A peculiar piece, What Is The Place Of New Science Bloggers In Today’s Science Blogosphere? You can see responses in the comments, as well as Ed Yong at G+. My own perspective is colored by the fact that I’ve been blogging since April of 2002. In other words, this April I’ll probably be blogging for 10 years. A few months ago I mentioned to Randal Parker of FuturePundit, who started blogging in the summer of 2002, that I frankly would have been totally surprised if you’d told me back then that I’d still be “in the game” in 2011. It seemed like a passing hobby (in fact, of the five people who started at “Gene Expression” in June of 2002 three of the four others continue to have a blog or media profile).
As for how to be successful, there are both deterministic and stochastic forces at work. I was among the original batch of bloggers at ScienceBlogs, and I saw people come and go. It was kind of obvious, and didn’t take much rocket science, to figure out who would succeed and who probably wouldn’t, pretty quickly. Ed Yong was going to succeed. Everyone could figure that out. On the other hand, you still have to be at the right place and right time. There are bloggers I’ve seen who are independent who sometimes generate an Ed-like quality and quantity for a bit, but they seem to run out of steam. It could be that there was only so much steam there in the first place, but perhaps chance did not favor them and they did not receive the positive feedback through accolades that might have impelled them to further productivity? That’s just life.
I’ve also been around long enough to have seen a dozen iterations of “is science blogging not open to newcomers?” Unlike most science bloggers I don’t really care about issues of there not being enough women in science blogging, or colored people, or poor people, or whatever. As long as the content is interesting to me the personal details don’t bother me much. This is evident in the fact that my RSS is dominated by people whose politics (Left-liberal) I don’t share. Politics aside, they produce interesting content, that’s the overwhelming determinant in my decisions.
But the main reason I am prompted to post is this: if you want to be a science blogger, and not just a writer, DON’T MAKE LEAVING COMMENTS HARD! I was going to leave a comment over there, but I ran into forced registration, and was totally turned off. If you want to be a writer only obviously this might be optimal. You want to filter the responses and are focused on a forum to project your own voice. But blogging is to a great, though not exclusive, extent defined by audience participation. Take a look at how few comments are trickling in at Scientific American Blogs. Now most of these people have a “name” and a following (well, I’m subscribed to a considerable number!), so lack of easy commenting isn’t a deal breaker. But if you’re new and want to get noticed you should probably be a bit more welcoming of feedback.
So here’s my main advice. Yes, you could be Ed Yong, and produce enormous quality and quantity for years on end. You might have it in you. But there’s another way: become part of the conversation! You don’t have to be just another voice, or be on the “same page” as all your fellow bloggers (I’m definitely not). Just never shut up, and be interesting, and good things will come….
Note: In regards to comments, I moderate/approve them here, but I don’t force registration. There’s a difference, in that I curate the comments to be a little less stupid than average, but try and encourage the impulse to offer opinions. Many of my readers are busy, and I don’t want to force them to register. In fact, it’s often the ones who have the marginal time to register everywhere who are problematic. I think using twitter/Facebook logins as registration are acceptable too. If you don’t want to be “public” that’s fine, but it’s not a right.