Terra Sigillata

Many moons ago in blog years, RealJournalist&trade and Not Exactly Rocket Science blogger Ed Yong queried his readers to learn who they were and why they read him by answering some questions in the comment thread. Now that he has moved over to Discover, Ed has launched his query anew and blog brother DrugMonkey has tagged other science bloggers to do the same.

Why?

Well, I actually asked readers for similar input back in December when I celebrated my 4th anniversary of writing Terra Sigillata. We’re now drawing about 1,300 people dialing up our blog daily yet only a good post will draw commenters in the double digits. Hence, many of you are what bloggers call “lurkers.”

Of course, those who read and don’t comment are extremely valued since they represent more than 95% of our readership. But I like discussions, as do most bloggers, and I especially welcome discussion from people who are not scientists or otherwise in the biomedical and health care areas. Part of this blog’s purpose is outreach and we don’t get to do much of that if we are only preaching to one another.

It’s also been six months since I introduced a new emphasis to cover more topics on underrepresented groups in higher education, particularly about historically-Black colleges and universities. I’ve never formally asked for feedback on the effectiveness or interest in these efforts.

I’m also realizing that I haven’t written many posts as of late about natural product drugs and dietary supplements, my core topic, yet readership is growing even beyond the sustained interest in our post on JWH-018, the primary active component in synthetic marijuana products, such as K2 Spice blends and others. I also got tied up much of early 2010 with lamenting about my bout of pneumonia and personal revelations about chronic illness.

So, would you mind commenting below to let us all know a little about you and your interest in Terra Sigillata? A pseudonym is fine in the name field and, here’s a secret: you can even put in a fake e-mail address in the e-mail field below. What I’m more interested in is:

  • What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back?
  • What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin)
  • For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you?
  • For regular commenters: What do you get out of commenting that might change lurkers into commenters?
  • I very much appreciate all of your support and hope that your time spent here adds some value to your personal or professional interests.

    Comments

    1. #1 k8
      July 6, 2010

      I am a utterly bored secretary who comes here because I like to know something about everything, but as a recovering alcoholic, I especially like to learn about drugs. I don’t comment very often because I feel like my opinions are not backed up by any sort of science and I’ve gotten burned by being curious and asking (so-called “stupid”) questions on other science blogs around here.

      And of course, I think you know I like your personal posts the best.

    2. #2 cicely
      July 6, 2010

      What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back? Female, 50s, one-time biology major. One of the other scienceblogs (no chance that I’ll remember which one) linked to something you posted, and I followed the link. I keep coming back because I like reading about science, have a lot of free (read that, “bored”) time, and have access to a computer.

      What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin) You’re doing just fine; keep on doing it, and I’ll be happy.

      For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you? Because I’m not usually knowledgeable enough to feel that I have any business spouting off.

    3. #3 cicely
      July 6, 2010

      What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back? Female, 50s, one-time biology major. One of the other scienceblogs (no chance that I’ll remember which one) linked to something you posted, and I followed the link. I keep coming back because I like reading about science, have a lot of free (read that, “bored”) time, and have access to a computer.

      What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin) You’re doing just fine; keep on doing it, and I’ll be happy.

      For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you? Because I’m not usually knowledgeable enough to feel that I have any business spouting off.

    4. #4 Kristjan Wager
      July 6, 2010

      What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back?

      Danish IT-consultant. I don’t know when I started reading, but I am pretty sure it was through respectful insolence.

      What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin)

      I have been very impressed by your HeLa stuff.

      For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you?/For regular commenters: What do you get out of commenting that might change lurkers into commenters?

      I am mostly a lurker these days, but I think the interaction one gets with the bloggers through commenting is really worth the trouble.

    5. #5 Gaythia
      July 6, 2010

      Maybe Science Blogs needs a central website that would handle introductions! I lurk here and there, and comment on occasion, hopefully correlated with when I have something to say. I have a MS in Analytical Chemistry, and a second undergraduate degree in Geology. I’ve worked in Government and industrial labs in positions ranging from groundwater geochemistry to electron microscopy. General improvement, especially in science education, is probably an extention of my professional background in quality assurance. I’m interested in health because, well, isn’t everybody? Maybe not, and we need to deal with that too.

      I found the posts on HeLa fascinating. I once lived in the RTP area of North Carolina and am now in Colorado so that’s a tie also.

    6. #6 OurSally
      July 7, 2010

      # What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back?

      Just clicked in here from Orac. I’m a software person and sometimes need to stop reading code. I come back because I like the style and content.

      # What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin)

      I wish you would blog more often. (But not girl-talk like Isis does.) And the God T-shirt bothered me, I almost stopped coming.

      # For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you?

      I normally have nothing useful to contribute.

