Today got off to a pretty bad start, so I’m experiencing a bit of blogger’s block. In lieu of anything original, I liked Janet’s questions about science blogs so much that I’ve decided to steal them and put up my own answers. John has done the same, and I expect others to soon follow suit. (Abel has now joined in, as has Greg.)
1. Why do you consider this blog a science blog?
I didn’t initially set out with the goal of creating a science blog; it emerged as an outpouring of what I’ve been learning about and trying to understand about evolution. Some of what I write involves new papers, research, or scientific concepts, but there seems to be an underlying theme of how perceptions about the natural world have changed during the last 200 years. Even when I stray from the technical, though, I usually try to make what I’m writing relevant to science in a cultural or historical context.
2. So if you yourself wouldn’t necessarily call your blog a blog about science content, why are you blogging at ScienceBlogs?
3. Why do so many bloggers at ScienceBlogs write about stuff besides science?
Well, that depends on how you define what a science blog should be. My colleagues and I have the latitude to write about whatever we want, but the majority of it is at least directly related to science even if it’s not specifically about peer-reviewed research. Issues involving the history of science, philosophy of science, political issues tied to science, etc. all fit under what any given science blog might cover.
Photos of our cats and other random items may appear here and there, but from what I can tell the community now writing on ScienceBlogs offers up a diversity of viewpoints in a variety of fields. If everyone was confined to writing about new papers and nothing else there probably wouldn’t be a need for so many (and things might get pretty boring), but by allowing a larger number of writers the freedom to create without constraint I feel that this aggregation of blogs is stronger than if writers were only relegated to a specific sphere or expertise/interest.
4. You get paid to blog? Does that mean that you make all your blogging decisions on the basis of what will drive traffic?
Even when I wasn’t getting paid I tried to write posts that might attract the attention of other readers (Don’t we all?), but getting paid based upon the amount of traffic I get hasn’t changed the way that I write. If the truth be told, the posts that have often received the most traffic were ones that I considered to be one-offs or that no one would care to read, and more often than not posts that I hope might be a little more eye-catching don’t get much of a response. It’s difficult to predict what is going to drive traffic on any given day, so while I occasionally try to write posts that I hope will give a boost to my traffic, whether they actually do or not is anyone’s guess.
As far as making money from blogging goes, I make enough in a month to buy a book or pay a parking ticket; if I was in this for the money I would say that I’m not doing it right. I like getting feedback on my posts and I am glad that this blog has accumulated a group of regulars who openly share their thoughts on what I write, and that’s more important than any pocketchange I might be getting as a result of blogging.
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?
I can’t speak for anyone but myself on this point, but I don’t think being on ScienceBlogs automatically makes a blog better than any or all others. Science blogs are ephemeral things, and even here there has been a fair amount of changeover. Likewise, a number of excellent bloggers have declined to write here, but that doesn’t mean that what they write is somehow diminished. Likewise, new bloggers are showing up all the time, and from what I can tell other writers on Sb are usually on the lookout for good bloggers wherever they may be.
Indeed, this is still a relatively “new” blog (I joined Sb in October) and prior to my move I received a lot of link love from various bloggers already here. Likewise, some blogs that I already liked moved onto Sb soon after I did, and I’m sure that changes will continue going into the future.
As far as whether being here has changed my writing, I don’t go about blogging in a manner that’s appreciably different from the way I went about it when I was on WordPress. If anything, I’ve become more concerned with putting out a steady stream of science posts and spend more time trying to make sure I’ve got the information right than when I was on my own. I might have moved to a new setting, but I’ve enjoyed being here so much because I’ve been able to keep doing what I’ve been doing in a more prominent setting that features the work of many other writers.
Whether this blog is considered good or bad relies upon the work I put into it, and when I’ve had a slow week the traffic does ebb (and that is justifiably so). Being here doesn’t intrinsically make this blog or any other blog here worth reading, and even then using traffic or technorati rankings is a pretty crummy way to gauge whether a blog is good or not (as everyone remembers from high school, popular is not always equal to good). Every writer and reader of science blogs differs in their own interests and tastes, there are plenty of great low-traffic blogs where writers are working very hard to contribute something original to the science blogging community that I enjoy as much as I do a more popular one.
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 science blogosphere is heavy on biosciences to start with, and the current prevalence of issues involving evolution, biomedical research, and ecology has caused many people with an interest in these areas to start blogging. Also, as noted above, some bloggers from other fields have declined to join and still others have joined but then stopped blogging here, and the next choice might not be someone who blogs about the same topic. I’m actually grateful for the fact that Sb values diversity of opinion and experience, especially because there are other blogs on here that cover zoology, paleontology, and the history of science; the makeup of the community isn’t dictated by a 1-discipline, 1-blogger system.
7. Why don’t ScienceBlogs bloggers ever link to blogs outside ScienceBlogs?
We do, just as we link to other writers here on Sb. Before I joined I received a lot of link-love from bloggers here, and even though I wish I had more time to read other writers (on Sb and elsewhere) I generally try to link to whatever catches my eye wherever it might be. If I do have a bias towards other writers here, it’s primarily because it’s easy to use the 24-hour feed and frontpage to see what other bloggers here are writing about at a glance and therefore something here might more quickly come to my attention than blogs elsewhere. If there is something good out there, though, post a link in a comment or send an e-mail; many bloggers become aware of interesting bits on the web through such messages and comments, and it definitely helps keep up to speed with who’s saying what in the blogosphere.
8. Are all the ScienceBlogs bloggers BFFs?
With 71 bloggers writing about a variety of topics and coming from a diversity of backgrounds, it would be especially strange if that were true. As John wrote in his post “overall we are like rogue elephants, looking to take each others’ audiences over, so we always maintain eye contact when we meet.”
I’ve met some of the other writers here in real life and got along quite well with the ones I got the chance to meet, but the makeup of Sb isn’t decided by how well a writer gets along with everyone else. Some people get on well, others do not, and there’s no reason to expect it to be any different. I have a number of “blog buddies” who I’m frequently in contact with both on and off this blog, but in general we’ve all got our little platform in the city square, generally oblivious to what any one else is saying unless we go and see for ourselves.
I’ll add any other questions as they might come up in the comments.