22 January 2010

How I lost and what I’ve learned

P.Z. Myers wrote recently that he started the Pharyngula blog in 2003. Considering that this is one of the best known and widely read science blogs, I thought to myself...

“How did I screw up?”

I’ve been blogging since 2002. That puts me on the “online science” map early, and I missed some opportunities. It took me a long time to figure out what I’m doing. I really only got serious about it in the last two years, and it took more than a year before I started to feel the work pay off. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned.

1. I’m not interesting. A lot of earlier posts were of the “Here’s what’s going on with me for the last week” variety. Meh – who cares? Increasingly, I think that while I am not interesting, I can use my knowledge to tell interesting stories. Participating more in Researchblogging.org has been very helpful in this regard.

2. A blog should be an offer to help, not a cry for help. Corollary to the above. When I started writing more outward looking posts, I started getting more feedback.

3. Blogs are a waste of time... but not a complete waste of time. Blogging is inefficient. There are lots of other things out there to look at, so it takes time and hard work to build an audience.

4. Community. Posting on other people’s blogs and being on Twitter have helped me slowly find some like-minded souls, who are often kind enough to spread the word when I get something right. I’m not a chatty guy, and networking is not something I do easily or naturally, but it’s been very rewarding.

Speaking of community, BioChem Belle also had a nice post on social networking. If you're a scientist, go take her poll!

I’'ll also take this moment to point to Chad Orzel, who’s also been blogging since 2002, talking a bit in Inside Higher Education article about why he blogs, and how it led to his writing a book.


biochem belle said...

It's interesting to hear a "veteran's" perspective about what has and hasn't worked. I am certainly becoming more mindful about how I frame my posts. I started using Google Analytics about a month ago, and it's certainly useful to see which posts bring the most traffic.

Bjørn Østman said...

As for PZ, he probably got most of his readers because he started writing a lot about a contentious matter at the right time (atheism) in a tone that many people like (offensive).