All the cool kids were doing this particular round of navel-gazing yesterday and the day before, while I was either dreadfully ill and out of commission or somewhat better and working. (Today was also quite full of work stuff.) However, it’s not an unimportant set of questions, and possibly you’re curious about the answers, so let’s give it a go:
1. Why do you consider this blog a science blog?
You know, initially I’m not sure I would have claimed that designation. This started as a blog about what’s involved in being a responsible scientist — so to that extent, the activity of science has always been a significant part of my subject matter. That’s a different kind of thing from blogging about the results of a scientific experiment or study, and I understand that such results might be what a lot of people would expect to find in a piece of writing that’s about science.
Still, you don’t get the results without the activity. Why do we attach the “science content” label to one but not the other?
2. So if you yourself wouldn’t necessarily call your blog a blog about science content, why are you blogging at ScienceBlogs?
They asked me to — before the project was anything but an idea. I was intrigued, and I couldn’t see a downside. (I will admit, though, to a moment of panic when I faxed in my signed contract with my Social Security number. Maybe it was some elaborate scam…)
There were 14 blogs at that point, and at least a few of them were written by folks who weren’t writing as working scientists. So I figured that the virtual conversation about science was always intended to include a wider swath of voices than just scientists blogging about peer reviewed research or lecture content.
3. Why do so many bloggers at ScienceBlogs write about stuff besides science?
We’re allowed to write about whatever we want to on our blogs. Most of us wrote about a number of different things when we joined up, and we’ve been allowed to keep going in that direction or to let our focus change as part of our development as bloggers.
If something we wrote was so abhorrent to our corporate overlords at Seed Media Group that they could not abide more of it on their server, they could show us the door. But I haven’t felt constrained by the possibility of being booted. There are more constraints on me by virtue of the fact that I’m writing a blog I’d like my students to be able to read (and that my mom is a regular reader and will email if I blog too blue).
4. You get paid to blog? Does that mean that you make all your blogging decisions on the basis of what will drive traffic?
I get paid a little. The pay is based on traffic. But I’m not going to stop writing about the stuff I care about just to attract more readers.
I quite like the readers I have. They leave smart, insightful, witty comments and questions. I don’t want their voices to get drowned out.
On an hourly rate, I think I made more babysitting than I do blogging. When I was 14. For two bucks an hour.
I don’t do it for the money, but because working my thoughts out here, with the kind of fast feedback I get, makes them better.
5. Do the bloggers at ScienceBlogs think they’re better than all the other people who blog about science? Do they think their traffic or incoming links make them the best?
With 71 blogs on ScienceBlogs right now, I suppose some of the bloggers might think that way, but my best guess is that it’s a minority view. I know that there are many excellent science blogs that are not at science blogs (including, but not limited to, the ones in my blogroll). Some are wildly popular, some small but still wonderful.
Of course, I’m pretty suspicious of the idea that measures like traffic, or who hired you, or how much you’re being paid are objective indicators of merit. Far from thinking I’m one of the best, I think I’m extraordinarily lucky to have been noticed in the first place.
6. Why so many blogs about biology at ScienceBlogs? Why aren’t there more blogs about chemistry, or astronomy, or lepidoptery, or gastroenterology, or …?
The folks who decide what blogs to invite to try to achieve a measure of diversity in terms of the scientific fields people are blogging about here, but they’re drawing from a larger pool that’s really heavy on biosciences. Also, not every great blog that is out there wants to be part of ScienceBlogs. (Invites to join have been declined.) It’s also the case that a diversity of blogging “voices” is valued here — which is to say, many people who are in the same field have radically different blogging styles.
7. Why don’t ScienceBlogs bloggers ever link to blogs outside ScienceBlogs.
We do. But if there’s something good going on your blog (or a blog you read) that you think deserves more attention, email a link.
It does seem like there’s a lot of ScienceBlogs intra-linkage, but a lot of the people who I link to here are people I used to link to before they were a part of ScienceBlogs. I’m not going to stop reading them just because they joined the network!
It’s a big blogosphere. No one can read it all (especially in light of the need not to get fired from our day jobs), but we can surely help each other not to miss the nuggets of brilliance we’ve stumbled upon.
8. Are all the ScienceBlogs bloggers BFFs?
Some of us have met in real life, others online, and still others not even online. Some of us have become very close friends, and others … not so much.
Have I mentioned that there are currently 71 blogs on ScienceBlogs? Many of them are written by teams of bloggers, too. That’s enough people that there would be little chance of avoiding some interpersonal friction (or worse) — just like in real life.
It’s true that, sharing an involvement in the ScienceBlogs experiment, we have some things in common. It’s not totally different from going to math camp together, or being war buddies, or being the children of the same set of parents.
It doesn’t mean we don’t have lots of important things in common with other people blogging about science (or blogging about other things, or communicating about science in other media). We do — and we’re just as much BFFs with some of those other people in our lives, too.
Any other questions? Ask them.