I wanted to update my regular readers about some upcoming changes here at the Bug Blog!
Diapause is a delay in development in insects. It’s usually in response to periods of adverse environmental conditions. After October 1, I’ll be on posting hiatus, and will close comments. I’ll also be dialing back the Bug Media Empire™ social streams a bit.
The really exciting thing?
YOU DON’T NEED ME ANYMORE.
Eight years ago there were no bug blogs. Hell, there weren’t that many nature-related blogs. But today? There is an amazing amount of writing and media related to entomology online. Just look at my list–which is still incomplete. I discover new blogs daily.
I’ve been working on giving all of you a brain dump about how to dominate insect social media for the last couple of weeks because I have learned a LOT of stuff in the 7 years I’ve been blogging. I want all of you to benefit from that.
I’m not leaving forever! I’ll still post at Skepchick as Bug Girl, and I’ll still be socializing on social media–just not as much as in the past. I need to spend more time on things I do with my real name in the real world. I serve as Webmaster for several non-profits, and they will be what I focus more energy on in the near future. I hope to also finally find time to finish up the bug blog survey project, and a few other dangling threads.
More rambling below the fold for those who are morbidly curious.
Welcome to part 2 of the series on social media! This series of tips will focus on how to make your online reading more efficient.
Social Media Tip #4: Work Smarter, not Harder.
I love the internet. Billions of fascinating bits of information, lovely photos, and hilarious viral videos are uploaded daily.
That would also be the primary problem with the internet.
It’s easy to end up curled in a fetal ball under your desk just thinking about all the journals you aren’t reading, but that you think you should. And that’s the boring stuff.
What amazing podcasts and blog posts are you missing? What fresh hell of asshattery is some politician spouting off about? The most important corollary to Tip 4 is:
4.1. Give yourself permission to not read everything.
You can’t read it all. It’s impossible. So stop feeling guilty about it.
4.2. No. Seriously. Don’t try to read it all.
Later in this post, I will explain how you can have have all the awesomeness of the internet delivered to you automatically. That can then become an additional source of stress.
Journal Table of Contents in your inbox? For a journal you haven’t looked at in months? Unsubscribe.
Feed or bookmark for a blog that updates rarely, or doesn’t match your interests anymore? Delete.
Be realistic. If you have a bunch of stuff sitting in your inbox, and you haven’t read it in weeks? It’s not urgent, and you can just delete or archive it.
Before you start using any of the tools I’m going to tell you about, take a hard look at what you are doing right now in terms of your reading and work habits. What can you stop doing?
Look at your “dumb things I gotta do” list and get rid of items that are vague. Take a day and clean your inbox and workspace completely. Have you turned off your email notifications, so that you aren’t interrupted constantly? Everything piled up digitally or physically around you is taking up emotional space.
This paper (just pages 4-8 to skip the academic jargon) has a very nice summary of the Getting Things Done methodology. Give it a look. GTD made a HUGE difference in my stress levels when I found it 7 yrs ago.
Now you are ready, grasshopper.
4.3 Use tools to make the time you spend sifting and looking for information as short and convenient as possible.
Still clicking through a bunch of bookmarks to look at stuff? Dude. UR Doin’ It Wrong. You can have information delivered to you!
Many of my readers already know this, but I find that when I start talking about “RSS feeds” to my medium to low-tech-savvy friends, eyes tend to glaze over. So let’s have a very brief review, and then jump into tools I like.
XML is basically a type of web language that contains the content of a blog, newspaper, or many other types of media, stripped of formatting and packaged to be portable. XML feeds are usually indicated with an icon; this orange RSS one is the most common. Here’s the Bug Blog Feed, for example. Because of this packaging, you can have news, blog posts and comments, or journal Table of Contents ported into a web application or emailed to you at your convenience.
Personally, I try to avoid having emails sent, because it not only further clutters my inbox, but it is delivered to me when it’s convenient for the publisher, not me. Then it sits there in the inbox. J’accuse! You have not done your reading!
Email is such a bastard sometimes.
4.4. Sometimes being a tool is a good thing.
Here are my favorite tools to automate my reading; most of them work on a “dashboard” model that allows you to arrange your feeds into groups, and even play a little with colors. The key here is that I retrieve information when it is convenient for ME. Not when it is published.
- Hootsuite (Yes, the same tool that automates your social media posting!)
- Google Alerts
When I got back from ScienceOnline, my boss asked me how it went. (I was sort of AWOL from the first week of class, and she was not real thrilled about that.) “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life” was my response. That’s what I feel–but I’ve been trying to figure out WHY.
You can see the full list of attendees here–it’s a really fascinating bunch. To name check just a few: Wired. BoingBoing. Nature. Science. Ed Yong. Carl Zimmer. Museums. And, uh, independent blogger/social media types like me. And so here I am, feeling like a little bug scuttling among giant writers. And I discover…that people actually read my shit. And know who the hell I am. Whoa.
