I think its pretty obvious to even the most casual observer of this blog, I am not a professional writer. I am a scientist-in-training who is madly in love with viruses, and wants the general public to understand how cool viruses are too, so I write this blag.

While I have been coaxed into writing a for realsies science article before, that was a laborious process for me and the editors, cause me no rites gud. I can write like a scientist, or write like an lolcat. Not 100% useful for an article aimed at mainstream audiences.

So its with some surprise that I am now writing a blog post offering some free ProTips to a for realsies writer for the NYT.

people on SciBlogs (and elsewhere) are correcting some factual errors in her post, so I dont have to, and Im still sick of talking about PepsiBlog or the silly ‘reasons’ why people left. But that does bring me to my first point:
I love comments. Not just because I get email notifications every time I get one (Ive been blogging for ages, and I still get excited every time I get a comment), but because of the interaction. I am not a hoity-toity ivory tower scientist– I write about something cool, and if I didnt explain it right, people can ask me questions. Or if I explained it fine, and that led readers to totally new questions, they can ask them. And if someone asks a question while Im super busy at work all day, another reader can come along and help answer the previous readers question (nothing makes me prouder than when a long-time reader can answer a new readers question appropriately, faster than me).

Its interactive. Not just writer<-->reader, but writer<-->reader<-->reader<-->writer<-->reader.

What is also nice about comments is that when I make a mistake, even something as simple as a typo or a broken link, readers can point it out to me. I also think its awesome that if I make a real mistake in a post, like, misread a conclusion of a paper, or someone thinks I got a concept wrong, we can actively discuss it in the comment section. EXAMPLE: Me and Kevin have a ‘thing’ about oral induced immunity vs tolerance 🙂 This is a good thing! Everyone walks away with a better understanding of the post topic.

Alas, Heffernans article doesnt allow comments. No one can ask questions. No one can point out errors. The article doesnt even list trackbacks. So ironically, the discussion of this article is happening on the very blogs she is criticizing, not the site hosting her article, thus earning the blogs she dislikes moneys, instead of her/her employer. lol.

Nearly everything I write about here on ERV is jargon. We have a new tech in our lab right now– shes been immersed in this jargon for a month, and she is still trying to work it out. Specialized fields of science are very much a foreign language.

So I LUV LINKYS! I dont have to sit and explain words or basic concepts, cause I just have to link to Wikipedia (if the article is good), or some immunology/virology textbook. If what I am trying to say still isnt clear, people can ask for more details (COMMENTS!). I also dont have to re-explain topics Ive already written about– I just say “Hey Ive talked about this before, and now…” or “You might remember…” and link to my older post. Long-time readers wont be bogged down with stuff they already know, and new readers dont feel left behind or left out.

Its also great for sending link-love to people who give you ideas for posts, or if someone elses post inspires you to post. In blog-world, its generally considered passive aggressive and bad form to talk about another blogger or clearly get an idea for a post from someone elses post, and not link to them (EXAMPLE: I bitch about Mooney, I link to Mooney).

This isnt just because its impolite to talk about someone behind their back, and because it is only fair to let people know they are being criticized so they can respond– Its because lots of your readers dont know who the hell you are talking about. Fake example to demonstrate how stupid bitching about another blogger can look to an outside observer:

Your mom: …
Your mom: …
Your mom: …

Your mom, and lots of other normal people, have no idea who Bora or PZ are. Bring internet drama outside your internet social circle, and people think you are insane. But if you are blogging on the internet, you can link to Boras blog, and PZs blog, and people can figure out who/what you are talking about, and maybe figure out why you are bitching about them.

Heffernan bitched about PZ, referenced several of his posts… but couldnt be bothered to link to anything she was referring to. Same for Dave Munger and Mark Hoofnagle (really? Denialism blog? they havent been properly active since 2008. wtf, Heffernan?). But Grrl got a link… ???

Go outside and ask 100 people who PZ Myers is. Who Dave Munger is. Who Mark Hoofnagle or GrrlScientist is. If you get one damn person whos like ‘Oh! I read their blog!’, then I will be shocked. We are a very specific niche of people on the internet. Normal, average NYT readers have no damn idea who these people are, and Heffernan did not give them links to figure it out, or links to posts so her readers could make their own decisions about the blog posts she was demeaning.

