Tag Archives: Blogging

Hiatuses, Part 2

It seems like June is a bad month for blogging. I’ve been busy with conference travel, and an office move that brought me into this shiny white new building:

Weill Hall, Ithaca

(artist’s rendition).

Now that things are settling in, I’m hoping to resume my occasional posting sometime soon.

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Posted by on June 25, 2008 in Garbage In, Garbage Out


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Blogging as a Way to Think

A few days ago I wrote about some blogging tips I had gleaned from a talk by Ancient Wisdom Productions. I alluded to what some of my reasons for blogging have been, though that wasn’t exactly the reason for the post.

Today I saw a video of Clive Thompson talking about why he blogs (link via Baxt), and I think I have a lot in common with his motivation. As Clive explains:

I do it to sort of record stuff that I’m interested in, that I see, what I think about it. It helps me like literally think ideas out… I know [a concept] intrigues me, I don’t know why. As I write the blog entry, I literally develop the thoughts. So it’s a way of developing my thoughts, and recording them, so that you know, months later, I can look back and remember, and re-experience the stuff that I was interested in.

The focus of the interview was science and technology blogging, but I think the same reasons are broadly applicable. He also touches on the important aspect of user feedback, and reminds us that if you don’t want to blog, you don’t have to.


Posted by on February 22, 2008 in Alchemy


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Ancient Blogging Wisdom

A little less than a year and a half ago, I decided to start a blog so that people I know could have a small window looking out over the events of my life, and so that people I don’t know could have the chance to cut me down for expressing my thoughts on the internet.  Really, I started it on a whim.  I thought that writing about nothing and everything might help me feel better about the parts of my life with which I wasn’t totally happy.  And I think it did partially serve that purpose.  Expressing my thoughts in a place outside my head seems to engage a different, underused, part of my brain, and that’s been cathartic.  I still blog for those reasons, but the focus and applicability has been expanded.

Today’s topic in the Science Communication Workshop that I’m taking was “Web Media and Making Your Research Homepage/Blog”. Most of the discussion revolved around blogs, why one might be interested in reading blogs, and how/why one might write a blog.  Bruce, the instructor, gave us a primer on blogging, and we were also treated to a blog design presentation from Molly, Tyler, and Casey of Ancient Wisdom Productions.  I came away with a renewed enthusiasm for blogging, and a list of useful tips from the AWP reps:

  • “Design matters” – This was definitely the focus of the AWP talk, but probably the part I will think about the least.  What font we should use.  What line spacing we should use.  How the colors we choose should contrast.  Information hierarchy. It’s a lot, and I really do truly believe that it matters. However, I’m probably going to ignore anything that WordPress takes care of for me (for now, anyways). Someday I hope to be able to pay someone lots of money to make my ideas look pretty.
  • “It’s All About Content”– They recommended blogging a lot, at least once post per day if you want to keep people reading.  This makes sense – I know I am much more likely to come back to blogs that update regularly.  Some blogs seem to update too frequently (this is an arbitrary descriptor, and depends on mood, interest, and attention span).  For example, I (personally) couldn’t keep up with the frequency and length of posts at Dooce, so I had to remove it from my RSS feed (I still browse over there manually though). 
  • “Don’t Be Afraid to Swear”– This one reminds me of a post I’ve been meaning to write about swearing, but I think the take home point is that blogs do well when they have some character. 
  • “Blog for the Moment”– They explained that most people judge a blog by what’s in the most recent posts, and that digging through the archives is relatively rare.  This may be true, but I also know that most traffic that comes to this blog is via keywords that have only appeared in single posts in the archives.  I wish I had a better idea if that traffic ends up visiting the “home” link.
  • “Tag the F out of your posts”– After the presentation I asked what their recommendation for tagging and categories was.  They said they liked to have a limited list of post categories, with no more than one category per post.  At the same time, they recommended adding as many one-word tags as you can think of.  Now that WordPress has actually separated tags and categories, this is doable and also sort of fun. 

One of the most interesting impressions I gleaned from the session was that a significant portion of the class is quite anti-blogging.  They think that most blogs are junk, and that the comments are even worse.  They might be right, but I disagree with their (apparent) conclusion that the junk makes blogging less worthwhile. 

First and foremost, our goal in this course is to communicate science to everyone (or at least, to as many people as possible).  That includes the people writing, reading, and commenting on junk blogs.  Communicators of science will almost certainly have to explain ideas to people who don’t get it, don’t care, or just aren’t nice, but whose opinions still matter.  I think blogging is good practice for this.

Secondly, the junk can be amusing.  Read stupid comments.  Respond to peoples’ nonsense.  Get in an argument with someone you don’t know and will never meet.  But, to quote Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick!”.


Posted by on February 20, 2008 in Alchemy


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Inquiry Based Blogging

Fracas’s sequel to her award winning story reminds me that it’s been a year since I placed in the same contest with a post proposing a blog focused on Inquiry Based Learning in Systems Biology.

My blogging has ended up being a lot less about science than I had originally intended. I thought I’d write more about my own research, but feel that I never have anything to say about it. I thought I’d read cool articles and post summaries here, but I have enough trouble reading them without having to write about them. Needless to say, I never did make a collaborative blog for those interested in systems biology, but it was not for lack of interest.

I’m going to make a point of trying to post more sciencey topics here in the future.

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Posted by on December 9, 2007 in Alchemy


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Blog wth Confidence

Today is the anniversary of my first post at Halfawake, which reminds me that it’s currently Confidence Week. My loudest shirts are all lined up and I’m preparing to tell a bunch of people off (in a kind, well-adjusted way, of course). Should be fun.

I’ve been thinking about why I started this blog, and where it’s going. If I remember, the original motivation was to practice getting my thoughts out. I try to follow the life advice of my friend Bads – “strike while the iron is hot”. If I see something or think about something that’s important to me, I record it here, and that helps me file it away mentally rather than throwing it into my cerebral incinerator. I don’t necessarily expect to get feedback about my posts, but the feedback I have received, both on the blog and in private emails, has been excellent. In the end I guess I’m just trying to engage a different part of my brain… The part that doesn’t constantly think about algorithms for solving non-smooth systems of differential equations.

I’m glad that this hasn’t become another failed project left by the side of the road, and I hope to keep it going for another year.

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Posted by on November 18, 2007 in Garbage In, Garbage Out


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