Why do we blog, the kiss-and-makeup edition

February 3, 2010

As I have been beating the decidedly undead horse of Nature Network over their recent introspection post at the Of Schemes and Memes blog, I better take up the challenge from steffi suhr of the Science behind the scenes blog.

This recent kerfuffle (again, if you’ve missed it, good!) has – for me – just reinforced how important it is to allow different styles and accept and tolerate (blog-)cultural differences. So, in the general spirit of kissing and making up, I invite you to join in and answer these slightly different questions1:
* What made you start blogging?
* Is a sense of community an important part of blogging for you, or do you prefer blogging ‘solo’?
* Are there blogs you never look at? If yes, why (be nice and don’t name names)?
* Who are you blogging for/who are you talking to?
* Do you think you may be getting people exposed to some science through your blog who otherwise wouldn’t be?
* Do you think any non-blogger cares about any of the above things?

My answers after the jump.

What made you start blogging?

I was cheezed about some issues having to do with the dismal fate of younger scientists in the US, biomedical, NIH-fundable areas. Particularly having to do with some generational….frictions. I had been reading science related blogging, and several Scienceblogs.com blogs, for no more than about 4-5 months IIRC. I thought the general idea was a hoot and would give me a place to vent. I can stop any time I want. Really. I just…don’t want to.

Is a sense of community an important part of blogging for you, or do you prefer blogging ‘solo’?

This is a poorly worded question because it implies that privateer, ‘solo’ blogging of some person who starts up on WordPress or Blogger on a whim does not entail a sense of community. Even back in my early days on WP, I felt that I was joining a community of science and science-career related blogs. Blogrolls and comments and memes….these are all community building and community joining behaviors. I just don’t think blogging as a unconnected push-it-out-and-forget-it behavior is really blogging to me.
Beyond that, there can be even tighter community connections. Via email if nothing else. Sometimes through blog-centered meetups in local venues or at scientific meetings. Via Facebook or even through discussion forums. These, again, have nothing to do with whether one is solo or affiliated with a blog aggregation like Nature Network or Scienceblogs. I have participated in some of these types of communities and I have come to find them an important part of blogging in the personal sense. I get to know some great people a little better. In the sense that I have an intentional mission for my blogging efforts (and it is loose at best)? No, these more personal aspects of community are not terribly relevant.

Are there blogs you never look at? If yes, why (be nice and don’t name names)?

Of course. There are simply too many in domains related to my interests. So I read blogs that capture my interest as a blog reader. Duh. High on the list are Sb blogs because I blog here and we have a series of mechanisms that draw the eye to blogs that one doesn’t necessarily visit habitually. Also very high on my list are links provided by the blogs that I read or the commenters to those blogs. One mechanism that also draws my eye is the updating blogroll widget that Blogger blogs (see here, here, here, here for examples) have adopted recently. Having them ordered by time of last post and with a post title is completely awesome. So to generalize, for a reader such as myself, engaging a topic-related blogosphere of your own is a key behavior for the privateer blogger.
There are a few things that more or less overtly put me off a blog (we’ll assume topic relevance here). Style can be a factor, busy layouts or those light text on dark background themes are too much for my antiquated brain. Anti-community meta-blogging idiocy such as attacking the pseudonymous tradition will put me off.

Who are you blogging for/who are you talking to?

I blog for myself and my egotistical need to chat people up with my opinions. Anyone who does it for any other reason, apart from being paid, is either lying or delusional. (Ok, ok, every so often there is a teeeensy bit of evidence that we are making headway on some tangible, identifiable goal but…c’mon.) My most intentional audience are scientists engaged in the NIH grant funding game. I’d like to reach more drug abuse scientists but that is a numbers issue.
Sidebar: It is a very small percentage of scientists who read science-related blogs from what I can tell. At least at our blog- traffic from the largest of NIH grant funded US Universities seems to argue that a low fraction of their scientists are finding the DM blog. We seem to get just a few repeat readers from a large number of the bigger Universities. On one occasion I saw a post (the TopSekrit video of CPP responding to a review) go viral at a University (multiple IP hits in a short period as if someone posted it to an email list), then within an hour jump to a couple of other ones and go viral there before eventually petering out. I also had an April Fool’s post go viral at the NIH at one point. These events help to shape my view that we have a vast untapped audience and we’d be better off figuring out how to reach them than worrying about the occasional person who is allegedly put off by a specific comment thread or blogwar.

