I wrote this series of comics to amuse and inform my kids while I was on fieldwork a few years ago. It turned out to be quite a success and my kids classes both read the Danish versions at their school.
I asked yesterday on mastodon if I should do another this year, and the only feedback I got was I should try to finish the one I started last year. So maybe that’s what I’ll try to do. It’s always challenging fitting around field tasks though so no promises.
This is just a quick post from the airport: you’ve been warned, bat girls and her friends are on their way back with a new season!
Non-exhaustive list of (occasionally erroneous) reasons why climbing makes me science better (and explaining inter alia why I interview awfully). Prompted by this stupid tweet1: How can being a rock climber (or a baker, or a stand-up comedian, or…) make you a better researcher? Scientists share their thoughts (and their hobbies) in this #NextGenSci: https://t.co/v8JoesyzJ2 […]
I’ve often been contacted by various journalists to comment on different science stories, usually related to Greenland, the ice sheet or more generally glaciers and climate change. This makes sense, I’ve spent the last 20 years studying the interactions between the climate system and the cryosphere.
Last week, I was asked to comment on the record minimum Antarctic sea ice extent (scroll to the bottom to see what I had to say). While sea ice is not exactly my area, it’s pretty close, and I have looked into it in some detail given that I am also part of the ESA Climate change initiative for sea ice.
Update: I just became aware that the ever entertaining and informative Dr Ella Gilbert has a superb video over on youtube which discusses all of this in some detail. She’s far more engaging than I am so I’m just going to drop the link here. You can probably skip the rest of this post..
Last year, whilst working on the sea ice, I had to acknowledge to my sea ice colleagues – it is an awful lot more interesting than I’d originally thought. Probably the moment when I really got it though, was when my colleague Andrea urged me to taste the frost flowers we had just spotted growing next to a sea ice lead, as in this this picture on the left.
They are delicate, soft, and almost fizzy with salt. How can you not wonder about their formation and wonder about the role of sea ice in the fjord system?
Back to Antarctic sea ice: The current wave of media stories has been about the new record low sea ice area. The annual minimum, reached in February was about 1.7 million km2, or about 1 million km2 less than the average sea ice extent at the annual minimum. As the figure below shows, there is a really clear annual cycle with sea ice growing from February to September, when it reaches it’s maximum, and then declining again to February the following year when it reaches a minimum extent.
This pattern is pretty similar to the Arctic where the sea ice has a maximum area in Feb/March and a minimum area in September.
If you sum this whole area around Antarctica up to one number per year, there is no clear trend – in fact until 2016, Antarctic sea ice appeared to be increasing, in direct opposition to the Arctic area which has crashed over the last 30 years. Then things have changed.
The figure below, plotted by my colleague Gorm Dybkjær and presented at the Danish Antarctic science seminar clearly shows this. Blue colours indicate above average sea ice area, red colours below average.
However, as many others have also pointed out, although the overall trend was increasing up to 2016, that increase largely came from one basin, the Weddell Sea, which in contrast to the Ross Sea, Bellingshausen Sea and Amundsen Sea sectors*, was increasing it’s area covered by sea ice. Now all sectors have seen a decrease.
I posted towards the end of last year about my early explorations of the fediverse (the federated universe – seriously it’s awesome check it out) of apps and websites that can talk to each other but cover a vast range outside of the walled gardens of the corporate controlled internet. Like many people who were (probably far too) intensely online, the changes at Twitter were forcing me away from that platform, which I had been on for a decade. And on which I had more than 10,000 followers
After a few weeks I was completely enraptured by the community on mastodon, far more independently minded, creative and yes, that awful tech bro cliche, disruptive. It was, as is also now fast becoming a bit of cliche, like going back to 2011 Twitter.
On mastodon, as of February 2023 I now have 3600 followers and follow about 2000 accounts. I get far far more interesting interaction and discussion than on my old twitter account with three times as many followers. I’m not the only one noticing this. To be clear it’s taken some “work” to get there. Finding new accounts, dealing with a less than intuitive UX and working out what is of general interest has taken some time. If htis post makes you curious, I recommend the feditips page as a good starting point.
I’m now a fully signed up active member of the fediverse with a pixelfed account (think instagram before the annoying tiktok immitation and with a lot fewer “influencers”), 2 mastodon accounts (probably soon to be amalgamated to one tbh) and some tentative explorations of friendica (a bit like facebook when it still seemd like a cool way to keep in touch with friends and family abroad, jury is still out on this one tbh, I’m trying to keep it for personal friends and family only).
