Archive for the '[Information&Communication]' category

Social Saturday: LinkedIn Announcements

Sep 29 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

LinkedIn can be a great place to announce meetings or other events that are professional in nature. You may want to make sure your regular contacts find out, but you also want to attract new interested parties. Yes, Facebook has more members, but many of them are engrossed in Farmvillle II and may not be able to participate.

I prepared a little how-to video. Please feel free to critique it below. I am always looking for things I can teach my colleagues about using interactive web tools!

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The Scholar's Frenemy

Jul 17 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Your scholarly activity may involve cultures or rats, people or databases.  You may experiment in a jungle, a shiny lab, or a clinic.

No matter what the particulars, you receive no credit for your research until the world learns about it through official channels.

Yup, you will have to write. Even an open access, online-only new-age "journal" requires words.

That's why most scholars view a blank page, be it paper or on a computer monitor, as their major enemy; yet they must confront it and make it their friend by filling it with meaning.

Why is the writing process so hard for so many people? First, many say they have no time. The other aspects of their jobs consume every waking minute, so they cannot find the block of time they need to write. Second, when they find a few minutes, they become paralyzed. They try to self-edit and make their first draft ready-for-publication, ultimately resulting in deserting a blank document at the end of their writing period.

No soldier goes into battle without tools or instructions. Here I hope to collect some weapons in the war on empty word processing documents.

Just Write

The most important rule of writing is to make like Nike and JUST DO IT! Turn off the tiny editor in your head and grind out words. A first draft is never a final draft; even a final accepted manuscript undergoes more editing before actual publication much of the time. The first step in conquering the blank page is learning to wound it with fonts rather than holding out for the final killer prose.

Make Time

Many writers swear by a scheduled time for writing. They put it on their calendar. They make it a sacred event, something that will not be interrupted.

Some of us cannot quite make that happen, at least not as regularly. For us, the strategy comes down to writing when we can.

Remember, no one concentrates well for more than about 30 minutes; we would be healthier if we got up and moved about every 20 minutes or so. Whether scheduled or not, write like hell for 20-30 minutes, take a bio break, and then come back and consider your words. Or do something else; at least you have words in your document! Now you do not have to start a project because it's already begun! You have made it through the blank page, the first barrier to your project! Congratulations!

We all have times when we sit staring at our blinking cursor, daring us to enter insipid statements with our keyboards. How can we overcome this fear (or laziness; I'll admit to it)? There are some tools.

Structured Writing Blitz

This technique works well with a partner or in breakout groups. Everyone begins by writing about 4 sentences along the lines of:

  1. What is the problem?     This maybe an actual problem. It may be a hypothesis to test.
  2. Where do you need to go?     What's the ideal solution for the problem? How would you test your hypothesis?
  3. What is the solution?     How can you make this happen? What resources and collaborators do you need?
  4. What are the alternatives?     If you disprove your hypothesis, what next? If your solution doesn't work, where else do you turn?

After getting this skeleton together, you can start fleshing out your idea. Then, swap documents with your partner or share them in the group. Let the others poke holes in your thoughts, trying to kill your "baby" (it's much easier than trying to shoot down your idea yourself). Take notes and began expanding and editing; it's a great way to start an abstract or a paper or a proposal.

Software Slave Masters

Sometimes you just need that stick to make writing happen. For me, Dr. Wicked's Write or Die, as its tagline goes, puts the "prod in productivity." You set up how many words you want to write in a given time period. A bare-bones text box appears; you can even disable the backspace key to prevent self-editing. If you slow down, the screen gradually turns color and warnings appear. In kamikaze mode, slowing down results in your words disappearing from the screen. When you hit goal, a congratulatory message appears.

Some programs work as carrots instead of sticks. Written? Kitten awards you with a cute kitten every 100 words, While not the motivation I need, it does work for some people.

Some more generic productivity techniques can also work. The Pomodoro (named after the Italian kitchen timer shaped like a tomato) involves chopping tasks into 25 minute blocks followed by 5 minute breaks. That's just about the perfect length of time for a concentrated task like writing.

Low-Tech Free Association

Stop "Writing"

Sometimes a text document is not the place to begin. Sometimes you need to start with something less structured.