Do you think you may be getting people exposed to some science through your blog who otherwise wouldn’t be?

Alright, I’ll try to be serious. Yes. I think that I expose people to some thinking about drug abuse that they would not otherwise run across. This does not necessarily mean that I bring them around to my way of thinking, however.

Do you think any non-blogger cares about any of the above things?

Yep and demonstrably so. I have many consistent commenters who do not blog themselves. When it comes to the types of drug abuse topics I discuss on the blog, I have similar conversations with people in real life so I know that real actual people (you know, as opposed to bloggers) care about this type of scientific inquiry.
Okay, those are my answers for now. If you blog, go forth and pick up the meme. And make especially sure to link steffi suhr’s call.

1Should you chose to answer these questions you accept that, after getting it all out, you are done and will stop the off-putting meta-blogging.

HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not a chance.

No Responses Yet to “Why do we blog, the kiss-and-makeup edition”

  1. Greg Laden Says:

    I want that updating blogroll thingie for my blog. How come we don’t have that? Are we chopped liver or something?


  2. “One mechanism that also draws my eye is the updating blogroll widget that Blogger blogs […] have adopted recently. Having them ordered by time of last post and with a post title is completely awesome”.
    I agree. Blogger gets some stick (and having recently started a WordPress blog for work, I can see why), but this is one of the things they’ve got very, very right!


  3. DrugMonkey Says:

    How come we don’t have that?
    Believe you me I have asked on more than one occasion. It makes for most excellent random walk blog reading….


  4. neurolover Says:

    I’ll add two more questions:
    1) why do you blog anonymously? (and I’m not asking for unveiling here, just the general philosophy behind it)
    2) how do you get any actual work (i.e. NIH funded science) done?


  5. KarinNH Says:

    Is there some sort of qualifier I am missing for question #3?
    The most cursory search brings up the figure that in early 2009, Technorati had indexed 133,000,000 blogs since 2002 and tracked 900,000 as the average number of blog posts created in a 24-hour period.
    So no matter how willing readers are, they are going to have to ignore the vast majority of what is out there.
    (And I am all for civility, but if one of my students asked that question, they would be getting the stare of disbelief.)


  6. Dude, haven’t you heard the news? Apparently blogging is on its way out: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8497427.stm


  7. Bob O'H Says:

    Karin – I think Steffi was thinking about whether there are any blogs you specifically avoid reading. Poorly worded, perhaps.
    DrugMpnkey – if you insist on carrying on with the meta-blogging, we will have no option but to politely make some watercress sandwiches for your lunch, and give you a cup of tea to wash it down with.


  8. JohnV Says:

    How did I know the “video of cpp” was going to be that :p


  9. drdrA Says:

    Neurolover- I’ll bite. I blog (and comment) under a pseudonym because I don’t want my real identity to be easily Google-able. There are lots of very good reasons for this- being pre-tenure, and personal safety come to mind.
    Second- how do I find time? There is time in the day that I do not use for doing science- I can easily swap blogging for watching TV after kids are in bed, or while waiting for kids to finish soccer practice. It is like any hobby, even tenure track faculty should have some of those. I think, anyway.


  10. DrugMonkey Says:

    JohnV- because you are the sort of rare genius that populates the commentariat at the DrugMonkey blog.
    Bob O’H- I *love* tea! wooot!
    I’ll take neurolover’s Q2 seriously, because it is possible that this may be another one of the barriers to entry. You guys are scientists, right? Do a pilot study!
    Think about what sort of blogging you might do- paper review? career rant? Whatever. Wait until the moment strikes you, pop open your favorite text editor and rant (or edumacate) away. If your model is me, by all means forgo any attempt at good writing, editing, hell even correcting typos.
    Now how long did that take you?


  11. Ha! Yeah, that’s the big secret. The more you blog, the less time it takes to post.


  12. Silver Fox Says:

    Having recently read a lot about these watercress sandwiches, I’m starting to crave one – or at least a good cucumber-mayo sandwich!


  13. Anonymous Says:

    with the amount of time you spend blogging, how do you get any work done? Do you blog during the day on your employer’s time and using your employer’s computer?? (honest questions)


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