The internet is a wonderful place.
Information is a press of the finger away. We can retrieve scientific papers in seconds. We can connect to others, exchange ideas and collaborate. Here are some of my favorite ways.
An Update on RSS
Of course, this is not it. In my first post on geo-awesomeness, I gathered up resources and ways to get the latest information in the laziest way possible. You know, because I’m that type of guy. I’d rather have my information curated in one place than habitually check the SEG, EAGE, SEP, AAPG (I think you get the point) for updates in their catalog. I also love the blogosphere of geoscientists. Getting input from all these intelligent people has advanced my own understanding quite a bit as well as tied some good connections. So naturally, I included a lot of these blogs in my daily routine of reading as well. As I understand that some people, like me, would love to do it that way, I bundled an OPML with all these resources. You can get it here.
Nowadays since Google Reader has eventually closed down, my favorite reader (Feedly), has evolved quite a bit. Adding this XML file hast become even easier. On the left bar, you can find a link to Add Content which will open a selection of options. There you can just choose Import OPML and read all the latest news.
Twitter is the Go-To place to get to know the awesome people behind those blogs as well as more other scientists. They’re a warm and welcoming group, appreciating anyone willing to chime in. Seriously, get on there and Tweet, Retweet and just start talking to people. You have a 140 character limit, which forces you to be on point with what you’re saying. Any geophysicist knows about signal-to-noise ratios and Twitter has a quite unique system for this.
You can “Retweet” anything you like, either with the native retweet button or by quoting the original tweet preceded by an “RT“. If you change the text of the original tweet be sure to use “MT” instead. Giving credit is just like citing a paper in the world of Twitter. Personally, I also like to credit a person, I learned something awesome from using an “h/t“, which signifies “heard through”. So head over to Twitter and follow me and some other awesome people. You can also reach me here.
But I did not start this post to talk about good ol’ RSS. The Geocommunity has evolved quite a bit in the past. Bloggers and scientist are interconnected. There is a monthly blog-carnival called the Accretionary Wedge, where any bloggers can just contribute stories to a common topic. It has been around for a while and has not been active lately. But I really like the idea and there has been talk to possibly revive it.
Tumblr is a blogging platform that makes it very easy to share and love content. This platform is still growing and could use more people interested in geoscience. But time will tell if it’s worth the effort. I certainly like the content some bloggers put on there. One example is TheEarthStory, a project I participated in, who also put up my old content (which of course I “reblog” proudly).
When I first saw Reddit, I was overwhelmed. That place isn’t really what I would call sleek or tidy. Especially the default front page is composed of a lot of stuff that really just does not interest me. However, the reddit system is quite unique and very good to get the most interesting content you want. Reddit itself is composed of so-called subreddits. Just like forums have subforums. So when you initially join Reddit you will be automatically subscribed to ten default subreddits. These change from time to time and vary in quality. One default subreddit is /r/personalfinance (names of subreddits are preceded by r/), which I personally like quite a bit. Nevertheless, you’re free to unsubscribe from any of these defaults. The innovative concept of Reddit are “upvotes” and “downvotes“. These are a measure of Reddit is quite a big website and naturally, some geoscientists have made it over there as well. There are several subreddits I would like to point out here:
First, let’s talk about a few subreddits that are more for the visually inclined audience. These subreddits are part of the Safe For Work (SFW) Porn Network, basically curating beautiful topical images that will leave you in awe. The first and my favorite is r/Earthporn, which is also available for animated pictures on r/EarthpornGifs. These images will show you the most wonderful places in the world. Additionally, there’s r/VolcanoPorn/ for the more volcanically inclined.
Of course, there’s also content for the more textually inclined. The go-to sub (short for subreddit) is r/geology, but there’s also a much smaller r/geophysics. There’s also a community formed around paleontology that includes r/paleontology and r/paleonews. When I’m talking about paleontology it’s only a small step towards awesome fossils and rock collections. These can be found over at r/fossilid and r/RockHound. If you want to identify some rock or get some help with, you can also head over to r/WhatsThisRock. Additionally, there are subreddits for r/geologycareers and r/mudloggers.
Reddit is quite amazing like that and you can find several more communities that might suit your taste. These may range from an avid opensource community to an exchange for academistas. There’s just too much to list it here, but maybe this could be a start for you.
In my studies, I started programming quite a bit. One very important resource to actually get anything done was the website StackExchange. They have different independent forums and a very interesting one has just launched: The EarthScience StackExchange
StackExchange is a network that connects people with specific questions to a community of experts. While new accounts are very limited, you gather reputation to gain privileges like adding more links to your answers. I started on a fairly easy question: Is earthquake prediction possible? I have had some interest in this topic already, so I started to draft an answer. You can use Markdown, which is really easy to use for formatting your text. (Actually, I use it for this post as I’m writing it.) I came up with this answer. Initially, I used too many links as I didn’t realize a “one link”-limit for fresh accounts. My answer immediately gained traction and another contributor reviewed my answer and added the links I could not add, which resulted in quite an acceptable answer.
There are also badges you can get on this site, which I find a nice gimmick but nothing substantial. One thing I grew very fond of immediately, are tags that are assigned to questions. A few tags to get you started could be:
The EarthScience Stackexchange is still in beta, which means that over the course of up to two years, they will evaluate if it is worth keeping. I think that since it includes topics concerning climate change, we can really make an effort to get this going. A few tips for beginning there, are as follows:
Monitor the New Questions page and be quick. Being the first to answer with a high-quality answer will guarantee you to provide one of the top answers. This link was a huge help for me. Vote up answers, where credit is due. Downvote bad answers although it will cost you some reputation. This community may flourish with an influx of good people.
Slack is a group chat with superpowers. A “slack team” includes all the members that are part of this particular corner of the internet. You can write direct messages to any team members. TRhe true power of slack comes in the form of the channels. These can be set up quite easily to create a topical group chat. In the Software Underground, we set up an ad-hoc space to work on the traptris game for the hackathon. Last week I was confused by a particular style of nomenclature for partial differential equations, the software underground was able to help. It’s an open community and you can join and contribute if you’d like. I love that place.
The LinkedIn platform is an odd place. You show off what you’re good at and you try to connect with anyone that is good at something you find interesting. It was slowly spiraling into the facebook trap, where people would repetitively post “only the smartest 1% can solve this” kind of content. It was a true horrorshow. Apart from that, some people mistake it for a dating site, which is even more awkward. LinkedIn used all of its creative juices to change for the better. The content you get in your stream will now be configured from the companies you’re following. But with Pulse they launched a powerful blogging platform for people that don’t want their own blog. You can follow Influencers that will curate content professionally, but normal people can also be followed. It takes a bit of finetuning to get the content right.
Apart from that, LinkedIn still has groups. These can facilitate interesting discussions. This is highly dependent on the rules and topic of the group. A specialized, specific group usually has better discussions. A group that bans outside links and therefore limits self-promotional content is, in my opinion, the gold standard. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for more people to read my blog. But when I see someone only post their content on groups without contributing to a conversation, it will not make me more inclined to click their link. One example of interesting discussions is the Agile and Lean Software Development, an example of a dead link collection is the SPE group.
All in All
There are so many possibilities to gain and share knowledge in this geo community. Personally, I learn with every blog post I write and every participation in these communities. I hope to inspire some people to also take up these awesome possibilities.
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