Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nature Preceedings verse the blog(b)!

OK, its been a few weeks since I posted my latest piece of work on my blog (Sept. 4, 2007) and on Nature Precedings (Sept. 7, 2007). I think that is enough time to give a little summary of my experiences with both.

number of commentsnumber of ambiguous votesnumber of potential job offers
N. P.040

Based on these metrics, the blog post is clearly the winner; however, the preceedings version does have a few plusses not listed. It does appear to be a tiny bit more professional looking, there is a consistent versioning system, they offer a standardized way to cite the draft, the voting system has some potential, and it is frankly cool to get yourself onto their home page in any way possible..

In my humble opinion, N.P. could be improved by:
  1. enabling both positive and negative votes

  2. improving their submission system such that content not suitable for inclusion in a PDF such as large images, movies, and so on could easily by added

  3. notifying the authors of submitted manuscripts when comments or votes are added to their manuscripts

So, why did I get comments on my blog and not the N.P. post?
I think it is mostly because of the personal, social nature of the blog as a media. Many of the comments, (though not all) came from people that I think are signed up to a feed for my blog, the majority of which are personal friends (again, not all). These are the people that are most likely to a) be interested in what I have to say and b) to take the time to provide a useful response. If a post is interesting enough, these same people will tell their friends about it and they will tell their friends about it and all of a sudden it will have reached the right segment of the Internet population before Google Karma has even had a chance to act.

Nature is a broad spectrum journal with Nature Precedings even broader. If the Precedings idea is to take hold and thus reach a large enough participating audience to become interesting, I suggest that they need to figure out how to better accomodate the social side of this equation. (and don't think they aren't working on that..)


Anonymous said...

One aspect that needs to be noted is that the work reported in your manuscript doesn't belong to a typical, academic discipline. It covers a topic that is likely to interest non-scholars, and those making sophisticated use of the internet (perhaps like many of those commenting on your post). Nature Precedings is an academic publication after all. I wonder how many comments one would get for a typically esoteric research manuscript on a blog. Also, unlike with Nature Precedings, one doesn't have to register to comment on your blog posts, making it easier to comment on impulse.

Certainly, the Nature Precedings rating system needs improvement -- also see http://network.nature.com/forums/precedings/234. The Nature Precedings forum also has a discussion on publishing on blogs -- http://network.nature.com/forums/precedings/215.

Benjamin Good said...

Just for clarification, whats a "scholar"??

Every comment I received on that post, aside from the requests to re-publish it on Nature Precedings, was from some one working in science either as a PhD student or a professional research scientist.

I disagree with your implication that I received those comments because of the nature of the post. Rather, I suggest that the post managed to reach some of the very small segment of the population that would find it interesting. I can't really back this up right now (though I think I could with some more effort), but I suspect that writing about an esoteric topic does not negate the possibility of successful, useful blogging...

The world is enormous; blogs can form lines of communication that transcend geography and translate isolated researchers studying esoteric topics into members of functional, distributed scientific communities. That I think, should be one of the main objectives of blogs in science, by scientists.

Leave the science writers the job of communicating with the public..

Anonymous said...

One cannot argue against the use of blogs to convey scientific work. I am only pointing out a couple of reasons why the blog post received more comments. Also worth wondering about is how many of the commenters were known people -- friends, acquaintances, etc. (probably all as your comment suggests), and how much that, besides motivating one to comment, affects critical commenting.

Benjamin Good said...

Of all of the non-anonymous comments on that post, only 2 (Hilary and Jakob) were from people that I've never had contact with before. I received some email regarding the post from 2 others. I think you are right in your next implication, that comments from friends are likely to be less critical than those from strangers, though that really depends on who your friends are. I was expecting to get some more critical feedback on the N.P. system, but clearly that didn't pan out.

When I get the comments back from the official reviewers, I'll write about how they vary from those posted on the blog. I wonder if it would be appropriate for me to post them verbatim.. ? Or if I would be brave enough to do that?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,
We've actually emailed a couple of times before, via the connotea-code-devel and connotea-discuss mailing lists back when I was working for Stanford University. (Sorry I didn't make an impression!) I have an ongoing interest in both tagging and ontologies, so I might also qualify as a member of that small segment of the community. ;)

Re: Nature Precedings -- Almost 9 months after you posted, we've been seeing more in depth comments on documents recently, although the majority of documents don't receive any comments. We're also always happy to take suggestions on how to improve the site. We could also do with a better tagging system!