ScienceOnline Day 2: generalised ramblings

Sessions attended:
Nature blogging: a lot of discussion time was spent on what exactly a “nature blog” was, with a clear division between those who viewed nature blogging as a broad church, with the more science-oriented blogs as a subset of various other approaches, and those who view nature blogging as distinct and separate from science blogging. I thought it rather odd that so many of the latter camp were at a science bloggers’ conference; isn’t our whole underlying purpose that science is something everyone can (and does) do, not just the weird freaks in the lab coats? If you’re going out and looking at stuff, that is science. I may post more fully on this later, but I think I bored enough people with my ranting on the day, so maybe not.
On the other hand, it was a good point that sometimes “show” is a more inclusive approach than “show and tell” – or at least, “show and lots of tell”…
Hey, you can’t say that: This was progressing into an interesting discussion about the need to consider the consequences of posting our thoughts on the internet for all to see, and the degree of responsibility we bear for those consequences, but it stalled somewhat on some rather utopian aspirations for employers to unconditionally stand up for their staff’s right to free speech, and unionisation.
The real take home message – one I certainly took on board – was that employers don’t like surprises; and if you haven’t discussed your blogging with them beforehand, and the first time they find out about it is when an irate donor or shareholder calls them onto the carpet, you shouldn’t be surprised if they might be a little upset. Proactivity is to your advantage, although it seems that you have to watch out that the agreed ground rules don’t shift under your feet, as happened to one of the panellists, or that the press office start trying to muscle in for their own gain.
One thought that I’ve been wrestling with through this and yesterday’s ‘Transitions’ session is that my blog is inextricably entangled with my day job. Thus, my personal blogging can’t help but be entangled with my professional persona, and I therefore do have responsibilities to my employers. This blurry line is certainly not just my problem – and blogging is still such a new thing that exactly what those responsibilities are have yet to be properly thrashed out. James and Karen were both vocal – and, I feel, entirely correct – in advocating that we should take the lead on this, rather than continuing to let the next controversy shape the debate.
Science blogging networks – what works, what does not? A rather meandering closing session, to be honest, which could be characterised by lots of rather defensive talking past each other – it was about 3/4 of the way in before someone rather sensibly pointed out that Scienceblogs and Nature Networks were two entirely different beasts, with different aims, and different strengths and weaknesses. Plus, I remain astonished about how exercised everyone gets about our private forums – given the number of times people complain about the lack of science on scienceblogs, you’d think people would be glad that we at least kept some of the noise off the front page.

Categories: bloggery, conferences
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Comments (4)

  1. Propter Doc says:

    I want to read more ranting! Seriously though, there are a lot of artificial distinctions in the science type blogging world – nature vs science blogging; science life vs science research blogging; and some more that I can’t quite think up right now.
    The ‘be proactive’ message was also the key message of the conference for me and I’ll post on it as soon as I’ve been proactive and gotten myself home.

  2. chris…
    i agree with you, the discussion for “hey you can’t say that” did end-up getting too far into the “employer obligations to the blogger” side of discussion… while i certainly hope that a science-based conservation ngo would ultimately stand up to defend the accurate interpretations of scientific findings (the case i described at the start and fully explained here), i make no delusions that the blogger/employee ultimately has obligations to keeping the ngo mission alive…
    i’ll let you know how my employer responds to the “let’s be more upfront/no surprises” approach i hope to broach with them…

  3. Chris Rowan says:

    Hi Rick – I hope you didn’t take my comments as a criticism of the way the discussion was guided – Iots of people clearly wanted to take it there, even if I might personally think it’s putting the cart before the horse. Such are the perils of the unconference (although the overall benefits of this format were made very clear to me over the weekend).
    Your story sounded like a particularly difficult one from right in the middle of the blurry employee/private citizen divide. Good luck in in your attempts to engage.

  4. thanks, chris, and no worries… your comments are welcome and context is clear!
    and thanks for the vote of support!