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Science and social media in new Zealand Ken Perrott Jun 08

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How is New Zealand science dealing with social media?

Screen-Shot-2015-06-05-at-2.04.57-pmThe latest report* from NZ’s Science Media Centre answers that question (see Social Media Snapshot – how are our research institutions using Twitter, Facebook etc.).

It concludes that “science and social media make comfortable bedfellows” because:

“Most research institutions have some form of social media presence and several have amassed tens of thousands of followers, helping them to stay engaged with a broad audience who “share”, “like” and “favourite” their content.”

That is good news, on the whole, but it does tend to be a “cup half full” interpretation because it doesn’t analyse why some of the scientific institutions are failing when it comes to social media. It’s great that 91% of the country’s 45 major research organisations engaged in scientific research have an official social media presence. But what about those 9% which don’t?

Which institutions are the slow uptakers?

First the good news:

“The University of Auckland, GeoNet and Te Papa have the most followers for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube respectively.”

But apart of Auckland University, Auckland Museum, Te Papa and Geonet the main users of social media appear to be the universities. Although smaller sections of the research community – including university faculties, departments and research labs and collaborations – have been slower to adopt social media. Facebook appears to be their preferred platform.

What sticks out like a sore thumb to me is the absence of the larger Crown Research Institutes. My old institute, AgResearch, certainly wasn’t among the front-runners in this report – despite the fact that it is the largest Crown Research Institute and involved in research vital to this country’s main industries. However, on checking I found that AgResearch does have a Facebook and Twitter presence. It’s just that the likes (Facebook) and followers (Twitter) are very low compared with the front-runners. For example, its about 1100 Facebook likes compares with University of Waikato’s 35,000!

At least it is something, I suppose. From my memories of the conservatism of the heads of communication departments in my day I was half afraid they were shunning social media altogether. Mind you, with this low performance I can’t help feeling their approach to social media is possible only luke-warm.

If this is the case, I suspect it could be a common problem with Crown Research Institutes which tend to be bureaucratic and unwilling to allow uncontrolled or unsupervised contact of staff members with the public. I guess that is a human organisation problem but it is a pity because these institutes do have large “client” or “customer” groups which already use social media and would willingly connect via such media. Probably more so than through the limited industry meetings, conferences and field days – and centrally managed press releases.

This is not a suggestion that these institutes turn away from their tried and true communication methods – far from it. Just a suggestion that supplementation via social media can enhance and widen such communication.

*Download the report here.

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Anonymous comments on social media Ken Perrott Mar 19

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IMG_0666

 

Something I picked up on the internet.

Yes, I know – some people have legitimate and understandable reasons for being anonymous when they comment on social media. Concern for jobs and protection for family and self.

I can appreciate that and have no issue with those people.

But there is just such a lot of rubbish spouted by anonymous commenters on social media. I can only conclude the reason for anonymity of these hostile and drive-by commenters is that they are at least subconsciously aware of the rubbish they are promoting so do not want their name associated with it.

Whatever their reason, anonymity seems to bring out the worst in these people. and they waste a lot of time for others who attempt to debate them.

How can scientists use social media? Ken Perrott Feb 10

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This video will mainly interest scientists who are interested in social media and its use in networking (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc). Scientist took a while to accept this new media, and many are still suspicious or reluctant to use it. But at least the media is being discussed and considered these days.

This is a Google Hangout video of a discussion by 5 US scientists. it brought home to me that different people use these media for different purposes and in different ways. As a retired scientist my use could be very different to the way a working scientist uses it. And scientists involve in policy issues, or science communication, will use it differently to those involved in teaching and/or research.

Credit: UCS Science Network: Tip of the Week | Union of Concerned Scientists.

Black cat in a dark room – and the role of science Ken Perrott May 21

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photo 5
There are some  really excellent quotes on social media – Facebook and Twitter.
The one above really appeals to me. Sure the classifications are broad, and it would be interesting to break each one down. But the main message is certainly one I agree with.

It does summarise the problem very well. But I am sure someone will disagree?

Our world from the International Space Station Ken Perrott Mar 19

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Baikal

Photo by Chris Hadfield / NASA: Lake Baikal, Siberia. Immensely old and deep, it holds one-fifth of all the Earth’s fresh water. 26 Feb 2013, 7:31 PM (Click photo to enlarge)

Anyone following Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) on Twitter will have seen some of his gorgeous photos taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Somebody should collect them together so we can browse them.

Well, someone has done that with photos taken by Hadfield and other members of the ISS crew. Have a look at the web site Our World From The ISS or click the screen image below.

ISS-photos

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The internet – Yeah, right! Ken Perrott Sep 24

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Here’s something I picked up on Twitter from Tim Hart (@Timwellspent).

As he said “This is quite brilliant. What The Sun newspaper wrote about the internet 20 years ago.”

Brings back memories.

Update:

Thanks to HappyEvilSlosh we have the origin of this page at Hold Ye Front Page. This provides more information on the history of the Internet.

How to write a best-seller! Ken Perrott Jun 20

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If you haven’t heard of Deepak Chopra you may not  appreciate this – the Random Deepak Chopra Quote Generator. It enables you to manufacture a “quote” – generated from a list of word in Deepak’s Twitter stream.

Like his normal utterances it will be “indistinguishable from a set of profound sounding words put together in a random order.”

Here’s a few I got (click on “Receive more wisdom”).

  • “Evolution experiences ephemeral reality”
  • “The world heals an expression of happiness”
  • “The universe comprehends humble space time events”

Hell – you could just about write a popular book using this generator.

Thanks to Jerry Coyne at Deepak generator!