Blogging also seems to have come back into my purview. And it’s fun, thinking about writing and science in quite a different way to the one imposed by the 280 character limit (some of us remember when it was 140).
A few months down the line and while activity on mastodon has subsided since the first waves in 2022, the hard core who are still here are REALLY cool. I feel refreshed and revitalised after checking the stream in a way I have not experienced for a long time on twitter.
It’s also made me reflect on the way I had used social media in the past (probably far too much time spent there if I’m honest with myself). I had accumulated a lot of followers and could quite happily spend hours browsing the algorithmic feed, but especially recently, a lot of that browsing was like snacking on cookies, it was time that would have been more fufilling going in depth on a project or enjoying my leisure time without thjat SoMe filter. At some point twitter helped to find good stuff too, but even before the Musk takeover and mass departures it wass getting harder and harder to find genuinely interesting stuff amid the flood of witty oneliners and outrage driven algorithmically pushed tweets.
After the takeover there has been poisonous floodtide of misinformation and anti-science drivel, not to mention anti-semitism, racism and general bigotry. The climate denial that has arisen since Elon Musk bought the platform wasn’t even this bad during climategate. I have no idea why it has got this awful again recently. I assume the same state actors and misinformation manipulators and their bot armies. Either way, even though I missed some accounts and friends, I no longer want to be supporting a billionaire’s hobby project. SO in the best social democratic tradition, I’m withdrawing my (free) labour.
I moved over towards the end of last year and while I kept an eye on the birdsite, I didn’t feel the need to engage there anymore. I was cross-posting exclusively from Mastodon to Twitter until the crossposter service was ended at the end of January. The end of the open API this week is probably the final end for me. I may post links to my blog for a little while longer, but probably that’s just prolonging the inevitable.
So now it’s time to take stock. I will hold on to my account, though probably locked to new followers, I may drop in from time to time but I don’t plan to engage over there at all. I have downloaded my archive (while I still could) and started deleting my tweets. As of today there is a year’s worth left. I’ll probably scrap that at some point too.
So, do I miss it? Yes, a bit. More than I missed the swamp of facebook when I left there in 2016. But not as much as I thought I would. Possibly because the discovery of the fediverse is leading me to becoming a far more active netizen again, rather than a passive consumer of snack food. I do miss some accounts and friends who have not moved over, though I hope they will one day.
And the ever wise Danish genre and Grundtvig expert Sune Auken expressed it pretty well in one of his daily reminders: “I know why I left, and I know what I lost, but I’m not going back and I don’t miss the experience of twitter even as I miss excellent friends”
And where from here? Well the cool thing about the fediverse is we are in control, we get to decide (at least to some limited extent) what it should look like in the future. It is not a corporate walled garden, we get to work on and improve it and make it after our own image. The same was once true to some extent of twitter and in fact many of it’s best features were user-driven originally.
More to the point, this whole sorry saga has made me realise two things: I don’t want to build stuff on someone else’s platform anymore.
I need to be much more mindful of the way I use social media and the internet. I have too many responsibilities to family, friends and work to fritter away a mindless hour on social media snack food. But there is nonetheless value and entertainment in creating and sharing:
The bottom line of this general thinking is that a simple, carefully curated, minimalist digital life is not a rejection of technology or a reactionary act of skepticism; it is, by contrast, an embrace of the immense value these new tools can offer…if we’re willing to do the hard work of figuring out how to best leverage them on behalf of the things we truly care about.
Historically Denmark has not done a huge amount of Antarctic science. We are the only Nordic country (apart from Iceland) without an Antarctic station for example, but quite a lot of research has been done in collaboration with other countries. Of course you could argue that with our natural focus on Greenland and the Arctic, we don’t really need one…
The threat of sea level rise, with a large portion coming to Denmark from Antarctica has rather focused our minds on down south though and on this basis I now have several research projects with an Antarctic ice sheet and climate focus, including PolarRES, PROTECT and the just started OCEAN:ICE – I will write more on all of these at some point.
Of course it’s not just my employer DMI who knows that in spite of being far away, the coldest, driest, windiest continent is important in the global system and especially to Denmark in a sea level rise perspective. We have also been monitoring ozone and sea ice for decades and making ice charts for navigation when required also.
