A Blog Around The Clock

A few days ago, I asked what it takes for a young person to start and, more importantly, continue for a longer term, to write a science blog. The comment thread on that post is quite enlightening, I have to say – check it out.

What is more important – that post started a chain-reaction on Twitter and blogs. Arikia Millikan, herself a young blogger, wrote a post in response which also attracted a lot of interesting comments. Go and comment.

Mason Posner wrote not one, but two posts in response: Science blogging in the classroom, an update and Young science bloggers need community. Go and comment.

Some of his students also congregated on his Facebook wall and, energized by all the spotlight they were getting, decided to restart their old class blog: Science Haggis. Go and comment.

Amy Breslin, former student of Posner, is the only one of his last year’s students to have continuously blogged ever since, on Plague-erism. Go and comment.

Then, someone on Twitter brought this link into the discussion – a blog post by a science blogger on The Life of Pi explaining one’s own insecurities about blogging and why it is hard. Once that link got passed around on Twitter by a bunch of people, the blog post received a lot of encouraging and wise comments as well. Go and comment.

Christie Wilcox, who is a better known youg science blogger, also voiced some similar uncertainties after coming back home from ScienceOnline2010. Go and comment.

What many of these blog posts and comments point out is that it is really hard to keep blogging if the audience is invisible. It is an absolutely astonishing coincidence that Anil Dash wrote a fantastic blog post on exactly the same topic just yesterday.

The current technology online makes it easy for you to see who you follow and read. It makes it easy on some platforms for others to see who you follow and read. But it is almost impossible to see who is reading you! Where’s the audience? Am I just blowin’ in the wind?

In a way, traditional blogging, in the absence of much feedback, is a one-to-many communication, which is not the best way to do it.

Sure, you can use various software to see how many people subscribe to your blog feed – but not who they are or if they are reading you at all. You can find out many bloggers who put your blog on their blogroll – but you still don’t know if they are actually reading you.

There are two ways people can tell you if they are reading you. One is to link to an individual post of your (not just the homepage). A simple link with no commentary on their blog or Facebook or Twitter or FriendFeed etc., is a simple statement “this may be interesting to you” targeted at their audience – it does not mean endorsement, but it is nice nonetheless. A link that adds commentary to it – agreement or disareement or addition of further information or providing an additional angle – is even better. You can find the links to you in your tracking software (Sitemeter referrers list, Google Analytics, etc.) or by putting your blog URL in Google Blogsearch or Technorati.

The other, much better way to let you know they read your post is to post a comment on it. Once they do – and posting the very first comment is the hardest – reply! Don’t make commenting on your blog difficult or exclusionary. Keep it open. You will get a substantive, pleasant discussion in the comments if a) you set the tone in your own post, b) carefully monitor the comments, c) moderate as needed, and d) respond frequently. Do not make the mistake that newspapers made of letting the loudest, most obnoxious commenters take over and scare away everyone else. At the same time, do not quickly delete every comment the tone of which you don’t like – this also has a censoring effect and will not make you many friends. Make your own criteria, draw your own line.

So, the best way to encourage a blogger – any blogger, but especially a new or young one – is to post comments. Good, quality comments. You may be used to the Usenet tone, but n00bs take some time to get used to it. Be gentle toward the young ‘uns. Go and comment.

For the new bloggers – of course there is some advice (including that already mentioned in the many comments on the blogs I linked above).

If you write a post about a peer-reviewed paper – have it aggregated on ResearchBlogging.org: this will bring yo not just traffic, but also respect. Not everyone can have their stuff up there – you need to apply and get approved first.

Send your best posts to blog carnivals on a regular basis. You’ll get traffic, new readers and will be joining a community of bloggers interested in the same topic.

Shameless self-promotion is not a bad word any more. In the world of the Web, nobody will know your blog exists unless you say “Here I am – look at me!” sometimes (yes, keep it tasteful, but it is OK).

Comment on other blogs and use your blog URL as a link that people will follow when they click on your name. The blog owner is almost certainly going to click there.

Link to your best recent posts on other online platforms: Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, etc. E-mail the link to your Mom every now and then. Marketing yourself has become an essential aspect of communication in the 21st century – nobody will do it for you any more.

Here are some other new/young bloggers of note:

Naked Little Ape is a blog by Hannah Lucy King. The discussion of this topic on Twitter persuaded her to make her blog public and to promote it there. And the blog is fascinating! Go and comment.

