The Cocktail Party, 1965. Alex Katz
By James Dacey
It’s been compared to a cocktail party where multiple conversations, all taking place at once, result in that familiar cacophony of chitchat. Some people thrive in this environment, while others feel jarred, but eventually we all drag ourselves along to one because we know that’s the real place to hear the interesting stuff for our careers.
Researchers need to get themselves onto Twitter pronto because it is fast becoming the place to find out the breakthroughs in your research field. That was the take-home message from Bora Zivkovic, the online community manager of the journal PLoS ONE, who was speaking today on the penultimate morning of the AAAS conference in San Diego.
Zivkovic, who was an entertaining speaker with a nice dry sense of humour, admits that the popular microblogging site does play host to a lot of inane chitter. He insists, however, that so long as you are selective about whom you “follow”, you can build up a very helpful bunch of online colleagues. He is a bioscientist by training, and described how he uses Twitter each day to catch up on how colleagues’ research is developing and to see what key publications and events are taking place that day.
One flabbergasted member of the audience took issue with Zivkovic, saying that with “only 24 hours in a day” there is simply not enough time to uphold a professional reputation online. Zivkovic conceded that not every every social networking site is right for everyone, but he is convinced that Twitter is different, arguing that its simplicity and benefits make it worth the investment of time. “It’s just like e-mail – in 10 years you won’t remember what it was like to have lived without Twitter,” he said.
At the end of the session, entitled Science 2.0: From Tweet Through Blog to Book, you could be forgiven for thinking that Zivkovic is being paid by Twitter to say all these nice things about their site. I don’t think he is, but he’s certainly infatuated with the online cocktail party. So join him there or be square, maybe.