Peeking inside Nature

Attila takes a tour of Nature headquarters — it looks like they’re doing some cool, progressive, net-friendly innovation there. I was jealous of one thing: they’re using an internal corporate blog instead of email. It’s an easy and obvious solution, and I wish there were a way to implement that kind of thing at my university — we use godawful mailing lists for everything, which means notices about campus assembly meetings and student issues get all clogged up in my inbox with staff putting lawn furniture up for sale or disposable nonsense about football games.

We really should have a discussion about the future of intra-campus communication here sometime…or maybe about the ten-years ago of communication.


  1. travc says

    The internal blog idea is great… wow we are dumb sometimes (not seeing the idea earlier).

    My suggestion, get someone (or do it yourself) to setup a simple blogger host on some machine siting around (one of your lab machines would probably work fine) and teach the departmental secretary how to use it. That last bit may be a bit involved… perhaps just get a student (maybe even minimally paid) to post stuff for him/her.

    Things would probably take off more or less organically from there.

  2. Andy says

    Yes! I used to work for a large bank, and often considered how much easier it would be if we used RSS instead of email. That way, you can choose what you subscribe to and it comes nicely organized – not only are mass communications separated from personal email, but each individual RSS feed is, by its nature, sorted by topic (i.e. one feed for one blog or, on modern systems, one could subscibe to selected tags, topics or categories).

    Now I’m a grad student, and I’m on both the departmental list and the PhD students list. Since there’s overlap, I get a lot of emails twice.

  3. Hank says

    Is all this mail really sent to the same multipurpose list of horrors? Even if it is, filter, filter, filter.

  4. Timothy says

    The 10 years ago of communication for me brings back memories of using FirstClass at my high school to compose and recieve email on a system that allowed us to view announcements, engage in discussions, and interact in a way that is very similar to the combination webmail client and a series of blog postings of today. Sort of like a prettier BBS.

  5. says

    My suggestion, get someone (or do it yourself) to setup a simple blogger host on some machine siting around (one of your lab machines would probably work fine) and teach the departmental secretary how to use it.
    Why put even that much effort into a proof-of-concept? Just create a blog on Blogger. Yes I know don’t have as much control, but there’s no software setup involved.

  6. says

    I work for a very large bank (think “stagecoach”) and I have put a proposal to one of my division’s vice presidents to add wiki-functionality to the support staff. I found some apps that would fit within our tech framework, each of which would be as easy to update as sending an e-mail.

    The problem with most companies is that when they see a need for intranet communications the create a new website, and the overlap in our case is tremendous but incomplete. So, you can find 75% of what you need at one site, another 22% at another and the remaining 3% at a third. The search functions are horrendous and the article titles in the results are ambiguous, so you can get a series of twenty articles in the results but each has the exact same title. Very cumbersome.

    I’t not sure what sort of communications move between profs and admins at a university, but I think that anytime you look at changing your interdepartmental communications there are better options than the first one. My company always seems to jump at the first one.

  7. says

    Mail filtering and separate lists for different things are the way I work. Some lists get their own folders, some lists are aggregated into folders and some lists are ruthlessly culled except for certain significant subject lines (although it’s mostly just automated messages that fall into the latter category).

    A single global list for everything is the path to madness.

  8. k says

    Thanks, Karen! I figured he gets so much email he’s miss it if I sent it so I put it here, LOL

  9. says

    k: I get no mail. Send me your cephalopodanea. Or any marine links. One of the biologist at work got this pan as a gift. Looks tasty. See also:, the frankfurter converter. I believe both culinary items have been featured on Pharygula.