The Danish Technical University have also been flying remote sensing missions in Antarctica for decades and the Niels Bohr Institute have been involved in several big ice core projects, including the oldest ice core currently underway. GEUS and Aarhus University have geological interests and there are various biology research programmes underway too, while the IGN have a project using old soviet spy satellite imagery that sounds like a plot from a cold war novel…
All of which is to say, it’s time for a small get together to find out who is doing what, going where and when and who would like to plan and collaborate together on new and exciting projects.
The Danish Antarctic Science seminar, an annual event, will be held on the 2nd February at DMI this year and online. It covers all sciences, not just climate and ice sheet and this year we’d really like to get a broad group representative of the full spectrum of polar science in Denmark, so do feel free to register and listen in and discuss, even if you have no active or inactive projects in the Antarctic.
Let me know if you are a danish – based scientist and would like to come along or if you are otherwise interested and we’ll see what can be arranged. Deadline for registration is the 30th January!
We will head to the field in Qaanaaq in late March with various instruments.
Update: It’s official now, I have booked my tickets, we have new instruments to deploy and a colleague and I are working on developing a new programme that we can hopefully also fit in alongside the currently planned programme. More on this at some point no doubt. The countdown has begun and I am getting into that fieldwork frame of mind.
I came across this blog post from old friend and former colleague, Karen Darke, who I’m now more or less out of touch with, unfortunately.
She is just back from her incredible Pole of Possibility expedition in Antarctica and she wrote this which I think perfectly summed up that expedition frame of mind..
It’s a really great blog post and well worth a read of the whole thing.
Our fieldwork expeditions are maybe a bit more frenetic than the pole of possibility has been (in some ways, probably not others). We are always racing against the clock and the weather to get as much work done as possible. We probably cover less distance and there is perhaps less physical stress as the dogs do the hard work of pulling, rather than skiing with human muscles. Nonetheless, there is a constant low-level thrum of thinking, planning, checking. Even if there are also often whole hours, where not much other than travel happens and that are extremely valuable thinking time. (And how often do we get that in the modern world?)
Unlike the Antarctic, working with local people in Greenland means that we also see the landscape as a working place, not just a white desert far away and as Karen writes, how true this is:
On a slightly different note, I had momentarily similar thoughts to Karen on the problem of despoiling the landscape with toilet visits the first time I visited Qaanaaq, before realising that when travelling with 30 dogs (as the local people have always done), the problem is rather moot. But as I have written before, it’s easy to fall into the trap of pristinism in the Arctic. Our work on the Arctic environment is a reminder that it really isn’t. Even in Antarctica, environmental pollutants from lead to microplastics have been found, while the curse of overfishing is almost as visible in the Southern Ocean as in the northerly just as climate change is also taking a toll.
But finally, I also find myself fully agreeing with the last part, because although fieldwork is often cold, uncomfortable, difficult, exhausting, boring and tiresome, it’s also often fascinating, rewarding and exciting. And the experience can change us.
I am immensely privileged to be able to do fieldwork in Greenland and I am extermely grateful for the opportunity to do so.
I was recently asked to comment on this interesting new paper by David Rounce and co-authors for AP by Seth Borenstein called “Global glacier change in the 21st century: Every increase in temperature matters”. You can read his resulting summary here . I’m posting here the slightly expanded and lightly edited response I sent to Seth in response to his (very good) questions.
The authors only look at the small glaciers and ice caps in this study, not the big polar ice sheets, though they do also cover small peripheral glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica that are not part of the main ice sheets. Of course, this means that sea level rise from all the other important processes like thermal expansion and ice sheet met also have to be taken into account on top of the numbers given here.
Their main findings were that at 1.5 °C above preindustrial, we can expect total glacial mass loss between 2015 and 2100 would be 26% with 90 mm of sea level rise and 49% of the small glaciers and ice caps lost globally. The paper only deals with these small glaciers and does not count the big ice sheets!
At 4°C, we’re looking at 41% mass loss with ~154 mm of sea level rise and 83% of glaciers lost. At 2.7 °C, where the world is now heading, 32% mass loss, 115 mm of sea level rise and 68% of glaciers lost.
