Field of Science

Do Science Bloggers Exercise Free Will?

That's the question--as I stare at the census data in search of a juicy trend--that would seem the most sensational and draw the most readers.  A trend...that challenges the notion that you decide how often you post and how much time you invest in each post.  To find it, having already decided it's there, I broke my brain a couple of times combining three census data sets: (1) Years Blogging; (2) Blogging Frequency; and (3) Time Investment Per Blog Post.  Below are the fruits of my labors.  Did I find the trend I was looking for?  A trend that suggests the longer you blog, the more likely it will be that you will spend 1 to 2 hours writing about one post per week?  Judge for yourself.
Frequency As A Percentage Of Each Group By Years Blogging
Time Per Post As A Percentage Of Each Group By Years Blogging
My feeling is I didn't find a trend. My kung fu is not yet strong enough. Nevertheless, if you're wondering how your blogging habits compare with your peers, now you know. Maybe they know something you don't, like a substantial time investment per post does pay off in the long run--you should try it. Or, you don't have to post every day after all. Or, the secret to blogging longevity.

Oh, and the above is just the end result. How I got there was just as much fun... From my scratch paper:


Are Female Science Bloggers More Likely To Blog Anonymously Than Male Science Bloggers?

Google+'s real name policy sparked a lively debate in the science blogosphere. On the side of anonymity it was observed that women risk more than men when they use their real names.

We know that women experience 25 TIMES the amount of harassment online that men do.
I light of this blanket disparity in risk you might expect to find--or even assume--that the percentage of women in science blogging anonymously is greater than that of their male counterparts. Sifting through the Census of Science Bloggers data I realized I had a sample with which to test this assumption.

But to get there I first had to answer another burning question: I wonder what the overall gender ratio is among science bloggers?  The answer, based on the census data, is approximately 2 male science bloggers for every 1 female science blogger.


Again, based on the census sample, 15% of all science bloggers post anonymously.


Now does that percentage change when you divvy the sample up into male and female? Do women, considering the additional risk they incur by using their real names, account for a disproportionate percentage of the anonymous? It turns out that the answer is no, and although the difference is small enough to be insignificant given the sample size, according to the census data male science bloggers are 2.2% more likely to blog anonymously than women science bloggers.

Male Anonymity: 15.3%Female Anonymity: 13.1%
 

Where Should Science Bloggers Look For Traffic?

The Census of Science Bloggers 2011 asked, Excluding search engines, what is your primary traffic driver? After eliminating for single instances and some standardization, the breakdown is as follows:

Twitter (70)
Facebook (59)
Links from Other Blogs (45)
Reddit (14)
ResearchBlogging (13)
Feed Subscriptions (10)
Google+ (8)
Commenting on Other Blogs (7)
Science Blog Network (7)
Return/Direct (4)
StumbleUpon (4)
Tumblr (3)
FriendFeed (2)
LinkedIn (2)
MetaFilter (2)

Gee. Twitter and Facebook top the list. What a surprise. Well yes, confirming what we already know isn't that useful (unless you're not already syndicating your content to Twitter and Facebook). But keep in mind that this is a list of primary traffic drivers, which means that each site on the list has the potential to send you more traffic than any other source. The trick is knowing how to tap that potential.


What are we really talking about then? Because there are trade-offs in time and energy, and if you're like me, both of those are in short supply. I look at that list and think, I'd love to maximize my Twitter and Facebook potential, but frankly, to do so would require more time and effort than I'm willing to devote to those particular websites. I'm not interested in being on Facebook. Not really. And while I find Twitter more appealing than FB, again, I'd rather be doing something else. But still, I'm no expert in either Twitter or Facebook, so I couldn't tell you how to maximize your traffic from either of those sources. That would be useful information.


Going down the list (subscription link to my blog feed is prominently displayed, check; I don't have a lot of time to comment on other blogs, not checked; I'm on a network so links from other blogs is covered, check; I'm going to join Google+ any day now, check; etc.) I see something that I am an expert in, something that I can share with you how to turn into a primary traffic driver for your blog. That site is Reddit, and while it may seem very confusing at first, it's the primary traffic driver that fits my schedule best (because it doesn't require my constant attention), and it's actually quite simple to understand/navigate once you get the hang of it. I've even already written up the how to: Science Blogging and Reddit

So you see. That was useful after all. Now all I need is for someone to explain FriendFeed to me.