Everyone was geeked about science and about communicating science. IT WAS AWESOME. But Why was it so awesome? I think Ed Yong nails it in his summary–we “knew” everyone before we arrived. Even though I hadn’t ever met 447 of the 450 folks attending in meatspace, I had chatted with them online, commented on their blogs, and read their books. From further discussion in the comments from David Dobbs:
“The steady message, via the unconference idea, that it’s a relatively level playing field — or, as someone put it on Twitter, that it’s not experts and non-experts, but different people all bringing different experiences in areas we’re all interested in. It’s a steady insistence that it’s not a producer-consumer model, with the audience full of consumers, but rather a conversation.
The other key, it seems to me, is that it’s a fairly balanced mix of mainly-scientists and mainly-journalists/communicators, so it’s not a single peer group, as it were — not a single discipline. There’s always this chemistry of excitement, of mixing with another tribe. To me that’s an important part of what distinguishes ScienceOnline. And I think it helps create the sense of humility and egalitarianism: Prominence in one area doesn’t make anyone top dog at this conference, because even the most distinguished people in one area are among not just their own discipline’s peers but amid those of another discipline in which they have little expertise or distinction.”
Just before I went to ScienceOnline, I read a book called Cognitive Surplus. And it kind of blew my mind. Shirky’s central thesis is that the web and the relatively large amount of leisure time in the first world (i.e, time not spent working for the man, or raising our food) has created an amazing opportunity.
We kill a lot of that free time in very unimaginative ways. Americans spend 200 BILLION hours each year watching television. What if all that brain power was directed toward something? Shirky posits a surplus of creative energy exists, and is only beginning to be tapped. For example, take the humble LOLcat:
“Formed quickly and with a minimum of craft, the average LOLcat has the social value of a whoopie cushion and the lifespan of a mayfly. Yet anyone seeing a LOLcat gets a second unrelated message: You can play this game too.”
The internet bridges the gap between doing nothing and doing something. Creating a LOLcat is more than passive consumption of pre-packaged TV shows…and opens the door to doing other original things.
Time and space are not a constraint to community formation–ideas or passions now bring people together, rather than physical locations. Scientists that blog online–even when it’s looked down upon by fellow scientists? We are modeling positive deviance. It’s not so much what we write that is important, but THAT WE WRITE AT ALL.
We are creating a model for a new way of science communication. And we are having a bitchin’ time doing it, which invites new people over to have fun with us. You can play this game too. We are showing lots of different ways to share science online to our friends, our friends’ friends, and to the random strange people who keep searching my blog for “sex with insects.”
It’s a kind of nerdibacter called social contagion. The internet creates social change among total strangers. Think it’s too sparkly-kumbaya to really work? Just look at an example from earlier this month: A shark researcher calls out a company for sponsoring a shark hunt. He manages to mobilize an amazing network via Twitter, and the company not only pulls the promotion, but blacklists the person from ever posting with them again. And that all played out within the space of one day.
Small individual creative acts (tweets or blog posts) can become a thing of lasting value. Shared and unmanaged effort can produce useful and meaningful results. No one is in charge, and that’s OK. The beauty of the web is that we don’t all have to have the same motivations, or skills, or professional level of skill. We don’t all have to be working toward the same goal. We can still make change happen simply by putting our ideas out there. And the value of that work isn’t from professional production values; it’s from the sharing.
A lot of the attendees at SciOnline were people like me–folks who don’t get paid to write about science. We do our thing (write, podcast, tweet, whatever) simply for the love of it. And we are wearers of many hats–as Bora reports in his ScienceOnline2012 wrap-up post:
According to our registration form report, ScienceOnline2012 had 243 bloggers, 153 journalists, 151 scientists, 115 educators, 71 students, 43 enterpreneurs, 34 Web developers and 46 who identified as ‘other’. That total is almost 900, so on average everyone (457 people checked in at the registration desk) checked two boxes.
Even though the US is clearly falling apart politically, in a lot of ways SciOnline left me more optimistic and hopeful about the future than I’ve been for a long time. All these people doing something because of a passion for science–it was wonderful.
“Magical things can happen when you enthusiastically open your mouth on the internet….Looking into others causes you to look into yourself. And then something really magical happens – we learn we are not alone.”
I will totally be up at 1AM next year trying to get a seat for ScienceOnline2013. But you know what? If I don’t get a seat? Or if I don’t have the time or energy to keep blogging/tweeting/whatevering at the same rate I do now?
It’s ok. The kids have it covered.
Just before I left for the ESA conference on Nov. 13th, this happened:
Yep, shot past the 1 million mark. The actual number is probably higher; this counter doesn’t include RSS feeds and subscriptions, as well as views inside frames (like when you click on a networked blog link via Facebook).
