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Why blog?

by Michael Nielsen on May 17, 2005

An email correspondent asks:

Is it valuable to have an “internal” blog area accessible only by members of your research group, for the sake of internal communication?

I’m about to set this up for my group, so I can’t give a definite yes or no from personal experience. I certainly think it’s worth trying, and I’ve heard from others who’ve tried it that it can be an effective way of helping keep people within a research group aware of what everyone else is doing. Wikis may also be useful for this purpose.

Aside from the warm feeling from having made a positive contribution to the community, has running a public blog been helpful to you?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time drafting and redfrafting responses to that. It was more difficult to answer than I expected, because while it seems like a simple question, it’s really a whole bundle of different questions. Blogging combines: (1) the discipline, clarity of thought, and creative impulse that comes from writing things down; (2) interaction with friends and colleagues; (3) interaction with a wider audience; (4) education and outreach; (5) publicity for one’s work, field, organization and profession; (6) the excitement of being part of a new medium, which is evolving quickly; (7) the opportunity to pontificate; (8) a bunch of other things that I’ve either forgotten or are ignorant of.

When you look at it this way, blogging combines a very wide range of activities, and all of these in some sense benefit various people (not always, but often, including me). So, yes, there is definitely a considerable benefit. Whether it is worth the time and effort is difficult to say. Personally, I think I’m only just now really figuring out how to blog in a way that I feel is effective, and fully justifies the investment of time.

From → General

4 Comments
  1. Travis Beals permalink

    Thank you for your response to my email. As a follow-up question, what are some good rules for effective science blogging? I’m sure there are reams of FAQs on general blogging techniques, but I’d be interested to hear about issues specific to science-related blogging, and how to get the most out of the process.

  2. I have been looking for blogs on research and PhD, but could not find many – except my own PhD-Days. I found tons of blogs my MBAs. Thats a pity. I would think blogs were invented by researcers and not managers.

  3. Travis,
    I had a similar question: How much does the scientific community actually blog? I have a feeling – not as much as they ought to. May be the problem is – different people working on different topics, the common factor (except that both are doing research) is not much.

  4. I think at least part of the reason academics don’t blog more is simply the incentive structure of academia: you’re rewarded for publications in peer-reviewed journals, not for what you put on your website. This may sound crass, however, if you’re a 32-year old assistant professor trying to support a spouse and two kids, and hoping to get tenure, it’s reality: you’ll be rewarded for journal publication, but not for blogging.

    On a related note, my own opinion is that the whole journal system is going to change dramatically over the next 10-30 years. Look at things like the arxiv, del.icio.us, amazon.com, wikipedia, blogs, and so on. If you could combine the best features of all of these with the current best features of journals (basically, timestamping, archiving, and peer review, in my opinion) you’d have a much better system.

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