The Science Blogosphere's Advice to Science Bloggers

Have faith in your audience. Kill them with kindness. Those are my golden rules for blogging, and how I answer The Census of Science Bloggers 2011 question: In a sentence, your best science blogging advice for fellow science bloggers.

Over 190 science bloggers (a majority of census participants) also answered the call for advice. Their collected response adds up to 2,492 words of wisdom.
The Wordle treatment resulted in a primitive but still unambiguous message: write fun just make blog post interesting writing

Live Science Blogger's Collected Advice Tag Cloud
Be social. Love it, have fun, and think about your audience. Just do it and be yourself. Science is a foreign language for some; strive to be an effective translator. Have fun. Try everything, and don't be afraid to fail often. Write on what you are passionate and ignore the rest. Just do it. Don't think too much about the pros and cons. Don't do it unless it provides value for yourself as well as for whatever audience you might acquire. Keep on keepin' on. Follow up on the things you're curious about. Have fun, but remember that having fun doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your scientific integrity. When a detailed, referenced post you worked on for 3 weeks is trounced traffic-wise by a teeny silly re-tweet or re-post of a comic you published 10 minutes later, let it go; someone will probably read the long one too...sigh.... Pick a schedule for posting (weekdays, once a week, whatever) and stick to it! Blog for yourself: write about what catches your interests and passion. Just do it! Don't be afraid to post whatever comes to mind. It will be forgotten by tomorrow anyway. Blog consistently. Just open a new post and start thinking out loud. Don't just repeat/report what a scientific paper says, but in more general language - make unexpected connections/associations. I'm not in a position to give advice to anyone... But anyway! I guess you just have to take into consideration your target audience. Other than that, be yourself, and if that doesn't work, be funny. Want to make a blog item different? Ask an outside expert to comment on it. Write fewer but more thoughtful posts. Write for yourself, not for what you think other people want. Keep it simple. Please be patient. Even if you will have only one post in your blog, go and publish it. Self-editing skills are always worth improving. Don't listen to advice. For motivation, it's best to blog about things you're genuinely interested in, otherwise it's a chore. But it can also be a good incentive to brush up on some topic that you've always been meaning to get around to but haven't found the time. Nevermind the abundance other bloggers write in: do it at your own pace. Be vivid, be lively, have a great title. Go with your passion.
Share what interests you. Just do it and don't be afraid to make mistakes. Read other blogs. Blog what you know in your own voice. Write about your passions! Be yourself! Just do it. Don't be afraid to discuss topics that are well covered so long as you have a distinct voice in doing so. Be yourself. Keep writing. Have fun doing it, especially since the pay (if any) is horrible. If you're writing for the general public, remember that three out of every four american adults doesn't have a four year college degree. Don't take yourself too seriously... have fun! Write about topics with broad interest but say something of your own to make your post more than just a regurgitation of a press release. Blog what you're passionate about and don't be afraid if that changes over time. Do your own thing. Write daily. Be careful when checking out the sites sending you traffic, for there is always the chance that they contain horrific pornography. This is the internet, after all. Read everyone else, don't spend too much time reading yourself. Post on vaccines if you want to attract the crazies. Find something interesting, add something more to the subject and most of all - check your facts. Link intellegently: link to source documents when possible and use meaningful text as the link name (ie don't link to the word "here"). Enjoy what you're writing! Make it interesting and not too long! And include free images from Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org. Do what you love. I love sharing science, so I blog. Write about what you know, do your research, and make sure you're writing something which has interest to other people. Keep your reading up to date and be prepared to be told you're wrong the whole time! Get linked to from Pharyngula. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing, so it's better I not give advice yet! Always cite the original source. Write more, worry less. I'm still new, but I find it good to read a lot of other blogs to get a feel for whats trending. Blog about what you love. Tell the world about your passion. Use Twitter! Share your ideas with world, the better way to learn. Just keep practicing! Blogging is a great way to express yourself about you or a topic you just adore, or to even educate people. Write often - the more you practice the better you get!
Share your fun with science and your interests for others. Blog like no one is watching you; by which I mean, naked. I don't seem to be able to keep myself from compulsive rewriting, probably because I have spent decades as a professional science writer. I'm not sure that's good advice for blogging, but OTOH I'm distressed by general blog sloppiness, sometimes even from good writers. No way around it, speed is usually the enemy of good writing (and accuracy.) Your audience will only be as enthusiastic about your writing as you are. At this point in the game there are plenty of options regarding your blogging approach/style. Find yourself a niche and you'll do great. Write as much as possible, share as much as possible, comment as much as possible and be true to your own writing style. Challenge your readers. Just do it. Babe Ruth hit a lot of home runs, but he also struck out a lot. We remember him for the home runs. Keep your audience in mind, even if you don't have a real one and are still trying to build one. Keep an even tone, but be entertaining & interesting - people love humor & beautiful pictures & imagination. Don't cuss too much. Approach controversial issues with balance & tact, but of course state your opinion. Be professional. Keep it focussed so people know what your blog is for. If you have a lot of good ideas for posts, spread them out over a few weeks so you don't run out of material after blogging for a month. Find out some obscure facts (you'll usually remember a few) and make things clear and entertaining. Somehow find the time to write. Write as often as you can, read as broadly as you can, and try and keep it short. Be useful, authentic and original. Don't let the cranks, that will comment your blogs affect you. Handle them calmly and if they overdo it, ban them. As a geek, I'll read outside my field if you give me the background to do it. Just blog it! Make it clear to you, then it will be clear for others. Blogging with passion, professionalism and competence. Write only about things you know. Be a "pop" science blogger. Be original. Enjoy what you do, write about what interests you, & don't worry about the traffic! Don't write for yourself but for your readers. Follow your heart. Don't write anything you wouldn't say in person. Never, ever patronize; never, ever waffle; never, ever bore. You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to a grandmother. Make it interesting and find out about the humans behind the science! Try to post often and regularly (which, of course, I fail to do). And try not to be obtuse. Just do it. Start with a plan - frequency - and look for on-line advice; comment frequently on other blogs.
