Reply to John Scalzi on “How Blogs Work Today”

Replied to How Blogs Work Today – Whatever by John ScalziJohn Scalzi (whatever.scalzi.com)
I think the role of the blog is different than it was even just a couple of years ago. It’s not the sole outpost of an online life, although it can be an anchor, holding it in place.

Does blogging need to be different than it was?

I

agree with John that blogs seemingly occupy a different space in online life today than they did a decade ago, but I won’t concede that, for me at least, most of it has moved to the social media silos.

 I think the role of the blog is different than it was even just a couple of years ago. It’s not the sole outpost of an online life, although it can be an anchor, holding it in place. — John Scalzi

Why? About two years ago I began delving into the evolving movement known as IndieWeb, which has re-empowered me to take back my web presence and use my own blog/website as my primary online hub and identity. The tools I’ve found there allow me to not only post everything to my own site first and then syndicate it out to the social circles and sites I feel it might resonate with, but best of all, the majority of the activity (comments, likes, shares, etc.) on those sites boomerangs back to the comments on my own site! This gives me a better grasp on where others are interacting with my content, and I can interact along with them on the platforms that they choose to use.

Some of the benefit is certainly a data ownership question — for who is left holding the bag if a major site like Twitter or Facebook is bought out or shut down? This has happened to me in dozens of cases over the past decade where I’ve put lots of content and thought into a site only to see it shuttered and have all of my data and community disappear with it.

Other benefits include: cutting down on notification clutter, more enriching interactions, and less time wasted scrolling through social sites.

Reply from my own site

Now I’m able to use my own site to write a comment on John’s post (where the comments are currently technically closed), and keep it for myself, even if his blog should go down one day. I can alternately ping his presence on other social media (say, by means of Twitter) so he’ll be aware of the continued conversational ripples he’s caused.

Social media has become ubiquitous in large part because those corporate sites are dead simple for Harry and Mary Beercan to use. Even my own mother’s primary online presence begins with http://facebook.com/. But not so for me. I’ve taken the reigns of my online life back.

My Own Hub

My blog remains my primary online hub, and some very simple IndieWeb tools enable it by bringing all the conversation back to me. I joined Facebook over a decade ago, and you’ll notice by the date on the photo that it didn’t take me long to complain about the growing and overwhelming social media problem I had.

I’m glad I can finally be at the center of my own social graph, and it was everything I thought it could be.

 

New York Times will you be my brother on Facebook?

Should I be adding major media outlets to my Facebook feed as family members? Changes by Facebook, which are highlighted in this New York Times article, may mean this is coming: The Atlantic can be my twin brother, and Foreign Affairs could be my other sister.

“News content posted by publishers will show up less prominently, resulting in less traffic to companies that have come to rely on Facebook audiences.” — Facebook to Change News Feed to Focus on Friends and Family in New York Times 

After reading this article, I can only think that Facebook wrongly thinks that my family is so interesting (and believe me, I don’t think I’m any better, most of my posts–much like my face–are ones which only a mother could “like”/”love” and my feed will bear that out! BTW I love you mom.) The majority of posts I see there are rehashes of so-called “news” sites I really don’t care about or invitations to participate in games like Candy Crush Saga.

While I love keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, I’ve had to very heavily modify how I organize my Facebook feed to get what I want out of it because the algorithms don’t always do a very good job. Sadly, I’m probably in the top 0.0001% of people who take advantage of any of these features.

It really kills me that although publishers see quite a lot of traffic from social media silos (and particularly Facebook), they’re still losing some sight of the power of owning your own website and posting there directly. Apparently the past history littered with examples like Zynga and social reader tools hasn’t taught them the lesson to continue to iterate on their own platforms. One day the rug will be completely pulled out from underneath them and real trouble will result. They’ll wish they’d put all their work and effort into improving their own product rather than allowing Facebook, Twitter, et al. to siphon off a lot of their resources. If there’s one lesson that we’ve learned from media over the years, it’s that owning your own means of distribution is a major key to success. Sharecropping one’s content out to social platforms is probably not a good idea while under pressure to change for the future.


Psst… With all this in mind, if you’re a family member or close friend who wants to

  • have your own website;
  • own your own personal data (which you can automatically syndicate to most of the common social media sites); and
  • be in better control of your online identity,

I’ll offer to build you a simple one and host it at cost.

 

My 10th Anniversary on Facebook

Apparently, according to Facebook, today is my 10th Anniversary using their service. Mostly I remember that it was pretty lonely for that first year as very few people I knew even had an idea what it was. Fortunately more than 1,300 people I know have joined since and made it a much more enriching experience.

