Vanessa Heggie and Matthew Cobb talk about science-blogging

Jumbled up notes, but quite useful. All thoughts and ideas belong to the persons in the title, unless otherwise stated.

1. Write. 600-800 words once or twice a week to begin with. Shows commitment and consistency.
2. Worry not if there are no visitors – you are building a portfolio.
3. Get into a dialogue with the people in the field you want to work with.
4. Find science communication folk on twitter. Or better, find their communities.
5. Contacts are important, but keep an eye out for essay competitions, blog vacancies, etc.
6. Mix things up, opinion pieces and factual pieces, one is harder than the other, but it’s all practice.
7. Writing about your research can veer into simply-another-form-of-academic-writing; book reviews, or making-of blogs can include research, like a diary, but be more relaxed and allow you to showcase fun trivia that you find, that may not place in academic papers.
8. Cats are good.
9. You could take on a twitter alter-ego, e.g. write as an interesting historical character.
10. Read and comment on other peoples’ blogs, it’s just as big a part being one of the community.
11. Retweet anything you want, even if you think “all my followers follow X already”. In all likelihood, there will be at least one follower who doesn’t.
12. Find your own voice. Do not be an ersatz-sci-commer-that-you like.
13. Be brave and blog under your own name. Or at least blog under a constant pseudonym. Pick a suitable one.
14. Co-blog. Takes the pressure off overall output, but puts pressure on in the sense that you need to pull your load.
15. The sharing and readership of posts may be better an indicator of reception than the quantity or quality of comments.
16. Pop-sci and topical sciene unsurprisingly get more views. Troll-bait will get trolls. No surprises there either.
17. Bear in mind that sometimes people do not feel qualified enough to leave a comment. This links into the way you pitch your posts. Relaxed, quirky posts may fetch comments just because they invite them.
18. Blogs are allowed to change theme. Usually with the author’s circumstances. No biggie.
19. Established bloggers sometimes look for relief bloggers. If you have a thematic, well-written piece, it may just be worth emailing, and swapping the work for the exposure.
20. Vi Hart’s video-blog, recommended. Vlogs and podcasts can be good if you are interested, but you cannot skim through them, which is what most people do. (Personal note here: they can be good to insert into a blog every now and again just for a change in format and bring a bit of novelty. Perhaps your reader will like it. But they are more time consuming – you will have to script them, even an al-fresco pod will need to be “written” and edited.)
21. If you want to try the book-route, and have an idea, get an agent first! Popsci books are still a niche field, it is, so far (never say never), difficult to make money off them. Blogs will provide an audience for your book.
22. You don’t have to know about…stuff… to write a blog. You can write a blog about you finding out about something or somebody. If you’ve chosen a person though, aim for somebody who is dead. Living people will findit creepy. And frankly, you do know stuff – you’re an expert at being a student.
23. It’s perfectly acceptable to have different identities to your co-bloggers, it would be weird not to. As long as you have a common theme, it could be welcome to hear from different voices.
24. As long as your byline is constant, readers do not necessarily look out for your affiliations. At all. A relevant blog can be good for the job, if not, the employers will likely be indifferent.
25. If you are aiming for a writing job – a bad blog is better than no blog. (Where “bad” means boring or amateurish – not libellous and fictional. Well, unless you like to communicate your science through sci-fi adventures, in which case, make that clear.)
26. Learn about writing from other blogs. The structure is free to take.
27. Nerdblogs always find their readers. Always. You may have a niche audience, but they will read it all. As long as it’s well-written.

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2 thoughts on “Vanessa Heggie and Matthew Cobb talk about science-blogging

  1. I love how coherent this all seems now you’ve ordered it. I think I should clarify that in point 25 ‘bad’ probably means ‘boring’ or ‘amateur’ rather than ‘libelous’ and ‘entirely made up’ 😉

    1. Ah, yes, I probably should edit live-blogs a bit more to make sure there’s no confusion when taken out of context; I’ve sorted it out now.

      Frankly, this was basically me trying to take down as many points as possible without devolving completely into bullet-points-without-grammar. So if you wanted a picture of what your ‘unstructured talking’ looks like on paper, this is it.

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