Electronic Laboratory Notebook Group on LinkedIn

My experience on the Internet to date has led me to prefer open, blog-based mechanisms for an Industry “Conversation” rather than the closed world of LinkedIn groups or indeed any other forum format. Each participant has their own platform and their interests/biases are plain to see and the readers can make their own informed judgements. The interaction of ideas can take place naturally and in the open for all to see and make their individual contributions.

With regard to “bed behaviour” particularly by Sales & Marketing personnel, I’m afraid I’m one of those naive people that believe open conversation spurs creativity, and if people act badly they’ll just look like idiots to the very people they are trying to “impress”. As long as there’s transparency it tends to self-correct.

However, I realise that only a few of us are willing or indeed able to Blog, so forums such as LinkedIn groups definitely have a role. There are a couple of ELN groups on LinkedIn, one’s pretty quiet and the other is somewhat stifled by rather outmoded policies.

So I’m delighted that a more open ELN group has been setup on LinkedIn – you can join it here and I would strongly recommend you do.

Here’s the group description:

This group was set up to provide a place where all can discuss content free from restrictions.

By joining this group you are agreeing to allow other group members to make comment on your discussions free from any risk of litigation or lawsuit. This means other members are free to make reference to trademarks and express their opinion positive or negative. The only recourse is to answer their discussion. Abusive replies will be removed.

Content from this discussion should not be referenced elsewhere.

Innovation requires uncensored discussion.
So feel free to discuss anything related to this topic in here.

I really like this approach, the only quibble I might have is “Content from this discussion should not be referenced elsewhere” which is going to be really tricky in practice – good ideas and discussion spread, that’s the whole point. But I’m sure we’ll have a discussion about it :-).

FYI the group was setup by Andrew Lemon who runs The Edge, producers of BioRails which is on my list of “interesting things to look at when I have time”. So guess he’s a fellow supplier although I’m not sure we compete that much – we briefly met at a conference once, but apart from that I have no relationship with him. I’m just pleased that someone is doing something to enhance the quality of conversation in the industry because we urgently need to something to improve the success rate and ROI of ELN implementations.

5 Replies to “Electronic Laboratory Notebook Group on LinkedIn”

  1. Thanks Simon, I found the ELN discussion on linked in basically too controlled. I like the format but not the restrictions. Hence I decided to vote with my feet and start another.

    I’m open to dropping the restriction about referencing elsewhere. It was really designed as protection from miss-quotation and also problems if opinion was moved outside the signoff that participants will not take legal action against each other.

    This statement was explicitly put in place as protection against litigious suppliers in this space being over zealous in protecting their trademarks. Which amounts to a restraint of trade in many cases.

    Lets hope others follow suit and actually engage in discussion which is definately needed.

  2. While blogs are good ways to bring up a topic and allow a discussion on it, they are usually spurred by a single person’s initial opinion. You post your opinions in your blog, while I post my opinions in my blog, for example. Occasionally, if someone comments on that, it is a response to our own suppositions. That is different than the purpose of a true discussion area where anyone can start the conversation. Also, it is not as if most of our blog postings get many comments, either, relatively-speaking, as most people recognize we have posted an opinion, they read it, and they move along to read the next opinion rather than taking the time to comment on it.

    I see your point that blogs are a way for more people to share more opinions. They’re a way to provide a variety of thoughts beyond that which a handful of magazine subscriptions would provide in a world where things change too fast and have too wide a variety to depend only on those few scheduled periodicals. We no longer flip through a magazine to the column you like, we merely subscribe only to the RSS feeds that we specifically have an interest in and ignore the rest.

    But you oversimplify the theory of sharing of ideas on the Internet. While it might sometimes be open, we do not so freely and naturally share them. For example, as we join and leave various groups, it is so easy to do, that we no longer need to stay around to see whether a group strikes a balance. When I join a group that I see full of advertising, I almost immediately leave. When I join a group that is long-established, enter it, and see no posts, I leave and move along to other pastures. Some people join and stay, hoping the situation will improve, but often forgetting to return to check on that.

    These groups are not like a conference discussion where we are stuck in our seats, embarrassed to leave if we’re bored or uninterested. These days, we just go without staying around to see if the balance is struck. And maybe, we leave to start our own group, because it is just that easy, now. Nor are we so devoted to these groups that we would feel the need to stick it out. They do not provide the same feeling of loyalty and camaraderie that we have with our more formal in-person professional organizations. Thus, the idea that a final balance is created is not usually the outcome of these groups.

  3. @ Gloria: I’m basing my hopes on the vibrant communities I see that have built up around the various technology communities I track, and some of the business-centric areas.

    I’d like us to be able to get to a place where I post on something of interest, and that sparks a thought which causes you to post on your blog – referencing mine (pingbacks take care of this). Not only does process cause us both to enrich our perspective, but people reading can see how things develop and interrelate.

    Blog conversations can extend over large periods of time – I am surprised how much interest I get for “Old” posts. A network of independent blogs quickly becomes a knowledge base which is invaluable to anyone new to the industry, and for me all that’s needed is for a few people (who have a degree of experience) to get out there and start to think in public.

    As an aside, whilst the attendance at ELN conferences is dropping, it is still very valuable as a forum for “The Industry” to get together – which is what CENSA did in the early days. I’d really like to get a kernel of a blogging community going before the conference scene ceases to be a useful venue.

    I think the Groups (like LinkedIn) serve a different and perhaps complimentary purpose – perhaps they are like meeting rooms where people pop in and out, but they tend not to generate much perceptive discussion. In addition one loudmouthed idiot in a group can quickly ruin it, but if they are blogging they’ll just get ignored.

    So as I write this I’m coming to the conclusion that we really need to start creating a knowledge base, and the only way I can see that coming about is via a series of blogs. Conferences are only really useful in the moment and are losing their effectiveness even then (dirty little secret about conferences is they are ruthlessly commercial, and focused on the needs of the sponsors, not the delegates). Groups are useful but the dynamics don’t easily lead to the creation of a knowledge base which can be reused.

    If the ELN industry is going to flourish we need to figure out how to solve the considerable challenges we face. I’m starting to see a number of companies who bought a “safe” product now come back round following a failure, and few ELN projects meet their potential. There’s a lot for us to talk about!

  4. @Simon
    I’m also surprised how much interest I get in my “old” blog posts. One thing that I suspect is that, when a new person comes to see the blog, that they start wading through and run across a few things that interest them. That’s just a guess, though, I’ve no facts to back that up.

    One comment on the mechanics of commenting on blogs:
    I’m sometimes unsure that the way we comment on blogs is ideal. Just as one example, John Trigg posted something about one of your blog posts to TheIntegratedLab.com. I commented on it, there. At the same time, you probably got some comments directly to your blog. Now, the comments are split among multiple places and those readers with an interest are going to miss some points that might be interesting. As such, I wonder if there is a good way to recognize/associate/reference all the comments?

    As for conferences, I would add to what you said. For one, there seem to be too many similar conferences within the same timeframe. Why are so many conferences jammed into Jan/Feb/Mar, for example? One successful conference I’d fairly recently attended was the LRIG NE (Laboratory Robotics Interest Group – New England) vendor exhibition. It was a standout success. Going along with your comment, maybe people attended it more heavily knowing a non-profit group was sponsoring it? I think it had a lot to do with the location where there is a large concentration of interested people in a tiny geographic area (Cambridge, MA, USA). Also, it is so much cheaper and easier to go to a local conference than one of the big ones. A lot of people I spoke with specifically mentioned that, both exhibiting vendors and attendees.

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