[Taxacom] Social networking and next steps for the e-Biosphere 09 Conference

Schindel, David schindeld at si.edu
Wed Jul 1 17:57:07 CDT 2009



An interesting topic being discussed on Chris Freeland's blog about the
e-Biosphere 09 conference (see
http://blog.chrisfreeland.com/2009/06/ebio09.html) deserves a wider
airing:  How can we improve the way our community communicates
internally and with users of biodiversity data and data services?  I
hope members of Taxacom will offer their advice.  The post-conference
website will be released soon with all the presentations, audio
recordings, pdfs of posters, results of breakout sessions.  The steering
committee is now considering how we should promote continued discussion
and coordination once all this material is available online.  


The e-Biosphere 09 Conference brought together more than 500 people from
more than 60 countries with an interest in biodiversity informatics.
They weren't all 'the usual suspects' from taxonomy or TDWG.  There were
users from a variety of other communities, like ecoinformatics,
conservation, land management, forestry and agriculture.  Could we have
attracted a better mix?  Sure, but there was no room for more
registrants if we had.


The conference steering committee tried several strategies to maximize
the sharing of information, both before and during the conference.  Some
worked better than others and some didn't work very well:


*         The organizers set up electronic discussion fora (the Online
Conference Community) for different provider and user communities for
several months leading up to the conference.  The hope (a vain hope, it
turned out) was that people would engage in spirited Taxacom-like debate
and show up at the conference ready to continue the debate in person.  

*         In addition to the traditional plenary talks, breakout
discussion groups and poster displays, there were 50 demo booths that
showcased databases and software.  

*         There were real-time challenges running in the background that
showed really experimental approaches.  Progress reports on the
challenges played on big monitors during each coffee and lunch break.


As discussed on Chris' blog, there was a lot of tweeting that went on
during the conference, and maybe some them-versus-us feelings related to
social networking.  The issues remind me of the surface area-to-volume
scaling problems that accompany growth:


*         Making access easier without burying people in unwanted email

*         Creating durable repositories for documenting the debate
without creating a heavy administrative burden

*         Using communication channels that people are comfortable with,
while also reaching out to new communities


So what should the e-Biosphere steering committee do?  Build on Twitter
and Facebook?  Create more list-serves?  Look for better software for
discussion fora and wikis?


Regards to all -





David E. Schindel, Executive Secretary

Consortium for the Barcode of Life
202/633-0812; fax 202/633-2938; portable 202/557-1149
Email: SchindelD at si.edu <mailto:SchindelD at si.edu>  
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