Unknown, but not hidden

A Joshua tree in the desert, with low cliffs in the background, and a cloud-chased sky above
(jby, Flickr)

Word is that Twitter is selling out to Elon Musk, whose (speculated) plans for the platform are not especially encouraging. On the one hand, Twitter privately owned by a “free-speech absolutist” may not be appreciably less pleasant for a person like me than Twitter as a publicly traded company with some nominal interest in the experience of users besides Elon Musk. On the other hand, this is as good an excuse as any to take a step back and see if I can, finally, log off.

I’m not deleting my account — not yet — but I’m going to see if I can’t get back to something like my online behavior from the era before Twitter was my first social login of the day. Way back in the Obama administration, I posted to this blog (actually, its incarnation on, yikes, Blogger) multiple times a week. I didn’t break my thoughts up into pithy little snippets, or plan longer discussions in strings of 280-character sentences. I just … wrote.

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Science online, footprints of destruction edition

Great Vintage Movie Marquee:  Elmwood Theater, College Avenue, Berkeley CA Vintage theaters: charming. Vintage attitudes about women’s roles: unprofitable. Photo by Minette Layne.

Spring-cleaning Twitter

Masjid Sweeper Photo by Meanest Indian.

Late last week I happened to notice that I was following something like 1,400 accounts on Twitter. That seems like … a lot? So I decided to start pruning the list a little. I like Twitter for interactions with other scientists and science-y folks, for discovering new ideas and results and news, and for its overall global water cooler aspect. So with that in mind, I’ve decided to triage who I follow along these lines:

  • I’m only going to follow accounts that actually update regularly. Because otherwise, what’s the point?
  • I’m prioritizing accounts belonging to people I know personally.
  • In many cases, I was following both the official account for publications or organizations and accounts belonging to their staffers/contributors—and I’d get tweets about the same stuff from each. Given the choice, I’d rather follow individual people than organizations; Mark Joseph Stern over Outward.
  • I’m prioritizing scientists, particularly those in my field.
  • I’m blanket-unfollowing politicians and political organizations. I read the news; I don’t need links to press releases and official statements in my Twitter feed. And if they tweet something genuinely interesting, I should see it re-tweeted from the “real” people I follow.
  • I’m blanket-unfollowing parody and joke accounts. Yes, it’s funny to read the latest management tips from Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but I really don’t need a regular drip of them in my feed. As with political feeds, I’m now relying on the actual human beings I follow to show me the best stuff from these accounts.
  • I’m unfollowing any account if, when it comes up on my feed, I can’t remember the last time I clicked on one of its posts (unless the account falls into one of the priority lists above).

Twitter doesn’t provide any useful way to sort through a, let’s face it, ridiculously long list of account names based on anything other than the order in which I followed them, so I’ve been casting about for a third-party system. The interface at Tweepi is somewhat balky, but it does let me sort the list by how recently each account was updated, which is useful. I’m also simply keeping an eye on my main feed, and unfollowing whenever I see something that doesn’t meet the triage conditions. So far I’m down to … 1,169.◼

Science online, eddies in the space-time continuum edition

Ripples Photo by tomopteris.

Video of the week: Joe Hanson on the evolutionary history behind human endurance running, a topic near and dear to my heart.


Science online, moral hazards edition

Coffee cup Off to the races. Photo by @Doug88888.

Science online, gold-star creationist edition

Tomatoes You might want to plant your own tomatoes, this year. Photo by rachelandrew.

Science online, one in twenty edition

One in a billion Photo by Micah Sittig.

Science online, caricatures of ant toiletry edition

Crowd Is it getting crowded in here? Photo by James Cridland.
  • This week, at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! The evolutionary compromise made by attractive flowers.
  • And, at The Molecular Ecologist: I mused about how science depends on what scientists notice.
  • Actually a pretty tidy solution. Ant larvae are completely constipated.
  • Woah. Has NASA captured images of water flowing on Mars?
  • Turning somersaults to remain inside the cave. The mental gymnastics of creationism.
  • Drosophila-philiac. A history of the fruit fly as a model organism.
  • Maybe not scary? No, that’s still a lot of people. Some fresh projections for world population growth—and a great in-depth report on the successful history of family planning in, of all places, Iran.
  • Where to even start? Fighting the good fight for science literacy online.
  • Hmm. Why don’t we have any numbers on the usefulness (or lack thereof) of online classes for minority students?
  • Because they’re designed to! When statistics make caricatures.
  • Superb. The endosymbiosis at the origin of eukaryotic life.
  • Step aside, Tyrannosaurus. Some fossil mammals that are just as cool as dinosaurs.

Science online, yet another final argument edition

First Stars There’s probably at least one class-M planet somewhere in this picture. Photo by redeye^.
  • This week at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! Stalking the wild holobiont.
  • And at The Molecular Ecologist: How to “triangulate” your genome scan.
  • The fault is not in the stars, but in our telescopes. Will we ever find Earth-like planets orbiting other stars?
  • Wow. With winter precipitation at a record low, California is facing the third year of a catastrophic drought.
  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a scientist in possession of a hypothesis must be in want of Jane Austen. Jonathan Eisen takes issue with some literary advice for scientists.
  • A review of The Signal and the Noise. Why scientists need prior knowledge.
  • Yeah … probably not. Is this comparative karyotype the final piece of evidence that will shut down creationism?
  • In memoriam, Philip Seymour Hoffman. The science of addiction, in very personal perspective.
  • Wow. How a photographer caught a bee mid-sting.
  • The flaw in their thinking is the implicit assumption that a cat is a rigid body, an assumption that is obviously false to any cat-owner! The physics that lets cats land on their feet.

Science online, living in the future edition

Monarch (Butterfly), Virginia Will the future have monarch butterflies? Photo by Minette Layne.