Bonn, Germany: Getting Started (With Social Media)

Flags in bonn. Germany, DLR

I now understand why so many of my emails from EURAXESS staff members began with “Greeting from sunny Bonn,”… This city has made for a lovely setting of what has already become an excellent trip. I’ve met some amazing people already, and its only been 24 since we got started.

For now, some of the Coles Notes, take-home lessons I learned today from our presenter Yan Luong about how to develop your online presence and why it is important for scientists:

  • Your online presence matters, even for Google Scholar. Think twice before you shrug off social media as not being important for your academic career, it may make the difference in getting those extra citations you’ve been fighting for.
  • Related to the previous point: you should have a website, and it should be responsive. Unlike your Facebook account, you control your website, and it would be too bad to invest tons of time in someone else’s site only to see it go the way of MySpace.
  • Videos have come full circle, and now that they are often shown muted on Facebook, more and more people are making videos without speech. Thats right, silent movies are back in.
  • There is huge potential in Periscope. It is a simple app that allows you to stream video live from your cell phone, and other people can watch it and chat on their cell phones. Only for smartphones. The fact that this is possible at all is amazing, but what it means for conferences, talks, and well innumerable arenas of social change, well… Just check it out on your phone!

European Science Tour!

Well this is going to be pretty wild. I’m at the Toronto airport about to embark on a trip to Europe in the name of Science! Last October I won the EURAXESS North American Science Slam, and a trip to Europe is my prize (access to Europe, EURAXESS… get it?). Winning was a huge surprise, and I find myself surprised now that the time for the trip is suddenly here! Where does time go? Perhaps I’ll find a physicist I can ask…

Anyway, what’s the plan? Well, each regional Science Slam winner from ASEAN, Brazil, China, India, Japan and North America (thats me), will be meeting up in Bonn (Germany) to begin our adventure. We’ll have a Science Communication workshop early in the week before heading to Brussels (Belgium) to meet with representatives of the European Commission. From there, all of the science slammers will be splitting ways to visit a European research facility of their choosing. I’m headed to Copenhagen (Denmark), to meet some researchers in the Faculty of Science Education.

I’ll be taking pictures, tweeting when I have WIFI, doing my best to take some big deep breathes now and then, and will do my best to share my knowledge here once it’s all over.

June is flying month.
June is flying month.

The Scope of Science is One Year Old!

Just like that, its been over a year that I’ve been running this blog. Time flies when you’re orbiting the sun!

When I started this blog I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would come out of The Scope of Science. I started it because I knew blogging and making videos was something that I enjoyed. I missed it.

Warning brutal honesty ahead
…and some rambling…

You see, I used to make videos in high-school and I thought it was a lot of fun. I got a lot of positive feedback about them, which I originally found really encouraging. I made one video in particular, where my reflection chased me through my dreams. It won an award in Toronto, and I became known to most people in my high-school as ‘the guy from that video on the internet‘. While this was great in a bunch of ways it also became a bit intimidating. I didn’t want to be the guy from ‘that’ video, I wanted to make other videos too, but now some dumb luck had set the bar higher than where I minded it to be.

I had started that first channel as a place to put the videos that I was making for fun, and I stopped making videos when it stopped being fun. It stopped being fun not because I lost interest in making videos, but because I had unintentionally shifted my measure of success. All of the sudden, I considered my video to be successful mostly if it got views and/or won something, not if it was fun to make.

Several years past, my undergrad education came and went, and I wasn’t making videos or blogging (except for a stint on a science blog I titled ‘the Meme Beam’). It was something I definitely planned to do, later, when I had time. The infinite tomorrow.

Then I remember hearing the following advice by Veritasium: “If you think that you’re being restricted by time or money or by equipment you are just fooling yourself and you need to get out there and just start making stuff”

And I thought, dammit, I have to start blogging and making videos again.

My first year back at it has been a lot of fun, and that is now officially my 8th rule of making videos: the video must be fun to make. I figure if its fun for you to make, it might be fun for people to watch – but either way, I’ll have had fun.

I do still feel like views matter a bit, since the point of science education is for viewers to learn something and this is hard to accomplish without viewers. But it just isn’t a healthy or sustainable measure of success. View-counts: its a love hate relationship.

I’m rambling about all of this now because I feel I’ve reached a turning point in two ways. 1) The majority of views I’ve had on YouTube are now from my newer channel. My old channel has over 5000 total views since I started it way back in 2007. I started The Scope of Science channel about nine months ago, and it already has more total views than my old channel. 2) I’m having fun making videos again, and I consider that to be the real success.

View-count by country
Scope of Science blog view-count by country

Also, as much as I love data, I won’t bore you with a bunch of site statistics, except to say that the blog has now had over 12,500 views from 196 countries, which is a many multitude more than what I expected when I started this a year ago. What is more fun to talk about is that some of those readers got to my site in hilarious ways.

Whether or not you’re aware of this, when you search something in Google and click on a link, the link you click learns what search term brought you to their site. For example, I know that a lot of people got to my site by searching ‘scope of science’. That is predictable, and rather bland, but some interesting people got to my site thanks to the following searches:

“Graphs pertinent to high schoolers” – I like to imagine this was searched by some high school student who wanted to cram for a test but had no idea how.

Graphs pertinent to
Clearly this is the data I need to show if I want more views

“Hollywood movie based on plutonium stolen” – guess that brings you here.

“Chicken scope” – why did someone search that? Really, I’ve brainstormed and am at a loss.. Please leave your creative ideas in the comments!

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So with that, readers, I’d like to just say thanks for all of your support over the last year. It’s been fun for me. I know it would not have been as much fun without you, and I hope it has brought you some happiness too.