Scienceblogging: SciBlogs NZ – a Q&A with Peter Griffin

This is the series of interviews with people doing interesting things in the current science blogging ecosystem.

Today I got to ask Peter Griffin of SciBlogs NZ a few questions.

Hi, thank you for taking your time for answering a few questions about the past, present and future developments of the science blogging ecosystem. Let me begin with you – can you tell our readers, please, who are you, where you come from and how you got into science blogging?

I’m Peter Griffin, former technology journalist for the New Zealand Herald, currently the manager of the Science Media Centre of New Zealand and and founder and editor of Sciblogs.co.nz I used to blog on technology for the New Zealand Herald and saw a need to coordinate some of the science blogging activity underway in New Zealand and help new scientists get into blogging – hence the formation of Sciblogs, which was modeled on Scienceblogs.com

Everyone seems to agree that the summer of 2010 saw some big and important changes in the science blogging ecosystem. What are your own thoughts on this? Where do you think it will go next, over the next couple of years?

The Scienceblogs/Pepsi blog incident was a reminder of how fragile trust is online and the importance of being in tune with your online community and your contributors. It was sad to see a strong and successful platform damaged by something that was so obviously not in the interests of the community or its contributors. I think 2009 will go down as the year science blogs in general really exploded – there is a huge amount of content now available which I think overall is good for science communication efforts. Our relationship with the website of the best read newspaper in the country suggests this type of content is in demand and there is a vacuum that the media isn’t filling.

How do you personally read science blogs? Do you use feeds, or social networks, or some other ways of keeping track of the science blogging world? How do you find new blogs?

Yes, I read widely – I don’t use feeds – I bookmark sites and visit them regularly and pick up suggestions on Twitter and Facebook. I mainly find out about new blogs via Twitter or email newsletters

Tell us a little bit more about Sciblogs NZ. How did it come about? Who started it and why? How many of the bloggers mirror their posts on their own blogs and how many write only for the network? What are the pros and cons of the mirroring setup for many of your bloggers?

Science blogging was very immature in New Zealand before we decided to get involved in this space. A few very good bloggers ran sites but it was hard to find them and there was very little sense of community among science bloggers. We saw an opportunity to do a mini Scienceblogs in New Zealand, nurture some science communicators and get some informed discussion going on science-related issues the mainstream media was constantly missing. These goals fitted with the objectives of the Science Media Centre which is part of a global network that helps journalists gain better access to research and scientists with the aim of improving coverage of science in the media.

Just under half of our bloggers mirror their content on their own websites. The WordPress MU platform makes mirroring very easy and it is generally a very good system. However, comments are an issue – maintaining two separate threads of comments can be frustrating for bloggers and there is currently no system that allows comments across two blogs to be integrated and maintained centrally. The most popular blogs on Sciblogs are exclusive to Sciblogs which suggests people discover bloggers on Sciblogs and quickly migrate to the original blog.

Where do you see SciBlogs NZ within the global science blogging ecosystem – what is its position, how does it differ from others, what service does it provide?

We are very much focused on New Zealand and the Pacific though our bloggers are well integrated into the global blogging community and swap content and ideas. Our bloggers are also very outward looking in terms of the content they generate – they are widely read and follow science developments closely – some of the most popular posts so far have been about issues that do not relate to our geographical area.

We are finding that we are becoming a default service for the science sector for people looking to get into science communication. We travel the country giving lectures and workshops on science communication. All of this came about through our Sciblogs efforts and it has attracted strong support from scientific institutions. We now host two institutional blogs – the Antarctic Research Centre and Genetics Otago.

On the other hand, what is the role of SciBlogs NZ within the science journalism ecosystem in New Zealand?

We are increasingly becoming integrated with the media which I see as a positive development. Sciblogs content is increasingly in demand and we have undertaken to share our content with the media. This is opening up a larger audience for the work of our bloggers. We are also finding journalists are using Sciblogs to gather ideas for stories and several of our bloggers have become very active with the media on the back of their blogging activity. We have not had any feedback so far from the media that they consider Sciblogs a threat.

Thank you so much for the interview. One of your bloggers, Fabiana Kubke, came to ScienceOnline2010 and we hope that SciBlogsNZ will be well represented at ScienceOnline2011 as well.

Name of the site: SciBlogs NZ
URL: www.sciblogs.co.nz
Feed URL: http://sciblogs.co.nz/terms/feed/
Motto, or subheading, or one-line explanation: Australasia’s largest science blog network
Owner (if corporate): Royal Society of New Zealand
Founder(s): Peter Griffin and Aimee Whitcroft
Current community manager: Peter Griffin and Aimee Whitcroft
Geographical location: Wellington, New Zealand
Date of launch: 1 October 2009
Number of bloggers on the day of launch: 27
Maximum number of bloggers in the history of the site: 30
Current number of bloggers: 30
Software/Platform: WordPress MU
Average monthly traffic (visits/pageviews): 39,000 visits 71,000 pageviews
Top Bloggers: Grant Jacobs (Code for Life), Peter Griffin (Griffin’s Gadgets), Shaun Hendy (A Measure of Science), Chris McDowall (Seeing Data)
Key events from the history of the site: Syndication on Scienceblogs, Scoop, Earthquake in Christchurch (huge increase in traffic), joint venture with New Zealand Herald, Sciblogs book project funded

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One response to “Scienceblogging: SciBlogs NZ – a Q&A with Peter Griffin

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