During the last month, I have been able to do some reading, and I’ve gotten even more excited about Open Notebook Science (ONS) than I was when I started. Michael Nielsen has a great TED talk about ONS. While I was at TED, I watched anther talk by Clay Shirky about what he calls ‘cognitive surplus.’ Basically, when we all work together things get done quicker, bigger, and so much better than when we work alone. Go figure.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about starting and keeping up with an open notebook:

  • Wow! There is a plethora of tools out here that everyone is using to stay connected: social networks, blogs, wikis, etc., and each type of tool has several applications available to choose from. I had a Facebook page when I started working here. Now I have Google+, FriendFeed, Twitter, and this Blog. Although I’ve never felt technically challenged in my life, there have been a few moments where I felt seriously behind the crowd. For a second I even wondered if I picked the wrong major (computer engineering). I’m okay now, but gosh that is a lot to keep up with and learn, in addition to being a full-time student.
  • I now appreciate how a full-time scientist, who is already working long and hard on the next big thing, could easily be dissuaded from ONS. There are a lot of technical obstacles, in addition to the current perceived drawbacks. It’s similar to the late ‘80s, early ‘90s when none of the PC software was entirely compatible (Anthony says I’m dating myself, but this is a great analogy). Anyone remember using WordPerfect, Lotus, and Dbase III+, and trying to get them to all work well together? That is kind of how ONS looks to me now.
  • There are some valid concerns/challenges about ONS, patents, information deluge, and intellectual property seem to be the top three. I’ll post some information about that later.
  • Right now everyone seems to be using a little bit of everything for their open notebooks. What would be helpful for me is to get one daily feed, that pulls all the sites I’m watching (Google+, FriendFeed, individual blogs), into my main inbox.
    • Task:

    • Find a tool that can pull from all the places I’m watching into one daily email feed. Does anyone know of such a tool?
  • I don’t like, nor do I have the time to post the same information to more than one site (Google+, FriendFeed, blog, etc.). I wonder if there is also a tool that will allow me to post concurrently to my blog and my walls?
    • Task:

    • Research tools that can post concurrently to multiple social networking walls and a blog.
  • Blogging seems the most user friendly way to keep a notebook. There are several online, free applications available (we use WordPress), and they are fairly easy to learn. There is a slight learning curve, but it isn’t too daunting.
    • Tasks:

    • Become more adept with blogging. Read up on what makes a successful blog; what drives people to a blog, and what encourages them to participate.
    • Update my notebook on a regular basis… Daily! This is a hard habit to get into, but it is essential for success. Anthony and Dr. Koch are awesome at doing this. I aspire to their level of greatness.

    UPDATE 12/14: I realized this morning that I made an incorrect assumption with this last task. Dr. Koch is very active, posting multiple times a day in several Open Science arenas. Based on this knowledge, when I was reading his blog, I didn’t really pay attention to the dates of the postings. So although he posts regularly in multiple conversations he doesn’t update his blog as often as Anthony updates his ONS.

  • Wikis are not as user friendly as blogs. If I had the time, it wouldn’t have been a big deal for me to learn how to create and use a wiki, but I’m time challenged. If I was a typical scientist (outside of engineering), learning how to use a wiki could possibly be a nightmare.