Playlist: Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

One of the benefits of having a toddler is that existence, in all its complication, is simplified. Lessons are broken down into simplicity: Eat your carrots. Brush your teeth. Please don’t hit the App Store button.

The simplicity of ScienceOnline’s success is the lesson that we learned early on in life: it’s good to share.

I liken the ScienceOnline experience to the memory of going out and drinking beers with my professors at various pubs. Sitting in a classroom and taking notes is one thing, but the ability to tear down those walls and look across the table and see deep inside someone’s passion is another learning experience altogether.

I’ve been coming to this meeting since it was called the North Carolina Science Blogging Conference but this is the first time I took the opportunity to experience the meeting in its entirety. I was here to listen and learn and if the chance arose, participate.

I had a particular interest in learning more about open science and how online technology was being used to connect scientists. I sat in on a couple sessions talking about data sharing and how technology is an enabler. I took lots of notes that I’m having a hard time deciphering. But I have twitter handles and a stack of business cards so expect some follow up.

I also took the opportunity to sit in on some sessions about writing. Structure has always been the weakest part of my writing so it was enlightening to hear that others have had similar issues and how they overcame them. Looking at narrative structure as shape and music has made me view narrative differently (although I seriously doubt my blog posts will reflect that).

Like many great meetings, the interactions with people in the hallway, the lobby, the bar, queues, shopping malls, always make for the most interesting discussions—those random encounters, those shared experiences.

How exciting is science to use as a shared experience? Yes, you can share a meaningful book (or, if you’re more daring, a poem), but share a dinosaur. Overlook the skeleton of a creature millions of years old and feel immensely small together. These are the things that excited us when we were kids, before we had the opportunity, the privilege of being able to put meaningful words together to make these experiences meaningful.

And being able to share those meaningful experiences, however you chose to do so, motivates and inspires. As one of the closing speakers said on Saturday, it gives us the opportunity, “To be better.”