AAAS Day 3: Social media in science

Bora Zivkovic is telling the scientists here how to make social media work for them. His big point is that there’s no longer a relevant difference between blogs and traditional media – the war between blogs and print journalists is over. The existence of quacks on blogs doesn’t invalidate the enterprise of good bloggers, any more than Fox News invalidates TV journalism or the Washington Times invalidates the New York Times. In any media, you choose your sources based on their expertise and their track record.

He isn’t mentioning this here, but that’s the basic response to Matt Nisbet’s anti-pseudonymy. True anonymity may well make dialogue impossible, but it’s false to claim “if you can’t participate in a dialogue about issues without using your full name and true identity, then what you have to say is probably not that valuable.” Your full name is irrelevant to the quality of your ideas, and if your professional qualifications to comment on an issue are not evident from what you say, then who cares? And Matt knows this, because he’s taken part in peer review, where his own anonymous comments are either accepted or ignored by authors on the basis of their own quality, and where papers he’s reviewed have had author information removed to ensure that he engages their ideas, not the authors’ identities.

The internet is all about peer review, and the trick is to have good systems for filtering and managing data.

Bora touched on those issues by mentioning the way he filters his 3000 Twitter friends through sites like Twitter Times. The first question touches on this issue as well, asking about time management. Bora responds that, yes, you have to manage your time, but that Twitter is the fastest way to get information, and in ten years, Twitter will be as common in science labs as email is now.


  1. #1 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 21, 2010

    [I]n ten years, Twitter will be as common in science labs as email is now.

    Yeah, right.

  2. #2 Anon
    February 21, 2010

    I hear eight-track tapes will be big.

  3. #3 chezjake
    February 21, 2010

    I’m betting that within 5 years Twitter will be a thing of the past. Most people will realize that being limited to 140 characters is hindering effective and accurate communication.

  4. #4 Coturnix
    February 22, 2010

    Important distinction about what will be a normal ways of communicating in 5 years: not the company, but ‘tweeting’
    – the communications method. As I mentioned in the session, Twitter is not a platform, it’s a communication method (just like e-mail, or blogs, or podcasts, or videos – this one is confusing because it shares a name with a company that first introduced it)

  5. #5 Mr. Gunn
    February 22, 2010

    chezjake – from an “attention conservation” point of view, 14 characters is great. You can get someone’s point without having to deal with their poor and wordy exposition, and you can just follow the link if you want more details.

  6. #6 Joe Kraus
    February 22, 2010

    New services like (based on does not have the 140 character restriction. It also encourages dialog and discussion of topics.

  7. #7 Coturnix
    February 22, 2010

    Whoever said that it is limited to 140 characters on Twitter?

    a) you can include a link to something that is thousands of words long

    b) you can put a longer message together in a series of several consecutive tweets

    c) you can add a hashtag that connects all the tweets (sometimes thousands) on the same topic

    All three strategies are constantly used by almost everyone on Twitter and are a part of the normal usage of the platform. Nobody feels “limited by 140 characters” whoever has ever tried Twitter for more than a day or two.

  8. #8 Josh Rosenau
    February 25, 2010

    Bora: As someone who’s been on twitter for barely more than a day or two, I must say I still feel the 140 char. limit. It’s a different culture and a different style that does take significant adjustment.

  9. #9 Mason Posner
    February 26, 2010

    I recognize the power of Twitter for connecting scientists and spreading information. My challenge is how to control the amount of information and the time it would take to really stay on top of the communications. It seems that hashtags may be the key, as I can easily aggregate lots of information on one topic, if everyone uses the same hashtag. On the lighter side, the recent #scienceconfessions meme has been an interesting way to pull together the diverse scientists on Twitter into a hashtag driven community.

    I plan to check out Twitter.times.

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