Sunday, January 27, 2013

Geoscience Community on Google+

Back in early December, Google+ unveiled a new way of interacting online called "Communities".  The primary idea is to connect with others who share a common interest.  They are similar to a lot of various internet groups, but being designed with the G+ platform they allow for a lot of useful & interesting ways to share content.

Shortly after they were introduced, I started up a Geoscience Community.  I quickly added +Michael Klaas,  geoblogger at The Cascadia Blog (formerly Uncovered Earth), as a fellow moderator based on our history of curating a shared geoscience circle.  The community is public, meaning anyone with a Google+ account can join and the posts can also be found in Google search.  It is my hope that this community will draw in more geoscientists to join the conversation about all things geoscience.

The community has grown steadily, with new geoscientists contributing daily.  The community has attracted a wide following with currently over 4000 members, but the value of the community is in the quality of the content shared.  Because of the very large numbers, I have been working to help the community have quality posts.  We've put together a list of sub-topics to help keep the posts organized into categories, such as Geoblogs, Volcanology, Structure-Tectonics, Oceanography, and Planetary Geology, for example.  I've also put together a post in the community on "Posting Guidelines" that should assist folks in sharing relevant content.  The posts therefore are curated & filtered - unrelated posts are removed as soon as we see them.  The group is intended for all content that is geoscience related, and we define geoscience broadly to include not just geology, but also relevant content from astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, & geography.

So if you're a geoscientist or a geoscience enthusiast, you're welcome to join the group!  I encourage people to click on the topics on the left side and see the great content that's been shared in the past 2 months.  I'd also love for some professional geoscience organizations to join the community, share with it, participate in the management of it, and promote it to their members.

Why Google+?
My desire is to see more geoscientists connect through social media.  Many use facebook and twitter accounts.  Facebook works well for family & friends, but it doesn't work well for professional contacts or connecting with others around a shared common interest.  Google+ makes managing all kinds of personal connections simple through circles, removing the awkwardness of "friend requests" from people you may not know on a personal level.  Like Twitter, you can follow someone without them following you back (or vice-versa), but you can also easily share with a limited audience by using circles.  Twitter works well for quick, short links & comments, and many geoscientists have combined using twitter with geoblogs in order to establish online connections.  Clearly, the majority of geoscientists who participate in social media are using twitter, and many enjoy it; that's great for those for whom it works.  Personally, I've found twitter to be very useful for some things, but for the most part I'm frustrated by the limiting nature of it.  Obviously tweets are short, and there have been a number of times where I've wished for more characters than 140.  But additionally there are other limiting factors.  Conversations, for example, are challenging to maintain since the comments aren't collected in a single place.  To compensate, some geotweeps use Storify as a way to document & save these conversations, which works well if you are willing to use another website service necessary to record & keep these conversations.  Furthermore, tagging other geotweeps in the tweet further reduces the number of allowed characters for content.  Photo sharing is also possible, but many resort to storing their photos on another site, such as Flickr, adding yet another website service for many uses.  Links are also easily shared, but the content that one might expect to find at the link is often cryptic, because there is no preview except what the user adds in text.  Google+ is able to do all of these things very well, making it a one-stop social media site.  Those who are happy with twitter are not likely to switch over to a new network.  I'm more interesting in bringing more geoscientists into the geosocial world, perhaps those who have used facebook to connect with friends, family, & maybe students, but haven't yet established a way to connect with fellow professionals and aren't interested in using twitter.  In other words, I hope to drawn in a larger number of geoscientists into participating with one another online, not just appeal to those that are already using other social media tools.