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Engaging people online – Science Online 2010

I had only planned to do one talk at this year’s Science Online London 2010 conference, but the second day had some “unconference” slots where people could suggest their own talks. John Timmer from Ars Technica wanted to run a session about how bloggers with a decent readership deal with comments, and I agreed. We wrangled in Alok Jha from the Guardian, a paper whose website is no stranger to fiery commentary, and the organisers melded our session with a suggestion by Julia Heathcote Anderson, who wanted to talk about how we can fix the reputation of scientists online.

So here’s our impromptu panel discussion, which I’m quite pleased with given that we had got together around 10 minutes before to plan our talks. As you might imagine, given the slight artificial melding of topics, the Q&A covers all sorts of ground, but there should be something here for everyone.

Update: Everyone should read Hayley Birch’s excellent post on the issue of stereotypes raised during this session, and to what extent they actually matter, and Adam Tinworth’s reflections.

More parts after the jump…


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3 thoughts on “Engaging people online – Science Online 2010

  1. I just gave a talk on this very subject regarding the online commenting community at Eruptions and the Eyjafjallajokull eruption. I’ve always held the opinion that I should have a very small controlling hand on discussions within the comments on the blog – more to correct things that are incorrect, keep things civil and try to bring up ideas/problems that could help the discussion. This is a topic that is going to get more and more important as more realtime data shows up on the web – and people want to discuss it as an event is ongoing. This is a challenge with no simple answer (shocking, eh?)

  2. I’d agree, Erik. I’m definitely not advocating that people rule their comment threads with an iron fist. But I think that the difference between no participation and a gentle controlling hand is a massive one, as Alok alluded to in his bit about the Guardian’s experience. You have to make an effort to nudge things in a productive direction but it doesn’t usually have to be a forceful one.

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