    7. #7 Chan Stroman
      July 7, 2010

      What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back?
      Mom (24/7), lawyer (day job) & blogger (here & there).
      Started reading when I followed Deborah Blum’s blog here & started getting all the ScienceBlogs in my feed reader.
      Now read T.Sig. regularly for the variety of topics and the terrific writing.

      What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin)
      Loved the HBC series and the HeLa posts, but wouldn’t dream of “steering” the topics. I’m interested in reading whatever a good blogger is passionate about writing, even when I don’t necessarily agree with the blogger’s position on an issue.

      For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you?/For regular commenters: What do you get out of commenting that might change lurkers into commenters?
      Lurker by nature (but here I am, go figure), so don’t take it personally. Thanks for your work!

    8. #8 Abel Pharmboy
      July 7, 2010

      OurSally: God T-shirt? Do you mean the chronic illness T-shirt from this post?

      http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/2010/05/chronic_illness_gratitude.php

    9. #9 DuWayne
      July 7, 2010

      First of all, K8 –

      You should know that while things might get rather harsh on even this blog, when it comes to opinion, I have seen little in the way of harshing on people for asking questions around here. That said, while it often takes a while – most of the sci-bloggers are generally rather busy, many of them are more than happy to respond to emailed questions. Sometimes they even respond to such queries with a post.

      Who I am:
      I am a student who is working towards the goal of PhDs in neuropsychology and linguistics, with an interest in studying addiction from an evolutionary and cross cultural perspective. This is making for an exceedingly interesting undergrad, as I will probably graduate with bachelor degrees in psychology, communications, Russian and international studies.

      I am also mentally ill, as such things are generally judged by our society. I have been diagnosed with bipolar II, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, unipolar depression and have spent the greater part of my 34 years as a prolific substance abuser. I absolutely loathe the stigmas attached to mental illness and addiction in general – or as I prefer to put it, “stigma” being far too pretty a word, the bigotry targeted at the mentally ill. Unfortunately, I am not entirely immune to perpetuating such bigotry myself – but bigotry is complicated like that.

      I also have a dichotomous, love/hate relationship with my fellow humans. People make me very angry, sometimes almost painfully angry. But I also have a passionate love for my fellow humans, especially those of us who are rather more broken than most people. While this has it’s roots in my early childhood Christian fundamentalism, it didn’t flag even a little when I shed my faith and began identifying as an atheist.

      Why I am here:
      I am here because Abel is a very interesting and most importantly, non-judgmental pharmacologist. For what might be rather obvious reasons, I am particularly interested in pharmacology. I am also interested in plants that have potential medicinal value, as I used to use several when I had neither health insurance or money.

      Why I comment (sometimes):
      As a student who takes way too many credits most of the time now, I don’t comment often anymore. But when I do, it is because I feel very strongly about the topic of discussion. Or because I have something useful to contribute to the topic being discussed. In either case, I am often inflamed by my profound irritation at oversimplification of complicated topics. I am ever amazed by the number of people who should bloody well know better, who are so intent on pretending that any endeavor involving humans can be simple – black and white.

      I also comment because of some of you lurkers who Abel is mentioning. There is something very gratifying about emails from people who really appreciate something or another that I had to say.

    10. #10 Candid Engineer
      July 7, 2010

      I read less for content and more because I love you! You are such a wonderful person, and I like your personal posts. I also find the pharmacology interesting.

      I’m not much of a lurker, per se. When I have something to say, I say it.

    11. #11 Samantha
      July 8, 2010

      # What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back?
      –I’m a 30 yo college student, majoring in Social Science, with an interest (but not drive) in all things science. As far as when I started reading your blog: It all started, back when I read an antivaxx article on HuffPo, and thought it was a bunch of BS, but a friend challenged me to challenge it. So I started googling. Found Orac on Science Blogs, and he’d referred to you once. So I thought I’d check you out. I keep coming back ’cause I like the realness in your blog, and the sort of softer side that you bring to my daily blogroll. You’re the only Science Blogger ever to have made me cry.

      # What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin)
      –Hmm. I wish you posted more. :) I like your personal tie-ins – they really make the science understandable. Your more formal scientific stuff isn’t unpalatable, either, which is nice. And you tend to always have topics that interest me.

      # For regular commenters: What do you get out of commenting that might change lurkers into commenters?
      –I’m a loudmouth. I think, and it comes out. So I really can’t help you there – I tend to voice my opinions whenever a stimulating environment to voice those opinions comes up.

    12. #12 Passerby
      July 8, 2010

      >What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back?

      Scientist/engineer/consultant. PhD, Civil and Environ Eng/Appl Microbial Ecology. Background: chemistry, chemical engineering, cell and molecular biology. Specialty is environ toxicology – pollutant fate, transport, exposure risk – air and water.

      Been lurking for years. I post on a few blogs, and surf others occasionally.

      >What do you like here?

