I am scientist by training, inclination and temperament. However, this is a blog, not a lab. The title reflects my passion for hyperbole, so don't take me too seriously. I don't. I was a technician in a physiology lab, got my PhD in molecular genetics and neuroscience, was a postdoctoral fellow in biophysics and now am a Project Manager in a Clinical Science/Biomedical Informatics institute. I am a scientific jack-of-all-trades, and very happy because of it. I write about science that catches my eye, making the transition away from the lab bench, and the slightly odd and moist boundary where science culture meets the public. I am an Englishman by birth, an American by temperament and if I were you I wouldn't lend me money.
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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I promised to revisit the SfN Official Bloggers after the rather harsh reaming I dished out earlier. I promised to do it before the conference, but I got caught up rushing to finish two proposals my 'postdoc' had tried to write. I promised myself I'd do it on Sunday, halfway through the conference, but I got caught up trying to make silly videos with Dr. Becca.
At SfN10BANTER, I was rather justifiably taken to task by a couple of the official bloggers, and some of the unofficial ones, for not getting my shit done. This is the internets. This is serious business!
So, here we go with a Mostly End of Conference re-visit. Let's see how our nascent, and not so nascent bloggers have been doing! There are two very important caveats here Dear Reader. Caveat The First: Being an official blogger is an awesome responsibility because people WILL read you. I can churn out hundreds of words of pap and aside from the my Twitter feed and regular LabSpaces followers I have no idea who is reading me. Maybe no one. But that's OK, because I write for the fun of it. And to silence the voices...(Ahem..stay OT dude. Ed.)... But the official bloggers are now On the Internet. There are posters and billboards up at the conference center exhorting attendees to check out the bloggers. This is way not the fucking time to say the wrong thing, or to fuck up your science. In many cases the bloggers are using their real names too. This shit can stick. The internet is forever.
Caveat the Second: I'm rushed for time, so I'm writing this on the fly. I hope to not get too Tideliary and vituperative, but here's hoping I'm not disappointed. Done, finally, albeit the day after the conference ended...
Theme A: Development
Functional Neurogenesis is giving it large and opens our list strongly. I got to meet Jason Snyder at SfN10BANTER on Monday night and he is as smart as he seems from his writing. He's covering the conference with a mix of science and humour. I love the "Photos of Popular Posters" section. Bravo Sir!
Genetic Expressions got a hard time from me last time, but Neurobloggie has come back stormin'! Another bravo! Neurobloggie's style is informed-journalism. (S)he has been to some of the major lectures and has included quotes to help flesh out the story. The science seems pretty well covered and although the posting has been sparse, we all know what the damn Wifi situation is like here (guilty as charged!).
Theme B: Neural Excitability, Synapses, Glia: Cellular Mechanisms
Blogging on the Brain I got to meet Hillary at SfN10BANTER, and her blog has been established for while. She has a lot of posts up covering less the hardcore science going on here than the idiom of the conference. Her post on Rep. Kennedy's "neuro moonshot" seminar is great, and there's some cool observational blogging on being at the conference and the nature of the conference itself. Third Bravo in a row!
QScience was also at SfN10BANTER! In fact Marquicia was the first blogger to arrive (me and Dr. Becca should come up some kind of internets prize for that...). QScience has been a bit quiet. Her posts are sparse and re-print some of the abstract information (as in abstracts from the SfN program, not abstract as in Salvador Dali). But we were chatting last night and I think it's all been a bit overwhelming, and she has just finished a big committee meeting. If anything I think this is a chance to stretch the mental muscles away from the lab. QScience gets a free pass.
Theme C: Disorders of the Nervous System
Fresh eyes A very busy blog with a mix of science commentary and social commentary SfN style. There's even restaurant reviews and a heads up on where to find the best Starbucks (i.e. shortest line!). Well done for a healthy catch-up. The blog is Sciencelite, but still busy and obviously (s)he doing hir* best. But still fully anonymous and that's a shame. I need a profile of some sort...I need to know your background and your experience to put your commentary in perspective. If you're shy/cautious then build a Pseud.