Yesterday I got a thank you from Foursquare for 7 years, and it’s easily been over 8 years on Twitter. Sadly, I miss a lot of the services that started around that time that are no longer with us. Toward that end, I’ll post some thoughts tomorrow about a more pivotal anniversary about which I’m much more excited, and which portends better things for the internet…

Thoughts on “Some academics remain skeptical of Academia.edu” | University Affairs

Replied to Some academics remain skeptical of Academia.edu (University Affairs)
They warn scholars to €œthink twice€ before sharing their work on the popular social network.
This morning I ran across a tweet from colleague Andrew Eckford:

His response was probably innocuous enough, but I thought the article should be put to task a bit more.

“35 million academics, independent scholars and graduate students as users, who collectively have uploaded some eight million texts”

35 million users is an okay number, but their engagement must be spectacularly bad if only 8 million texts are available. How many researchers do you know who’ve published only a quarter of an article anywhere, much less gotten tenure?

“the platform essentially bans access for academics who, for whatever reason, don’t have an Academia.edu account. It also shuts out non-academics.”

They must have changed this, as pretty much anyone with an email address (including non-academics) can create a free account and use the system. I’m fairly certain that the platform was always open to the public from the start, but the article doesn’t seem to question the statement at all. If we want to argue about shutting out non-academics or even academics in poorer countries, let’s instead take a look at “big publishing” and their $30+/paper paywalls and publishing models, shall we?

“I don’t trust academia.edu”

Given his following discussion, I can only imagine what he thinks of big publishers in academia and that debate.

“McGill’s Dr. Sterne calls it “the gamification of research,”

Most research is too expensive to really gamify in such a simple manner. Many researchers are publishing to either get or keep their jobs and don’t have much time, information, or knowledge to try to game their reach in these ways. And if anything, the institutionalization of “publish or perish” has already accomplished far more “gamification”, Academia.edu is just helping to increase the reach of the publication. Given that research shows that most published research isn’t even read, much less cited, how bad can Academia.edu really be? [Cross reference: Reframing What Academic Freedom Means in the Digital Age]

If we look at Twitter and the blogging world as an analogy with Academia.edu and researchers, Twitter had a huge ramp up starting in 2008 and helped bloggers obtain eyeballs/readers, but where is it now? Twitter, even with a reasonable business plan is stagnant with growing grumblings that it may be failing. I suspect that without significant changes that Academia.edu (which is a much smaller niche audience than Twitter) will also eventually fall by the wayside.

The article rails against not knowing what the business model is or what’s happening with the data. I suspect that the platform itself doesn’t have a very solid business plan and they don’t know what to do with the data themselves except tout the numbers. I’d suspect they’re trying to build “critical mass” so that they can cash out by selling to one of the big publishers like Elsevier, who might actually be able to use such data. But this presupposes that they’re generating enough data; my guess is that they’re not. And on that subject, from a journalistic viewpoint, where’s the comparison to the rest of the competition including ResearchGate.net or Mendeley.com, which in fact was purchased by Elsevier? As it stands, this simply looks like a “hit piece” on Academia.edu, and sadly not a very well researched or reasoned one.

In sum, the article sounds to me like a bunch of Luddites running around yelling “fire”, particularly when I’d imagine that most referred to in the piece feed into the more corporate side of publishing in major journals rather than publishing it themselves on their own websites. I’d further suspect they’re probably not even practicing academic samizdat. It feels to me like the author and some of those quoted aren’t actively participating in the social media space to be able to comment on it intelligently. If the paper wants to pick at the academy in this manner, why don’t they write an exposé on the fact that most academics still have websites that look like they’re from 1995 (if, in fact, they have anything beyond their University’s mandated business card placeholder) when there are a wealth of free and simple tools they could use? Let’s at least build a cart before we start whipping the horse.

For academics who really want to spend some time and thought on a potential solution to all of this, I’ll suggest that they start out by owning their own domain and own their own data and work. The movement certainly has an interesting philosophy that’s a great start in fixing the problem; it can be found at http://www.indiewebcamp.com.

Chris Aldrich on VH1’s “Dating Naked”!

O

ver the past couple of months leading up to to the launch of VH1’s new season of “Dating Naked: Playing for Keeps” , I’ve been entertained by friends who have seen little snippets and notices about the show and wondering why and how I got involved in front of the camera. Honestly, it’s mostly been the why question. Ego-bruisingly, only one so far has wanted to know if they could get the “unblurred” cut of the show.

Let’s get one thing straight: the Chris Aldrich on VH1’s Dating Naked is NOT me — first of all, I’m way better looking.

Fortunately as we’re getting closer, there’s now “artwork” to support the fact that it’s not me.

