Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Science and Reason Network is now open

OK, but what is it?

Concisely, it's an extension of the Science and Reason blog that makes possible sharing many types of information among many people.

A blog is generally just a one-to-many (or perhaps several-to-many) communication tool. A network, however, is many-to-many, like Facebook or Linkedin, for example.

Because a network is inherently many-to-many, it's much easier for sharing of news, information, opinions, questions, or whatever.

The structure of the network makes it convenient to share many different types of things. Not just articles on a specific topic, perhaps with subsequent comments. But also things like news stories, bookmarks, RSS feeds, images, videos, audio files, documents, slide presentations, calendars, maps, polls, bibliographies, reading lists, course syllabi, Google searches, notebooks, wikis, databases... you name it. Anything that can be stored digitally.

It's possible, though sometimes awkward, to put such things (or links to them) in a blog post. Some of them have worthwhile value only as part of a collection. Breaking out of the traditional blog format makes collecting such things easier. Blogs generally have a sequential format. But collections get added to randomly, and the order is usually not too important. A person new to the network can, in principle, go straight to what is of most interest at the time, without having to wade through much that's not immediately relevant.

So why not do this sort of thing in an existing social network, like Facebook or Linkedin? That's quite possible, of course. But my impression of these services, which are both useful and (sometimes) enjoyable, is that they are often too busy, too chaotic. Sometimes it's best to focus more narrowly. That, anyway, is the most obvious benefit of a special-purpose network. Fortunately, it's not necessary to be completely separate from the general-purpose networks. The network structure makes possible for simple, natural affiliations between networks.

I could go on for some time discussing this from many points of view. And I certainly will do that here, eventually. But I'll leave off for now.

The best thing to do, if any of this sounds interesting, is just go ahead and access the system here, or via the Science and Reason Network widget in the upper part of the right-hand column.

The first time on, there’s a short set of questions to provide information for your profile. Most of them are optional, and most allow you to list your profiles on other networks. This information will be useful in finding others who you might have interests in common with.

When you get in, just look around, and check out whatever interests you. You may enter comments into the system itself, either as replies to discussions, or as notes on a comment wall.

And if you still feel you need to read a little more, here's a short list of reasons you might want to join.


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