Write about what you know, but it's more fun to write about what you DON'T know. Write about things that excite you. Write about what excites you, and you will excite the rest! If you want to illustrate a difficult concept, keep the example simple, but make the exemplars hilarious. Squirrels should be used to demonstrate correlation whenever possible. Write about what interests you. Science blogging is hard work. But someone has to do it. Do what you like, like what you do. Blog about what you know, tweet about what you kind of know, research the stuff you don't. Don't jump on bandwagons, stay true to your own ideas. Wear protective headgear, and don't be afraid to apologize. Write because you want to, never for any other reason. Don't listen to any advice - it's your blog so do your own thing! Do it because you love it and don't let it become a chore. Have fun, and write about what you love. If it's not interesting... don't post it. Be sure you're able to explain the research to a lay audience before you start writing. It's all about conversation so don't be afraid to take as risk as long as you are prepared to say you're sorry. Put a lot of links to my blog in your blog posts!!!! But seriously, before you say anything to anybody, imagine that you are saying it to their face at a bar and you are not too drunk yet. Be consistent! Write. Write. Write. Enjoy and love it. Blog to help yourself find your greatest interests and to find others who share those interests. Have fun with it. Engage people, answer in your comments. Write for the audience you want to have and they will find you. Just write. Write write write. Even if it's rubbish. Just write. Just think about the science you want to share, read science, write blog. Just start, commit to doing it regularly, and make it fun. It is very rewarding! Keep writing! The more you write the better you'll get! Or at least, that's my hope... Make sure you read plenty of other blogs before blogging and join Twitter! Write about what you enjoy and want to know about the world around you. "The main reason is that we love this stuff, and we think others should too." Provide the readers the data in a friendly format that allows them to decide if they want to pursue the original article further or use the information. If something grabs your attention, do what you can to explain it so it grabs someone else's attention, too. Blog about what you're interested in, even if you don't feel you know much about it. Consistency is key - figure out a schedule you can keep to, and maintain it consistently. Find a niche sparsely populated and dominate it. Write all the time. Never be afraid to press 'post'! If you don't try it, you'll never know what you could contribute to the blogosphere in terms of your science and your perspective. Go with your gut, there are a lot of people out the who share your same point of view; don't be afraid of social media, of reaching out to others, networking and branching out. Do it because you love it! It's not going to be worth the time and effort if you're not excited about what you're doing. Just write! It's fun and people will provide the feedback you need to improve. Write what you enjoy and find interesting - then it never feels like work! Update regularly and make videos. The videos are good attention grabbers for those with a cursory interest in the topic. Spread the geekiness! The more you do it, the better you get. But it has to be fun; if you're forcing yourself to write, you won't write anything worthwhile. The more eclectic and obscure the subjects, the better the associations you can make between them. Short & Sweet. Think what you want to read and do it slowly.
Make it as objective and down to earth as you can. Write about topics your friends want to read. Don't hide mathematics... Never stop. It does make a difference. The ideal is to investigate, verify the information, consult the sources and over all be able to enjoy and to captivate readers! For prospective bloggers: Just start, even if you don't think you have enough ideas to keep going very long: they'll come later. For people already blogging: keep doing what you're doing, but try and remember that people outside your field bubble exist. Just do what you want to do - you're not obliged to do it (unless you've signed a contract!) so if it's fulfilling, carry on. If it's not, you've no one to answer to. Provide links to sources, and make your writing accessible to the visually impaired by labeling everything. Aim to be accurate and understood and if you want to change minds, make sure you don't alienate them - preaching to the converted is boring. Do you own thing. Develop your own voice. Write about what catches your attention. Keep it short. Be true to yourself! Be prepared to be challenged: do your research, and cross your fingers that you've covered all your bases. Be consistent: it's not how often you post, but how consistently that keeps people coming back. Stick with what you find interesting and exciting. There will be others that find interesting and exciting the same things. Write about what you feel passionate about. Write about what amuses/interests/annoys you, not what you think others will be interested in.
We design lingerie for science. Connect! Don't blog just for the sake of it. Make sure you have something of interest. Make sure your facts are correct. Try to blog regularly to maintain interest. Don't over-think it. Just post when you're inspired. Just do it, stop procrastinating! Write as freely as you can, but don't be uselessly witty. Write more often than I do. And don't be afraid to add your voice to any topic if you feel strongly about it. Write, baby, write! (I should take my own advice.) Write what you care about, and what you enjoy - don't try to write about things because you think you should. Just be yourself - but with better grammar. Use accurate tags that relate to your post. Do your research, don't write too much, and share? Make it accessible to the readers! Don't be embarrassed to be totally excited about what you're blogging about! "To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend." Know your target audience and aim the content accordingly. Use your blogging skills to meet other scientists. Sometimes it's hard to keep going (again!!). Keep the bloggy stuff in the back of your mind and take little notes to build up your pieces. Patience. Start, keep at it. That's what I'm doing. Always be sure of what you're posting by searching different and opposite sources, so that you can get to a strong conclusion. Write about what you want to talk about with other smart, passionate people (since the blogosphere is a conversation).

