Navigating the ScienceOnline2013 Wiki


ScienceOnline is a non-profit organization that facilitates conversations, community and collaborations at the intersection of Science and the Web. They do this through online networks, projects and face-to-face events (both global and grassroots).

Since 2007, ScienceOnline has held an annual conference in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, hosting scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done.

I’ve attended the annual ScienceOnline conference since 2010 and I’ve had the privilege to moderate three sessions over the years:

I was literally ‘hooked’ on ScienceOnline the first year I went. The conference immediately became and continues to be the one event I have to attend every year. Not only is the topic of science communications important to me, once you attend an unconference style meeting, you’ll hate going to conferences that use a traditional format. Indeed, the best discussions are outside the lecture hall, so why not replace the lecture with those conversations? This is one of the many things that ScienceOnline does, and it does it incredibly well.

Planning and the wiki

After ScienceOnline2010, I asked Bora and Anton if there was anyway I could help in the planning and development of ScienceOnline2011. There was, and I began helping with the ScienceOnline conference planning wiki, which is used every year to solicit, document and organize session ideas, and to develop the program for the upcoming meeting.

I’m helping to setup, organize and manage the ScienceOnline2013 wiki again this year…and this year we’re going to try something different.

With 10 time slots (each having 7 sessions) as well as additional workshops and blitz sessions, cramming everything into the sidebar isn’t an efficient way to structure the wiki’s navigation. I came up with a naming scheme last year to try and keep everything in order and quite honestly I thought it was a mess. So here’s my idea for this year:

ScienceOnline2013 wiki navigation

For the Program, there are 12 “top level” pages linked from the navigation sidebar (see the image at right). These include the 10 time slots, Workshops, and Blitz Sessions. Each top level page will provide attendees with a high level overview of session dates/times, titles, moderators (with links to their Twitter pages, if available),  and room numbers. For example, the Session 1 page will list the 7 different sessions available during the first time slot (Sessions 1A-1G). Although it will take two clicks to navigate to the details of a specific session, in the end everyone will find it faster to navigate since they don’t have to scroll through multiple session descriptions. A similar structure is also in place for the Workshops.

I’m also coding in direct links back to the top level pages on each of the specific session pages. This gives readers the option of clicking in page to return to the top level session page or program page, or alternatively they can select a destination from the wiki sidebar. The direct links are clearly boxed, colored in ScienceOnline orange, and centered on each of the session pages (typically near the bottom of the page). Lastly, I’m coding in a button so users can quickly Tweet each page. That way, as moderators add session information and/or others post comments, it’s simple to let the #scio13 community know there’s new content.

Please let me know your thoughts on these ideas, as well as any other suggestions you have for making the wiki better, in the comments section below.

One last thought: if you’re like me and you find the discussions at ScienceOnline valuable, if the conference is near or at the top of your “go-to meeting list” every year, I encourage you to share your time and/or your money to support the ScienceOnline organization. The registration cost for this year’s conference is $200, but the actual cost per person to cover all  expenses is much more. The ScienceOnline organization relies on sponsors, supporters and participants — you and me — to make each meeting successful. With a little bit of help in some way from each of us, together we make ScienceOnline even better than it was before.

Walter Jessen is a digital strategist, writer, web developer and data scientist. You can typically find him behind the screen something with an internet connection.

  • David Kroll

    Very nice framework, Walter. Easy to understand and very methodical. Looking forward to seeing the sessions assigned to timeslots.

    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with ScienceOnline!