Category Archives: blogging

Blog neglect — for good reasons!

… it happens. Of all the stuff that I have to do, my blog is unfortunately the thing that I put last on the priorities list. The up side of that is that I’m working on about a million really awesome projects right now. Currently in the mix:

  • I’m still working with Nate on the book project, which is coming along swimmingly and continues to provide me with the most fascinating brain food I have ever encountered. Friday we went to IBM Headquarters to interview the project manager of Deep Blue, the chess-playing computer that beat Grand Master Gary Kasparov in 1997. It was the first time Kasparov had ever been beaten, period, and by a computer.

  • I’m a community manager of Haiti Rewired,’s community-driven site to discuss technology and infrastructure solutions for Haiti. It’s an incredibly challenging and rewarding project to be working on. The site has been in existence for about 3.5 months and now hosts 1,250 members. Compared with the previous community-driven site I worked with,, which only had about 80 active contributors, it’s an entirely different animal. Though I do see many similarities in user behavior, especially with regards to the waxing and waning periods of activity. One cool thing that’s happening with that now is that a project to create a Wired computing hotspot in Port-au-Prince for Haiti Rewired journalists is launching in about two weeks! It’s really motivating to see real-world progress come from online activity.
  • I’m finally being acknowledged as a social media guru and am going to be working with a awesome author and his publishing company to create the online presence for his new book. I won’t say what it is until everything is finalized, but I will say that it’s high in saturated fact.
  • I’m working at the Internet Garage every Friday and Saturday night. I’m coming up to my 2 year anniversary! I still find it funny that the first time I went in there to scan my passport, I left it there and didn’t realize it until I’d been working there for a month and found it in the drawer. Good thing they hired me.

Arikia, Internet Garage

  • The weekend before I went to Haiti, I attended the New York Hackathon, an event put on by HackNY at NYU, as an ambassador. The purpose of the event was to put groups of bright NY computer programming students in the same room with the founders of tech start-ups for 24 hours and have them build things together. It was great to see what kind of talent is out there, and it left me wishing that I was a freshman in college again right now so I could participate in events like that. Since the event, I’ve been talking with the founders of HackNY and want to help them get the word out about their organization via various internet pathways.
  • Also at the Hackathon, I got to know Dave Winer, a software developer who just moved to NY from Silicon Valley, the author of Scripting News (one of the first blogs according to Wikipedia), and a really nice guy. He is all about collaborating to make new things online, and he is a do-er. I went to a meet-up he hosted last week and it totally satiated the need for collaboration in a university setting I’ve been feeling lately.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately, and why I have no time to blog. But I hope that changes soon. Dave demoed some sweet software that I think will make blogging a lot more impulsive, which is a good thing for me. And even though I’m not here on WordPress much these days, you know where to find me.



Why don’t young people blog?

Today I came across a post by the famous Bora Zivkovic, whose sense of Internet omnisciency makes my own pale in comparison. Bora has been following an experiment of sorts by Mason Posner, a professor of biology at Ashland University in Ohio, in which Posner had his students create science blogs as part of the curriculum.

Bora writes:

…take a look at last year’s (2009) student blogs – wonderful writing on all of them, good stuff. But! One of them is already deleted. There are four other blogs that stopped posting around early May of last year, probably at the time the course ended. Only one of the blogs is still running today. Why did they stop?

Now, you may remember a similar experiment at Duke – see this and this and especially experiences of Erica Tsai who ran the program. Why did all the Duke student blogs end once the class was over? There is always a lot of chatter online (see the most recent commentary about a Pew study hereherehere and here) about teens and college students not blogging…

Bora notes that members of this younger demographic use social networking sites like Twitter and the facebook, sometimes more than their elders, but they are more likely to keep private accounts. His main question is, why do these Web savvy kids fall off with blogging?

My hunch is that a lot of it has to do with visibility. For some perspective, my class (graduating college in 2008), was the first to  have access to the facebook, and to have it all four years of college. I remember the day I got the invitation the August before I left for school, and how it shaped my interactions throughout college. We voluntarily exposed our personal lives in a time that was the height of our debauchery. We navigated our social worlds knowing people before we actually met them, and, more commonly, we learned way too much about people after only meeting them once, shaping our decisions for future meetings.

