Twitter still seems to me a bit constrained a space for substance, but I did see a tweet last night from Michigan State University’s C. Titus Brown that struck me as particularly relevant for what we’re trying to do:

“Not doing science” — I emphasized Titus’s words, and I think those three words drive home the point: Installing software (shortened to “sw” in the tweet) isn’t the same as doing science. The literary critic in me (plus years of wrestling with quirky software) compels me to think Titus is being ironic. He loves “doing science” and because he does science with computers, sometimes he has to tame installations. But systems administration is a means to an end — really not his cup of tea.

What if he didn’t have to wrestle with software? I bet he’d be doing science. The work that I’m doing — the wrestling — allows Duke researchers do what they are best at doing: their scholarship and research.

Titus blogs on “Living in an Ivory Basement,” and I’m a fairly regular reader. In part it’s because he has a lively wit and writes good (sometimes really good) prose; in part it’s because Titus is a pioneer in the way he does science. He’s very committed to opening up data and showing his processes and his thinking. Blogging is a perfect medium for that. See, for example, his most current post (17 February 2014) called “Loligo pealeii (squid) data dump” — especially under the heading “Answers.” Witty and capable and I think forward looking work.

Just a quick note for 20 February. It’s funny what a tweet of less than 140 characters can churn up — in this case all of 276 words!

— Mark R. DeLong, PhD (mark.delong@duke.edu)