I guess all online scientists struggle to find a balance between a number of projects they are willing to commit to and a number of projects they are physically able to work on. What used to be the case for high-profile people (visibility increases number of interesting offers coming to you), it’s currently the case for everyone engaged in online conversation. Something interesting appears on the horizon and it’s just a matter of time you jump in and start exploring. For example see this conversation on FriendFeed and especially Neil’s comment: “Could not resist further exploration. (…)”. Neil obviously is much better at project management than I am, but I found this fascinating that his reaction was exactly what I would do if I had at least an hour of uninterrupted time. I had to resist, but Björn’s problem is an interesting one (and honestly it’s as interesting as the previous one he had and I’ve started to work and still haven’t uploaded results file to his research wiki).
And while the most obvious solution to is to use higher thresholds for commiting to projects or to limit amount of time online (less time consuming, more time producing), I wonder if that’s actually the best way of dealing with open loops. I wonder if a new wave of research might appear in which snippets of research much smaller than least publishable unit can self-organize into new discoveries? These scraps of information appearing from endless number of small projects aren’t necessarily random and maybe some emergent structure can form because all of them are online, are searchable and soon might be able to find themselves on their own (via metadata)?
I don’t know. As for me, I’ll try to start some new projects (once I get around sending the snippets back to interested researchers) and post them online, like I did at Freelancing Science blog. Let’s feed the system and see what happens.