* Yeah, I hate 'hir' too, but I'm trying to be fucking gender neutral here, m'kay?
House of Mind Well, shitfuckdamn someone's been busy! This aggregator site is great although that fucked up font shit is fucking with my visual cortex in a migraine inducing way. Let your content drive your readership, don't try and blind us with meandering font widths. Also, Fuck Tumblr. Fuck it to death with a fucking iron bar. (Ahem...the review? Ed.) This blogger has a great set of posts with a "Things I learned" preface to each. It's lite on deep context, but there's a lot of activity and clearly the blogger is popular. Again, I'd love to know more about you so I can parse the information in context. Also, the use of the plural "Thanks for letting us" in the "about" section makes me wonder how many authors this site actually has. However, House of Mind stepped up to the plate and didn't just bunt to left field to sneak first. But seriously, the fucking font thing has to go.
Theme D: Sensory and Motor Systems
Pascal's Pensees I got to meet Pascal at SfN10BANTER and he's been a regular fixture over at Psycasm on labSpaces. Pascal has a fun way of presenting his blogging. Most of it is retrospective and concerned with the substance of the meeting, the numbers, the venue etc., rather than the science, but he's in love with data and has a number of polls. Pascal also writes LONG posts, so settle with a coffee and catch up with the view point of someone with a "Heideggerian mindset".
At this point in my original post I have another blog, Neuromusings, but it redirects to Pascal's blog above, so I wonder what's going on here. No re-review available...
David Deriso David has a fun blog to read*. As an artist his view and approach are different to most of us who take a more formulaic approach to blogging. I love some of the 'random' art images he intersperses with his posts. David sticks to his forte and writes about what he knows. But there are a few extra tidbits (good to know he ain't slacking on Rule One of Blogging: If it's interesting to you, blog it) including a reprint of a personal letter from his senator. Bravo!
*Dude, seriously, open your CSS, widen your central column and increase your font size. Some of us have old eyes and size 8 font is really hard to wade through.
Theme E: Homeostatic and Neuroendocrine Systems
Dormivigillia Allison's blog is surprsingly light on content and provides just a couple of comments on Glenn Close's speech on Day 1 and a list of the posters she visited during the meeting. I guess someone was too busy, and as a (kind of) recently paroled postdoc I know what it can be like, especially when you're job hunting (just a guess here). But if you going to volunteer to be an official blogger, then maybe you should write some blog posts?
Theme F: Cognition and Behavior
Blogging Behaviour I got to meet the author of this blog (who shall remain nameless cos he blogs under a Pseud) at SfN10BANTER (in fact until I started writing this I didn't fully realise how many of the Official Bloggers were there!). He's a jolly nice chap and I think even bought me a beer (which was duly stolen the minute I went a piss), so I have nothing but glowing praise for his excellent blog. Nah, seriously, he's done a fucking great job. There's the lists of "What I'm doing today", and interspersed are some well written commentaries on topics of interest. Bravo!.
... But mate, I strongly suggest you get off fucking Tumblr and head to a real platform with more functionality and accessibility.
Stanford Neuroblog Obviously nothing to say but Bravo to the Stanford Bloggers. Very thorough and definitive coverage. Already added to my blogroll. Add them to yours too or I'll come to your house and punch your dog in the face. And they even wrote me a poem. Excellent job guys.
