this one, but...

The login bit: I could argue this one from either side. Personally, though, as long as people know they can comment on blogs freely, without login or moderation, then whatevs (although as others mentioned the captcha bit can be a bitch to read sometimes).

The community bit: Well, you did say that goal of other blog networks was to "group bloggers together in one place to increase the visibility of the bloggers and sell ads". First, I don't think it's entirely accurate as I've yet to come face to screen with a single ad on Scientopia. Second, in its immediate context, it devalues the contribution of other networks to community by saying they're only there to generate revenue. Maybe that's true at the organizational level but I doubt it is so much at the individual level.

The vision bit: I do respect what you're trying to do. I have no problem with your general thoughts or ideas. But if you want to bring others on board, IMO, you're going to have to figure out how to articulate it without taking potshots at other communities. When you say, effectively-"This is what network X does (wrong) and that's not what I want to do", then there's a good chance that people who participate in those communities are going to take offense and shoot back. Be sure that you're actually saying what you think you are saying.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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I'm going to try to keep this short because I'm tired of wasting time on this argument.

Belle, some of the Sciblings have been very critical and inflammatory toward me since I started recruiting bloggers here. I think I have been extremely diplomatic in responding to these comments. I could easily fly off the handle and stoop to their level spouting off derogatory comments, but I won't because it wouldn't get me anywhere. It'd just makes me look like a jackass.

I also don't think I've said many negative things about Sb or Scientopia. They're great places (as I said above), the blogging section here uses a similar model (as I said above), BUT I think we can improve on that model. That's all.

As for advertising on Scientopia, read Grrl Scientist's intro to the site here.

"And when we decide to accept advertising to help defray the costs of administering and supporting this site, we will choose which ads to accept."

Maybe I was a little short in discussing ALL of the goals of a blogging network. I apologize for making it sound like they're all just out there to make money.

biochem belle
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As for advertising on Scientopia, read Grrl Scientist's intro to the site here.

"And when we decide to accept advertising to help defray the costs of administering and supporting this site, we will choose which ads to accept."


Sorry, can't help being devil's advocate-I don't see how that's any different than ads on LS to help defray costs and the option given to bloggers to place ads on their pages. If it ever came to a point where LS need additional revenue for server or other costs, I've little doubt that the bloggers here would step up and be willing to have ads placed on our.

Brian, I'm sorry if some people have been jackasses. Those are things that are unknown to the general audience-if you want to air that, that's your prerogative; if you don't, then be mindful that the context for some statements or attitudes might be lost on your audience. Some of the same ones who have been critical in public arenas (DM, for example) have also helped promote the blogging community here, which in turn promotes the LS community as a whole.

There's nothing wrong with looking at other communities and thinking about how to improve on a model, but in public forums, IMO, some amount of framing and introspection is necessary to keep from alienating some of the audience you're trying to engage. If you really don't care what they think, then you can ignore most of what I've said. Of course, you can ignore all of what I've said, if you like. Just trying to add a different perspective.

Genomic Repairman
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Dude you can ads for Fleshlights on my blog, I don't give a shit!

Genomic Repairman
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By the way don't google search that word, totally NSFW!

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Belle, you're right. The advertising there is no different than here. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make there. I said that's how things work here. The ads cover the server. I pocket nothing. That's very different than Sb...

I used sb and scientopia to frame the argument for comparison since the criticism of labspaces was coming from bloggers on both systems. I think the comparison is fair, I like the bloggers on both sites, etc. But I'm trying to show how we can improve on what they're doing.

I don't understand why this has become such a negative argument. I'm not the one telling people that what they're doing is "doomed to fail."

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Well, I guess I can't say no different. This site is paid for by advertising on non-blog content (the news, the forum, etc). You guys have control over whether ads show up on your blogs. I thought I'd clarify that since there seems to be further confusion over at Isis' blog. The google ads have also been on the non-blog content of the site since 2006.

I'm really done discussing this. It's gone from a simple "me defending the site from a blatant attack" to something much less constructive.

GMP
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I am just here -- fully logged in, btw! :) -- to say you guys have a great group of bloggers here at LabSpaces and, yes, a great community.
Forget about Isis & DM. Unfortunately, as it has been decided you can do/say no right, any additional explanation you provide is not taken as more information in a discussion among peers, but simply as more available material from which statements can be taken out of context to fuel a clusterfuck extravaganza. Life's too short for blog wars. Ignore them, enjoy your supportive LabSpaces community, and be proud of the great job you've done with the site.
Comrade PhysioProf

Guest Comment
Dude, if you want people to use this site, how about getting rid of the painful fucken Time Cube unreadable appearance?

Dr. O
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Always nice to see CPP jumping into the fray! Just don't put white writing on a black background...my first lesson in the blogosphere, kindly provided by CPP. ;) I haven't seen this captcha everyone is griping about, though; is it really that bad?

I'm not sure I would've set up a registration to the site if I wasn't over here blogging. But I've really enjoyed the interactions and, *ahem*, community over here now that I have (when I find time, that is). So I see the point that you're trying to make, and I definitely think there's something here that I might not get on other blogging sites (certainly not at my old Blogger home).