I was loling with Jason about this last night–

me: … her readers probably have no clue who the fuck shes talking about Normal people have no idea who PZ Myers is.
Jason: probably so
me: So shes just bitching to herself. An old school blog.
Jason: heh livejournal
me: YES!! HAHAHAHA! Im stealing that
Jason: steal away

Lets be honest. Its painfully obvious that this article is just Heffernan using PepsiBlog as an excuse to bitch about online personalities at ScienceBlogs she personally doesnt like for some reason. She knows absolutely nothing about science or science blogging. So Virginia Heffernan is the journalistic equivalent of a 16 year-old girl bitching about treefrog1985 and TheRock33 on livejournal in 1999.

Great job, professional for realsies journalist! **HIGH-FIVE!!**


  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    July 31, 2010

    There was a guy in the queue at a shooting range in Las Vegas two summers ago who seemed to know who PZ was . . . maybe he’d seen [jazz hands] Expelled.

    But that’s another story.

  2. #2 Fallsroad
    July 31, 2010

    I can write like a scientist, or write like an lolcat.

    Keeps us coming back. 🙂

  3. #3 E.V.
    July 31, 2010

    For realsies. This is just one more reason I love you (in a noncreepy way).

  4. #4 Sili
    July 31, 2010

    I seem to recall at least one proper scientific article having been written in iambic pentameter, so I don’t see why lolcat shouldn’t be a valid stylistic choice.

    Not just because I get email notifications every time I get one (Ive been blogging for ages, and I still get excited every time I get a comment)

    Great way to make selfconcious and nervous.

    But then you go and make fun of Livejournal, so that makes me less worried about writing inane, pointless comments to make you go “You have mail!” in the lab.

  5. #5 Tyler DiPietro
    July 31, 2010

    I like how she declares her sympathies at the outset for the “science studies” crowd. That’s the perfect indication that irrelevant writer is irrelevant.

  6. #6 Dave
    August 1, 2010

    Damn you! Becasue of your post I went and read her damn for realsies article.

    I want those 90 seconds of my life back!

  7. #7 Prometheus
    August 1, 2010

    Blech…………….Pardon me while I apply a post war french literary critical theory to a blag about birds….

    Every time this perpetual sophomore writes something about anything other than T.V. she gets busted for lying or is so oblique she goes straight to fishwrapper.

    Compared to this trust fund torching pretentious ball of greasy prolix Erv is goddamn Walt Whitman.

    Congrats ERV. You write gud. I would state, devoid of reservations and in point of demonstrable fact….You write gudder.

  8. #8 osmium
    August 1, 2010

    I read the NYT article and came here to see what ERV thought. That occurred to me because I’m familiar with her from Bloggingheads, and I respect her a lot for being a hardcore, working scientist with a blog here. I don’t like ScienceBlogs very much, largely because I do not like the PZ Myers tone, which goes along with much of ScienceBlogs.

    I’m an electrochemist, and a senior research associate at a university in New York City. I teach and do research, but I also run a science blog which is geared to high school students. The reason I started it is because I can’t stand the fact that PZ Myers is the most famous science blogger in the world. My blog is never going to have his kind of mass appeal, but I didn’t feel like I could criticize him unless I was writing something of my own.

    I largely agree with the NYT Magazine article. I am not a religious person, and I believe religion has no place in science. ScienceBlogs seems to me to be largely about religion, and Myers’s blog is almost 100% about religion. When I browse around ScienceBlogs, I don’t hit something that looks like science to me until, well, I get to ERV. I know I’m not looking at everything, but I’m looking at enough to know that when laymen come to SB, they are getting the wrong idea about what science is and what it means.

    Anyway, I couldn’t think of where to post this, so I thought the ERV comments would be all right. ERV, I agree with all that you said about comments and links. Keep on keeping on–I like what you’re doing, even though I cannot and never will like ScienceBlogs as a whole.

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