Sunday, July 25, 2010

A neoGeo-blogger's View of the Geoblogosphere

I just realized that this blog has been up for over a year now.  I haven't been quite as active at blogging as I hoped I might be, but it has been a fun experience to frame up my thoughts, work through the writer's block, and connect with the vast online community.  To celebrate this belated anniversary, I'm jumping into my first official contribution to The Accretionary Wedge blog carnival.

For those unfamiliar with a blog carnival, it's a collection of blogs centered around a specified topic, collected and presented via permalink by a hosting blogger.  The Accretionary Wedge carnival is hosted by a different blogger of the online geo-community every month and solicits entries covering a myriad of geoscience-related topics throughout the year.   This month's theme was derived by Dave Bressan thru his musings with Michael Welland, and resulted in a call for posts that appeared on Dave's blog, The History of Geology.  The question: the role of the geoblogosphere in geology...
The Geoblogosphere comprises and gathers every day the newest articles from more then 200 blogs (and still counting) dealing with the most various earth related themes, ranging from geological excursions, sharing field experiences, philosophizing about earth sciences, life and art, media coverage and daily rock encounters to discussion of the newest scientific discoveries on this planet and others. So philosophizing around (geo)blogging with Dr. Welland many questions raised:
- like how bloggeology can “impact” society and “real geology,” should and can we promote the “geoblogosphere,” and are blogs private “business” or public affairs, and institutions underevaluating the possibilities given by this new method of communication?

This topic resonates with me, even though I am a neoGeo-blogger.  There are many facets to the questions posed so it will be difficult for me to put all my thoughts out on the figurative table.  But I'll try anyway.  

Before I can fully address the role I see for blog-geology, I probably should first explain why I blog and what I hope to gain from it.  Then I should define what the "geoblogosphere" means to me.  

It all started for me with Twitter.  As an amateur webmaster (I designed and currently maintain my company's website and host a php-based message board) and as the spouse to a mega-techie-junkie, tinkering in things like social media are fun little hobbies for me to play with in my spare time. I must pick up some techie-ness via osmosis or something - father and husband both engineers.  Anyway, after hearing friends talk of Twitter I scoped it out, was immediately intrigued, and set out to see what might come from the tweets of mine and the twitter-ers I started to follow.  What an amazing group of geo-tweeps I stumbled upon!  Their posts regarding field trips, research, public policy, news, myths and misconceptions, frustrations, industry events, educational opportunities, and social commentary has been a major inspiration for me.  All of you that I follow - yes, all of you - are awesome.  \m/(>.<)\m/

I started this blog on a late Tuesday night in June, 2009, with overly idealistic goals to share my geologic knowledge and stretch my writing wings a little bit.  I wanted to be a contributing member of the geoblogosphere, because the rest of you are so darn cool.  However, throughout this year I struggled to meet my own expectations for what I wanted this blog to be.  Time constraints played a big role in my blog-ability (working 60+ hour weeks with 3 kids under 10 at home makes for some rocky times),  but the main reason I struggled is because the geology that I know the most about comes from my work experiences, which falls under strict client confidentiality agreements.  All the data I have access to, the interpretations that come together, and the development of geological models are the property of my clients and the survey companies that lease the data to them.  Working in frontier deepwater oil and gas exploration is fascinating stuff, but most of what I do is not in the public domain.  I find that leaves me very little of my own material to present and discuss with any true depth.  The result has been a great learning experience for me to dig deeper into myself to discover something worth sharing or applicable to others  even when stripped down to generics.  I am honored and grateful to have lured anyone into the blog for a short visit, much less a regular follower.   So, big-time thanks if you are still reading this.  :)  I hope that as my geo-blogging experience grows I will find interesting topics to share and the writer's block a little easier to combat.

So what constitutes the geoblogosphere? I define it as the collective geoscience communication network developed via various internet-based utilities, be they formal blogs, social micro-blogs such as Twitter or Facebook, or other academia, industry, or research-based websites.  Just as the many specialties in geology diverge and converge, so do the ways in which geology can be communicated. Members of the geoblogosphere constitute individuals - professionals, students, interested non-professionals, educators, policy makers - as well as corporations, government entities, industry societies, and research groups.  

Institute of Geosciences of the Universidade F...Image via Wikipedia

Back to the main question: what do I perceive to be the role of the geoblogosphere?  For me it is about community.  It is the community that drew me in, educates me, challenges me, and inspires me.  Asking what the role of the geoblogosphere might be is really asking what is the role each of us plays in our community.  Like any real-life community there are a number of roles to be filled: educator, protector, entertainer, supplier, etc.  The geoblogosphere serves all of these things for the geoscience community in some capacity or the other.   Most, if not all of which, have plenty of room and need to grow.

Members of the geoblogosphere educate each other, educate the public, and maybe are educators by profession.  The same can be said for protecting, entertaining, and supplying.  Granted, since there is no self-proclaimed internet police validating the facts shared online, the value of the material presented via the geoblogosphere and elsewhere should be weighed before presuming things as the God's honest truth.  Then again, value depends on who is doing the valuation.  From what I have witnessed, we do a pretty good job of policing each other, QC-ing content and peer-reviewing, although via less formal means than maybe traditional.

In terms of "real geology" I am awestruck by the level of camaraderie and openness that exists in the geoblogosphere and how it allows for communication of real geologic wonderment.  The vast expanse of specialties, geographic representations, and experience available at your fingertips as part of the geoblogosphere is unfathomable.  True geology is shared en masse and those of us with desk jobs in cube farms bask in the joys shared by the offshore and overseas bloggers, the field geologists, and the twittering TA's.  Perhaps the reverse is true, as the field geos are fighting off the cactus and the mosquitos.  The opportunity to learn, share, and experience things beyond your own surroundings is a rich opportunity that shouldn't be skipped.

The value of the geoblogosphere is greatly unrealized by those who are not a part of it.  Although I still consider myself new to the geoblogging community, I strongly promote participation in the geoblogosphere, as I believe it provides a win-win for everyone involved.  The community benefits through a diversified membership base, and the members benefit from the various services offered by the other members, the geoblogosphere as a whole.  

In my professional life I have followed up on references, news, and research I stumble upon through the geoblogosphere that directly contributes to my project work or  introduce alternate hypotheses.  I am enlightened and aware of things outside my specialty that I otherwise would never be exposed to.  I have the opportunity to see points of view from all sides of an issue.  I don't expect my blogging, tweeting, or status updates to return any tangible benefits for myself, other than the satisfaction of sharing experiences or perhaps someday adding to someone else's inspiration.   I promote the geoblogosphere to my peers and fellow Houston Geological Society (HGS) members by maintaining an online message board (, a Facebook page (, and a Twitter account (@HouGeoSoc) for the HGS, in the hopes that they will benefit as I have from these things.  The challenge is educating people how to use these tools, using the tools to their strengths, and maintaining the momentum to keep it all updated. (BTW, I'm looking for volunteers to join the HGS Social Media Committee, if you're interested).  It is a worthwhile cause to connect with people, connect them to others, and to see growth resulting from that connection.  It is something I am strongly passionate about and enjoy being a part of.