Theme H: History, Teaching, Public Awareness, and Societal Impacts in Neuroscience
Society for Neuroscience, San Diego 2010
So, in summation, almost everybody did a great job. I am (and I'm not being patronizing) especially proud of the few of you who weren't actually bloggers before this and I really hope you got the bug and you continue to learn, grow and expand on this gift. Right now you can't imagine how useful such skillz might be in the future. Bear in mind, you have to have a Plan B. And finally, it was great to meet so many of you at SfN10BANTER, and I hope some of you will consider joining the Planning Committee for SfN11BANTER (or as I keep typing it SfN!!BANTER)
Now it's time for the obligatory vituperative rant
Now...I am still pissed at The Society for throwing a group of student bloggers under the bus on this though. They advertised the hastags, the Facebook page and the blog page at the meeting and could have made a decent effort to *really* use social media to drive traffic and event-awareness. But they didn't do it, at least not effectively. Most of the bloggers did a great job, especially given the work load and patchy wireless connectivity. But, I would have loved to see some senior science bloggers writing officially for the meeting too. This was a great opportunity to engage the Blogging community and being "official" means you try a bit harder to meet the deadlines you agreed to (guilty as charged, but fuck it, we made some silly videos for you! That shitz takes time holmes). Next year I really hope someone listens to me...because next year I intend to make a great deal of fucking noise about doing this right.
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I think SfN needs to consult someone on how to more effectively use social media to promote their bloggy types. I'd be happy to do it next year, as long as I get to spam LabSpaces at every possible corner of the venue :P
Tiddles, I hope that you DO make a big fuss about this next year. I think it is great that SfN even makes an effort. I don't think that any of the meetings that I normally go to do this at all, though most of them are much smaller than SfN.
Thanks for re-reviewing. I am not going to apologize for liking data and numbers. Check out my latest post (on the physical toll of SfN), for instance. The "blog" is light on scientific content on purpose, at this point. We will switch back to that soon enough. I thought the point of this exercise was to deal with SfN as an event.
Ha, nice one. Seems like most of your initial evaluations were pretty damn hard and unfounded then!
With the exposure they got from SfN, I really hope that most of those bloggers do continue to blog regularly. Viva the science blogosphere! (Wonder how many of them will be snatched to the upcoming SciAm blogging network by Bora.)
Actually, this might be a case of a manufactured future. In other words, Tideliar's assessment *was* quite correct at the time of his assessment. But who wants to read that about themselves on the interwebs? In other words, people put in the extra effort because they knew there was going to be a re-assessment. Which made them go the extra mile.
As far as continuing: Will do, if the numbers continue to be there. Thus far, they hold up. But I can't justify blogging for 5 people. So we'll see.
You have to start somewhere. I ran this site for about a year, and the only hits it got were from bots...
This may or may not be true, but if it is, it's a problem. For something this competitive, it shouldn't have taken one person's jabs to inspire a quality job.
I enjoy doing it. The question is whether I can justify it. Really. I'm a post-doc. You know what that means. Regarding the time investment: If I put up a blog post, it is not some drek that I just thought of. I usually do my research. I take this very srsly. For instance, If I put up a figure, I didn't just steal that from the webs, I usually made that myself. That shit takes time. Quality matters.
Re Becca: I bet it is true. No way of telling, but I think that it made people go the *extra* mile.
Also, what do you mean with competitive? Really, I do not know.
Pascal, I mean that being selected as an Official Blogger was a competitive process, and is a prestigious position that should be awarded to people who would do a quality job blogging regardless of what people say about them.
Thanks for clarifying. Let me be clear as well:
I can honestly say that until October 25th, 2010, I was blissfully unaware of a science "blogosphere". Neither read any science blogs, nor written any. Given the original "Sfnthemeh" post, I suspect this to be true of the majority of the other "official" bloggers.
I simply had no idea that this is a competitive position. Of course you can ask why I even applied in the first place. I can't give you a reason. I don't remember why. I do remember that it was on a complete lark. I didn't seriously think they would take me as I - as has been pointed out - didn't even have a freaking blog when I applied. But they did. And as it turns out, I was not the only one in that position. Why did the Society pick these people? I don't know.
