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Today launched a new service from the Society for Neuroscience: NeurOnline. SfN has put a lot of effort in this service, such as setting up community 'champions' to pre-populate the forum. I'm one of these champions (for the behavioral neuroscience eGroup) and have posted my inaugural message there already (copy here). Here's the basic look and feel in a promotional video from SfN:



While the design of the site is appealing and the fact that it's set up by a scientific community with more than 40k members means that there's a substantial amount of man-power and human capital behind the site, I'm not very optimistic about the future of this community. When it went up (for testing by the champions), I posted the following message:
Is there a way to pipe aggregated content into this site somehow? I haven't looked around too much, yet, but what I've seen so far just looks like a messageboard from the 1990s, by and large. Are there any other social technologies implemented here?

At the next SfN meeting, will I be able to flag exciting posters from my smartphone and see a list of what my colleagues have picked as interesting posters? If the many failed "Facebook for scientists" attempts are anything to go by, a mere messageboard will not get many people excited.

Just my first impression when I arrived here.
What was yours?
Besides a post seconding the idea about future functionality, it received no replies addressing the core of the post: that the current functionality maybe wasn't all that suited for the task.

My major ciritcism of the venture is that it offers such a limited functionality that it is almost useless. The main organization of the site is that of a message board with different sections ('eGroups' - such as behavioral neuroscience). However, the software used for handling the discussions is inferior even to what people started using at the end of the 1990s early 2000s. For instance, each eGroup is just one single gigantic file containing every single thread in it. This of course makes it entirely impossible to follow any discusssions. All the messages in the eGroup are just appended one after the other irrespective of content. Private email discussions are easier to follow than this system, let alone mailinglists or real messageboards.

There doesn't seem to be any aggregator functionality built in at all, which would allow users to highlight papers or other feed content. This means, for instance, that following another member doesn't really mean anything other than that this person shows up in your buddy list with zero attached functionality, as far as I could tell.

Posting messages is about as easy as writing emails and in fact doesn't have any added functionality over emails: no embedding of videos, no source code editing, no reference manager, nothing.

I could go on but I guess you get the gist: from what I can tell, NeurOnline is the idea of a messageboard, with the implementation of a private email discussion and a level of functionality of the early-mid 1990s.

But maybe that's exactly what's needed to get the majority of scientists engaged who are using the internet with about the functionality of the early 90s anyway? devilmad.png
Posted on Monday 13 June 2011 - 18:29:38 comment: 0
facebook   neuronline   web 2.0   social web   


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