Like a whiteboard. Scribbling on the walls may be forbidden, but scribbling on a whiteboard lets you make somewhat random thoughts visible. They can then be coded, erased or rearranged and reconnected as necessary. I find this structure far less confining than a traditional outline although both accomplish roughly the same degree of organization.

If you just cannot bring yourself to use writing utensils, software can provide a similar free-though experience.  Mind-mappers such as Personal Brain let you connect, reconnect, interconnect and otherwise manipulate items in a fluid nonlinear manner.

Finally, some folks just do not like the keyboard or the pen. Through the use of a secretary or voice recognition software they can generate their written documents. I am a far more visual than aural person, but there are those who still swear by their Dictaphones.

Find Accountability

Probably the most important step you can take is making writing social. I do not mean taking your laptop to the coffee shop and making friends (although that might work); no, you need colleagues who will take you to task if you fail to write something. They can also be excellent editors and critics, as well as cheer you on when writer's block occurs.

Find a small group of folks who also write and need motivation. You do not have to be in the same academic area; the point here is to make each other accountable to the group for getting things done. Groups can even be virtual. If you tweet, search the hashtag #madwriting. Folks will set up a session, write like hell for a given period, and then tweet their word output.

In Conclusion

A number of tools may help you start projects. Some tools can prod you along, especially if you have others holding you accountable. At the end of the day, the only way you can generate your documents is to sit down, shut up, and write.






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Like Sliding Down a Rainbow to Kittentown

Jun 01 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Easy does not describe my day. Bizarre and frantic, but not "as easy as sliding down a rainbow to kittentown."

The boring social network

Posting here looked like it would not happen, but I found something I have to share. Seems LinkedIn provided the surprise hit of the All Things Digital - D10 conference.

This video didn't hurt:

Seriously, they should start marketing that platypus. S/he made my frantic Friday pause for a blog and a smile. What more do I want from my social media?

Oh, I tried getting directions to Kittentown from my iPhone Maps app, but it could not be found. Maybe Siri will know...

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Dear Mr. Zuckerberg

First, congratulations on marrying a doctor! Not only is she smart and beautiful, she has the good taste to pursue a career in pediatrics. I'm glad she inspired you to put organ donor status on Facebook; the surge in folks signing up with their states has been amazing. Organ donation does wonderful things for people, including my patients.

Now I would like you to ask her about something even more miraculous: immunization. As Priscilla trains in pediatrics, she will learn about disorders that used to kill and cripple children. She will see first-hand what some of these diseases can do when parents opt out of the shots. These diseases wreak havoc; that's why we developed those pesky jabs!

Please consider promoting immunizations on Facebook. The internet contains so much bad information about childhood shots, most of it untrue. Perhaps the social network can help make the world a safer place.

By the way, I would love to tell your spouse about the joys of a career in Pediatric Nephrology. If the joy of transplantation thrills her, she should certainly consider devoting her life to kidneys, just like me!



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Outcomes, Not Tools

May 17 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Earlier I wrote about my time at the meeting of Women Executives in Science & Healthcare. We do have and welcome male members, but the vast majority of this group are like me, middle-aged women who have achieved a leadership position in science or healthcare (including hospital management, academic medicine and dentistry, biotech companies, PHARMA - you get the picture).

In short, not the most "online" group in the world.

The earlier post included a Storify summary of a presentation by Kevin Knebl, a networking guru. He walked the group through LinkedIn, and the participants ate it up. He coached them through their fear.

Aside from the nuts-and-bolts of the networking site, he had one major message: don't focus on the tool (social media); work on the outcome (networking).

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others are just new ways to connect to other human beings, something people have done since the dawn of time. Yes, it makes us more visible to others, but it also widens our networks. These networks are merely new tools, not a mysterious new process or world. My own husband sees them wasting time, but I see them as a valuable extension of what I need to do anyway.

Since that message seems to escape a lot of folks in my demographic (not just the one I married), I figured it could use repeating here.

And if you have a techno-phobic group you want to embrace social media, then Kevin may be the guy to help you do this task. He certainly worked for WESH.