I've been silently observing the FB4Sci explosion this week, and I'll add on that someone is always going to not like what you do. I've found that the blogosphere can build a pretty tough skin, but it doesn't seem to be any more brutal than some of the departmental seminars I've given/observed here at MRU. So I see it as good preparation for a future in science, and I try to not take it too personally. (I've really gotten fried on a few of my posts over at the Tightrope; I'm sure I'll stick my foot in it over here at some point). I personally think this platform is great, and it's allowed me to get to know some fantastic bloggers that I didn't know before.

I'll add on that our dear Overlord has got to be one of the best IT guys since sliced bread. I still can't get over how quickly our requests are tended to...makes me feel so appreciated. :)
Isabel

Guest Comment
"
I'm sad they took my "true" community quote as black and white to mean NO community. That's not what I intended and even after re-reading that section of my post, I don't see why either Isis or DrugMonkey are harping so heavily on that point. We're defining community two different ways. Get over it already"

Yes, I guess a clique of admitted egomaniacs who lord it over their worshiping "little muffins"(who are literally only allowed to speak when spoken to and who can be silenced by the elite bloggers at any time for any reason), and who not only lead all conversations at their whim but respond to all suggestions for posts or disagreement with the dominant agenda with "get your own fucking blog" is SOME people's idea of community, but you gotta admit it's a stretch. What they really mean is being part of the elite clique has been advantageous for their own personal and professional lives.
Isabel

Guest Comment
Also, not only is the narcissism openly admitted to as noted above; the mob mentality that leads to frequent pile-ons is also shrugged off in the wonderful Science Blogs 'community' - that is now attacking Labspaces for trying to be more inclusive.

And yes the captcha is unusually hard to decipher.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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It's recaptcha. It's the most used captcha service in the world. Facebook, myspace and hundreds of other sites use it. I haven't ever had a problem with it. One of the words should be REALLY easy to figure out, the other is harder. That's because one is a "known" and the other is a word that a computer scanner had trouble figuring out what the word was. Using recaptcha helps turn old books into machine readable information.

I have been looking into adding openID, Facebook, and Twitter login for commenting. It's not very high on my priority list though :P
Comrade PhysioProf

Guest Comment
Those captchas are fucken unreadable, just like the entire site. You need some professional design advice, if you wanna get this shit out of fucken 1998.

Genomic Repairman
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My intention for my group section was to make it a little more dynamic. Where readers could initiate posts not just to me but to other group members as well, instead of the mostly one way communication coming from me that is peppered with a few comments. I know you could just message or email us but this is just another avenue that I wanted to open up for more discussion. If you don't want to take part in that feature then that's okay but I wanted to make it available to everyone else in case they did. It was my idea to try and resurrect it. And I tried the Captcha just to play around and that thing is a motherfucker!
Isabel

Guest Comment
Well I wasn't exactly complaining, just commenting on others comments. My first guess did turn out to be right both times after all. Also it does allow you to pick a new challenge so really not a big deal!

Also as far as my previous comment, it occurred to me that part of the difference in defining communities is whether you define the community as mainly "the bloggers and a few select commenters" or "the bloggers and all commenters and other readers", i.e. all those participating in some way. I believe the second definition is closer to what is usually defined as a community (even one based on shared interest rather than location).

Evie
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@Isabel Hahaha.. I loved your comments here! So well stated, and I couldn't agree more.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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@Isabel, I wasn't getting angry or anything. I just wanted to explain how recaptcha worked because I think the goal behind the system is so cool! If you have trouble with the words, just hit the refresh button, like you said. No big deal.

Thanks for your other comments :)
Isabel

Guest Comment
Thanks Evie! Just tellin' it like it is, lol. And no problem Brian, good luck with Labspaces!

Thomas Joseph
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GUEST COMMENT said:
Those captchas are fucken unreadable...


Says the asshat who just got done reading the captcha to leave his comment. Jimminy Crunchy Fishsticks, people are stupid.

Genomic Repairman
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I think CPP trolling is the most sincere form of flattery. But this comes from the guy who brought us this. I think this is a kettle meets pot moment.

Dr. O
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Jimminy Crunchy Fishsticks, people are stupid.

I've got to find a way to use Jimminy Crunchy Fishsticks in everyday conversation.

becca
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Brian, you're awesome and labspaces is awesome, but I'm giggling like crazy from your comment here
Brian Krueger, PhD said: I just wanted to explain how recaptcha worked because I think the goal behind the system is so cool! If you have trouble with the words, just hit the refresh button, like you said. No big deal.


It's almost like you're saying:
"If people just UNDERSTOOD how cool the GOAL behind something is, they totally wouldn't mind how much trouble they have to go to for something!!!"
And everyone else is sitting around "wtf mate? it's a cool goal, but why make things harder than they have to be?"

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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@Becca, Muahaha, because I'm the overlord :P AND I don't understand what the big deal is. Everyone uses recaptcha! Facebook, myspace, craigslist... Just make a real account and you never have to deal with recaptcha again on this site ;) Adding Twitter, openID and FaceBook connect login is on my list! It's just down on the bottom somewhere (because its probably going to be an annoying pain in the ass).

Evie
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@Becca - but wouldn't it be totally awesome if people really did care/think about that! Ahhh.. a girl can dream.. :)
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