A few days ago, I asked what it takes for a young person to start and, more importantly, continue for a longer term, to write a science blog. The comment thread on that post is quite enlightening, I have to say – check it out.
What is more important – that post started a chain-reaction on Twitter and blogs. Arikia Millikan, herself a young blogger, wrote a post in response which also attracted a lot of interesting comments. Go and comment.
Mason Posner wrote not one, but two posts in response: Science blogging in the classroom, an update and Young science bloggers need community. Go and comment.
Some of his students also congregated on his Facebook wall and, energized by all the spotlight they were getting, decided to restart their old class blog: Science Haggis. Go and comment.
Amy Breslin, former student of Posner, is the only one of his last year’s students to have continuously blogged ever since, on Plague-erism. Go and comment.
Then, someone on Twitter brought this link into the discussion – a blog post by a science blogger on The Life of Pi explaining one’s own insecurities about blogging and why it is hard. Once that link got passed around on Twitter by a bunch of people, the blog post received a lot of encouraging and wise comments as well. Go and comment.
Christie Wilcox, who is a better known youg science blogger, also voiced some similar uncertainties after coming back home from ScienceOnline2010. Go and comment.
What many of these blog posts and comments point out is that it is really hard to keep blogging if the audience is invisible. It is an absolutely astonishing coincidence that Anil Dash wrote a fantastic blog post on exactly the same topic just yesterday.
The current technology online makes it easy for you to see who you follow and read. It makes it easy on some platforms for others to see who you follow and read. But it is almost impossible to see who is reading you! Where’s the audience? Am I just blowin’ in the wind?
In a way, traditional blogging, in the absence of much feedback, is a one-to-many communication, which is not the best way to do it.
Sure, you can use various software to see how many people subscribe to your blog feed – but not who they are or if they are reading you at all. You can find out many bloggers who put your blog on their blogroll – but you still don’t know if they are actually reading you.
There are two ways people can tell you if they are reading you. One is to link to an individual post of your (not just the homepage). A simple link with no commentary on their blog or Facebook or Twitter or FriendFeed etc., is a simple statement “this may be interesting to you” targeted at their audience – it does not mean endorsement, but it is nice nonetheless. A link that adds commentary to it – agreement or disareement or addition of further information or providing an additional angle – is even better. You can find the links to you in your tracking software (Sitemeter referrers list, Google Analytics, etc.) or by putting your blog URL in Google Blogsearch or Technorati.
The other, much better way to let you know they read your post is to post a comment on it. Once they do – and posting the very first comment is the hardest – reply! Don’t make commenting on your blog difficult or exclusionary. Keep it open. You will get a substantive, pleasant discussion in the comments if a) you set the tone in your own post, b) carefully monitor the comments, c) moderate as needed, and d) respond frequently. Do not make the mistake that newspapers made of letting the loudest, most obnoxious commenters take over and scare away everyone else. At the same time, do not quickly delete every comment the tone of which you don’t like – this also has a censoring effect and will not make you many friends. Make your own criteria, draw your own line.
So, the best way to encourage a blogger – any blogger, but especially a new or young one – is to post comments. Good, quality comments. You may be used to the Usenet tone, but n00bs take some time to get used to it. Be gentle toward the young ‘uns. Go and comment.
For the new bloggers – of course there is some advice (including that already mentioned in the many comments on the blogs I linked above).
If you write a post about a peer-reviewed paper – have it aggregated on ResearchBlogging.org: this will bring yo not just traffic, but also respect. Not everyone can have their stuff up there – you need to apply and get approved first.
Send your best posts to blog carnivals on a regular basis. You’ll get traffic, new readers and will be joining a community of bloggers interested in the same topic.
Shameless self-promotion is not a bad word any more. In the world of the Web, nobody will know your blog exists unless you say “Here I am – look at me!” sometimes (yes, keep it tasteful, but it is OK).
Comment on other blogs and use your blog URL as a link that people will follow when they click on your name. The blog owner is almost certainly going to click there.
Link to your best recent posts on other online platforms: Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, etc. E-mail the link to your Mom every now and then. Marketing yourself has become an essential aspect of communication in the 21st century – nobody will do it for you any more.
Here are some other new/young bloggers of note:
Naked Little Ape is a blog by Hannah Lucy King. The discussion of this topic on Twitter persuaded her to make her blog public and to promote it there. And the blog is fascinating! Go and comment.
The Difference between Ignorance and Apathy is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.
SexyScience is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.
Thirsty Pandas is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.
Successors of Solomon is one of the current student blogs in Posner’s class. Go and comment.
Trisha Saha is the only one from the Duke Summer class who continued blogging after the course was over. And even she has not posted in a while. Bloggers on Nature Network have no access to tracking and traffic statistics, so the only way she can possibly know if someone is reading is if someone posts comments. Perhaps she will blog again if she starts getting comments on her older stuff. Go and comment.
Anne-Marie Hodge, though so young, is already a veteran science blogger. Since moving from undergraduate to graduate school she is busy and her blogging has become more infrequent. Though, when she posts it’s awesome. She is also on Nature Network so the only way you can make invisible audience become visible to her is if you post comments. Go and comment.
Miss Baker’s high school biology students are posting on Expert Biology. Check out Jack’s, Ammar’s and Alex’s posts about ScienceOnline2010. Check their other posts. Go and comment.
Lauren Rugani is a young science blogger/journalist. Go and comment.
Christine Ottery is a young science blogger/journalist. Go and comment.
Elissa Hoffman’s students are also blogging. Go and comment.
Dale Basler’s students are blogging. Go and comment.
Naon Tiotami is a very young blogger. Go and comment.
Sam Dupuis is a very young blogger. So is Djordje Jeremic (see this). Go and comment.
Mimi is a wonderful young blogger. Go and comment.
Students are blogging on the Project Exploration Blog. Remember Project Exploration? This is where it all started. Go and comment.
Let’s make sure new and young science bloggers feel welcome in our community. Let’s help them make their audience visible. Go and comment.
My HomepageYou can find all about my online presence at http://coturnix.org. Views presented on this blog and all other online spaces are mine and do not represent the views of Scientific American or its owners (NPG and McMillan).
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Thank youThanks to Arikia Millikan for helping with setting up this site.