And of course I was intending to do a good job anyway. I'm all about quality and high personal standards. But I do know that Tideliar put the fear of god in all of us. As you can see from my charts, I did a normal SfN meeting. So when did I write the posts? In the middle of night, of course. The desire to simply go to sleep is high, but that is not an option if you know that Tideliar is watching you. And I know I'm not the only one who feels like that. On Twitter, I saw (more than?) one other "official" blogger gleefully remark how glad he is to have squeezed in another post before Tideliar was able to drop the hammer on the second round.
I'm just being frank here.
I'm all about drek, dross, detritus, and any other synonyms of trash that begins with d.
In any case: We don't know what would have happened if Tideliar had not written that post. This is life, not an experiment. There are no control groups. If there is an alternate reality where Tideliar didn't write it, we have access to it. So we can either argue until the cows come home, or move on from here. Drek or not drek.
Uhm, I mean DON'T have access to. The alternate reality.
Anyway. Let's just all do our best and see who is still around in another year...
I wonder if perhaps the aim was to make scientists more aware of the power of the blogging medium, and give students a chance to try their hand at it. I'm just throwing an idea into the ring, I have no idea if this is true or not. I'm pretty new to the whole science blogging and online science community thing myself, I sometimes think that when you are heavily involved in it, you forget that not everyone is exposed to this kind of stuff. I had no idea that any of this existed during my PhD. 99% of the people I follow on Twitter are not personal friends, yet I have a lot of friends in science, so in my personal experience the majority of scientists, particularly PhD students and postdocs, aren't involved in this community. I think in some sense choosing these students, even if it wasn't the intention, was a great idea, because it's exposing them to blogging, and letting them try their hand at it. I'm not saying that Tideliar's rocket up the arse wasn't justified because it clearly was in some cases, but I think that we need to remember that this was, after all, a scientific conference. I've never been to a single conference that even offered anything remotely like this, and I think it's excellent that SfN are trying to embrace a new forum for scientific discussion. I think giving established bloggers the role might have missed an opportunity to teach and spread the word amongst young and upcoming scientists. I'm not sure that these guys or in fact SfN necessarily thought that this was a particularly prestigious role if they weren't aware of the kind of audience they could be writing for.
In any case, there is no reason to be jealous, really. While it might enhance the "street cred" of some established neuroblogger, the traffic bump from SfN itself is rather modest.
You might not be surprised if I say that I have the precise number of traffic increase from SfN sources. You might be surprised to learn that it is a very, very small number. Given that you are already established bloggers, I predict that you would have not noticed the impact. A drop in the bucket.
And I certainly now understand why some of you chose to blog anonymously. Not doing so is a dance on the edge of a razor blade, as the posts are publicly accessible to anyone and I cannot parcel the audience. If I don't blog enough, you people will give me a hard time. If I blog too much, the people in my department will. Upon seeing my posts, some senior people in my department have already strongly advised me to "stop fucking around" and "cut the shit" and focus on "the only thing that counts (papers)" instead. They were unambiguous about that.
What you do in your spare time is not really their business - keep up the good work!
Also, I never considered Tideliar as particularly intimidating, I'm surprised y'all took the dude so seriously! ;)
Ping on Pascal's last comment!
Nope, I was basically pushed out my first PhD attempt because of my blogging. There is no 'me time' in grad school according to most professors. I heard the snide remarks weekly for a long time. "Grad students expected to work 12-16 hours a day, 8 days a week"; "you aren't serious about science"; "no one reads your blogs" (thats a big fucking lie, more people read me in a day than will ever read him in his lifetime...); "how can you not be making progress if you have so much time to write blog posts?"; "while i cannot comment on your decision to start a family in grad, I cannot condone you wasting valuable time on the internet"; and my favorite which I heard A LOT "if you could write research papers and your thesis as much as you write blog entries, you would have my job."
Needless to say, I got a masters, quit, took some time off, got even more fucking popular, and am now back in grad school with an advisor who appreciates what I do and a dept. that loves having a grad student in the news.