We saw our peers become examples of what not to do on the facebook. Their drunk party pictures became grounds for expulsion, job termination, and removal from athletic teams. Public embarrassment became easier than ever. One guy I (unfortunately) knew in college created a group called “The 100 Hottest Ladies at University of Michigan.” After reaching quota, he changed the group name to “MICHIGAN’S DIRTIEST WHORES,” and had a good laugh. Some people remained in that group for weeks without realizing.

With job scarcity what it is, and the aspect of Internet permanence introduced by companies like Google, kids are instilled with the advice to not post anything they wouldn’t want a potential employer to see with the fervor of sex ed campaigns promoting condom use: You don’t want to do something impulsive that will fuck up your life forever. One of my colleagues at The Michigan Daily published this article with some pretty compelling examples of how this could happen (which prompted me to make a facebook album called “This’ll fuck up your political career” and tag him in it. PWND!). We even had a policy at The Daily that editors couldn’t be in certain groups, as they might put a dent in The Daily’s credibility if someone cried “Conflict of Interest” on a news article. And of course, we all watched the defamation (not to mention contract terminations and loss of incredible amounts of revenue) of our classmate Michael Phelps.

So you see, the paranoia about putting yourself out there on the Web in an unedited form is a rampant inhibitory factor in young individuals. Hence, the locked twitter accounts and private facebook pages. Even though science blogging seems like a tame enough activity, and one that would promote one’s job acquisition instead of jeopardizing it, I think the overall skepticism about Web publicity could have something to do with young people’s hesitancy to maintain blogs. Also, young people want to talk about young people things sometimes. If they’re blogging on a platform where they can’t fully express themselves, then yeah, it does start to feel like a job or a chore.

Personally, I think the social networking paranoia is way overblown for the same reasons I think people worried about the Internet turning into Big Brother and enslaving us all need to relax: People just don’t care that much, and don’t have enough time to dig through all the content a kid can generate. I still keep my facebook page private with five different privacy filters for my friends, and have a locked Twitter account in addition to a public one, but I also have a lot of publicly available references to my debauchery too. My current employer Google stalked me pretty thoroughly before he offered me a job, but I’d like to think he hired me because of my quirky Web remnants, not in spite of them. Now he has full access to my facebook page, and doesn’t think any less of me or my ability to get the job done.

In the words of Bora Z himself, “20 years from now, a person who does NOT have drunk Facebook pictures online will be suspicious… ‘Drunk at a party’ is just a shorthand for having a normal, relaxed human online presence and not just something on LinkedIn that looks like a Resume.” People are people, and even if a person is your potential boss, they should understand that you’re just a person too. Maybe if we didn’t set extreme standards about people’s personal lives for admittance into certain professions, kids wouldn’t be so discouraged from sharing on the Web. And our politicians might be a little less fucked up.

So I think that if we want kids to get engaged with blogging, even science blogging at an early age, they have to hear messages from their elders that their any future employer who would judge them for expressing themselves isn’t someone they really want to work for anyway. And then we, as their potential future employers, need to follow through.

While we’re at it, I want to see older people post the remnants of their college debauchery on the facebook. I mean it, bust out the photo albums, scan those pics and post em. You all have job security! You really have no excuse to deny your students this joy.

ScienceOnline: The Bonnaroo of the Blogosphere

In May of 1994, the first World Wide Web conference was held in the auditorium of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). For some historical perspective, this was the year that Netscape released its first Web browser, Mozilla, the World Wide Web Consortium was established, Windows 95 was released with software to access the Internet, and companies like America Online, Prodigy and CompuServe were competing for status in the public consciousness as the lead provider of Internet access. The Internet was beginning to be accessible to the general public, not just those with extensive computer knowledge or who were working within educational or governmental institutions. The Web as we now know it was beginning to take shape.

Eventually, out of the Cambrian-like explosion that wired the masses, the Blogosphere emerged. While it evolved in the same rocky fashion as the Web itself, burdened by neigh-sayers and meeting corporate resistance as companies struggled to harness its growth for profit, the blogosphere is now viewed as an entity that is revolutionizing journalism and human communication at large.

For those on the forefront of the development of the Web, the World Wide Web conference was an event that educated, inspired and forged partnerships by connecting people whose paths would otherwise never cross.

From Weaving the Web, a book by the inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee:

It was a tremendous gathering. The auditorium held perhaps three hundred people. We limited registration to three hundred, but ended up with three hundred fifty after admitting members of the press, and others who just appeared — testimony of how the Web had grown.

