openwetware

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My life at OWW has been an endless stream of messages articulating Austin’s far-too-old feature and technology suggestions that I slowly get around to adding. The “flash” (of insight) to “bang” (of getting the idea online) is not great; I would hope the time will diminish eventually. But for now, this is what it is!

The latest is a big one. That would make it a “big bang”. So maybe a better way of saying it would be a “marginal thud” to a “moderate drop”. I’ve started the process of adding support to OWW for Javascript Gadgets. This is a centrally managed method of deploying ‘sanctioned’ Javascript that then can be enabled or disabled by every user. This extension is already in use on various WikiMedia servers; we are long overdue.

What it means is that there are scores of ways people more javascript-savvy than me have created small extensions to MediaWiki that do all sorts of useful things. The ‘quick-nav’ item on the sidebar, written by Austin, as an example, could be included in this general category. I created an extension to enable it for everyone since it is so useful to anyone who has ever forgotten the last 15 pages he/she visited.

I’ll provide a full list of these extensions when I’ve completed the import of them.

Once we have access to all of them, I would imagine that a set of much more research- and life science-specific entries would be useful. Since the Venn diagram representing “biologists”, “OWW users and viewers”, and “Javascript hackers” may be initially limited to Austin, it may be a while before we have many OWW-specific extensions available.

Personally, I think we should all do our best to start keeping him company.

If there’s something you have to do over- and over- again in OWW to do your work, consider using the discussion area I’ll add in order to get the ideas flowing.

Expect the first set of Gadgets, with instructions, to be available this week.

If anyone wants to volunteer to help out with testing Gadgets prior to our including them in the central library, please let me know. We’re not limiting inclusion of Gadgets because we want to suppress open science, by the way. It’s just that in programming, anything that can fail, will. I just don’t want an infinite number of new lab notebook pages to be created just because someone wanted to automate his or her own task and didn’t test!

Here’s a link for more information on MediaWiki Gadgets:

wikimedia.org: Gadgets

By the way. Don’t confuse Gadgets with Widgets. We may add Widgets as well. Unlike Gadgets, once enabled, Widgets can be added by anyone to any of their pages. Where Gadgets are more related to creating content and using OWW, Widgets will be useful for extending OWW to interact with external data.

Thanks.
Bill

PS: Thanks again, AC.

The Boston Globe has recently published an article showcasing a few projects that belong to what they refer to as “a peaceful insurgency in science”, an open-science movement per se.

Barry Canton, Ph.D. graduate at MIT and co-founder of OpenWetWare, is portrayed as an example of this movement. By posting his work on OWW (and also to an established journal!), his work has been incorporated into 18 different projects in other labs.

Other projects mentioned are Science Commons, also based at MIT, and the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement has been growing quite significantly recently. I should say regrowing, given the fact that I recall reading Popular Mechanics do-it-yourself encyclopedias at least 15 years ago!

Anyhow, enter the Forbes DIY e-gang. Forbes has put together a short list of prominent names in the newly revived DIY movement like Dale Dougherty & Tim O’Reilly (Make Magazine), Neil Gershenfeld (Fab Labs), Jim Newton (TechShop), just to name a few.

Ginkgo BioWorks Transformation GuideAmong the group spotlighted in Forbes is Reshma Shetty (Ginkgo BioWorks), a PhD graduate from MIT and also co-founder of OpenWetWare.

Shetty and colleagues (also MIT PhD graduates and co-founders of OpenWetWare) recently demonstrated how microorganisms can be manipulated quite easily to produce interesting results. In this case, they genetically transformed bacteria (E. coli) to produce a red glow. All this was done in a few simple steps as illustrated.

On a side note, I found it interesting that there was no mention of DIYbio, a group recently founded by Mackenzie Cowell and Jason Bobe in Cambridge, MA. Although not yet quite as grand as the DIYers mentioned in Forbes, but still noteworthy.

One recent SciFoo related post that caught my eye was Mario Pineda-Krch’s thoughts on the idea of distributed open notebook science. Yes, distributed.

As Mario mentions, by using a client based wiki setup like Tiddlywiki, the user has more flexibility by not having to rely on network access. Furthermore, a version control system like Git brings redundancy allowing anyone to download the latest version of the notebook. The wiki + the data with full control.

The idea of open notebook science is not necessarily a new one. The term was coined by JC Bradley roughly two years ago. However, it’s been tough to go mainstream due to the fact that notebooks are usually foreseen to be private, thus failing in the “open” department. However, this hasn’t stopped many from setting up lab notebooks online like Jean-Claude Bradley, Garrett Lisi or any of the dozens of OpenWetWare lab notebook users.

Jonathan over at Working the bench has just recently posted about how impressed he is by OpenWetWare and the available protocols:

It takes a little digging, but the website is really sweet simply because it gives you the feel that, for any given protocol, you are looking at something that works. It’s been tested, validated, and in many cases even commented on and modified by any number of additional people.

Jonathan makes a good point here where he mentions that you are looking at something that has been tested, validated and in many times worked on collaboratively by a group of OWW members.

What Jonathan doesn’t mention is that although OWW is a great resource for protocols, there are other great features like the materials section, indexed reference sources and above all, a large community of researchers from all over the world.

It’s almost officially Summer here in the northern hemisphere but there is still time to do some spring cleaning.

As you can see, we’ve changed the name of our main blog from Steering Committee to Community, to reflect what we thing it should be about – Not only the steering committee’s views and operations but what the OWW community at a whole has to show the world.

The name change is just the first step among many new features we’ll be bringing to the OWW Community blog over the next weeks. To keep up-to-date, we suggest that you visit us regularly or subscribe to our feed.

Note: Although we’ve changed the title and subsequently the blog’s address, our RSS subscribers should not see much of a glitch. If you do happen to find anything broken, please let us know.