If you want to learn how to get started with LinkedIn, click here for my introduction to the service.

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So Long, #EB2012

Apr 25 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication], EB2012 Meeting

So long, farewell, etc...

My suitcase lies open on the bed, awaiting the cooling process to make my hair iron packable. If I knew more physics, I might be able to discuss why this takes so long. Lucky for you, physics bored me.

I have material for at least two more posts that may happen soon, or they may wait until next week. Tomorrow I must jet off to a meeting in DC. I hate it when my day jobs interfere with le blogging.

I had a great time blogging Experimental Biology. I planned my meeting in more detail than I have since my very first conference in fellowship. I saw a greater breadth of sessions, took better notes, and synthesized my thoughts. I learned a hell of a lot this year. Even if I am not an official meeting blogger, I may start approaching conferences in this manner. I have always learned by organizing the information in writing. In college and medical school I used a typewriter; now my thoughts go out in the blogosphere or in my Dropbox. Same process, different tools.

Of course, I really enjoyed catching up with my IRL and OTI friends. You all know who you are. And even if I never accomplished anything else, I will leave behind a Storify of the taint talk.

They say it taint over (sorry, I had to go there) 'til the fat lady sings, and she is warming up for her farewell to #EB2012.

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#EB2012 #apsComm: Using New Communication Tools

Apr 22 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication], EB2012 Meeting

Yesterday, April 21, I had the pleasure of serving on a panel at Experimental Biology discussing the use of blogs and other social media to do public outreach. Yes, I got to be the old lady on the stage with Dr. Isis, Danielle Lee, and Jason Goldman at the session moderated by James Hicks. A good time was had by all (although Isis got a bit sweaty in her headdress replete with golden cobra) as we pontificated on our own uses of the brave new world of the internet. By unanimous request of the audience (OK, more like there were no objections) we have each agreed to share our slides on a number of platforms. I am also placing mine here.

Thus far many other sessions have addressed the use of these relatively new tools for communication. At their heart, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs merely provide the latest pigment to spread on cave walls. Since the dawn of time humans have desired to tell their stories; these new media let us do it more widely and permanently than ever before.

The Animal Care and Experimentation Committee provided a Toolkit for Public Outreach (#apsACE) that addressed the need for transparency and engagement, rather than the bunker mentality that has prevailed at most institutions. Even this morning in accepting the Claude Bernard award, William Galey mentioned all the education resources available online. For today's students, access to information is not a problem. However, we must make sure that they learn to evaluate the reliability of information and sources before they use them in critical applications like patient care.

I ended my slides with a still from the movie Meet Me in Saint Louis. In its early scenes, a suitor calls the eldest sister, Rose, on that new-fangled invention, the telephone. A prolonged discussion ensues over whether or not a respectable girl should accept a proposal via an "invention". Similar attitudes toward the phone can be seen in the first season of Downton Abbey. All of the technology we use today was once considered radical, experimental, and unnecessary (I can remember when email elicited similar reactions to those about the phone). Social media will soon be just how we communicate, and we will move onto sessions on other cutting-edge topics, like flying cars or Star Trek transporter physiology.

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What I Am Reading: This Is Klout?

Apr 02 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Click for Amazon

A few weeks back I saw a blurb for Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing. As a scientist, I know the power of measurement. Until something can be quantified, you really cannot demonstrate its relationship to other phenomena. Social media certainly leaves an online footprint we should be able to measure. Marketer Mark W. Schaefer takes on this topic as he has other forms of social media.

The first part of the book deals with "The Roots of Influence." Long ago, we learned about stuff and events through conversations with our neighbors. Our leaders made proclamations and such, but if we wanted to know which baker had the best goods, we asked others. As time went on, humanity saw the growth of media via printing presses, radio, television, and the early internet. Broadcasters, politicians, and celebrities became "thought leaders" with a few-to-many form of communication. Want to market the next "It" bag? Make sure the hottest stars carry it.

Now, argues Schaefer, we are back to the village square with everyone participating in the conversation. However, influence still concentrates in select individuals. How can we determine who the key movers are in a market? How can marketers then exploit those with influence?