I’m sad to say that the results aren’t exactly a surprise – the community has known for some time that the loss of glaciers is basically linear with temperature, so the title of the paper is really spot on, every tenth of a degree really does matter. This earlier paper by my Horizon 2020 PROTECT project collaborator Ben Marzeion shows something very similar But it’s a nice new result with the latest generation of glacier model and updated with the latest CMIP (IPCC) scenarios and they included some new processes that weren’t very well accounted for in previous work.
My first thought was that these latest estimates were actually a little lower than I expected, but the baseline in the paper is 2015 – we should remember that many of these glaciers have already lost quite a lot of ice (see my two photos of Nigårdsbreen in Norway, taken only 13 years apart) – so the new estimates are basically in line with what I would have expected given earlier work. I’d also expect that they will continue to lose ice beyond 2100 so it’s definitely not an end state that they are giving here. As they state in the article there will be widespread deglaciation of some pretty iconic parts of the world, even under the present planned emissions reductions..
In many ways part of the problem has been the previous studies have not always accounted for all the processes: frontal ablation (melt and calving of vertical ice cliffs, mostly in contact with water), the effect of debris cover and so forth (the latter will likely reduce the rate of loss, the former probably increases it). Given what we know about these processes and how to represent them in models, I still consider this work to be a more realistic estimate. Then we also need to account for the climate models and the scenarios used to force them – there are some important differences between CMIP5 and CMIP6 which might also account for some of this shift. We have actually seen something somewhat similar for the projected changes in the big ice sheets.
It’s probably important to remember though that this study still needs to make simplifications, especially when looking at so many glaciers in so many different regions, so there will always be new updates to come with improved computing power and computational techniques and better representation of processes. Having said that, I do not think the picture will substantially change in future, though I can always be proved wrong, and the glaciers community are now at the stage of refining estimates for rates of mass loss.
Globally the loss of glaciers means sea level rise. Regionally and locally the biggest consequences will be for for water resources and we’re likely to see a local increase in natural hazards like outburst floods and avalanches that will need to be carefully managed. There have been a couple of instances already in the last year or two that probably demonstrate this well (e.g. the Marmolada glacier in Italy last year).
I include myself in the group who has to get used to the cultural shift. I have worked on glaciers in the Alps and Norway which are really rapidly disappearing. It’s kind of devastating to see, but it’s not actually surprising. We have known it was coming and in many cases (including the authors of this paper), measured the massive losses (last year, 2022 was a disaster for the Alps and both Fabien Maussion and Matthias Huss who are co-authors on the paper are running very comprehensive programmes that show in real time how much of a disaster) and predicted it with some accuracy. But we’re now at the point where it’s really undeniable that these glaciers are going fast.
The Rhonegletscher in the timelapse above is a really iconic glacier in the Alps, I have my own favourites, mostly places I’ve worked, like Norway, Iceland and Greenland, which are all to a greater or lesser extent retreating fast now. The glaciers that people consider iconic or at least well-known tend to be accessible and depend very much where you are and they will be the glaciers we mourn over in the next decades. In the French Alps, it’s probably the Mer de Glace, in Switzerland perhaps Rhone glacier or Plaine Morte (both have monitoring programmes), in Canada perhaps the Malaspina or Athabasca glaciers. There are still (just) glaciers on Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, the Ruwenzoris are basically gone, as are the Papuan glaciers.
Though they show in the study that ice loss is basically linear with temperature, at some point the glaciers become so small that the remianing melt is highly non-linear. And these won’t grow back under any sensible “overshoot” scenario (never mind that we don’t really have technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere at scale). Once they’re gone, they’re basically gone forever on human timescales Finally, I’d like to add a bit of anlaysis by Ben Marzeion and co-authors , it’s possible to basically put a number on the amount of melted glacier ice each kg of CO₂ leads to.
To make one thing very clear straight away, and as the newspaper article also makes very clear, my colleague Steffen Malskær Olsen has established and maintained a very long-running programme of observations in the fjord near Qaanaaq. This town in northern Greenland on the edge of a large fjord, and close to the North Water polynya has a uniquely interesting location to study and understand Arctic processes. The DMI facility there is long established and part of the INTERACT network of Arctic field stations. The 15-year record collected by Steffen is more or less unbroken and uniquely valuable. None of the science I’m planning to do or to work on would be possible without his dedication, hard work, insight and bridge building within the community in Qaanaaq. He and my other DMI colleagues involved in this programme are brilliant scientists and great field companions and I feel privileged to be able to work with them in this incredible place.