The Difference between Ignorance and Apathy is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.

SexyScience is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.

Thirsty Pandas is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.

Successors of Solomon is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.

Trisha Saha is the only one from the Duke Summer class who continued blogging after the course was over. And even she has not posted in a while. Bloggers on Nature Network have no access to tracking and traffic statistics, so the only way she can possibly know if someone is reading is if someone posts comments. Perhaps she will blog again if she starts getting comments on her older stuff. Go and comment.

Anne-Marie Hodge, though so young, is already a veteran science blogger. Since moving from undergraduate to graduate school she is busy and her blogging has become more infrequent. Though, when she posts it’s awesome. She is also on Nature Network so the only way you can make invisible audience become visible to her is if you post comments. Go and comment.

Miss Baker’s high school biology students are posting on Expert Biology. Check out Jack’s, Ammar’s and Alex’s posts about ScienceOnline2010. Check their other posts. Go and comment.

Lauren Rugani is a young science blogger/journalist. Go and comment.

Christine Ottery is a young science blogger/journalist. Go and comment.

Elissa Hoffman’s students are also blogging. Go and comment.

Dale Basler’s students are blogging. Go and comment.

Naon Tiotami is a very young blogger. Go and comment.

Sam Dupuis is a very young blogger. So is Djordje Jeremic (see this). Go and comment.

Mimi is a wonderful young blogger. Go and comment.

Students are blogging on the Project Exploration Blog. Remember Project Exploration? This is where it all started. Go and comment.

Let’s make sure new and young science bloggers feel welcome in our community. Let’s help them make their audience visible. Go and comment.

Comments

  1. #1 Ferris Jabr
    February 14, 2010

    The students in New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program are blogging too, on Scienceline: http://www.scienceline.org/

  2. #2 Coturnix
    February 14, 2010

    Thank you.

    Others: add more links to students and young/new science bloggers here, so others can check them out and go and comment.

  3. #3 Mason Posner
    February 14, 2010

    What wonderful advice and a great who’s who of young science bloggers. Thank you for keeping on this topic, and I can tell you first hand that it has had a positive effect on at least three bloggers (well four, counting me) so far. I will make sure my current students see their blogs listed in this post, and encourage them to comment.

  4. #4 Colin
    February 14, 2010

    Thanks for the list! The hardest part of starting a blog is definitely the lack of feedback. That, and watching the hit-counter slowly crawl along.

    Since shameless self-promotion is the name of the game, I may as well go for it.

    I’m a new science blogger/journalist in training, and this is my blog. http://dreun.blogspot.com/

  5. #5 aimee whitcroft
    February 14, 2010

    In terms of putting oneself out there, it’s possible to automate having new blogs posts put up on Twitter and Facebook.

    And Linkedin, for those who use it, also has a function where you can add your writings to your profile.

    Having posts syndicated (or sending in guest posts/something) to an aggregate site such as ScienceBlogs or Sciblogs (the NZ version with which I’m involved) really helps too – attracting comments/readers to one blog which lives alone can be an herculean task initially.

  6. #6 sarcozona
    February 14, 2010

    I’ve loved some of the blogs you’ve linked to here – it’s nice to find other young science bloggers. They’re fun, often easier to “talk to,” and a source of real support and encouragement – it’s a little like hanging out with other students at conferences and working up to introducing yourself to someone whose lab you’d like to work in!

  7. #7 amy breslin
    February 14, 2010

    thanks for the advice to new/young bloggers… i’ve just requested an account to researchblogging!

    and I agree with Dr. Posner, this is a great ‘who’s who’ list of young bloggers. I will be sure to check them out over the next few days.

  8. #8 Dale Husband
    February 14, 2010

    Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment. Go and comment…….until you get accused of cyberstalking and pedophilia. Why take that risk? As cynical as young people (and their equally paranoid parents) have become over the years, I dare not take that risk. I hope you don’t get in legal trouble, Coturnix. Consult a lawyer, just in case.

  9. #9 Coturnix
    February 14, 2010

    I shall assume that Dale is joking. Can’t be serious. Have you seen what the teachers have said in the previous post that led to this post? Have you seen what I ASKED in that post? Are we talking about hacking into people’s private accounts, or bringing encouragement to people who are knowingly putting good thoughts and writing into the public?

