#FF is a common tag on Twitter. It means FollowFriday. The idea is that you tweet the handles of a few people that you thing others should follow. We’re doing something a bit different. We follow a lot of accounts on Twitter, over two and half thousand at the moment. That’s a lot of tweets to read. What I’m doing as an experiment is seeing what gets shared the most and highlighting that. You’ll see the stories below and the accounts that shared them. If you see people sharing things you find interesting or helpful, those are the people you should follow.
We’ll start with five stories shared this week.
— Lily Roberta Lewis (@LilyRobertLewis) August 3, 2016
There’s a problem with tweeting a conference. You get a sense of immediacy when it’s live, but quickly it can become difficult to keep track of what’s going on. Tweets disappear into the stream. Matt Johnson @mossmatters has done an excellent job of pulling tweets on the recent colloquium at Botany 2016: Seed Free Plants at the Genomic Scale. Storify allows you to embed tweets, photos, links and text into one page as a narrative. It needs a bit more than just chucking tweets at a page, and Matt has done a great job at pulling a series of papers that could have got lost under the Botany 2016 hashtag into focus.
If you live in the UK, you might not know there’s a National Forest. There are signs on the M1, but not many trees. However, John Vidal reports for the Observer that the trees that have been planted are helping restore a landscape blighted by opencast mining. It’s not a problem limited to Leicestershire. Spiegel Online reports (in English) on how East Germany’s former mines are being landscaped to improve the environment. What you can do with mined land does vary with the state of the mineworks.
— Andrew Heald (@andyheald) August 8, 2016
Ian Street finds out what makes a cell a leaf cell or a root cell and why a stem cell is not always going to end up as a cell in a plant stem. Along the way, he discusses two interesting papers from The Plant Cell.
— Ian Street ☕️ (@IHStreet) August 9, 2016
Robert Macfarlane, of the New Yorker went to Epping Forest to visit plant scientist Merlin Sheldrake who is investigating the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and the trees of Epping Forest. If it sounds a bit familiar, it was also the topic of Radiolab’s episode last week, From Tree to Shining Tree.
Sharers: fossilplants, Kimberleytew, NeoPteridoMania, VikkiRodgers, PBIO_OhioU, plantsci, UKPSF, MartineBotany, Scott_Zona, AltroMare, CambPlants, KatieField4, mrillig, sau916, fmartin1954, JSchiebold, lawrensack
5. But let’s get serious for a moment…
The Guardian caused a kerfuffle with an article I’m a serious academic, not a professional Instagrammer. It’s fair to say that it’s not gone down well on Twitter.
Dean Burnett’s response: I’m a non-serious academic. I make no apologies for this got slightly more shares through our network. Another popular response was from Emily Willingham with Yes, Serious Academics Should Absolutely Use Social Media, which challenges a lot of the inherent assumptions in the original piece about how academia works.
One post which didn’t get much traction in our network, but it definitely worth reading is Kevin Gannon, the Tattooed Professor who says: I’ve Got a Serious Problem with “Serious Academics.”. He discusses how the idea of a ‘serious academic’ is a very narrow stereotype. If you think of a ‘serious academic’ you can probably hazard a guess as to how long his beard is.
I think it might be better to read the original piece with sympathy than mockery. Even a flawless argument attacking social media would have gone down badly on Twitter. Is there anything of value you can pull from the wreckage?
If we think that the author is sincere, then they’re clearly massively out of touch with current technology. For example: When did it become acceptable to use your phone throughout a lecture, let alone an entire conference? No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, you will not be truly focusing your attention on the speaker, who has no doubt spent hours preparing for this moment.* suggests this is someone who doesn’t realise you can get apps like Evernote or Simplenote and take notes on your phone. You might think that no one could be that out of touch, but you’d be surprised.
I taught Microsoft Office to Ph.D. students. These were students who must have completed a first degree, so you’d think they’d have reasonable computer skills. Nevertheless, I found the best way to start any lesson was with the throwaway line: “You’ll find the on button at the bottom of the monitor on the left-hand side.” It’s quite difficult to over-estimate how little some people know about social media. If you know how Twitter or Facebook works, you already have above average social media skills.
