An outline for version 2.0 of the site

A few weeks ago I wrote up a tentative outline for the next generation of Science Blogging Aggregated. I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of it with you over the past week, but now I’d like to share the whole thing. It’s still a work in progress, a Google Doc that reflects our current thinking on the project—but of course, something that will continue to be refined as we move forward with the project.

Click here to view the document.

I’ve already tried to incorporate as many as possible comments from readers as I’ve shared the plans with you, but of course we continue to be open to additional suggestions. I think this is enough for us to use to get started, but there’s obviously much work still to be done. If you’d like to help out, you can either email us directly at contact@scienceblogging.org, or add a comment below and we’ll get in touch with you via the (hidden) email link you provide in the comment form. Particularly useful at this stage are people with CSS / web design experience, developers, and sysadmins.

We’re hoping to present a working prototype of the site at Science Online 2011. I’ve suggested a session on the conference wiki here.

We’ll continue to keep you posted and ask for your advice and suggestions as work progresses.

9 comments on “An outline for version 2.0 of the site

  1. Yoder says:

    Looks ambitious! The impression I get is of something like the front page of ScienceBlogs (a single page listing popular posts, editor’s selections, and just whatever is freshest), but with something more like the Research Blogging aggregator behind it (largely automated submissions from a huge diversity of individual sites). That’s pretty much exactly what I’d like to have for the purposes of navigating the science blogosphere.

    Regarding strategies for bringing attention to particularly useful/interesting posts: I think the best approach is to have both the list of popular posts (maybe informed by activity on Twitter/Facebook/&c?) and a list curated by subject-specific editors. Part of the editors’ responsibility, I’d think, would be to seek out material that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of attention, which helps with the up-and-comer problem.

    I’m not so excited about allowing bloggers to self-promote posts, because it doesn’t give me a lot of new information as a reader to know that an individual blogger thinks his or her own post is important—with both a “popular” list and an “editors’ choice” list, I get two different flavors of peer review, which tells me more about the quality and interest of listed posts.

  2. As far as the social aspects are concerned. I hear a lot of whining on the internet about, “But I don’t want to make an account to have to use some special feature!!%$^%$^OMG@#$#WTF#$%$^BBQ” I don’t think you should get hung up on that or let it deter your from trying to do something new and innovative. It’s kind of like saying, “But there’s already a guy in town that builds houses. The pipes leak and the floors creak, but it’s good enough, I don’t want to have to buy my house through another builder.” If you make a great new product or service, people will line up at the door to sign up for it. If you have the opportunity to do cool things and make the blogosphere better, yet require a login, just do it. Making improvements to this space is much more important.

  3. Dave Munger says:

    Jeremy (Yoder): Thanks for your suggestions — they make a lot of sense. I should point out that one benefit of self-promotion is that it can allow less-popular blogs and start-up blogs get a foothold. If everyone is only allowed to self-promote, say, one post a week, then it can be a good way for them to say “hey, this is a nice one.” ScienceBlogs has something similar with their “ScienceBlogs Select” feed.

    Brian: I agree, we should make an effort to make most of the site accessible without a user account. In the document we even suggest that we may want to pre-populate the database of aggregated blogs (perhaps using the set of blogs currently in the aggregator). Then bloggers can “claim” their blog if they choose, but they’ll be aggregated either way.

    That said, there are some features that wouldn’t work without a dedicated user account. For example, to “recommend” a post would require a login to prevent users from stuffing the ballot box.

  4. Rogue says:

    I like the idea a lot and have several questions/suggestions, hopefully those will be helpful :)

    * Goals: you write “To be open source / open access” – What does “open source blogosphere” mean? Using software under free/OSI-compliant licenses? Something else? And what about the open access part? Does it mean that all the blog which will be aggregated will release their contents under CC-by and/or Free Art license and/or GFDL?

    * Regarding this “open source”-ness: why only sticking to Twitter (non-free software)? A very nice and free micro-blogging platform such as identi.ca should be promoted as well: I find it particularly pity to promote openness in science and to use non-free software to build another way of communicating science.

    * I don’t really know what to think about the editorial stuff. I mean, somehow there will be an “authority argument”, that is if the editorial board says it’s good, then it is. But if the editors are not that interested of other topics, somehow the latter will be skipped. As in many cases, I think I’m afraid of some kind of uniformisation. My suggestion would be to sum up the number of views for postings during one week for ex. and put ahead the less viewed ones: thus, they will benefit of better visibility (the most visited ones do not need it, they already have it :) ). Curators can be gathered to insure there is no major flaws in the postings rather than defining which ones are the most valuable/of the best quality/whatever very subjective qualification.