What really matters is that I know many of you that are regular readers, and you are awesome. Just wanted to say *THANK YOU* to everybody that has stopped by since the Bug Blog moved to its new WP.com home and this counter began.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled insect news.
Sorry this took so long to create! This is the transcript of my Entomological Society of America talk that I posted last week. I have taken the liberty of editing and prettifying things up, and including some feedback on the draft version I got. You can download the PDF handout from this talk here, including some recommended links and resources.
I am still not happy with this, mostly because the topic is so huge, and there is so much very good info and thoughtful stuff out there. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but hopefully this will help you find some new ideas to chew on. Without further ado:
The Adventures of Bug Girl
OR: Everything you wanted to know about entomological social media but were afraid to ask
In a 12 minute talk, I tried to address these topics:
- Why do this social media stuff, anyway?
- Why was Bug Girl successful?
- How can you measure your success? (An overview; I’ll leave the question of tools you can use to measure and assess online success for a separate post/presentation.)
- How can YOU become an online entomology goddess?
As promised (threatened?) here is the first draft of my Entomological Society of America Talk. I will probably update this later on, and I invite feedback. Clearly, I need to cut even more out to fit into the 10 minute limitation. I’ll be putting together a second screencast to cover how to measure broader impacts online with more specifics and tools later this month.
I have used some screenshots from public conversations on Twitter or on my blog in this; if you do not want them used in this way, please let me know!
Here is the Transcript, and a link to my handout.
[This is part of a series of posts about writing, entomology, and career development that are linked to my upcoming Entomological Society of America talk in November.]
I get a surprising number of emails from reporters asking for interviews, or podcast requests, or other questions related to some of the debunking posts I’ve published about different bits of media nonsense.
“Are you a bee expert?” one of the reporters asked once.
“No, I’m a bee pundit,” I replied. ”I’m like the Lorax, except I speak for bees, not trees.”
Later, I realized punditry was actually a pretty good description for where I’ve plopped myself in the blogosphere. I am, literally, a talking (blue) head that people accept as having some sort of authority about bugs. I don’t write about my personal research much, but I try to translate the insect research of others and life in academia into regular human speak. And I provide color commentary, usually with more F words that the average pundit, but that’s how I roll.
Had I used my real name, I could have quite a bit to add to my professional Vita (Curriculum vita is just a fancy academic way to say resume). In Academia, size matters. The fatter your vita is with publications and invited talks, the more well hung you are–in a scholarly sense, of course.
But I have stayed Bug Girl for many years, even at live appearances at Cons, and at the Entomological Society of America National Conference. Why?
I thought it might be helpful for students starting out as bloggers, or established scientists pondering blogging as a means of outreach, to talk about the tradeoffs between real name and anonymity and career implications.
I’ve actually used the nickname “Bug Girl” since the early 90s–it was my first personal email address in 1993. Back then in the land of listservs and bulletin boards, women were fairly rare, and it was helpful to not have an immediately identifiable identity.
I also had an….interesting career path, and I left my first tenured position over an academic freedom dispute. I wanted to teach evolution as a well-established fact. My position was similar to that of this recently fired prof:
“Science is the litmus test on the validity of the educational enterprise. If a school teaches real science, it’s a pretty safe bet that all other departments are sound. If it teaches bogus science, everything else is suspect…. I want a real college, not one that rejects facts, knowledge, and understanding because they conflict with a narrow religious belief.
It was useful to have a nickname where I could solicit advice online about the Dean’s instructions to soft-pedal evolution without publicly identifying myself. And over time, this led to path dependence–rather than making a strategic decision between My RealID and a pseudonym, I drifted into the online identity of Bug Girl because of a bunch of random decisions from 20 years ago. Those decisions were made well before blogging was a “thing.” It turned out, though, that it was a good decision, because as I began to be successful in my post-faculty career, I discovered that blogging was not only a thing, it was a bad thing as far as most of my bosses were concerned.
There are actually laws on the books on several states banning state employees from lobbying, or using their government positions to influence politics or the media. That is a reasonable restriction–it would not be appropriate for me to use an official .gov or .edu email, for example, to lobby for a specific candidate. If you are high enough on the food chain that you manage large sums of money, lots of people, or set policy, then linking your real identity to a sometimes ribald blog can be a big deal. Especially if you are in a job where you are not part of a union, not tenured, and basically serve at the pleasure of the provost.
I’ve tried to keep plausible deniability with my identity. By not linking my name and Bug Girl’s, I can at least make sure that a Google search by one of my students will not turn up a post of me yelling F-bombs at Nintendo or disclose details of my rape. My boss will not know for sure that I am an atheist (which, based on her comments that “those people have no moral compass” is probably for the best.) I’ve had several stalkers over the years, and I can be reasonably sure I won’t wake up, look outside my window, and see creepy dude #6 parked in my driveway. It also helps that there are a lot of other Bug Girls online.