@Kevin, I had the exact same experience in graduate school while running LabSpaces. You should read my "to rule by terror" post. Somehow I managed to put in the 12hrs/d AND code/run LabSpaces. It's all about time management and I suspect not having a significant other helped because my nights were jam packed during my first two years of grad school with coding and refining my news/press release acquisition process.
I didn't realize that my comment would be so "inflammatory" (in a good way). For better or for worse, it is true. This happened, several times. In some cases, I was surprised as it was mentioned by some people who I thought would be more understanding. I was actually preparing a blog post on this, but I might as well say some of the things I wanted to say here, as this discussion is evolving.
@Namnezia: I tried to defend myself exactly so. I said that I am doing the blogging "after hours". The response was illuminating: "You are a post-doc. There are no after-hours. You know this". The sad thing is that I do. Kind of. As a post-doc, there is always more to do. And the more you do, the quicker you escape this "temporary holding pattern". The problem? That's not how I see a post-doc. At all.
@Doctor Zen: I agree completely. I have a old-fashioned Humboldtian conception of what a scholar is. A real scholar. And I try to live up to it. I take my teaching very seriously, I take my mentoring very seriously, I take my presentations (e.g. at SfN) very seriously, I take science communication very seriously and - since rather recently - I take my blogging very seriously. In order to just get from grad school to tenure, all of this is - at best - superfluous. For that, only papers matter. Not because anyone reads them (papers born under such circumstances rarely are), but because - as has been suggested - "productivity" begets grants, which beget more papers, and so on.
In other words, if you do this, you are much more likely to win the game, but that is all you do. You win a game. To me, this is decidedly not a game. It is my life. And a scholarly life at that. Either I get a job on my terms - these terms - or I won't. I am at peace with that. I am also preparing a blog-post on that (however wise that is) - the game was not always in research, pre-1900, it was in teaching. But it was just that - a game. All of this has to do with shifted funding priorities. All that matters is that you know what you are doing.
Pascal, don't let the discussion here stop you from doing the blog post of your own.
Also relevant: Jerry Coyne's reflections on joining the blogosphere and passing 4M views (ack!):
I thought that my job was to dispense professorial wisdom to eager and untutored recipients, hungry to learn about evolution. Oy, was I wrong! I had no idea that among the readers would be many scientists and professional evolutionists, many of whom know a lot more than I do about topics I cover. And not only that, but philosophers, musicians, literature addicts, and even a Nobel laureate or two. I can hardly make a post in which I don’t learn more than I teach. And I don’t think I’ve ever written a single post in which I didn’t say something wrong. I appreciate the corrections, but it is humbling.
Excellent comment thread, and my apologies for being an absentee Bloglord. Lack of wifi and too much fucking travelling have kept me off the 'net. Only the twitter feed on my phone keep me sane, TBH.
@Gerty & Overlord: I'm going to attempt to invest myself in the process for next year. SfN are always calling out for us to be involved and after this epic cock-up I hope to get someone to listen. We'll see... DrugMonkey suggested to them that they take advantage of Bora Z (@coturnix), but now he's Community Manager at SciAm that' probably off the cards for now.
@Pascal: I am fugure of aweful and brilliant terror, aren't I >:) (actually, don't answer that).
There's a lot of great commentary here about blogging as a junior scientist. I got a bucket load of shite off my last PI because of it, and he tried to hold it over my head a couple of times. Fortunately I had ammunition I was able to use to counter-strike, I have a vicious mouth and a fast brain for counter-point arguments and he knew I was leaving the bench and had no leverage in that regard. The "you should be too busy" statements are nothing but ill-informed verbal garbage and I fucking *utterly* despise any senior ranked scientist that espouses such abusive and fallacious wankery.
@Kevin Z: I'm real glad you found a way out and upwards bro.
And this...this...this is how it should be.
"But I do know that Tideliar put the fear of god in all of us...The desire to simply go to sleep is high, but that is not an option if you know that Tideliar is watching you"
Right, I just saw a scientist I know walking his dog. He hasn't bookmarked the Stanford Neuroblog so I'ma punch his dog in the face.
