Observations of a Nerd

But… It’s *just* a blog!

One of the most rewarding sessions I was a part of was “But it’s just a blog!” run by Hannah Waters, Psi Wavefunction, Eric Michael Johnson, Jason Goldman, Mike Lisieski and Lucas Brouwers. The main question was: how do new bloggers get noticed and read in a sea of emerging science blogs? Furthermore, how do they get over the self doubt and “impostor syndrome” that keep them from feeling like they belong and become an important voice in the science blogosphere?

Coming into this session, I had to face my own impostor syndrome (or, as Emily best coined it, “I’m not Ed Yong” syndrome). As the panelist spoke about their own thoughts, questions and insecurities as newbie science bloggers, I had to come to terms with the fact that in that room, I was no longer considered a newbie. I am, for all intents and purposes, experienced.

I sure don’t feel all that experienced. But I did tell my story, how I began writing, what helped me write better and how I ended up getting noticed and picked up by ScienceBlogs. Really, it was a combination of excessive free time, nagging persistence, and dumb luck. Jason Goldman already covered a lot of the tips and tricks to gaining an audience, so I won’t completely duplicate them. I will, however, specifically address one of the thoughts brought up in the session.

Most of the new bloggers were graduate (& undergraduate) students. Specifically, they asked about balancing student life and blogging, and whether students really have anything to offer to the online audience. My answer is a resounding YES. As far as balance goes, that’s going to be a constant problem, as it is, I’m sure, with any demanding job. But you can find it, and it will be worth it.

As students, you are the future of science. Before long, you will be lead authors on the papers that everyone blogs about. You, more than any science writer out there, know the business. You are trained to see with a critical, scientific eye, and because of that, you automatically have a unique and important perspective on science.You understand the methods used in your field; you are so well versed in the basic principles you can teach them in your sleep; and you, more than anyone, are 100% qualified to act as a bridge between practicing scientists and the rest of the world.

Your voice is not only valid, but necessary to bringing the science back into science communication.

As far as getting your voice heard – like Jason said, take full advantage of social media and be involved in the online community. Comment, post, and talk to people. Don’t be afraid to self promote: so long as you are good, people will love to see your stuff. And don’t worry that you’re not Ed Yong. As Ed said, he’s not sure he’s Ed Yong, either.


  1. #1 Jason Goldman
    January 25, 2011

    Actually, several of the panelists (aside from Eric and myself) are actually undergrads, or in some sort of grey area after undergrad but before grad school.

    CW: Eh, advice still applies. Opened it up to undergrads, too :)

  2. #2 Ed Yong, or AM I?
    January 25, 2011

    “And don’t worry that you’re not Ed Yong. As Ed said, he’s not sure he’s Ed Yong, either.”

    Too bloody right. There’s an Ed Yong who exists in the heads of the nice people who compliment him on Twitter. Then there’s the Ed Yong currently sitting in front of a screen, snacking and struggling with a lede that refuses to write itself. This Ed Yong doesn’t recognise the other one and thinks that if he’s such a big hotshot, why doesn’t he come over here and finish this stupid post?

    As I said in the session, imposter syndrome? Bad news: it won’t get better because expectations (yours and everyone else’s) vary linearly with success. Good news: that’s probably a good thing.

  3. #3 Zen Faulkes
    January 25, 2011

    “As students, you are the future of science.”

    I’d go further than that.

    Graduate students aren’t the future of science: you’re what science is now. You are the ones who are getting it done and expanding knowledge in a way that supervisors don’t do.

  4. #4 Glendon Mellow
    January 25, 2011

    This may have been covered elsewhere Christie, but I thought I’d add that there’s good ways and obnoxious ways to self-promote.

    Going to a person’s blog in a related field and slapping a “Come check out my blog! Linkety-link!” comment is obnoxious.

    Engaging in their posts and make insightful comments or questions is good. Most bloggers will backtrack who made a comment, and where they come from. Heck, I landed one of my first commissions that way.

  5. #5 Lucas
    January 26, 2011

    I’m so glad you liked the session Christie!
    Also thanks for participating in the discussion – your experiences, advice and thoughts were much appreciated.

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