Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Blogger's Desk #9: For Science Blogger's

Greetings,

Wish everyone, a Happy New Year. Extending a big thanks to all the people who mailed me good wishes and patiently waiting for the "blog break", to be over. I will soon update all the blog stats for the the past 4 years in the blog statistics page. Coming to the science part of the blog, 2015 has been the best blogging year for me so far, as the stats will show. Recently some people have expressed interest in science blogging (Guess that is their new year resoultion) and have asked me if I would give them a some writing tips.

I have been running this blog now for 4 years. I have been thinking this through for a sufficiently longtime. I also read a lot of other blogs (Not just microbiology). From Indian context, I have found a very small percentage of blogs that actually talks science, and still lower- Microbiology. There are too many blogs that I could find that has not been updated for ages, and some even have as less as 4-6 posts in total and then author forgot that he had a page. It is worth a mention that there are several blogs that are updated regularly and has great content.

Personally, blogging has been a good experience for me, since it has allowed me to connect to a lot of people and also I get to think and ink about a lot of stuff. If you run a google search for blogging tips you will get zillions of posts and some have really good tips. But go through them and you will find that some of them are not applicable to science blogging. Though each blogger has a personal preference on how he/she will craft the piece there are some general things that I want to throw out- especially for science bloggers. If you think they are tips that's great. But let me put it as experience.

1. Science blog readers are a restricted population

In contrast with blogging fields such as fashion, cooking, sports, news, gaming etc the number of people browsing though a science blog is limited. People often arrive at your blog through a search hit and are there to read specifically that post. So the number of page hits (or what you call as traffic) will be less. Don't bother when your page hits is not climbing very fast.

2. Write a post, follow it up.

Science is ever evolving. In a field like microbiology, theories keep changing. So your post may be outdated in sometime. You have to follow up with your earlier posts. When you do so, include back-links to your posts. It not only lets reader get a deeper look, it also keeps the reader moving within your site. It has been my experience that, people often write a mail to you, and often don't drop a comment on the page. If you have sufficiently lot of comments its preferable to write about it in whole as a fresh post. Commenting on the same post, for pages and pages is not comfortable.

3. Reference and cross check your facts

This is one thing that is lacking severely in a lot of science blogs. It is very frustrating to a scientific reader to agree with your facts, when they disagree and also to have a deeper look if the posts are not referenced. Journal references and other online materials from which you borrowed the idea needs to be told. This also makes what you talk about, more authentic and credible. It also helps in doing a fact check of what you talk about, in case you missed something important. Try putting in reasonable number of links in the text to the source of data or ideas borrowed. This has a couple of advantages. Most importantly, you let your readers know that you don't plagiarise and respect original content of others. It also lets people go back without having to google for source when they want more information on the particular point.

4. Mix it up

The same thing being talked about for hundreds of post, start making the things monotonous and journalish. Blogging should be free sounding. Get someone else to write occasionally on your page. Guest posting is something that you don't ignore. If you get a chance, take it with both hands. Have a couple of varieties. If you know of someone who would be better suited to write about a topic (Such as personal experience) get that person to guest post. This is something that I learned from Small things considered. Lot of varieties makes people look for more and interested for a long time.

5. Your blog is your space. That's why it is called as "Blog space"

Take charge of what you talk about. Throw in stuff what you think is important. Important is rule of KISS (Keep it simple stupid). A page with lot of links and networks, too much graphics, unwarranted widgets will ruin what you want to say. As you write your work evolves and let it do so. Don't try to force yourself into. Block spam comments. One more way of avoiding unwanted pop-ups is don't let page have ads. Blogging should be for personal let-out. Not money making site. However, if you have a absolutely professional page which requires you to have some money in its maintenance, ads may be allowed in a controlled fashion. Declaration: I have not placed any ads in my page.

6. Let the world know you are there

This is one thing that every blogger needs to do. You have to blow your own trumpet and make regular announcements. Post links on Facebook, Science groups. If there is some discussion about a topic, put a link there and let them know you have some perspective on it. If some one has talked about your effort put in that too. Sometime self advertising is great (But don't spam). After all somebody needs to read what you wrote, and that somebody needs to know that you have written about it.

7. Keep yourself informed of what you are writing

This is a kind of extension of 2nd point. No person is an expert at everything. But we often make the mistake of laying hands in an unknown area when not warranted (Should admit I too have done these blunders). When there is something that you want write about, of which you don't have a good knowledge about, first learn it and teach it to yourself. If you could make a graphical abstract for the whole concept that had be excellent. Keeping yourself informed has a lot to do with how much you learn. Podcasts, news pages are some places where you could always look at for regular updates. Here is a list of Podcasts that I listen to regularly related to science. You would have your own list, based on your interest. If you regularly follow my posts, you will see that many of my references come from following.
  1. This week in Microbiology
  2. This week in Virology
  3. This week in Parasitology
  4. BBC Science hour
  5. Science AAAS
  6. Nature Podcast
  7. NeuroPod
  8. MedScape Infectious diseases podcast
  9. Emerging Infectious diseases
  10. Brain Science Podcast
In addition, I subscribe to following
  1. Asian Scientist
  2. Medical News Today
  3. Nature News
  4. Neuroscience News
  5. Scientific American
  6. Science Daily
  7. The Scientist
  8. Small things considered
  9. Coffee Table Science
For learning about research from the people who do it, I check the following
  1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  2. iBio seminars
  3. ICGEB Seminars
*There is of course Youtube and Coursera (MOOC Courses), for learning anything that you want to.

8. Don't bother too much about blog ranks.

Most of the blog ranking system to which you signed in, are algorithm based. It lets you have a superficial picture of your reach. There are several blog index sites which ranks your blog. This gives some visibility and serves as a blog search engine. You could try this. If you update your blog everyday, your rank is bound to increase by some percentage. But I'm not sure of how many people read it.

9. Does domain matter?

I'm not sure and many blogger's debate on this point. Having a blogspot or wordpress sub domain maynot be very attractive but unless contents are delivering it shouldn't matter. On the other side, a sub-domain is not considered as authentic. Well, you get to decide what serves best for you.

10. Enjoy the process

The ultimate of all. The day you feel, the process is not worth it or you want a break just do it. Blogging is mostly a free service. Nobody is going to penalize you for not posting a stuff. And perhaps a break may also help people to catch up on past. And take the pleasure of boasting about it. Not much people write about science. You are one of them.

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