A comment I left at Zen's blog:
"So what do you suggest as the solution? More acceptance of non-grant, non-paper accomplishments as being useful?"
Highlighting the disturbing under-the-table here. One need not necessarily have blog metrics somehow taken into account. That misses the point, the point that a junior scientist is expected to do nothing but work in the lab at the bench for 15hrs/day pumping out data.
That's such a BS mode of action for numerous reasons. For example, tired people make mistakes, and mistakes = bad data = wasted money and injury. TRaining your staff to be nothing but blind lab rats does not prepare them to take the helm of their own ship. Most postdocs are woefully underqualified to run their own lab, because they can only do the one thing they will do least of!
PIs bully and emotionally abuse their staff with threats of doom and failure while quite simply exploiting them for their own ends. PI doesn't get the fat grant renewed without the data. Data is cheaply generated by squads of postdocs working long hours.
There is no quid pro quo.
So, "how can you be blogging! You should be writing papers" is a fallacious and evil argument. It really means "How can you be blogging? I need to get my R01 re-sub in".
Well, Tiddles, I have some great ideas for SfN if you do end up talking to someone that can get anything done.
I meant to add the line "Overlord, I'll CC you on any emails".
I still don't know if the SfN blogger concept makes sense, on a fundamental level. As we all found out the hard way, there is very little time to actually blog during the conference. All the people who are there have little to no time to actually read the blogs.
I had a lot of fun writing the previews, and can write retrospectives for months (if that is desired), but while actually being there? Seems like a dead-on-arrival idea.
I think it makes sense if used correctly. Writing 'perspectives' and summations is easy (I find, anyway), and doesn't take too long. I write most of my posts in my head, then dump them on the page and edit a few times. If you're reviewing something scientific in your field I think it can be written quickly too. Anything outside your field you can offer thoughts and commentary based on experience, again not hard to do one or two/day. 5 days, two posts per person, 10-15 bloggers = a couple of hundred posts hopefully offering a diversity of opinion and coverage.
With a stable of experienced and talented writers you could get coverage of enough of the conference to stimulate interest. It might be quiet for the first year, but over time you could build a web-presence. SfN should archive or better, provide a platform (SfN Wordpress site for example) that can be used, and with a creative commons licence posters can keep their own work and cross post to personal blogs.
Finally one of the appeals of blogging is to stimulate discussion. If you have official bloggers who carry some web presence with them they bring a ready-made commentariat. That leads to cross posting and automatically widens the reach of your brand.
That might work. A centralized SfN blog with 10-15 "guest" bloggers. Agreed.
#DFS is the first time I've actually been interested in Twitter. Good to see that has legs...
Damnit Goldman #DFS is Dude.Fuck.Sigh. Where have you been, its in the post. DFS.
I guess what bothers folks is that this can't be put on a CV or put towards a grant application. As such, it doesn't count as "productive".
You can't put kissing ass on a CV but it is productive.
Sure, you can put it on a CV. You call it, "Service for Society for Neuroscience" or some such if you don't want to specify blogging.
We use Deep Sea News for CVs and grant applications all the time, to very positive reviews. I usually refer to as a website. And don't be afraid to give yourself a title. I'm the assistant editor, Craig is chief editor, and we refer to our writers as contributors. Make it *sound* as official as you can. My C-V (http://www.zelnio.org/c-v/) has a section for outreach & service even, though I put my blogging under employment, because even though i odn't get an income from it, i take it seriously and act like its a second job.
I agree mate
I claim I'm "Contributing Editor" for www.lablit.com (although I haven't written for them in so long I should probably add 'former' to that)
I think SfN needs to consult someone on how to more effectively use social media to promote their bloggy types. I'd be happy to do it next year, as long as I get to spam LabSpaces at every possible corner of the venue.