Building a community that thrives online, offline and after the meeting

Wordle: #esa2012 wednesday

Wordle: #ESA2012 Thursday

Wordle: #ESA2012 Friday

Wordles of all tweets to the #ESA2012 hashtag from (left to right) Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the meeting week. Word size corresponds to the frequency of its appearance in tweet text. Click on a Wordle to enlarge it.

ESA2012 trending on Twitter, August 9, 2012

The ESA 2012 Annual Meeting hashtag appears near the top of my trend list on Twitter during the Portland meeting.

For a few days in early August, the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) was a hot topic on Twitter. I know that because #ESA2012 was trending (right). There among the Internet memes and celebrity names was #ESA2012, a hashtag code that Twitter users used to flag tweets related to the meeting.

One of the hottest social media topics of the day was a scientific meeting. It wasn’t the first time that it happened, and it won’t be the last.

If you’d gone to twitter.com/search during the meeting and searched for #ESA2012, you would have found thousands of tweets about ESA. You would have seen in this stream of 140-character messages a conference-within-a-conference, playing out in real time (and on a monitor at the NEON booth). People at the meeting were quoting and commenting on talks and posters, sharing links to session slides and other references, and rounding up old and new friends to connect over food and drink. People who weren’t at the meeting tuned in to the conversation from afar, chimed in on the scientific and cultural discussion, and asked meeting attendees to tweet about sessions they wished they were attending. Hundreds more simply watched the stream, soaking up the information and experience. I hope one day soon they decide to participate, too.

It’s my personal mission to help a) improve science and science communication and b) strengthen and enlarge the community of people who care about science. Twitter and blogging are two of the most powerful online tools a scientist or science communicator can employ to these ends. So I teamed up with @JacquelynGill, a paleoecology blogger, Twitter celebrity, and champion of science outreach and diversity in science, to lead a Twitter and blogging workshop at the ESA meeting.

Jacquelyn and I had both been successful (her more so than me) at using social media to find great collaborators and information and to build a supportive online community that amplified our efforts and reach. We wanted other people at ESA to tune into this incredible resource. It turned out that @jebyrnes was giving a complementary talk at the meeting on how scientists can improve science by engaging with each other online. Together, we took an online science community that has been rapidly growing and gaining momentum over the past few years and gave it a firm push in the ecological direction.

It took off.

In less than a week, the community posted more than 3,000 tweets to the #esa2012 conference stream. In the past month, the slides from our social media workshop have been viewed more than 1,200 times on Slideshare, and Jarrett’s slides from “Taking the Ecological Conversation Online” have been viewed more than 1,500 times. Scott Collins has become ESA’s first tweeting President (@ESA_Prez2013), and the online ecological science community has already begun collaboratively planning social media, software, data management and career workshops for next year. There are 70% more scientists following @NEONInc, or subscribing to NEON tweets, than there were before the meeting.

All this excites me beyond measure. But encouraging scientists to connect with each other online and offline doesn’t just serve my personal goals. It serves NEON’s mission, as well.

Scientific Twitter users on the whole are open to trying new things and candid about the world as they see it. They make a practice of sharing what they find useful and exciting. It is clear from the #ESA2012 tweets that the tweeting ecological science community cares about data and about the future of ecology and science. They care about collaboration and communication, about helping each other develop and learn the tools they’ll need to succeed at doing and spreading good science. This puts them solidly in the company of the people who built the LTER Network, NEON, DataONE, EarthCube, and other projects to facilitate interdisciplinary and large-scale work in environmental and ecological science.

Communicating and networking with as broad an audience as possible opens up more opportunities to meet people with the same interests who can help you make something good and important happen. We still network through e-mail and meetings, but social media provide additional, supercharged tools for connecting to the people you’re looking for and who are looking for you. That’s why NEON’s communication team maintains a strong social media presence on Twitter, in Facebook, and in this blog. We at NEON look forward to continuing to explore, develop and grow this collaborative, successful online scientific community that can only grow wings with time.

So far, our blogroll features more than 60 ecologists and evolutionary biologists who are sharing their work, ideas, struggles and triumphs online. Below is a composite image of most of the scientists and science institutions that currently follow @NEONInc, the NEON Twitter account. There were about 100 before the ESA meeting; a month later, there are 170. These people have interesting and important things to say and share, things that can improve their science and NEON. I hope that what I share via @NEONInc is useful to them. I’m excited to hear from them, and from you, too.

Composite of the profile images of all Twitter users on NEON's scientist list https://twitter.com/#!/NEONInc/scientists, omitting default and blank images.

Composite of the profile images of all Twitter users on NEON’s scientist list https://twitter.com/#!/NEONInc/scientists, omitting default and blank images.

If you want a little help getting started, have a look at the embedded and linked resources in my slides (top) and in Jarrett’s (bottom)

[slideshare id=13892392&doc=esa2012socialmediaworkshop-120806172051-phpapp02]
[slideshare id=13913887&doc=340oos33-7byrnes-120808123342-phpapp02]

Permanent link to this article: http://www.neonnotes.org/2012/09/building-a-community-that-thrives-online-offline-and-after-the-meeting/


2 pings

  1. Dr. Alistair Dove says:

    Not to be too much of a downer, but I think you’ll find that #ESA2012 was not trending for the Twitterverse, but rather only for you and your colleagues. That’s because Twitter recently changed to “Tailored Trends”, where what you are shown is trending depends on your interests and who you follow. This means that you have to take ANY notion “what’s trending” with a fat grain of salt. It’s annoying, I know, because it removes trending as an objective measure of the Twitter conversation surrounding any given topic, but there you have it. Read more here. http://sproutsocial.com/insights/2012/06/twitter-tailored-trends/

  2. Sandra Chung says:

    Thanks Dr. Dove, but it’s not too much of a downer. The message is still that there was a large and diverse online conversation going on about #ESA2012, even if it wasn’t big enough to trend globally. I’ll add that I checked national and local Twitter trends a few times during the meeting, and found #ESA2012 in the Denver trends as well. The real downer was that I didn’t think to take a screen cap till later in the meeting. Ddoh.

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