    * Under what licenses will the graphical designs and the whole code be released?

    The idea of the tags sounds really awesome! Thanks for all those efforts.

  5. Dave Munger says:

    Thanks for the comment, Rogue. Good questions.

    Open source refers to the code supporting the site. So if someone wants to use our code as the basis for an aggregator of, say, political blogs, they could. Open access means there will be no subscription fees for the project.

    Regarding the use of Twitter, that was just one example [update 10/8 2:49 p.m.: I edited the document to make this clearer]. We’re certainly not intending to limit the possible uses of the site. Also, the brilliance of open-sourcing this is if someone wants to add the functionality of another system, they will be able to do so. Can you point us to a site with more information about identi.ca? I’ve heard of it, but never investigated further than that.

    Valid points about editorial stuff. That said, remember that we’re serving multiple audiences. Certainly we’re here as a vehicle for blogs to promote themselves, but we’re also here as a service to readers who aren’t necessarily familiar with the science blogosphere want a quick snapshot of what’s going on. While tags and page views can give some clues, there’s still something to be said for a live human who’s looking at the posts and picking notable ones. I think users should have many ways of experiencing the site; the real question is which ones we should be working on first.

    re: licenses — can you help us out with the pros and cons of some of the major licenses out there? My inclination is to go with some sort of copyleft license like the GPL, but I may be behind the times on the various options available.

    Also, there may be an argument that some graphical designs (e.g. the site logo, and so on) should have a more restrictive license, so they are not misused to confuse or deceive people.

  6. Rogue says:

    “Open source refers to the code supporting the site. So if someone wants to use our code as the basis for an aggregator of, say, political blogs, they could. Open access means there will be no subscription fees for the project.”

    Precisely :) I wanted to be sure that this was meant in the outline. Therefore, licensing the code is important. Did you already think about the license? GPL?

    Regarding the content, the best compatibility seems to be achieved by the combination CC-by-SA + Free Art License (Licence Art Libre) + GFDL. I’ll do my best to write down something more detailed on this point (licensing about code + content) that it is easier to figure out what to adopt.

    Regarding identi.ca: it is based on StatusNet (http://status.net/) which is under the AGPL v3.0. The source code can be downloaded from the StatusNet website. I like the fact that all the content exchanged through identi.ca is under CC-by 3.0 (=> it is Open Data :) ). Here is the bugtracker, they are about to integrate quite some new features (http://status.net/open-source/issues).

    Last but not least: the tough question about editorial board. I totally agree with you, btw :)
    I haven’t thought about it further, but what about an editorial board trying to “separate” postings intended to scientists/specialists (I don’t know, for example a posting describing the growth of whatever specific neural cell from a tropical pig) from those which can be read by a broader public. I’m not sure yet whether this is possible because I’m quite new to the blogosphere. If this is not currently possible, it may be also interesting to promote the birth of broad public blogs.

    The last paragraph is just a mere embryo of idea, so it is normal if it is not clear to you: it is not that clear to me neither ;)

    Hope this helps.

  7. Mark Hahnel says:

    This is for Brian, in terms of signing in. It’s now quite easy to allow signing in with your current accounts, this is now the case with science3point0.com where you can now login with your twitter, facebook, aol, google, yahoo or openid accounts. What will be important is user activity whilst having a block on a spamming free for all, for this reason I believe users need to have some form of registration.

  8. Mark, That’s exactly why I don’t allow gateway registration on my site. It facilitates spamming and driveby posting without building an actual community.

  9. Lab Rat says:

    Here’s why I don’t like signing up for things:

    I have a username/password for uni, I have a username/password for the college network, I have a username/password for my bank, for facebook, for college computers, for department computers, for twitter, for blogger, for DNA2.0, for kodak, for photobox, for flickr, for yahoo, for wikidot, for researchblogging.org, for fictionpress, for deviantart and probably for a few other ones I’ve forgotten.

    The reason I haven’t joined the naturenetwork community is because just can’t face the thought of yet another username/password combination. A year ago my yahoo account got hacked, and I didn’t just have to change the password for that but for all the other registration systems where I have the same password, or a password based off that password.

    And I forget them. NatureNetworks does the whole “it only takes a few seconds to sign in” thing, but I’ve spent a good ten minutes before now staring at the kodak registration form typing various different passwords and swearing at the screen. There are only so many password/username combinations I can *use* I’m starting to get password fatigue.

    On the other hand this does seem like an awesome thing you’ve got going here. And I would get yet another password/username combination for it as I want to keep promoting my blog.

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