You might find that hard to believe, but one of the difficulties is that there are unwritten rules. For example, you might see #FF in tweets, but it’s not obvious what that means. Even if you work out it’s FollowFriday, you still might not understand what to do about it. In a similar vein, I’m trying to get to grips with Instagram and learn what shares work and what doesn’t. Fortunately, the followers on our Instagram account have all been friendly and supportive so far.
Another feature is when people pile on to something on social media. The Anonymous Author is probably feeling this a bit right now and with (a little) justification. S/He’s right to say there can be posturing on social media. For example, Larry might be disappointed by a bit misinformation in a science story. You, in contrast, are very annoyed. However, you’re both wasting your time because I am outraged, IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND BOLDFACE, and so must have the highest scientific standards of all.
It’s not unique to social media. I could, for instance, lament people publishing on social media instead of conferences or peer-reviewed publications. People do, but when they do it offline they tend to do it in common rooms where they’re posturing to a few people. Social media can magnify that kind of posing massively. I think people are learning from extreme behaviour in the past, but it’d be a brave soul who says it’s not going to happen again in the future. It helps to remember when we’re sharing our opinions we’re also working on our image of ourselves.
The other side though is that anyone can go viral for good reasons too. It’s not new that things get shared en masse but it is new that anyone can get their work shared, not just established professors. How threatening that kind of access to an audience is, depends on how much your position relies on privilege instead of talent.
Sharers: Somewhere between enough to break my wrists typing out all the names and enough to break the keyboard.
The papers that proved most popular this week were:
— mary williams (@PlantTeaching) August 9, 2016
Wei Feng, Heike Lindner, Neil E Robbins, Jose R. Dinneny, 2016, ‘Growing Out of Stress: The Role of Cell- and Organ-scale Growth Control in Plant Water-stress Responses’, The Plant Cell, p. tpc.00182.2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1105/tpc.16.00182
Ján Jásik, Boris Bokor, Stanislav Stuchlík, Karol Mičieta, Ján Turňa, Elmon Schmelzer, 2016, ‘Effects of auxins on PIN-FORMED2(PIN2) dynamics are not mediated by inhibiting PIN2 endocytosis.’, Plant Physiology, p. pp.00563.2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1104/pp.16.00563
Sharers: c_s_hardtke, SamWuest1, oconnord, ThisSunOfYork, GARNetweets, NaturePlants, yasindagdas, santosh7bhai, MohitRajabhoj
— Oli Pescott (@sacrevert) August 3, 2016
Paul O. Downey, David M. Richardson, 2016, ‘Alien plant invasions and native plant extinctions: a six-threshold framework’, AoB Plants, vol. 8, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plw047
Sharers: sacrevert, ___BRC___, GrasslandSocSA, AoB_PLANTS, I_A_Dickie, FionaDyer, IAEUC, wildlifeinwater, ESAinvasionecol, KTInvasion, lflory, CherylMillett1, KoorevaarJeroen, TimCurran8, susieoftraken
Though we may have cheated a little by adding this tweet later in the week.
— Botany One (@botanyone) August 11, 2016
Popular on Facebook
We have a different audience on Facebook and they sometimes pick up on different stories. It was a quiet week for us, probably with it being summer. It was also unusual with two of the top three links coming from AoBBlog.
The History of the Zucchini Squash
Sexual and asexual reproduction in a mycoheterotrophic orchid
This post showed how an image can capture people’s imagination.
Could Nanotechnology End Hunger?
And just before the end…
Every so often in the blog office we say something like “We really should to a podcast”. Then we remember how much work that would be. There’s also the fact that In Defense of Plants is already doing an excellent podcast that covers a lot of botany. This week it’s a look at Orchid Conservation. It’s well worth a download if you’re looking for something to pass the time on your commute into work.
That wraps up what might become a weekly round-up. We’ll see how the response is for the first four weeks and decide where to take it from there. If there’s something you think should get everyone’s attention, share it on Twitter and if enough people agree it’ll be here next week.
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*You can tell the author isn’t an archaeologist making comments like that. I’m not saying that no archaeologists prepare their talks in advance. On the other hand, I’ve been to more than one session where the speaker has had to be hauled off thirty minutes into a twenty-minute talk. Usually, complaining that they’re barely half way through their paper as they go.