Most Popular Blog Posts from the Kansas NSF Messenger Workshop

By Chris Mooney | January 29, 2011 1:25 pm

I’m glad to say that our social media and blogging breakout sessions seem to have been a success in Kansas, and there are over 100 uses of the #nsfmessenger Twitter hashtag, many by people who had barely or never used Twitter before.

When it comes to blogging, meanwhile, no less than 16 posts (!) were put up on this blog during the afternoon of the NSF “Science: Becoming the Messenger” workshop. There was a contest/competition to determine which of them would be the most popular, judging by blog traffic, comments, and other parameters, and at this point, it’s still unclear which post will be the winner.

With 16 total posts, it was a very crowded field, and none benefitted much by being at the top of the page because they were pushed down by other contenders within minutes of appearing. In this context, using social media to draw attention to one’s post was critical–and sure enough, the leading posts all succeeded in doing so.

A Geek is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” by Jill Hummels, is currently leading with 8 comments and 393 pageviews. Much of the post’s traffic seems to have come from Facebook.

But there are a number of other contenders that are close in traffic:

* “The past is key to the present and savior of the future,” by Corinne Myers & Erin Saupe, is currently in second place for traffic. This is largely due to good showings on Facebook and Twitter.

* “Will you miss the trees when they are gone,” whose author is not actually listed (oops) is currently in third place. It has been very successful on StumbleUpon.

* “Fish Food for Thought,” by Hannah Owens, has probably my favorite title and is fourth in traffic so far, thanks to a good showing on

As I said, I don’t want to call a winner yet because the contenders are too close and one could still trend in a new direction. I want to let things settle out a bit more. But already, a key lesson I was trying to teach in the workshop has been borne out: Blogging is great, but you must also master social media tools to increase the number of eyeballs to your blog posts.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to check out the four posts above and comment or share them if you think them worthy…


Comments (3)

  1. Nullius in Verba

    Interesting experiment. Interesting too that it doesn’t seem to matter if other people agree, so long as they care enough to comment. For example, the leader with 8 comments has one “well done”, one question about migrants, one “agree”, and five who disagree.

    I think that’s valuable to start a debate, but when the creator of the post doesn’t interact with his or her commenters, it’s another wasted opportunity. Does the author agree with the criticisms, or disagree? Can they defend their original point, or do they need to expand it to clarify any misunderstandings? What did people learn? Where else might a discussion lead?

    Another point: what do the posts teach about science? We have a handful of facts/conclusions, and some opinion on their importance, but are they presented in a specifically scientific way? That is, emphasising scientific method, scepticism, examination of evidence, critical thinking, etc. What contrary arguments were considered? What predictions can it make? How does it fit into the wider scientific framework?

    No criticism of the new bloggers intended – I’m sure they’re doing just as they’ve been taught – and a number of them did manage to hit some of those points. I know it’s a difficult thing to do. But it’s worth exploring what we have learnt from it.

  2. So, who IS the author of “Will you miss the trees when they’re gone?”


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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