Monday, May 26, 2014

Twitter for awareness, Google+ for discussion?

This is a follow up post to the one I wrote in February, regarding the lack of in depth discussions on social media and the fact that people often share links to posts they have not even read.  The suggestion was that the academic world needs its own "Acamedia" rather than rely on social media alone.

Since then both NPR and NY Times have echoed similar thoughts which leads me to suggesting a Twitter + Google+ model for academia.

NPR played a terrific April Fool's joke:
From ""
NY Times had an opinion piece by Karl Taro Greenfeld which discusses how one can fake cultural literacy by picking up bits of information on social media streams instead of consuming the primary source.

The author states,
"It's never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything."
An example from the piece,
"What was Solange Knowles's elevator attack on Jay-Z about? I didn't watch the security-camera video on TMZ - it would have taken too long - but I scrolled through enough chatter to know that Solange had ...."
Some may argue that spending any amount of time to learn more on that story is time wasted but if you have to know something so you don't feel left out at some cocktail conversation, IMHO this is a fair use of social media.

One would just hope that people are upfront and state that they are expressing an opinion without having read or consumed the primary source.
This gets back to the point about the role of social media for discussing academic literature.  Social media is great for sharing links to articles and thus increasing awareness about new evidence as it comes out.  Folks new to social media need to realize that sometimes folks that share may not have read the posts they are sharing.  They are essentially just sharing the fact that the headline is interesting.  In my February post I suggested that sites like Twitter should add a check box to indicate that the "sharer" had actually read the article.

Another option is to put in a disclaimer that you have not e.g. TL;DR (Too long; Did not read).

Maybe as the culture of popular social networks (e.g. Twitter) evolves, everyone will realize that this is the default.  Maybe once you identify the article or post to discuss with like-minded people, it is necessary to do it in a different setting which has a different cultural default - one where you don't post unless you have read the piece? Thus a physicist may use Twitter to keep up with trending health news stories like new lipid guidelines but use a different medium to discuss the latest article on Higgs Boson particle while the converse may be true for a physician.

Google+ may be a perfect model for this.  It has several factors to support this model:
  • Ability to connect with other people with similar interests
  • No limits on length of posts
  • Communities
  • Authentic profiles 
  • Hangouts and Hangouts on Air 
My previous post had an example of using Google Hangouts on Air for a CME panel discussion.  Once there is full integration between Gmail, Blogger, Google Drive and Google+  and Hangouts, it will create a perfect ecosystem for authentic synchronous and asynchronous discussions - an Acamedia?