  10. #10 Dale Husband
    February 15, 2010

    {{{I shall assume that Dale is joking. Can’t be serious.}}}

    I suppose you would also assume a harassment lawsuit by some suspicious parents would also be a joke?

    {{{Have you seen what the teachers have said in the previous post that led to this post? Have you seen what I ASKED in that post?}}}

    No, and why should that matter?

    {{{Are we talking about hacking into people’s private accounts, or bringing encouragement to people who are knowingly putting good thoughts and writing into the public?}}}

    Then let those young writers do that, by commenting on YOUR blog and linking to their blogs themselves! Then they will be ready for whatever increased traffic results. If I were a child with a blog and if dozens of older people suddenly showed up and posted comments and said you sent them, I’d be frightened out of my wits and furious at you! Especially if one of those newcomers turned out later to be a cyberstalker and child molester. If you are not familiar with the concept of unintended consequences, better learn about it fast!

    If by young people, you meant “college students” (many of them are not so young), then I will gladly apologize. But any blogs by students who are not yet known to be legal adults should be left ALONE!

  11. #11 Coturnix
    February 15, 2010

    Did you see their reactions on blogs and Twitter – they are elated! Their teachers? Elated!

    Most of them are undergraduate or even graduate students, thus not minors. Those who are minors are blogging on class blogs (see previous post) and thus under the control of their teachers (and teachers also moderate comments). Two of the minors linked here are blogging under the control of their parents who are also bloggers. So, no – no minors are now being assaulted by pedophiles, thank you.

    And previous post (linked in this one) is important – that is where I asked them and their teachers about what THEY want and how THEY feel about it. This post is a result of their reaction to my previous post.

    One just wonders, how did the whole notion of pedophilia only appear in the mind of Dale Husband and not anyone else’s, including the teachers who are trained to think about it all the time?

  12. #12 Coturnix
    February 15, 2010

    Also check out this post which combines personal experiences with a look at academic literature on student blogging.

  13. #13 Mimi
    February 15, 2010

    I, too, am elated. Thanks, B.

  14. #14 K. Suresh
    February 15, 2010

    Encouraged by your exhortation for shameless self promotion, may be you would like to look at my blog http://kesuresh.blogspot.com/ (though I am not a science blogger). But responding frequently to comments will be a problem because of certain constraints.

  15. #15 Naon Tiotami
    February 15, 2010

    I think the only thing I can say here is: Go and comment on all of these blogs! :)

  16. #16 Naon Tiotami
    February 16, 2010

    I’d also like to mention that the Young Australian Skeptics website (which I am a part of) is a group blog that any young person (they don’t necessarily have to be Australia) can blog for – all you have to do is go here (http://www.youngausskeptics.com/article-uploader/) and follow the steps.

    We’re always looking for new contributors – we think that young people need to have more of a voice in the science community and skeptical movement.

  17. #17 Jessica Parant
    February 16, 2010

    I feel famous! I am one of two contributors for the blog Successors of Solomon and it feels reassuring to get comments from people that I don’t know. I really appreciate you putting our name out there, as well as the other students’ blogs, so thanks!

  18. #18 Deanna Blosser
    February 16, 2010

    So I am one of the three bloggers from SexyScience and I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your encouragement. I think the main reason why new bloggers are “scared” to post anything is that first, they have no idea what to write about and second, they are afraid of getting bad comments. Personally, I just like to right about whatever I watched on TV that day (Dr. Oz, The Doctors, Discovery Channel, Planet Earth) or whatever journal article I happen to stumble across. Anyways, thanks for the encouragement! :)

  19. #19 Clint
    February 19, 2010

    If anyone is looking for a secure blogging platform for the classroom, check out ClassPress.com. We offer a low-cost, secure and easy-to-use virtual classroom for your classroom blogging activities.

  20. #20 Eugenie
    February 19, 2010

    I occasionally blog about science.. but lately I’ve been going through the grad-app process (and all the kinks that go with it), but I have blogged frequently about the ups and downsides of research at the undergraduate level (ex: a internship from hell, a sweet REU experience… ) too.

    I’ve a list of other young scientists on my blog roll too.

    My boyfriend also blogs (he’s a 1st year grad student) and one of the young’ins too!

    (his blog can be found at http://transientheorist.blogspot.com/)

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