#SciFoo in pictures

Yes, I was at Science Foo Camp ten days ago, returning to the event after six years (you can see my posts from the 2007 event here). As before, this was an energy-filled event, and a great opportunity to meet creative people who do interesting stuff, and not just to schmooze with old friends. As the sessions’ topics are decided at the last minute and the conversations in sessions are very informal, it is hard to ‘report’ from them in a straight-forward, journalistic manner. From a very constructive session on women in STEM, and another one on dealing with denialist online commenters, through insightful discussion on use of animals in research, to several sessions on citizen science, there was definitely plenty of stuff to learn and to make one think.

Instead, I’ll just post pictures and add some of the story in the captions. New iPhones have decent cameras, I take lots of pictures, so why not use them to tell the story about the trip and convey some of the atmosphere there.

On the way there I was stuck at Denver airport for a couple of hours. Southwest's computer system went down so they grounded the entire fleet. Half of my plane was already boarded, but my bad boarding number left me at the comfortable, air-conditioned gate instead where Southwest served us our pretzels, peanuts and drinks.

Thus, I arrived in California very late. This is why the hotel is called "Wild Palms".

The same hotel where we all stayed back in 2007...

Unfortunately, no time this year for a dip in the pool....

....or to enjoy the scenery...

...because the buses were already waiting...

...yes, Google buses....

...and this is how one knows this...

...they brought us to Google campus...

...where many arrive by bike....

....yes, Google bike.

Googleplex has waterfalls....

...and wildlife...

...and a statue of Sylvia Earle....

...and more wildlife...

...and a smart car....

...and a statue of the fish-eat-fish world...

...and some more wildlife.

I registered...

...got a cool t-shirt...

...had some famous Google food for breakfast...

...and tried to make tough decisions which of many proposed sessions to attend.

....after which we had some more of the famous Google food...

...but if that wasn't enough, there's lots of food around at all times...

...that one can sample....

...before the next meal comes...

Of course, it's not all about food. It's also about explaining science with cats!

Like this...

...and this (there's much more, this is just a tiny sample).

One can find interesting things even in the bathroom!

...and on the display tables.

One could use the DNA Lego code...

...to put together sentences...

....including this one that reads "I met Bora".

But Scifoo is really about the people....

...and more people...

...and more people...

...and even more people.

That is, until one spots the Farewell Chocolate Table...

And, of course, chocolate is essential as the Fifth Food Group.

Until it's time to say goodbyes and go off to the airport and a long flight to Helsinki - about which, next time!

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Best of June at A Blog Around The Clock

I posted three times in June. That is, on A Blog Around The Clock only (not counting the posts on The Network Central, The SA Incubator, Video of the Week, Image of the Week, or editing Guest Blog, MIND Guest Blog and Expeditions). Almost no travel coming up, so there should be more next month!

Quick programming note – #SciFoo and #WCSJ2013/#sci4hels

ScienceOnline Events Update

Previously in the “Best of…” series:

2013

May
April
March
February
January

2012

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
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April
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January

2011

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2010

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ScienceOnline Events Update

As we reminded you a couple of weeks ago, ScienceOnline community and the organization are busy preparing a number of upcoming events. Today, we need to give you some important updates on the planning, program and registration for the three major events coming up soon, so you can start planning today: ScienceOnlineClimate, ScienceOnlineOceans and ScienceOnlineTogether 2014. Head on to the official SciO blog to see the details.

Quick Programming Note–#SciFoo and #WCSJ2013/#sci4hels

Just a quick note. If you will be at Science Foo Camp (a.k.a. SciFoo) on June 21-23, find me and say Hello. I last went to this meeting in 2007 and I am happy to go back after a long break. Not sure what the event rules are, but I expect to livetweet quite a lot (at @BoraZ).

Likewise, if you will be at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Helsinki, Finland, on June 24-29th, find me and say Hello as well. On the 26th, I’ll be on a plenary panel – The Rise of the Science Blog Network: Lessons from All Corners of the World at 09:00-10:30am, and then immediately after that enjoying the other panel I organized – The ‘killer’ science journalists of the future at 11:15am-12:45pm. But you already know all about it, as I have blogged about that panel several times.

During those 10 days or so, I will be online pretty sporadically (except to livetweet from my phone), so be nice to the other bloggers on the network!

Best of May at A Blog Around The Clock

I posted 4 times in May. That is, on A Blog Around The Clock only (not counting the posts on The Network Central, The SA Incubator, Video of the Week, Image of the Week, or editing Guest Blog and Expeditions). I promise there will be more next month!

