As most of you probably know, I got a job as an Online Community Coordinator at PLoS ONE. Today is my first day at the job! I got the job in an unusual way as well – by posting about it on my blog (and the managing editor posting a comment “Is this a formal application?”). The rest is, as they say, history. To make this post shorter, I have blogged about the job before, about the way I got the job, and some of my thoughts about what I want to do with it, so check out the relevant posts:
While my CV and the cover letter were fine, what really got me the job were my blog commenters! That is: YOU! You demonstrated my ability to build an online community better than any Resume can reveal. Although, to be fair, it took me three years to build this community and now I have three months to build one on PLoS! So, I need your help and I am unabashedly begging for it.
So, my #1 goal (and there are other coooool goals I’ll tell you about later) is to dramatically increase the number of comments and annotations on the PLoS ONE papers, without compromising their quality. I have many ideas how to go about it, and so do the other members of the PLoS team, but I am always interested in hearing others (comments section of this post is a perfect place for just such ideas you may have).
For the time being, I will start with raising quantity first, i.e., trying to grow some numbers, e.g., overall traffic, number of return visitors, time spent on site, pageview/visit ratio, etc., building a critical mass until it reaches a threshold at which I will have to also deal with quality (you know the rule on blogs – more comments there are, lower the level of discourse).
Scientists are generally shy about posting stuff online, but a growing number of science bloggers shows that it is possible for them to change their habits! Please help me in that difficult task After all, you are the ones who are comfortable commenting – so if you set the example and start posting comments, the more reluctant scientists will hopefully follow suit.
As you are aware of, commenting is a positive feedback loop. If you go to a blog post (or a PLoS ONE paper) and see “0 comments” you are unlikely to be the first one to comment (but you are still more likely to do so than a scientist with no experience on blogs whatsoever!). But if you see “3 comments” or “7 comments” or “35 comments” you will be curious and you will click to see what others are saying. By the time you are done reading through the comments, you are already deeply involved and thus much more likely to decide to post a comment of your own (especially if you disagree with some statement there).
While scientists are secretive and shy by training, they are still people. The non-blogging scientists may have very high thresholds, but they do have thresholds! If they see a number of comments there and see something erroneous posted there, they will post a rebuttal, I hope. I need you – the bloggers – to bring the commenting threads up to the threshold levels at which non-blogging scientists will start kicking in. Then, hopefully, there will be a snowball effect and over the long run the growth of commenting will become organic (i.e., I will not need to bug you about this any more).
Here are some broad ideas about Science 2.0 I have (and I will give you particulars on what PLoS-ONE will do in the near future in later posts):
I will keep using my own blog as part of my toolkit at the job (subscribe/blogroll/bookmark it if you want so you can see the updates here as soon as I post them) and updates will appear here on my blog (and on the PLoS Blog as well). No, this does not mean I will quit blogging about other topics!
What should you expect me to ask/tell you in future job-related posts?
Usually, I will ask you to go to a particular page on PLoS site and do one or more of the following:
– take a look at the visual/psychological effect of the changes we made to the site and give me feedback about it
– test a new application we introduced on the site and let me know how it works and how it can be improved
– post a comment or annotation yourself (on a specific paper, or a paper of your own choice)
– ask the readers of your blog/website/newsgroup/mailing-list to do some of the above.
It’s all voluntary, of course. Do it if you feel like it, and are comfortable doing it, and have time, and are in just the right mood at the time…
Although, heed Orli’s words: “…as we all know, saying no to Bora means courting bad karma…”
In order for you to be able to do this, i.e., to be able to compare the ‘before’ and ‘after’, I’d like you (and your readers) to go over the next few days and familarize yourself with PLoS ONE, its look and feel.
It will also be helpful if you register for the site, subscribe to RSS feeds of journals, and to e-mail notifications of new articles.
One of the first things I am going to do is try to breathe new life into the PLoS Blog and make it a pretty central (and more frequently updated) spot on the site. As Technorati annual reports found out, it is not the age or quality that determines which blogs are popular and highly ranked, but the frequency and regularity of posting. This may also require some re-design. So, it is not a bad idea for you to subscribe to its feed and to check in regularly and post comments. Linking to its posts or placing them on services like digg, delicious, stumbleupon and redditt will also be appreciated.
Finally, go to the Sandbox and try your hand at annotations and comments before you do it on a real paper. Once you are comfortable with the process, find papers in your area of expertise and post a comment – it does not need to be very detailed (or a criticism of the work!). Authors will appreciate it if you tell them that you like the paper in 1-2 nice short sentences as well.
Oh, almost forgot – think about publishing your papers in PLoS-ONE. The average time between submission and publication is 19 days! More than 500 papers have already been published and several are added every week. And you get feedback from colleagues and your paper is likely to be cited more than if it was behind a pay wall. As long as it is good science and well written, it is acceptable. It does not need to be Earth-shaking, revolutionary stuff that goes to Science or Nature (though that is certainly acceptable!). It does not need to be of ‘general interest’ either – a very specialized paper is fine. Also, while currently most of the papers are in the biology/genetics/medicine areas, the journal takes anything from math to archaeology so please help us become more diverse!
Oh, another thing – if you are in Bay Area (San Francisco, California, USA) during July and would like to meet me in person, let me know.
Oh, and tell your friends…