There were people from all walks of life brought together by their enthusiasm of the Web. Talks given in the small auditorium were packed. Because it was the first such conference, many people who had been interacting only by e-mail were meeting each other face-to-face for the first time.

The excitement, congeniality and grass-roots fervor for furthering the Web inspired the reporters there, overdoing it a little, to dub the meeting the “Woodstock of the Web.”

Overdoing it or not, it is fitting to compare innovative conferences like this and ScienceOnline to the generation-defining music festivals that bring multitudes of people together over their commonalities in musical taste every year; registration for ScienceOnline was capped at 250 attendees this year, and filled up within 3 days of the initial announcement. The described enthusiasm and fervor of WWW conference attendees parallels the enthusiasm I observed of ScienceOnline participants.

And so I hereby dub the ScienceOnline conference, the Bonnaroo of the Blogosphere. I’m 23 and never attended Woodstock, but I think that as meaningful as it was to Sir Berners-Lee’s generation, Bonnaroo probably is to mine. As important as it was to have a meeting in the late ’90s to discuss and define the Web when it was in its infancy, it is as important to do so for the blogosphere today.

I attended for the first time last January, prompted by my role as an overlord of, and will return this year to lead a discussion session with Nate Silver of Our session will be on Web Science, the emerging academic field that explores the way people use the Web, and will cover the origin and history of the Web, the phenomena that can be observed and measured by tracking the way people use the Web, how it effects us currently, and the future of science communication on the Web. We chose this topic because it is of extreme relevancy to the attendees of the conference — and extreme interest to us — and was personally inspired by our recent meeting with Tim Berners-Lee himself.

Attending the ScienceOnline conference last year was an incredible experience that further solidified my decision to pursue my interest in the Web. It’s a place where, if you’re into science and you’re into the Web, and these are the things that get you really excited academically, professionally and/or socially, you can learn what the game-changers in the field are up to and talking about, and talk about it with them, maybe become a game-changer yourself.

On the time line of human existence, being able to “know” someone before you meet them occupies an extremely minute segment. ScienceOnline is an event that epitomizes this. It’s a place where the names that we’ve come to know by hypertext on the computer screen become associated with real people: Where the mental images we hold of people based on their projected online personas become modified or solidified by the impressions gathered from meeting them and interacting IRL. Someday, this concept will be commonplace, if it isn’t already. But right now, it’s exciting to connect these two seemingly anachronistic pools of information.

So, you’ve probably gathered by now that I think ScienceOnline is awesome and that I’m really excited for it. And if I haven’t sold you on it’s awesomeness yet, be convinced by this: Bloggers and scientists partying together. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good geek party.

ScienceOnline2010: Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, January 14-17, with the main conference events Saturday the 16th and Sunday the 17th. Get ready. Check it out on the ScienceOnline Wiki. Explore, contribute, Tweet and reTweet. Then when the time comes, check you favorite science blogs for mentions and Twitter for the #scio10 hash tag.

The effects from the networks that were forged at the early World Wide Web conferences are visible in just about every aspect of the Web today. Who knows what aspects of the future this year’s ScienceOnline will shape.


Lead image photoshopped by me, logo courtesy of the ScienceOnline wiki.

“Geek Party” pic via damn cool pics.

Full circle in the fall

I am sitting in the control station at the Internet Garage, surrounded by computer monitors. I haven’t worked here since January but the manager was going out of town and asked if I wanted to pick up shifts, so I said sure, if for no other reason than that I’m always looking for excuses to avoid going out Friday nights. But this place has its charm. It’s good to be back in IT, troubleshooting and giving people the most precious gift of all: Internets. Well, selling it to them for exorbitant rates, but whatever.

It’s also a bit strange to be back here. For one, because people are all like “O hey the IG girl is back!” (I’m the only girl who has worked here in the past ~2 years). But also because things have kind of come full circle. The fall is when that kind of thing usually happens for me. I mean, this is where it all started. I was sitting in this very seat when I made my first WordPress account, when I pressed publish on my first blog post. The IG customers were the first to hear my exclamations of glee when I saw what a link from the New York Times website could do for the traffic of a quirky, small-time culture blog (an old pseudonymous one, not TMD). And it was working here that I collected the dozens of hilarious remnants I occasionally post in the Found series on here.