#sci4hels – What makes one a “killer” (science) journalist of the future?

Quick updates: Science Studio, travel and quotes.

What’s new at ScienceOnline?

Previously in the “Best of…” series:

2013

April
March
February
January

2012

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2011

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2010

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

2009

December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

#sci4hels – What makes one a “killer” (science) journalist of the future?

It is only four weeks till the World Conference of Science Journalists commences in Helsinki, and our #sci4hels panel has been hard at work, for months now, at preparing for the event. We had discussions on Twitter (account, list, hashtag), set up the Google + and Facebook pages, and put together a website/blog.

Over the past few months, we also engaged the community with our questions. The first question was about the need for specialization (also see), which also feeds into the question of a need for specialized skills, like coding (see this and this).

The second question was “What does a new science journalist do to get noticed? How do you get people to read your work, give you assignments, follow you on Twitter, and generally just know who you are?” This provoked a lively discussion on Twitter.

The third question, upon noticing that all the panelists are female (and many of the upcoming science writers are, too), was a discussion about breaking the glass ceiling in the media organizations.

We all pitched in together for the Question #4: How Should Science Journalists Deal with Breaking News?.

The final, fifth question was: “What is the obligation of a science journalist when it comes to education?

Obviously, we covered a very broad range of topics. But now we need to focus. We’ll only have 90 minutes in Helsinki, and the attendees will come to hear and learn from “killer” science journalists of the future, hoping to get some advice on how to join their ranks and become one of those “killers”, successful in the fast-shifting world of modern media.

On Thursday we will publish our final post and open it up for discussion. Here, I want to make some quick, broad, Big Picture thoughts of my own.

What are the characteristics of a “killer science journalist of the future”?

Understanding that being in print, on radio, or on TV is sweet, still pays better, and still carries a cache with some audiences, but that this picture is changing fast. These 20th century types of one-way broadcast media are rapidly losing audiences, while new generations are essentially using only the Web for information, education and entertainment. Thus, it is smart to focus primarily on the online world, while still occasionally getting some money from the old media when possible.

Understanding that the currency of reputation in the new ecosystem is trust. As the readers rely less and less on the banners on top of the page and more and more on the names in the bylines, it is essential to build one’s own personal reputation and not to rely entirely on the institutional reputation of the media outlet for which one writes.

Understanding that, for one to gain the currency of trust in an online world, one has to constantly use the currency of trust – the hyperlink. A killer science journalist of the future profusely peppers one’s articles with links. Every place in the article that makes a statement should contain a link. Every such spot that does not have a link automatically is a red flag for the modern reader. What is the author trying to hide? Is the originator of information not credited properly?

If information is gained from a document, the document should be linked. If it comes from an article or a blog post, it should be linked. If it comes from a scientific paper, that paper should be linked. If there is a two-sentence quote, presumably taken out of an hour-long interview, it is important to link to the complete interview – transcript or audio or video recording. Every link is a gain of trust. Every lacking link is a loss of trust. Digital natives understand this almost instinctively. Modern online journalism is in many way just like science, including the importance of proper citation and credit for the past ideas on top of which one builds one’s new edifice.

There is no expectation that most readers will actually click on the links. The links are there as a proxy, a sign to the readers that the author has done the due diligence of actually doing the necessary research and finding the relevant sources (what quotes used to do in the old media, but now have the opposite effect online), and generally understands the way the Web requires proper credit of all sources of information. In cases of controversial statements, a small proportion of readers may click on links (even if they are behind paywalls – some readers will have access) and tell the other readers in the comments if the links actually support the statements in the text.

Understanding that the new media ecosystem is an open system. An open system is much stricter and faster in enforcing both the traditional journalistic ethics and the additional online ethics, and much harsher and faster at meting punishment on transgressors of such ethics than the old-style, closed ecosystem. Feedback is instantaneous, and often devastating. The best way to deal with criticism is complete transparency, humble admission of errors, and civil countering of incorrect information if such is presented in the feedback.

A digital native does not take harsh feedback personally, is used to harshness of online comments, shrugs it off but does not ignore the feedback – understanding that it is always a learning experience that helps one get better at the job. It is also understood that responding to feedback and involving the readers in the learning process is one way of getting better, earning trust, and gaining good reputation.

