Scienceblogging: science3.0.com – a Q&A with Mark Hahnel

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Mark Hahnel of science3.0.com a few questions.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

I’m a final year PhD student at Imperial College studying stem cell mobilisation. I have a strong interest in ‘Science 2.0’ and online science in general. I noticed there was a lot of talk going on about how we could use the web to enhance scientific research on sites such as friendfeed, but not enough action. I found this frustrating. So I set up Science 3.0 as a community where those who share a similar interest can attempt to move science forward in a more efficient manner. The possibilities for scientific research and collaboration provided by web 2.0 are huge, crowd sourcing projects and getting feedback from those who will be using the software is a must. I appreciate we serve a niche group of researchers, but that does not mean that what we are doing is a) not important and b) that it won’t work. Blogging was just a natural addition to the services we offer. Science blogging is an essential part of science online. I provided the option, the people who joined the community took up the option and now we as a community are building a back catalogue of hugely relevant and ever interesting questions, queries and answers via the platform of blogging.

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

There has been a power shift in terms of what you can and cannot do with a blog. Bloggers appreciate that networks do increase the reach of your blog, and recently have realised that blog networks are relatively simple to set up. Blogging networks such as Scientopia have made everything a lot more transparent, the goal no longer appears to be commercial success.

Bloggers on Science 3.0 choose exactly how they want their blog, it is their page. Science 3.0 is advert free and operates at a loss, but the bloggers can choose to add adverts or microfinancing links such as Flattr in order to try to monetize their blogs. Knowing this, not one of the bloggers on Science 3.0 has added adverts to their blogs. I think this speaks volumes on why everyone got so annoyed with ScienceBlogs following ‘pepsigate’.

The flip side of this is the spread of blogs. Now users have to look at several sites whereas in the past they just looked at one. This again raises a problem that needs to be fixed. Scienceblogging.org was the first to address this situation by creating a blog aggregation site. Science 3.0 has followed suit with our ‘science blogs’ section. We are now working together in order to optimise this service.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

Before building the ‘science blogs’ section, I accessed nearly all of the blogs I read via twitter. There are a few blogs which I follow via their RSS feeds as well as listening to the recommendations of the Science 3.0 users.

Tell us a little bit more about Science3.0. What is it about? How did it come about? By what process do you add bloggers to the network – do they apply, do you invite them, or some other way?

Science 3.0 is a community dedicated to advancing science online. The website is designed to be a neutral, impartial community where people can discuss the pros and cons of each application so that they can be developed in the most efficient manner.

The site is not designed to be a place where all science researchers from all disciplines meet and share results. The site is for those who wish to develop science online, or have an interest in science online. We do not have the answers to all of the problems associated with open access and bringing science to the masses. We are the place where like minded people can collaborate to generate these answers. We truly believe that people-centric communication (social web, web 2.0) and decision support for people (web 3.0, e.g. data mining, reducing information overload) will help us creating better and more efficient science.

Bloggers are members who have signed up to a blog themselves. There is no real recruitment, other than the odd tweet inviting new bloggers to give it a try. The blogs must be related to the goals of the site. They must be science related, online science related or open access related. There are no real rules, we don’t wish for people to blog unless they want to and they get something out of it.

Where do you see Science3.0 within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what is the target audience, what unique service does it provide?

We don’t just blog. Science 3.0 is a place where we can gather information, meet people, and collaborate to push online science forward. We aim to share information openly where possible (open access), and ensure that users know where to find relevant closed information. If there are people out there who have an idea, and want somewhere to test it, we are the ideal location. Science 3.0 offers a lot more than just blogging. For some people this is ideal, others just want to blog and this is why we compliment all the existing blog sites so well. We act as a place where people who do not blog all the time can have a voice. Science 3.0 is where all the action happens after all the talking stops.

What is next for Science3.0 (as far as you are free to reveal)?

We aim to be completely transparent and due to user contributions, we have a million ideas. The advantage of the site is that we don’t need to answer to our superiors before acting, upgrading or developing the site. For this reason we have experimented with many pieces of software to see what works. Because ideas are implemented so fast, our current thoughts on setting up etherpads and a user web activity hub page (using software by ‘thinkup’) may be up and running by the time this is published! We are also open to collaborating with any sites who feel that we can offer something collectively, either from a blogging point of view, a software developing point of view or just an idea generating angle. Hopefully, new users continue to sign up and get some benefit from the site. As with all community based projects, a critical mass of active members is needed in order to survive. Hopefully, we are on our way to reaching this number and will continue to thrive.

Thank you so much for this interview. We’ll continue working on Scienceblogging.org and I hope you and others from science3.0.com will be able to come to ScienceOnline2011 to discuss future strategies.

Name of the site: Science 3.0
URL: http://www.science3point0.com
Feed URL:
Activity: http://www.science3point0.com/activity/feed/
Posts: http://www.science3point0.com/feed/
Motto, or subheading, or one-line explanation: Viva la evolution!
Founder(s): Mark Hahnel
Current community manager: Joerg Kurt Wegner
Geographical location: London
Date of launch: 27.06.10
Number of bloggers on the day of launch: 0
Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site: 13
Current number of bloggers: 13
Software/Platform: WordPress/Buddypress
Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews):
June/July ~10000
July/August ~15000
August/September ~20000
Top Bloggers: Daniel Mietchen, Graham Steel, Catherine Anderson (aka genegeek)
Key events from the history of the site:
The name change after a threat of legal action by Hank Campbell.
Live-streaming of Science Online London 2010 (with the help of Graham Steel)
Launch of the science blogging aggregator, archiver and analysis tool: www.science3point0.com/scienceblogs/
Users own developments of the site, such as Daniel Mietchen’s www.science3point0.com/coaspedia

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