      Most of the blogs function as ‘science news feed’, covering a broad range of disciplines. Others provide useful intro snapshots of specialty topics worth digging into, when they afford insight on specific issue cause-and-effect. Most reading lies within subjects pertaining to professional interest.

      I was taught early on that the attentive robin catches the worm. It pays to read broadly and seek out conceptual and factual connections when intuition alarms sound.

      >What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of?

      Alternative Woo- and religion-bashing gets really, really old. It’s doesn’t work well as the sole theme for a blog. It’s one thing to bash the most obvious garbage and quite another to dismiss use of modest supplement dosing that cues the same nuclear receptor or membrane receptor targets – the same targets favored by Big Pharma.

      I liked your post on alcoholic addiction treatments. I thought you could have gone much farther with the HeLa cell line topic.

      >For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you?

      Some blogs elicit a reader response more consistently than others.

      I have a question in return. Why do you have asthma?

    13. #13 partial agonist
      July 9, 2010

      the who: I am a mid-40s chemistry & drug discovery researcher, with big pharma experience but now in academia as an assistant professor, mostly working in the cancer area.

      the why: I bookmark a number of science blogs for various reasons, to keep up on hot topics, to think broadly about research, to reinforce my committment to being a solid scientist and skeptic (which is not a bad word), and to just be enterained by solid writing.

      what I like: the quality of the writing and level of analysis, thought-provoking topics

      how to improve: More back-and-forth in the comments would be nice, but I don’t know how you can better foster that goal.

    14. #14 Jen
      July 9, 2010

      I discovered Terra Sig about a year ago through a suggestion from my independent study supervisor. Being a senior in high school with an interest in pharmacy, I found a good fit.

      I enjoy science in general, but don’t feel quite knowledgeable enough to comment most of the time.

      The content and ease of reading keeps me coming back for more :)

    15. #15 Abel Pharmboy
      July 10, 2010

      Jen, thank you for reading and please thank your independent study supervisor for their excellent taste in blogs!

      I spent my undergrad and first ten years of being a professor at pharmacy schools so please let me know if I can be of help to you as you move to college and the pre-pharmacy curriculum. I chaired a Pharm.D. admissions committee for a time and would be happy to talk more with you. You can Gmail me at abelpharmboy.

      And, please: feel free to comment at any time! There are many topics where I have no expertise and comment at other blogs just to learn more. Always remember this in your education: if you never ask the question, it’ll take longer to get the answer.

    16. #16 biochem belle
      July 10, 2010

      I commented on the last delurk thread a few months ago but thought I’d drop a few lines here, as well, largely to say I’m still here, even I’ve mostly relurked-the main reason for lurking these days is less time to read and comment, thanks to real life stuff.

      I’m a postdoc-biochemist (heavy on the chem part) by training, trying to get back to that specialty after a little time wandering elsewhere. How arrived here is fuzzy-maybe “In the Pipeline”? I keep coming back because you’re one of the nicest peeps I’ve never met :) I really enjoy all your posts, but especially the ones about community and diversity in science.

    17. #17 Kat
      July 11, 2010

      I’m majoring in computer science with a minor in biology. The biology minor is a recent addition as I am leaning more towards bioinformatics instead of my original goals of internet programming. I signed up with the scienceblogs feeds a few months ago to broaden my general science knowledge. And I don’t comment much because I usually feel I wouldn’t have much to add- and sometimes I’m just lazy. Love your blog though!

    18. #18 Synchronium
      July 13, 2010

      What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back? I’m a bloke from the UK in his 20s. Got a “BMedSc (Pharmacology)” degree, and sell “legal highs”, etc for a living. I also write a blog, mainly about recreational drugs. Probably started reading because of your JWH-018 post. I posted a comment linking to a tox study write up of mine and I keep coming back because the top link in my referrer stats is your blog. :) Also, it’s rare to find a sciencey drugs blog. The internet seems to be full of shamans and other mystical crap, so your blog makes refreshing reading, and stimulating debate.

      What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? Not been round long enough to form an opinion yet, but I enjoy your recreational drugs posts, especially those backed up with actual papers.

    19. #19 Synchronium
      July 13, 2010

      For regular commenters: What do you get out of commenting that might change lurkers into commenters?

      Well thought out responses; a good discussion. People clicking on my name if they think I have something interesting to say. ;-)

    20. #20 OurSally
      July 19, 2010

      @Abel; yes.

      I avoid evangelisers, that’s my personal thing. I felt a bit of evangelising going on and stopped coming here for a while. But it was only once. That’s not a critisism, it’s just me. I know Americans are different.

    21. #21 Abel Pharmboy
      July 19, 2010

      That’s really good to know as 20% of our readership comes from outside the US. I had intended more so to evangelize about understanding people with chronic illness but I certainly see how that sentiment could come across.

      I’m happy that you’re back!

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