The "other" Chris Aldrich
The “other” Chris Aldrich

It would be nice to have some PR on Hollywood’s busiest corner, but the price was too high.

Once the show launches on the 22nd, I almost can’t wait to see what happens to the Google ranking for my searches on my name.  I’m sure I’ll have some further entertainment in relation to my twitter account @chrisaldrich and other parts of my social media presence. I’m almost tempted to make a few changes in the bio sections to increase the ambiguity and cause some trouble.

I’m reminded of Wes Moore’s book “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates“, unfortunately I’m not quite sure that my writing a book about my experience with “The Other Chris Aldrich” would be so uplifting or inspiring to others. I’d also be more worried that I’d have to change the subtitle to “One name, One Fate.”

 

 

BIRS Workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory | Storify Stream

Over the span of the coming week, I’ll be updating (and archiving) the stream of information coming out of the BIRS Workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory.

Editor’s note: On 12/12/17 Storify announced they would be shutting down. As a result, I’m changing the embedded version of the original data served by Storify for an HTML copy which can be found below:

BIRS: Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory

A 5 Day workshop on Biology and Information Theory hosted by the Banff International Research Station

  1. Wishing I was at the Gene Regulation and Information Theory meeting starting tomorrow  http://bit.ly/XnHRZs  #ITBio
  2. Mathematical and Statistical Models for Genetic Coding starts today.  http://www.am.hs-mannheim.de/genetic_code_2013.php?id=1  @andreweckford might borrow attendees for BIRS
  3. Mathematical Foundations for Information Theory in Diffusion-Based Molecular Communications  http://bit.ly/1aTVR2c  #ITBio
  4. Bill Bialek giving plenary talk “Information flow & order in real biological networks” at Feb 2014 workshop  http://mnd.ly/19LQH8f  #ITBio
  5. #ITBio http://t.co/Ty8dEIXQUT"/>

    CECAM Workshop: “Entropy in Biomolecular Systems” starts May 14 in Vienna.  http://jhu.md/1faLR8t  #ITBio pic.twitter.com/Ty8dEIXQUT
  6. Last RT: wonder what the weather is going to be like at the end of October for my @BIRS_Math workshop
  7. @JoVanEvery I’m organizing a workshop in Banff in October … hopefully this isn’t a sign of weather to come!
  8. Banff takes its name from the town of Banff, Scotland, not to be confused with Bamff, also Scotland.
  9. Good morning from beautiful Banff. How can you not love the mountains? http://t.co/mxYBNz7yzl

    Good morning from beautiful Banff. How can you not love the mountains? pic.twitter.com/mxYBNz7yzl
  10. “Not an obvious connection between utility and information, just as there is no obvious connection between energy and entropy” @BIRS_Math
  11. Last RT: a lot of discussion of my signal transduction work with Peter Thomas.
  12. Live now: Nicolo Michelusi of @USCViterbi on Stochastic Model for Electron Transfer in Bacterial Cables  http://www.birs.ca/live  #ITBio
  13. Nicolo Michelusi (University of Southern California), A Stochastic Model for Electron Transfer in Bacterial Cables  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410271450-Michelusi.mp4 
  14. Listening to the always awesome @cnmirose talk about the ultimate limits of molecular communication.
  15. “Timing is fundamental … subsumes time-varying concentration channel” @cnmirose @BIRS_Math
  16. Standard opening quote of these talks: “I’m not a biologist, but …” @BIRS_Math
  17. Stefan Moser (ETH Zurich), Capacity Bounds of the Memoryless AIGN Channel – a Toy-Model for Molecular Communicat…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410271610-Moser.mp4 
  18. Weisi Guo (University of Warwick), Communication Envelopes for Molecular Diffusion and Electromagnetic Wave Propag…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410271643-Guo.mp4 
  19. .@ChrisAldrich @andreweckford @Storify @BIRS_Math Sounds like a fascinating workshop on bioinformation theory in Banff.
  20. Toby Berger, winner of the 2002 Shannon award, speaking right now. @BIRS_Math
  21. Naftali Tishby (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Sensing and acting under information constraints – a principled a…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281032-Tishby.mp4 
  22. “…places such as BIRS and the Banff Centre exist to facilitate the exchange and pursuit of knowledge.” S. Sundaram  http://www.birs.ca/testimonials/#testimonial-1454 
  23. We’re going for a hike tomorrow. Many thanks to Lukas at the @ParksCanada info centre in Banff for helpful advice! @BIRS_Math
  24. Alexander Dimitrov (Washington State University), Invariant signal processing in auditory biological systems  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281416-Dimitrov.mp4 
  25. Joel Zylberberg (University of Washington), Communicating with noisy signals: lessons learned from the mammalian v…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281450-Zylberberg.mp4 
  26. Robert Schober (Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg), Intersymbol interference mitigation in diffusive molecular communi…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281549-Schober.mp4 
  27. Rudolf Rabenstein (Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg (FAU)), Modelling Molecular Communication Cha…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410281627-Rabenstein.mp4 
  28. THis week @BIRS_Math ” Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory ” @thebanffcentre #biology #math @NSF
  29. “Your theory might match the data, but the data might be wrong” – Crick @BIRS_Math
  30. So information theory seems to be a big deal in ecology. @BIRS_Math
  31. Tom Schneider (National Institutes of Health), Three Principles of Biological States: Ecology and Cancer  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410290904-Schneider.mp4 
  32. “In biodiversity, the entropy of an ecosystem is the expected … information we gain about an organism by learning its species” @BIRS_Math
  33. Seriously, I’m blown away by this work in information theory in ecology. Huge body of work; I had no idea. @BIRS_Math
  34. I encourage @BIRS_Math attendees at Biological & Bio-Inspired Information Theory to contribute references here:  http://bit.ly/1jQwObk 
  35. Christoph Adami (Michigan State University), Some Information-Theoretic Musings Concerning the Origin and Evolutio…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410291114-Adami.mp4 
  36. #ITBio http://t.co/VA8komuuSW"/>

