My friend Martin Fenner has a post up at his blog at Nature Networks, about convincing scientists to become familiar with and ACTUALLY use online tools, services and such, and this post and topic struck a chord with me.
See, since I started blogging, experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, Google (docs, apps, sites, reader… and maybe ?wave?, what WILL they think of next) etc…. I’ve realized the enormous power of the online community, online tools, online conversation for gathering information, for discussion, and for frequent communication between isolated small groups – and how much more powerful it could be if more of the scientific community participated in it.
But it’s not easy to drag what I affectionately call the Ol’ boys (and girls, basically everyone senior to me) into this new-fangled way of communicatin’. This was really in my face a few weeks ago when I was at the ASM General Meeting in Philadelphia… and I mentioned to several people… well placed people in a position to fix this grievous oversight… that ASM Journals should HAVE RSS feeds, so I can get them in my Google Reader!!!
I was universally met with:
What’s an RSS feed? What’s Google Reader?
What’s my point? I suppose my point is that with this audience we can’t start the conversation about online tools with Twitter, or FriendFeed, or even Blogs, … or Nature Networks…or Scienceblogs… or whatever… Because the divide between those of us that use online technology … and those that don’t – is so deep that those of us that are online a lot have forgotten what the baseline is. Us somewhat online-savvy people (and I’m only in my infancy as far as online savvy is concerned)- forgot what it was like to start out, forgot what the activation energy actually was to learning to use this new medium…
The conversation to convince scientists to start using online communities and tools more has to begin with something much much simpler. Someplace where people can see the usefulness of spending their time online. They can’t always see the usefulness of places like Twitter right off because it is too radical a departure from the way they may be used to doing business. But… RSS feeds,… and Google reader… might be a great place to introduce people to online technologies that have an immediate usefulness in getting journal updates immediately as they become available and collecting them all in one place.
Once they graduate from this level… their activation energy to using other online tools.. blogs, and communities should be lower…