Obviously, Klout, PeerIndex, and similar services (outlined in a helpful appendix) attempt to measure this influence. Klout receives more attention than the other services in the text. The second part of the book examines in broad strokes the way social scoring works. Social influence at present is assessed through engagement, retweets, the connection of your followers, and the influence of those followers. Of course, by the time any book is published, the exact algorithm for measurement by any service will have changed, so specific numbers would be moot.

Schaefer also envisions a future where these scores can be linked to you both online and off. He sees the good: you purchase something, your superior Klout score is flagged, and you get a discount. I see the real power of this linkage, namely tracking your followers' actions. Marketers would love to know if I tweet about a product (maybe do a book review ;)) how many of my followers then go out and purchase this item? Then they could calculate an actual financial ROI for sending me an item or book or widget. The real question in my mind is whether we want them to link our purchases to our online identities in this manner.

I must admit, the book inspired me to make more of an effort to engage with my twitter followers over 10 days to see if I could drive my score up. Instead it fell from 45 to 44.

I also wish the book had focused more on some of the less obvious aspects of Klout. I do not want to be Justin Bieber (the only person with a perfect 100 Klout score), and my mid-40's score is quite respectable (the average score is 20). Adding more networks to the service may improve your score, although connecting Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and FourSquare did not change mine. The topics section of Klout interests me. The only subject in which I have high influence is Barack Obama. Huh? While I retweet a fair amount of political stuff, my major interest revolves around biomedical science and health. Third on my list is Helium. Of course, this can be linked to a single tweet during Science Online 2012 (Funniest element is Helium: He He He). I eventually lost track of how many times that one got retweeted.

That's influence?

My second most influential topic is Bangladesh. I have absolutely no clue how or why this is in my list, even after reading ROI.

I also long to know more about Klout Styles. The service calls me a Networker, and I have no reason to doubt that. I am proud of my ability to connect across groups to bring people and thoughts together in new ways. I have no idea what the other styles might be since the book does not delve into them, nor does the Klout website. Since the book often comes across as an ad for Klout, providing this level of detail about a single service might have been interesting.

There are some interesting ideas in ROI that could have produced a couple of long-form articles. For someone well-versed in social media, the book goes on and on about the same thing for a long time. I suspect those in business, especially marketing, will appreciate the read more than I did. As someone whose interests lie a little farther off that path, I was underwhelmed.

My blogs are on my CV. My Klout score is not.



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A Solution for the Twitterverse!

Feb 20 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Click for source

Last summer I succumbed to the buzz and got on Google+. Hey, all the cool kids were doing it; why not me?

I must admit I still prefer Twitter to the other social media services. If you cannot say it in 140 characters, get a blog! However, I am not alone on the internet, and I have friends that prefer Facebook and other sites (although I have not yet knowingly met a person who prefers G+).  I keep hoping someone will explain what makes Google's site "the one."

The bottom line is that any person or group that wants to communicate broadly must have a presence on all of the social media sites. Otherwise you will always be missing someone who prefers doing it another way. Solutions exist to connect Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and others. Software became available within a few weeks of the G+ debut to allow your posts there to go out to Twitter et al.

I love Twitter. Was there no solution to let my tweets feed into my G+ stream? Otherwise, I only think to post there about once a month.

Today I found a solution via Quora (posted on 14 January 2012), the internet Q&A site. I am giving you a direct link to the instructions. You will want to keep them open in a separate window, on another device, or (gasp) print them out.

Google+ allows you to post via SMS. That’s the trick.

Who exposed this method online? A whippersnapper the same age as my son (Timmer, you're slacking). His bio follows:

My name is Salavat Khanov. I'm 19-years-old blogger & developer based in Ufa, Russia. I'm currently studying at Ufa State Aviation Technical University (Software Engineering student) and working on my own projects.

I take keen interest in programming and development of Mac and iOSapplications, also Web development. Currently I am very much interested in the process of learning and making Mac OS X applications and working on websites.

Since 2009 I have been actively working in the web industry. I have worked with many different people on various projects and as a result I gained some unique and strong experience in the IT, English language and generally - life.