I guess this is also where I decided that the blogosphere was something that I wanted to be deeply involved with, as a writer and as a Web 2.0 technophile. When I was in college and an editor on my school newspaper, I used to be skeptical of the blogosphere and its ability to provide rewards for the writer, professionally and financially. I once even made a facebook group called “Fuck blogging. My thoughts are worth $$”. Yes yes, while you may know me now as a major blog enthusiast and proponent of Open Access, Open Science, and the idea that the web is changing journalism as we know it for the *way* better, I admit I had my curmudgeonly moments. But this was back when Twitter was saturated with the breakfast-describer variety and it was a rarity to encounter people over 40 on the Facebook. It’s funny how things change.

There really isn’t a purpose to this post other than reflection…

The video is up! [A recap + slides of my session at Science Online London]

Presentation SOLO09

Photo by Victor Henning of Mendeley.

Well, the video evidence is on the Internet now so it must have really happened! Today I got a Tweet linking me to the footage of my session, Cat Herding: The Challenges and Rewards of Online Scientific Community Management at Science Online London. I presented alongside Corie Lok, former Community Manager of Nature Network (she’s moving on to be the Research Highlights Editor of Nature now so go congratulate her!), and Ijad Madisch, founder of the scientific network Research Gate.

Well, here it is! I had to watch this through my fingers at first. Internet permanence is a scary thing.


Sorry I had to trick you with the video image – WordPress doesn’t support Vimeo.

Well, it’s no TED-quality presentation, but considering that it was my first time presenting in front of an audience like this… or any audience larger than classroom-size, I think it turned out decent enough. Though perhaps before the next presentation I should rehearse with an electric collar that shocks me every time I say “um” or “uh”. Oh well, whatever I lacked in public speaking ability I surely made up for with LOLcats.

There was mention of the slides we used in our talks going up on Nature Precedings at some point, but I haven’t seen any links floating around, so I’ll post my amazing slides below the fold.

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Domain 133tness

It’s that time of year again for me. Yep, domain renewal time! I just braved GoDaddy’s eye-raping website to ensure that my little corners of the Internet remain mine for another year. I spent quite a chunk of change, but to me, domain shopping is as thrilling as buying stocks or gambling and can be as rewarding as some women (who I adore) find shopping for shoes.

Anyway, I repointed the nameservers while I was on GoDaddy so now you can access this blog by going directly to You can also still access it at it’s old address,, as well and it will redirect to my domain so no need to change your blogrolls.

K thx!


Once a Scibling, always a Scibling

You may notice as you scroll down through my blog that I’ve made some additions to my sidebar links. It’s no secret that I used to overlord at ScienceBlogs, and that when I was laid off I was pretty devastated. I was in it to win it with that group of wacky bloggers, and it’s been hard to transition away from the job that I saw myself making a lifelong career out of. Furthermore, there’s a large community aspect within that network (at least there used to be, I hope there still is), and as older and wiser professionals in the science world and all-around amazing people, I came to rely on them for guidance and support just as much as they relied on me to solve their problems and fix their broken technology. Basically, it’s been hard for me to look at the site since I left. I didn’t really know how to navigate maintaining the social ties that existed with many of the bloggers, and so I just decided to leave the network alone. Not look at it or link to it or anything.

But I don’t really know what the point of that was anymore. Regardless of domain, we’re all on the same network — everyone on the Internet that is. And it seems that people will find each other, and find ways to connect over similarities, regardless of what their platform is or where their site is hosted. So I just spent a few hours going back through all the blogs on ScienceBlogs and adding my old Sciblings to my blogroll. Because they say, once a Scibling, always a Scibling, and I still have a ScienceBlogs t-shirt that says Cat Herder on it. (Ok… I borrowed it from Ginny and never gave it back, but it’s MINE now. Sorry.) I must admit it was strange typing out the url extensions and names that I must have typed thousands of times over the past year. It felt so natural, yet empty at the same time. But in doing so, I think it means I am really ready to move on in my career as it pertains to the science blogosphere.