Secondly, as the article also makes clear, scientists are not individualistic heroes who beat the odds, it’s a team sport. And it’s especially true in Greenland where the true heroes of this story are probably not scientists but the local hunters and fishers who guide and transport us and whose knowledge and experience is unmatched. I include also on this category our DMI colleague Aksel Ascanius who lives and works in Qaanaaq has been an essential part of the programme since the earliest days, as well as keeping other long-term observations in the network running in this part of the world.
Collaboration with the people who live in the Arctic has been essential for success in Arctic science since since the days of Franklin and Rae (for British readers) or Suersaq, aka Hans Hendrik, (after whom Hans Island is named) for Danes..
Anyway, back to the science of the present-day. DMI has progressively added more and more elements to the field laboratory in Qaanaaq in addition to the longer running observations. A non-exhaustive list would include an infrasound monitoring station that is part of the CTBTO, weather observations (of course), surface emissivity measurements by drone, fjord salinity, temperature and photosynthetically available radiation measurements plus snow and sea ice measurements as well as work with satellites and biology. One glaring omission, up to this year at least, was the glaciology of the region. How does the ice sheet affect the regional climate, how does the ocean affect the glaciers that calve into the fjord? Can we learn about some important but poorly understood processes like calving and melange dynamics using this area as a test bed? What about surface mass budget and snowfall and snow melt?
Now, as a glaciologist, I’ve mostly worked with the interface between atmosphere and ice sheet (at least the last 14 years or so, but I am also still (after my PhD topic on ice fracture and crevasses) interested in calving glaciers and the processes that control how fast icebergs form. And the fjord, Inglefield Bredning has *a lot* of calving glaciers in it. It is a natural laboratory for glaciology and for developing numerical models. Calving is actually a surprisingly difficult thing to model with computer models of glaciers.
Or perhaps it’s not that surprising?
Observations are difficult to get (to put it mildly). There are a number of (possibly wild) theories of “calving laws” that remain poorly constrained by observations as a result. Common parameterizations of ice flow makes it hard to deal with fast flowing glaciers where calving is common. Dealing with grounding lines, where glaciers meet the sea and start to come close to flotation can give notorious numerical errors and retreat requires the remaking of ocean grids in fully coupled climate models.
These are not easy or computationally cheap problems to solve. And where there are at least thousands (maybe even tens of thousands?) of scientists working on atmospheric weather and climate modelling, the community working on ice sheet dynamic models is probably only in the low hundreds.
And of course, we really lack long time series of measurements – essential in a system that changes only s l o w l y, but likely irreversibly and which we are, only now as the system is changing rapidly, starting to understand.
This of course is why the fjord observation record of Steffen is so valuable – these are reliable, repeated measurements of ocean properties that are known to affect the outlet glaciers that meet them. It is indeed a natural laboratory.
What we are now also working on is a field lab to study these calving processes in-situ. I have already found the return to the field scientifically valuable. There is really no replacement for going to observe the earth system you want to understand. (My PhD supervisor used to call it “nurturing your inner glacier”). Observations taken in spring/summer 2022 have already changed how I think about some processes and hopefully the follow-up we have planned in 2023 will confirm our new theoretical framework.
I am fortunate indeed in that at the same research department, we also have colleagues collecting and analyzing satellite data and developing the numerical models we want to use to understand how ice sheets fit into the earth system. All three of these elements – field, satellite and numerical model- are essential.
In this project we are using the satellite observations to extend the time series of field data and we can use both sets of observations together to develop and test a numerical model of this fjord and the glaciers that calve into it. The numerical model we can then extend to other glaciers in Greenland. Hopefully, we can also use this work to understand how Antarctic glaciers might also respond to a warming ocean. Ultimately, the aim of all this work is to understand the contribution of these glaciers to sea level rise both now and in the future.
This is not a frivolous question. In fact, if large (more than a couple of metres).of sea level rise is expected, it is a question that is basically existential for Denmark.
I will add more on the specifics and science in coming months, this is already long enough. However, I’d like to mention a couple of other points:
Finally, this work is currently being carried out under the auspices of the Danish National Centre for Climate Research (NCKF), funded by the Danish Government though with contributions also from other research projects mostly funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe frameworks as well as ESA’s climate change initiative for the Greenland ice sheet.