    .@ChristophAdami talk Some Information-Theoretic Musings Concerning the Origin of Life @BIRS_Math this morning #ITBio pic.twitter.com/VA8komuuSW
  37. ICYMI @ChristophAdami had great paper: Information-theoretic Considerations on Origin of Life on arXiv  http://bit.ly/1yIhK2Q  @BIRS_Math
  38. Baez has a post on Tishby's talk "Sensing &  Acting Under Information Constraints" http://t.co/t1nPVI1pxa @BIRS_Math http://t.co/dFuiVLFSGC

    Baez has a post on Tishby’s talk “Sensing & Acting Under Information Constraints”  http://bit.ly/1yIDonR  @BIRS_Math pic.twitter.com/dFuiVLFSGC
  39. INFORMATION THEORY is the new central ...

    INFORMATION THEORY is the new central …
  40. I’m listening to a talk on the origin of life at a workshop on Biological and Bio-Inspired Information Theory. …  https://plus.google.com/117562920675666983007/posts/gqFL7XY3quF 
  41. Now accepting applications for the #Research Collaboration Workshop for Women in #MathBio at NIMBioS  http://ow.ly/DzeZ7 
  42. We removed a faulty microphone from our lecture room this morning. We’re now fixing the audio buzz in this week’s videos, and reposting.
  43. Didn’t get enough information theory & biology this week @BIRS_Math? Apply for NIMBioS workshop in April 2015  http://bit.ly/1yIeiWe  #ITBio
  44. Amin Emad (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Applications of Discrete Mathematics in Bioinformatics  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301329-Emad.mp4 
  45. Paul Bogdan (University of Southern California), Multiscale Analysis Reveals Complex Behavior in Bacteria Populati…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301401-Bogdan.mp4 
  46. Lubomir Kostal (Institute of Physiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic), Efficient information transmi…  http://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170/videos/watch/201410301534-Kostal.mp4 
  47. Banff ☀️❄️🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲🌲❤️
  48. @conservativelez I’m a big fan of your dad’s research & was reminded of much of it via a workshop on Biological Information Theory
  49. @conservativelez Though he may not have been able to attend, he can catch most of the talks online if he’d like  https://www.birs.ca/events/2014/5-day-workshops/14w5170 
  50. Depressed that @BIRS_Math Workshop on Biological & Bio-Inspired Information Theory is over? Relive it here:  http://bit.ly/1rF3G4B  #ITBio
  51. A few thoughts about that workshop while I wait for my flight back to Toronto.
  52. 1/ Everyone I talked to said it was the best workshop they’d ever been to, and they’d like to do a follow-up workshop @BIRS_Math
  53. 2/ There is an amazing diversity of work under the umbrella of “information theory”. @BIRS_Math
  54. 3/ Much of this work is outside the IT mainstream, and an issue is that people use different terms for related concepts. @BIRS_Math
  55. 4/ Some community building is in order. I think this workshop was a good first step. @BIRS_Math
  56. 5/ Many many thanks to @BIRS_Math and huge kudos to @NGhoussoub for excellent service to the Canadian scientific community. BIRS is a gem.
  57. 6/ Also many thanks to the participants for their excellent talks, and to @ChrisAldrich for maintaining a Storify.