Is there something in there that affirms what you're doing, suggests what more you can do (or do differently) and/or inspires? What advice speaks to you?

3 More Science Bloggers Join FoS

As always I'm very happy to announce the addition of new science blogs at FieldofScience. Please welcome (by way of visiting, subscribing to, favoriting, tweeting and of course reading):
  1. Inkfish
  2. Protein Evolution and Other Musings
  3. The Phytophactor

The Census of Science Bloggers Wants You!

The response thus far to the Census of Science Bloggers (2011) has been rather remarkable, especially when you consider it started on a Friday (never a good day to announce). But it's Monday now, which means it's time for this census worker--a hat I'll be wearing for the rest of August--to get to work.

The Challenge: How to circulate the Science Blogger Census to the whole of the science blogosphere in such a way that it doesn't become tedious?

Having thought about it, I can't say that I've come up with a perfect solution, but I do have a plan that at least tries to minimize the pain.

I would ask you, dear science blogger, to join me as a census worker and collect one census from one science blogger you personally know. You will send them a link to this very post (http://goo.gl/FzzZa) where they will find a link to the census form (http://goo.gl/2R31w) and these same instructions requesting that they do as you did--complete the census form and collect a single census from a science blogger they personally know.

If you are a contacted blogger but have already completed the census, simply proceed to part two and send the link to this post to a science blogger you personally know.

If you are a contacted blogger and have already completed the census and collected a single census from another science blogger, reply to the blogger trying to collect their census from you that they need to look elsewhere.
The key to this method is that you collect only one census--no more and no less. In this way, the effort (while not perfect) will eventually run its course and run out of steam. And in case it doesn't, the collection period ends September 1, 2011.

Thanks for your patience. I've taken a cursory look at the data collected so far, and can say the effort (and anoyance) are going to be well worth it.

Census of Science Bloggers (2011)

Form: Census of Science Bloggers (2011).  Short url: http://goo.gl/2R31w

Pass it on...

Census data will be used to create a 2011 snapshot of science bloggers. The data will be parsed and distilled down into hopefully helpful and informative charts and tables to be posted throughout the month of September.

2000-2010 Census
A portion of the data collected will also be added to the 2000-2010 census data flowchart.