It took 15-20 minutes for me to set up the system, and it works great! Thank you, Salavat - you made my day!

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These Social Networks: Personality and Preference

Feb 15 2012 Published by under [Information&Communication], Uncategorized

Click for Source

On Valentine's Day, an online friend tweeted a link to a Wall Street Journal article about a study of personality and social media network usage. The article consisted of 118 words, but I had to know more. I pulled the paper for detail:

A tale of two sites: Twitter vs. Facebook and the personality predictors of social media usage. Hughes et al. Computers in Human Behavior 28:561-69, 2012

The authors want to know if users of Twitter and Facebook differ in their personalities. First, what aspects of personality do they want to consider? They study the

  • Neuroticism: Measure of affect and emotional control. Low levels suggest emotional stability, and higher levels reflect sensitivity and nervousness (Drama Queens, if you please).
  • Extraversion: Measure of engagement with others. Extraverts tend to be outgoing and talkative. Intraverts get their energy from within themselves.
  • Openness-to-Experience: Measure of desire for novelty. High scores indicate broad interests for new experiences, with low scorers preferring familiarity.
  • Agreeableness: Measure of "friendliness." High scores general found for people who are kind, warm, and sympathetic.
  • Conscientiousness: Measure of work ethic, orderliness, and thoroughness. High scores belong to those who get it done on time. Low scores can indicate proscratination tendencies.

In addition they also assessed two personality facets that may also influence online interactions:

  • Sociability: Measure of need to belong. No distinction between this score and that for extraversion/intraversion is presented.
  • Need for Cognition: Measure of disposition toward novel cognitive stimulation.

They combined validated survey instruments for each of these factors, along with some questions about Twitter and Facebook use and basic demographics, and made a single online instrument to test the following hypotheses:

  1. Neuroticism will be positively correlated with social use of both Facebook and Twitter
  2. Extraversion will be positively correlated with use of Facebook
  3. Extraversion will be negatively related to use of Twitter
  4. Openness will be correlated with both social and informational use of both Facebook and Twitter
  5. Agreeableness will be unrelated to social network use
  6. Conscientiousness will be negatively correlated with social use of both Facebook and Twitter
  7. Conscientiousness will be positively correlated with informational use of social network services
  8. Need for cognition will be positively correlated with informational use of Facebook and Twitter, but will be unrelated to social use
  9. Sociability will positively correlate with the social use of Facebook and Twitter, but will be unrelated to informational use

The investigators recruited participants through ads on both Twitter and Facebook; informed consent was obtained and a small donation made to charity on behalf of each person. No report is made on how many participants came from ads on which service. A total of 300 people (97 males, 207 females) completed the survey. Ages ranged from 18 to 63 (mean 27). Europeans accounted for 70%, 18% were from North America, 9% from Asia, and the remaining 3% from other continents. 55% of participants were employed, 41% were students, and only 4% had no job.

The first analysis classified participants by social network usage. Four factors generated included Twitter Information, Facebook Social, Twitter Social, and Facebook Information. The strongest correlation identified was Sociability with both Twitter Information and Facebook Information, completely refuting hypothesis #9. The pattern of correlations with Twitter Information and Facebook information were diametrically opposed; they conclude that personality may help determine which service one uses to consume or deliver information. The strongest correlation with Twitter Social was Conscientiousness, while Sociability showed the strongest relationship to Facebook Social.

The investigators also asked each participant which network they preferred, with 197 picking Facebook. Users with this preference rated higher in Sociability, Extraversion, and Neuroticism than those preferring Twitter. The latter group scored higher in Need for Cognition.

The authors discuss a boatload of correlations in these data, for what they are worth. Correlations do not  prove causation, and this study population was small, self-selected, and not generalizable. Their findings provide support and lack-thereof for all nine of their hypotheses.

The bottom line for me is that most people who use social media have a preference for one site or another. For my personal interactions, I need to be where "my people" are. If I want to get the word out about a product or service or event or other news item, I need to be everywhere; otherwise I will miss people. Diversity issues also present themselves, not through the traditional race-gender-ethnicity lens but through a personality lens. When I restrict myself to one network, I may be preaching to a choir even more like myself than I imagined.

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