NC – ScienceOnline Together, Friday PM

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February 28, 2014 by Dr. G

Click on the hashtag #Scio14 to view all of my posts from ScienceOnline Together.

Friday afternoon at ScienceOnline Together consisted of two hour-long sessions. The first one I chose to attend was titled Virtual Events: How to Do It Well. Nicole Gugliucci (@NoisyAstronomer) was our facilitator and expertly guided us in a discussion rich with approaches, ideas, and suggestions for technological tools.

We started talking about types of virtual events, from broadcast (one-way delivery, perhaps with a guest speaker) to participatory, from synchronous to asynchronous connections, and from video-based (Google+ Hangouts like the ones by CosmoQuest) to Twitter Chats (such as #scistuchat). We spoke about successful, existing virtual events (Read Science!) and our dream events (having a virtual lab hangout with something under a microscope). We shared challenges each of us have faced, such as finding a time for an event with people in time zones from across the globe, getting the access to K-12 teachers and students that have YouTube blocked in their schools, and getting the word out and marketing our events. A common challenge for everyone in the room that has run a virtual event, especially for those that use Google Hangouts, is providing up-to-date documentation and instructions for participants (if Google would only stop updating!).  Of course, sometimes the issue isn’t the technology…

Nicole also shared an experience she had with a 32-hour live hangout (yikes!), and the challenge of making sure all the guest speakers were ready to join the live session. She mentioned she had a second hangout, a virtual green room, that someone else moderated to prepare the speakers by checking audio levels, etc. I look forward to exploring a link Nicole shared to an article that has Ten Simple Rules for Organizing a Virtual Conference—Anywhere. This session gave me some great ideas for outreach projects for the future – and I hope the national laboratories are able to successfully get their virtual fieldtrips in Google (I would like to tour the labs myself!).

For the final session of the day, I went to hear about Blog Networks: Benefits, Role of, Next Steps.  Last year, I was approached by a national science organization and asked to join their blog network to blog about geoscience education and educational technology.  Since I have not yet started blogging with them, I wanted to hear from others the advantages and disadvantages of being part of a group. First, I didn’t realize how many blog networks exist, including The Panda’s Thumb, ScienceBlogs, SciLogs, Scientific American, National Geographic, Deep Sea News – just to name a few! There are also incubator blogs that offer the opportunity for those people just getting started in blogging. In fact, someone in the room mentioned that she believes that it takes six months for a blogger to find his/her voice online. Many in the audience agreed that blogging in a network can provide legitimacy, provide more traffic and views, generate conversations, and help authors reach the audience they really want to reach (beyond those scholars that read peer-reviewed articles in journals). There were recommendations to have a focus to your blog to make it stand out as compared to general blogs, and that the community manager of a blog network is critical to the happiness and success of the individual bloggers and the overall network. We were provided the advice that, before joining a blogging network, we need to have a two-way conversation with the community manager and both have clarity in the responses to the following two questions: (1) why are you joining? (2) what are the expectations? The take-home message of this session, besides “don’t bother blogging for money – it won’t be enough to live on,” was to “lead with the awesome, and don’t bury the actual story.”

My Project Merccuri testing kit!

My Project Merccuri testing kit!

Dinner for the evening was the InterGalactic Gala, a space-themed event that included a contest for the best-dressed space person/alien and PowerPoint karaoke (yes, I typed that correctly – PowerPoint karaoke). I also enjoyed a conversation with the Intergalactic Travel Bureau, where I was able to send my husband a postcard from Mars (I can’t wait to see his reaction when this arrives in the mail!). And I was able to participate in a citizen science project for Project Merccuri, where we were asked to swab our shoes and cell phones to be tested for microbes. Project Merccuri is collecting these swabs from sporting events and space meetups across the country for their database. I’ll be curious to hear the results of what lives on the bottom of my shoe…

It’s so disappointing there is only one more day of ScienceOnline Together. In every session and every social event, I keep meeting more and more people that are doing fascinating work with science and science communication in online environments. I look forward to making the most of my final day.

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