My Twitter life is complete!

I am, at this very moment, experiencing the ‘academic high’.  It doesn’t come along very often.  But when it does, it is akin to a runner’s high (something that, sadly, I have experienced only once or twice). 

Today, I am trying to immerse myself into a re-write of an existing article for another publication – a common exercise in the academic world. Do the research, write up the results and then ‘spin it’ (the story) as many ways as you can.  Multiply your academic currency!  

In attempting this seemingly rudimentary task today, two words come to mind: “writer” and “block”.  Actually, now that I think of it, that’s not accurate.  This particular re-write is a merger between two existing documents.  So, the word of this less-than-productive day is more apt to be: “lazy”. When I feel “lazy” (which doesn’t happen very often ’cause I am a most dedicated, disciplined academic researcher ;o) ), I get distracted.  Working from home 80% of the time doesn’t help – there are dogs to play with, horses to pet, laundry to do (you get the picture).  Being tied to the computer and the Internet, which comprises 99.5% of my working day, doesn’t help.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… etc. are the biggest distractions.

So what does one do when one can’t get motivated for a re-write?  One Twitters it or changes one’s FB status to reflect it, hoping to incite pity from colleagues (who are also easily distracted by social media).

My original Twitter message which contains a link to my blog and the article for re-write: 


Take note of last “@” in the Twitter message.  Richard Florida ( is the ‘creative class’ guru.  He is like the “Dalai Lama” of city/creative/urban focused academic research.  This, to some, may be a bit of an overstatement, but I have a deep respect for the man.  He is the author of the books “Who’s Your City?”, “The Flight of the Creative Class” and “The Rise of the Creative Class” to name a few.  Florida is currently affiliated with the University of Toronto and I am pleased to say that I have been, on one or two occasions, in the same room as him. I once attempted to sidle up to the man, to politely introduce myself and initiate an intellectually stimulating conversation about the nature of ‘the creative’ and how we employ the term in the Calgary CMA setting.  Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, I had a bit too much of the ‘red stuff’. While imbibing at a conference dinner augmented my confidence and served to enhance my ‘moxy’ and intellectual acumen (or so I thought), it did absolutely nothing for my coordination. My wine-induced self-assurance plummeted to sea level when I collided with a chair and twisted my ankle [academic down!]. I hung my head and hobbled off to my hotel room to nurse my pride and my ankle. That was the closest I ever came to talking to Richard Florida.      

So, here is where the ‘academic high’ comes in.  Twitter message (see above) is sent.  Almost immediately, a new message from Richard Florida is posted in my timeline stream:
AAAAAAAAAAAcccckkkkkk!  My eigenvector measure just went up!

Of course, I had to follow that up with:
I just checked my Twitter stream of @DocCamiRyan ‘mentions’…and… Yes! Florida’s re-tweet has been re-tweeted!

Hellooooo, higher ‘social media’ centrality measure! 


The Fourth Paradigm = programs to manage and mine enormous data sets

In my work with scientists in mouse-related and ag-biotech related research, a constant challenge is the management of data and information that is collected at a seemingly exponential rate.  The capacity to create this data (knowledge) far out-paces our ability to develop appropriate programs to manage it.  As a result, we are data/information heavy (a good thing) but with no real capacity to optimize its sharing and use (a bad thing), even within the tighter (presumably more manageable) boundaries of a given project.  


I came across an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review today entitled: “The Big Idea: The Next Scientific Revolution” According to its author, Tony Hey, experts do have a good understanding of data and they have the ability to see the often invisible links “between the columns”; finding non-obvious or latent connections within or between disciplines that can serve as catalysts for new and innovative possibilities.  But we have almost reached a crucial point.  Experts are now DROWNING in data.  Information is streaming in at a dizzying rate making it challenging to organize, analyze and store. The late Jim Gray (American computer scientist and recipient of the Turing Award in 1998) proposed what he called “the fourth paradigm” for scientific exploration.

“[Gray’s] vision of powerful new tools to analyze, visualize, mine, and manipulate scientific data may represent the only systematic hope we have for solving some of our thorniest global challenges” writes Hey. “The fourth paradigm*… involves powerful computers. But instead of developing programs based on known rules, scientists begin with the data. They direct programs to mine enormous databases looking for relationships and correlations, in essence using the programs to discover the rules. We consider big data part of the solution, not the problem. The fourth paradigm isn’t trying to replace scientists or the other three methodologies, but it does require a different set of skills. Without the ability to harness sophisticated computer tools that manipulate data, even the most highly trained expert would never manage to unearth the insights that are now starting to come into focus.”

This plays in nicely with Ostrom’s work on the “commons”.  have a few blog entries on her and the IAD Framework in “Consider Icarus…” (search term = Ostrom)

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*The first two paradigms are experiment and theory, computation/simulation is the third.