Inspired by Ian Brooks, a list of all the books I’ve read this year. (Started on twitter and now imported over here to finish it off). It turned out to be many more than I expected in fact and it has been really motivating to keep track – I always have the idea I’m not reading enough but that isn’t really true.
Third, and staying with biology, Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life, a book I enjoyed, but not as much as I expected given the subject is quite fascinating. It felt like there was a bit too much author and not enough fungus. However the dense endnotes more than made up for it. A very cool subject and really a good introduction. I could have used a bit more technical content though.
Four was a return to a book started long ago – I finally finished Gabrielle Walker’s book Antarctica, right before a field trip to Greenland. A really great book, full of excellent science and details that show a real love of the continent – though note a few reservations about an infamous scientist who features heavily in the book in the second tweet.
Five: Explaining Humans by Camilla Pang. An unusual book, I would never have chosen this if it hadn’t been for the Royal Society science book prize and that would have been a loss. Really brilliant insights into how some neurodivergent people see the world and at the same time a great introduction to science. Huge recommend.
Seven: as I originally tweeted, I read this in the depths of COVID19 fever, and I don’t remember much about it now unfortunately but the impression of a refreshing wander down the lush Irish river remains. John Connelly’s Stream of Everything
Eleven: back to novels and what can I say about this incredible world created by Susannah Clarke in Piranesi? Sumptuously beautiful, you just have to read it. I would never have picked this up but my local bookshop (in Copenhagen!) recommended it and that is as good an argument as any for frequenting my local bookshop in person… https://twitter.com/ruth_mottram/status/1540587959791112192
Twelve: perhaps not the most relaxing holiday read but ultimately hopeful: Kim Stanley Robinson’s The ministry for the future. Parts of it were far too real, other parts perhaps unrealistically utopian (and in the light of FTX what exactly *is* that blockchain thing about?). Nonetheless an important work, and the man himself is a rousing speaker I saw and who signed my book at the bloom festival
Thirteen: the first of several children’s/ young adults books on my list – this is a Danish classic but also translated into many languages now. I find it a fascinating concept: what if someone could see your private shame?
Fifteen: a terrible war ripping through Europe, refugees fleeing the Russian advance and an overloaded ship sailing away through bitter winter weather in the Baltic. Sometimes a little too close for comfort, it certainly explains a lot about our current situation and it’s based on the true but laregly unknown story of the world’s worst ever maritime disaster. This is also YA territory – I read it to assess suitability as a gift for young relatives. It’s extremely well written, though flags a bit at the end. One of those books that stays with you for days after.
Sixteen: And now we enter territory not tweeted. I discovered eReolen’s international section this year. eReolen is the Danish Library system‘s excellent audio and ebook loan service, and it turns out that via the organisation Overdrive who run the Libby app, you can borrow books from all over the world. A revelation. Anyway number sixteen was the classic Ursula LeGuinn “A wizard of Earthsea, a book I really couldn’t put down. I’m slightly amazed I’ve never read it before. Everything they say about it is true.
Seventeen: again in the underrated classics that I’ve somehow never read category – Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianne Wynne-Jones. I came to this via the Japanese Studio Ghibli animated films and again this was read via eReolen. How had I never even heard of this author even though I grew up in the UK? Really brilliantly imaginative, reading it again to kids as a Christmas book this year.
I almost forgot number 18, which is somehow a little strange as it is a book that directed me from a wavering vegetarian towards veganism. I’m not yet (and may never be) a full vegan, but Henry Mance’s “How to love animals” is a clear-eyed look at the emotions, conflicts and contradictions in our relationships with animals, including dog breeding, slaughterhouses, how to deal.with exploding deer numbers and the ecological cascades that result. Very thought-provoking and although I didn’t agree with everything, it at least helped to visualise and resolve some contradictions in my personal philosophy. This is a good review in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/may/01/how-to-love-animals-by-henry-mance-review-the-case-against-modern-farming
Update: if you’ve arrived here from Twitter – or even if you haven’t – welcome, pull up a chair, have a seat and a read around the subject of this post: the fediverse – the online ecosystem where distributed servers can talk to each other…
It’s become clear that this post is rather popular as newer people are finding their way to mastodon, and, perhaps, dipping a toe in. It’s also I think become clear just how empty science twitter is becoming, and how much more interesting mastodon is. At the same time, having been freed from what Cory Doctorow calls the walled garden (go ahead, read the article, I’ll wait), I’m very reluctant to enter a new one So I hope the following is helpful, feel free to leave comments with other hints and tips. And, Welcome to the fediverse…
I’d originally been meaning to write this post for a while but never quite got around to it until new rules on the birdsite made it quite likely that my account would be suspended. In the end that did not happen, but by then, I’d already been snared by the mastodon…
However, I have been preparing for a relocation and I have been cross-posting from mastodon for a while. Note though that clicking on a mastodon link in twitter will bring up a potentially unsafe warning (which is nonsense of course), e.g. clicking on the link to my mastodon handle in my twitter profile page shows “Warning: this link may be unsafe”.