There are a lot of reasons (which I have articulated in detail elsewhere) that this online identity makes me feel safer. Now that my new job has moved me near the Provost’s office, Bug Girl is honestly a better reflection of who I really am. Diplomacy and tact are now a major part of my day to-day-work life. Anyone who knows me realizes this is an inherently unstable situation. To paraphrase one of my favorite blues songs, “It’s in her and its got to come out!” Most of my friends call me Bug, and certainly my writing here gets several orders of magnitude more exposure than my scientific publications ever did or will. I AM BUG GIRL.
Here’s something important you should never forget, though. Your secret online identity exists only because of the kindness of strangers. As hard as you try, you CAN be identified. It’s only politeness that keep your online friends and readers from outing you.
It isn’t hard to find examples where science bloggers that use their real names–and that have known employers–have had disgruntled readers contact their boss. It isn’t hard to find examples where a decision has been made by the higher ups that silence is better than controversy, even if the information provided online is correct.
There is no way to blog–anonymously or not– and never have it affect your career. Your blogging had better be something that you enjoy, and that you are willing to defend to your family and your boss. When you are outed, all the F-bombs you’ve dropped will come crashing down on you if the only thing you did with your bully pulpit was trash your coworkers.
Blogging is a great outlet for my creativity (which is not expressed by writing official memos, trust me) and for my warped sense of humor. I write for ME as much as anything, to challenge myself to make science as entertaining and interesting to non-scientists. I am amazed at how successful I’ve been, which I think has more to do with being in the right place at the right time than the content I produce.
The way to be a better writer is to write more. And so I did.
I think I’ve gotten better, but I still have a long way to go.
I was away last week having an awesome time at a conference last week–saw some amazing birds, some marine mammals, had a hellish but cool boat ride, and got to talk to a lot of scientists. I did a presentation there on social media for scientists and research stations, and it was really well recieved.
Actually, more than one person said “that should have been a plenary session,” which I am still really, really geeked about!
So–Since few of my readers were able to attend that conference, or the Entomological Society meeting that I’ll be presenting at in November, I thought I would break things into a series of “Social Media for Scientists” posts. There are some very good existing resources, but they don’t seem to be detailed enough to be useful to people that I’ve recommended them to.
People seem to want instructions along the line of “How do I…” more than “Why do I….”
But you know, we’re scientists. We’re all about procedure.
So–I asked some of this in an earlier post, but to get a more detailed read, here’s a poll!
Previous Unsolicited Advice Series at the Bug Blog:
I got the official notification of my time in the Social Media Symposium for the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting. The official symposium:
Speak Out – Interaction and Education in a Brave New World of Social Media and Online Resources
Tuesday, November 15, 2011: 1:30 PM-5:45 PM
A lot of the symposium will focus on Extension, but there will also be some familiar names. Now that I’ve seen the lineup, I’m feeling a bit like “one of these things is not like the others.”
I’m the last person to talk, right after Eric Eaton. And honestly, I love Eric, but we could not be less alike. The strongest language I think I’ve ever heard him use is “darn!” (He may also have said “Blast!” once as well. But I don’t like to spread rumors.)
So, I am thinking of talking mostly about how to measure your impact, both with various social media metrics and intangibly. I hope to hit the one million mark on this blog before November, and that doesn’t even count the people who read my posts at Skepchick. I also was thinking of talking about building a brand, or maybe the tradeoff between anonymity and a real name.
I have exactly 10 minutes to talk, so I can really only cover one topic. What do YOU want to hear about?
And….well. We all know what spring is about.
Kevin covers barnacle sex and Mr. Darwin. Including a link to Isabella Rosselini’s educational film on barnacle reproduction.
Sadly, it appears that the Johnson’s Tiger Beetle isn’t getting any in Missouri. Which may be why the population appears to be extirpated, according to Beetles in the Bush. (I would like to point out that I have shown great restraint in not making even worse sexual innuendo out of “Johnson” and “Bush.”)
Since we’re talking about tiger beetles, I want to bring this project to your attention–it’s a Kickstarter project about one of the rarest insects in the US–the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle. (Kickstarter is a way for filmmakers and artists to raise cash online.) He only needs about $1500 more to fund his project, so consider tossing him some cash. He promises not to spend it on hookers and blow like some Hollywood types.
And, of course, there is always the inevitable result of sex–offspring. Dragonfly Woman has some awesome photos of giant water bug eggs! Some of these are the result of electron microscopy–extreme closeup!
Ok, there is a limit to my ribaldry. Or, at least a limit on a school night!
This post was not submitted, but I include it because it has photos of Membracids! Squee!! Adorable.