Understanding that self-promotion is not a dirty word the way it was in the 20th century. With a glut of information, and glut of overall online communication, it is necessary for the author to be seen and heard above the din. The only way to do this is to have the link circulate widely online, especially on social media. For the link to appear on social media in the first place, the author has to place it there first. If the piece is accurate, well documented, and well written, it will be spread around. For the link posted by the author to be seen, the author has to have sufficient number of people to send it to, particularly people who already trust and respect the author. Thus, building and nurturing one’s own community of friends, colleagues and readers, and being a part of other people’s similar circles, reciprocating the goodwill, is essential. This is the essence of the principle of horizontal loyalty (or “Friends In Low Places”).

Understanding that all of the above is still not enough. Doing it all correctly, diligently discovering information, linking to all the sources, not stealing ideas from bloggers and then linking only to traditional sources, being humble, respectful and transparent, and generally making a coherent article day after day, week after week, is still not enough. One day soon, everyone will be doing it technically correctly. How does one get noticed in such an environment then?

Yes, sometimes you’ll have to write a dull article for money. Perhaps too often. But the pieces that will really take off – and the pieces that will bring the reputation and trust, not just traffic – are pieces that are written with passion. So, follow your own curiosity and find your passion. Find your own obsession and turn it into your beat. Become a Go-To expert on the topic of your obsession. Ditch the boring old inverted pyramid (it was invented due to space limits of paper, something that vanished online) and start writing in an exciting way.

Or, if your passion is not any narrow topic, then your expertise – or your signature stuff, something for which people will keep coming back over and over again to check your work – may be something else: absolutely beautiful writing, or amazing visuals, or stunning art or photography, or video, or animation, or hand-coded interactive infographics, or whatever makes you excited. If you are excited, your readers will be excited, too. They will support you, tell their friends about you, and make you successful in the process. As long as the basic journalistic ethics and the additional online ethics are met, it is this added passion that will make the difference between successful writers and those who are…not so much…

What’s new at ScienceOnline?

Heat of summer is coming, but we are not falling asleep. ScienceOnline community, and the organization under the able leadership of executive director Karyn Traphagen, is busy planning future events and projects.

Our flagship conference, now renamed ScienceOnline Together, is in full swing of preparation. The eighth annual event will be held on February 26 – March 1, 2014. in Raleigh, NC, and the planning wiki will be open for submissions in a couple of days – keep an eye on the #sciox hashtag on Twitter, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

The local satellite events are springing up everywhere! ScienceOnlineVancouver, ScienceOnlineSeattle, ScienceOnline Bay Area, ScienceOnline San Diego, ScienceOnlineDenver, ScienceOnlineDC, ScienceOnlineLeiden and ScienceOnlineAdelaide are up and running, and more will be joining soon. Is your local community interested in hosting one of those? Let us know.

Often these events grow out of more informal gatherings and tweetups (or Watch Parties of the main event), as our community realizes that they have sufficient numbers locally, and suffient energy and interest to invest into organization of a more formalized and more regular event. A number of such tweetups are ongoing, usually every month. Check out our local community tweetups: New York City (#NYCscitweetup), Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill (#TriSciTweetup), Washington DC (#DCscitweetup), Philadelphia (#PhillySciTweetup), Boston (#sciobeantown), Los Angeles (#LAscitweetup) and Chicago (#ChiSciTweetup) meetings have been going on for quite some time. Recently, Georgians started alternating their tweetup by having one in Athens (#ATHSciTweetup) on even months and one in Atlanta (#ATLSciTweetUp) on odd months. And the latest addition is Toronto (#TorSciTweetup). If you think there is a local community that should start such informal events, let us know so we can help you out in getting started.

Our topical events are attracting quite a lot of excitement, it seems. The first one, ScienceOnlineTEEN held in New York City last month, focused on education, and was a great success.

The next thematic event will be ScienceOnline Climate (Twitter, Facebook) in Washington, DC from August 15-17, 2013. The planning wiki is now open for your submissions for sessions. The wiki opened on May 20 and will close on June 7, 2013.

After that, on October 11th – 13th, 2013., in Miami, FL, we’ll have ScienceOnline: Oceans (planning wiki, Twitter, Facebook). There may still be a couple of open slots left fot registration if you hurry up!

As for our projects, ScienceSeeker portal keeps getting developed, and recently announced the winners of its first annual ScienceSeeker Awards. Many are asking about the next edition of Open Laboratory, the annual anthology of best science writing online – there will be announcements soon about the new publisher, new judging methods, etc, soon.

Check out ScienceOnline forums, watch the videos of past events if you missed them before, and follow our official blog.

Please, share your story with us – how has ScienceOnline made a difference for you? And then help us continue to make the difference, by supporting us and the community. Thank you!