And just so you all know, I tried to be selective. I was not planning on putting every single one of you on my blogroll, but going through the list it seemed that every blog author I came across had some kind of meaning to me. Maybe we’ve never spoken outside of mass email communication but I just always liked your writing. Or maybe we’ve conversed on AIM into the wee hours of the morning. Maybe you sent me a pair of shoes for Christmas, or a big flower basket when I got laid off, or a cat with a Helskini t-shirt, or wrote me a letter of recommendation. Or maybe, just maybe, we’ve gotten wasted on motherfucking Jameson and I saved you from getting hit by a bus. These are all things that happen when one is a Cat Herder. It’s an eventful job. And I loved doing it for all of you. So I feel much better now that you are on my blogroll. Don’t feel obligated to put me on yours or anything, this blog’s pretty lame. Just know I’ll be around, and that you can come and say hi whenever you want.

Also, I coppied my “Essentials” from the blogroll on Page 3.14. I made that entire page after all.

Sciblings at ScienceOnline09

Me and my Sciblings at ScienceOnline09.

A lesson not so well learned


I’ve kept a diary since I was five years old. I call it a journal now because that makes it seem more like something a professional journalist would write and less something that is exciting/scandalous/filled with all the juicy details of my life. [Gets up, reallocates new hiding place for diary].

Continue reading

Top Ten Myths About Google Analytics

I recently came across The Google Analytics Blog via the Twitter feed of my favorite Googler and found it pretty useful for understanding some of the program’s more ambiguous features. I’ve worked in analytics quite a bit in my days, and it can be a powerful tool if you know how to use it to it’s potential. Moreover, if you’re obsessed with online network dynamics like me, it’s a form of entertainment. I used to explore the ScienceBlogs analytics data for hours in the evenings after work marveling at quirky things, like how the traffic from one person’s personal blog that hasn’t been updated in months could contribute more incoming traffic to the site than a highly funded campaign. I do like me some irony.

Particularly interesting on the Analytics blog was this post titled 10 Myths About Google Analytics. While some of the “myths” are clearly an excuse to trumpet their selling points, there are some tidbits of useful advice in there.

One good and crucial thing about this blog is that it links to the Google Analytics support forum, in which reside employees who know the intricacies of that system and get paid to respond to your queries.

Regarding MYTH 2: Google Analytics is basic and doesn’t have any “advanced” features or metrics, if this is a real complaint, whoever said that clearly did not actually log in, let alone attempt to drilldown to specific areas of content and explore different metrics (Hey, did you know you can click things on the Internet??).

As there have been several occasions where Google Analytics has displayed numbers that differed from other analytics sites by orders of magnitude, I will take contention with MYTH 4: Google Analytics is not really accurate. This isn’t because Analytics is dysfunctional in some way that the developers are neglecting to note; they openly admit that using JavaScript tags to college data results in problems such as “JavaScript errors, redirects, untagged pages and slow client-side load times.” However, they don’t mention anything about human error contributing to the inaccuracy, which I would venture is the primary cause of discrepancies. Someone accidentally deletes some code when copying HTML or, if you’re working with a major network, forgetting to add code back in while restructuring or just labeling it something different can cause numbers to change. If it’s because of human error, I recognize that that doesn’t make Google Analytics inaccurate, but I do see it as a problem if the user interface and methods of implementation are such that it is easy for these errors to occur. I’m no fan of “dumbing-it-down,” but it seems as though Google could be thinking more about how to package this product so it can be used more effectively by users of varying technological capabilities.

Another good thing I have to report about this post is the reminder via MYTH 8: Google Analytics does not support A/B or multivariate testing and isn’t well-integrated with other tools, that you can use Google Website Optimizer to test different features that you’re thinking about implementing on your site. A lot of web development decisions are made according to flimsy reasons, like that something “looks good” and are based on the personal preference of a few people. But I like to approach development like a science by starting out with a hypothesis (about a design aspect or wording on a heading) then running tests with both scenarios to let the numbers show which is better received by the masses. Of course, if they were MY personal preferences, they would almost certainly always agree with the science. But not everyone has the instincts of the Queen of the Internets when it comes to navigating sites, so quantifiable data is always nice.

Though top ten lists are all the rage, it sounds like most of the “myths” about Google Analytics come from people who are intimidated by the system and don’t do the proper research to find what they’re looking for before they call tech support to complain. But this isn’t a bad thing —  it just means there’s more jobs for nerds like me!

Doing this.

Here I go, back in the world of blogospherics — for real this time. If for no other reason than that this video is the best thing I have ever seen. Ever.

Don’t worry, I’m a scientist.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, I am Arikia and I am the queen of The Internets. This will be my primary blog post from here on out. Shortly, you will be able to access this blog by going directly to