Do atheists need religion? Ken Perrott Jun 10

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I was in no hurry to read this book - Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion. It got such bad reviews. And I really wasn’t impressed by Alain de Botton’s contribution to public debate – on TV and in the media. However, an atheist friend recommended the book and, although I don’t think she had finished reading it, she was impressed with the book’s arguments. Or at least the problems the author identified for atheists living in a secular society.

So, out of a sense of responsibility I purchased and read it.

My conclusion – a waste of money and time!

I don’t intend this to be a review of the book. For that I recommend reading Martin S Pribble’s thoughtful review (Religion For Atheists). As an aside, I followed Martin’s reading of this book via his Twitter comments. First time I have come across a Twitter book review! I think it sort of works – at least when the reader gets emotional about what he or she is reading.

Sufficient to say that de Botton sets up straw men – an idealised, perfect religion (mostly Christianity) and a deficient, sterile, secular society. His only objection to religion appears to be their supernatural stories. So his answer to the worlds’ problems is to ditch supernaturalism but adopt the remaining institutions, buildings, funding structures, social relationships, moral messages, music and art of religion (particularly Christianity). As is! Artificially.

My atheist friend often comments on the need in our secular society to develop institutions which provide for the social needs of people. Their desire for community and charity. So I can see why she was, at least initially, attracted to this book. It’s just that I can’t see how de Botton’s utopia (religion with all its trappings except its gods) provides this, or is even possible.

Personally I agree that modern society needs to provide more in the way of institutions, ceremony and even buildings which appeal to our desire for community and significance. But that is not unique to modern society – it has always been the case – especially as the old institutions often did not fulfil these promises, or were even quite evil.

The point is that the most appropriate ceremonies, institutions and culture for these purposes are the ones that are built by the existing society, not artificially transplanted into it. And we are building such institutions, ceremonies, etc., in our modern, pluralist, secular society.

Religion needs secularism – and can learn from it

Why should we artificially transplant something from a religion (after removing its supernatural content) when we can do better? Consider modern ceremonies like weddings and funerals in this country. They have become a lot more secular – even where they are performed in a Church. We seem to have welcomed with open arms the secular concept of remembering and celebrating the life of a deceased person in our funerals. Friends and family give their stories and feelings. New Zealand funerals today are far more satisfying than those in the old days which simply had the religious purpose of sending the person of into the “afterlife.”

The church has noticed and adopted many of the features of secular funerals and other ceremonies. Incorporated them into their own ceremonies.

There are many other examples. The point is that – yes, we do need more and better institutions and ceremonies which contribute to our human need for community and friendship. We do need more buildings, art and ethical commentary appealing to those needs. It’s a matter of more of what we are doing well, not artificially transplanting from old and moribund institutions and ideologies. And its a matter of creating these new institutions and culture in a way that is inclusive – not the exclusiveness “them vs us” of the religious approaches.

So, my recommendation is that you should give this book a miss, unless you feel a responsibility to read it like I did. At least I will now be able to discuss the book and my reactions intelligently when I next see my atheist friend.

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’Web monkeys’ and science presentation Ken Perrott May 27

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Dr. Danah Boyd on stage at Web 2.0 Expo NY 2009. (Credit: Danah Boyd) – Be careful of presenting the tweets.*

Here’s an inspiring tale for young scientists. If you are working on presentations for a conference it’s always tempting to try something new which might create interest, wake up those who have fallen asleep or just to get your point across in a nice graphic.

Well what about using Twitter to convey the main points of your message – as you present?

Sounds impossible, but Amy O’Leary (@amyoleary ) did it.

Apparently it’s simply a matter of linking the presentation software to twitter so that as each new slide is projected, a tweet, which has been carefully crafted in advance by the speaker, is launched into cyberspace.

Sounds like a great idea to me. Sometimes I do follow a presentation on Twitter – but tweets are sent by members of the audience, they depend on their own understanding and they may not properly reflect what the presenter is actually saying. This way, the version that gets tweeted is the “official” one at least.

You can read more about her presentation, and watch a video of it, at How Amy O’Leary live-tweeted her own speech – and won the #backchannel

I don’t present much these days but must try this idea next time I do. A quick google search indicated two possible tools enabling one to do this:

For Apple users, Keynote Tweet allows you put your tweet wrapped in [twitter] tags in the presenter notes pane for that slide and when you click onto that slide, the tweet gets published.

For Windows users, AutoTweet is a new add-in for PowerPoint developed by Timo Elliot of SAPWeb2.0. It works in the same way as Keynote Tweet. For more information see PowerPoint Twitter Magic.

Here’s a short video describing How to Download, Install, and Use PowerPoint Twitter AutoTweet.

Anybody here tried this?

Perhaps I have just “discovered” something that everybody already uses.

Any readers here have experience with this sort of use of twitter during a presentation?


* See Beware the Backchannel: Dr Boyd incorporated Twitter into her presentation – “What happened? Briefly, the audience, using Twitter (the backchannel) made disparaging comments about the speaker, Dr. Boyd. What was most dreadful, and lamentable, is the fact that the Twitter comments were visually displayed behind her — while she was giving her presentation…”

Souvenirs for scientists Ken Perrott Feb 20

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I love these Matryoshka dolls: Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Sagan and Hawking

Matryoshka dolls are great ornaments – and kids, especially the very young ones, love to play with them. I have been aware that the whole idea of these traditional dolls has been extended to produce sets of politicians, for example, as souvenirs. However, this is the first set I have seen of scientists.

A great idea – along the lines of standing on the shoulders of giants. Just the thing for a scientist’s desk.

Now, I wonders of there are sets for biologists,chemists, mathematicians, . . .

Thanks to Rachana Bhatawdekar  @astrogeek03


Thanks also to Darcy who hunted down the original source. These dolls were constructed by as a gift for his girlfriend who was majoring in astronomy. He talks about it on his post Astronomatryoshkas

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