It has become increasingly clear that the new owner of twitter is more interested in preserving and fortifying his walled garden than in opening it up as a true public square. In fact, I had felt that over the last few years my interest in being there has waned. I’m not the only one. Mastodon has been a breath of fresh air.
On this point there’s not much I can add to what others have said. I had not actually expected the sale to go through, when it did I did not expect things to go so alarmingly haywire as fast as they have. There has been great benefits to me personally as well as to countless activists and orga organisations with being on there but the reinstatement of blatantly abusive and bigoted accounts, the bizarre banning of journalists, and finally the rule against posting links to external sites strongly the suggest the show is over. We have alternatives now..
I have been on mastodon for a couple of years but only revitalised my account a month or so ago. Massive thanks in this to Victor Venema who persuaded Frank Sonntag to set-up fediscience.org and then persuaded me to join it. A form of fixing the roof while the sun was shining you might say. And as more people have joined it’s really been a lot more rewarding. It’s different to Twitter. It’s not a full replacement. I intend to post here more often too. (Especially as the tools to do so quickly and easily via my mobile phone – a fairphone 4 – have really developed over the last year or two.)
But after today I will not be posting on twitter directly anymore. I may drop by from time to time to check out what’s going on. I will instead be hanging out in the fediverse.
You can find me on fediscience.org for science and various other nonsense, on helvede.net for danish language chat, on pixelfed.eu for photos and pictures and of course here on sternaparadisaea.net for blogs.
The last few weeks in the fediverse have been invigorating. I’ve been participating and creating more rather than passively consuming, expect some changes here on my much neglected blog too in the near future.
And finally here are some tips for getting the most out of the fediverse:
1. Follow lots of people. And I mean really, follow a lot. You need to make you own timeline here, there is no algorithm doing it for you.
2. Boost more than you think you need to, including reupping your own posts to catch different audiences at different times of day (it’s like twitter before the algorithm became so dominant).
3. Create lists of your favourite accounts so you don’t miss anything. I end to use these more than my home timeline in fact. For example I have one for “climate science”, one for “media orgs” + one for “friends. I check in with different lists at different times of day.
4. Follow hashtags to find good content and new accounts that interest you. As an example I follow #Birds, #Ukraine #mosstodon + #SeaLevelRise among others. Some user interfaces (e.g. Halcyon.social) allow you to read these in the same way you would on tweetdeck. Sprinkle your posts liberally with hashtags too.
5. Try out different apps to find the one you like best. I have been mostly using Tusky but I’m now testing fedilab too. On the desktop using halcyon.social gives a very twitter like interface which is appealing.
6. Put in some effort to curate your own experience in the early days. You’ll need to work at it the first few weeks to find good accounts, hashtags etc to follow. Don’t expect everything to be served up on a plate, it’s different here. But I like it a lot..
7. There are masses of tips and helpful articles online, try following e.g. feditips for more suggestions.
8. Use debirdify, movetodon and/or other programmes that are around to help you find people you know from the birdsite. There are already a lot of resources to find earth scientists and other academics, as well as journalists – which also have a form to add yourself in some cases. I am for sure missing a lot here too.
9. Write an #introduction post with hashtags of your interests. This will help new people find you. Browse the #introduction on your instance to find other people to follow.
10. Mastodon works best if you engage with other users – fill out your profile so people can see who you are/what you’re interested in. But remember privacy – and that this platform as a refuge for people who have been hounded off other platforms. Use content warnings liberally and don’t forget to insert Alt-text on images you post. Also use #CamelCase on your hashtags to help people using screen readers understand what you’re posting.
I’ll update this post as I think of things, feel free to also post helpful stuff in the comments or as replies to the post on the birdsite or on Mastodon…