Saturday, September 13, 2014

When to tweet about your posts

About a week ago I saw a couple tweets that made me think. So I embedded the tweets in a post and added a short comment. I thought it was vaguely insightful, and considered tweeting about it, but in the end I decided that my addition was too insubstantial. 

A week later I'm pleasantly surprised with four visits to that page originating from Twitter (the links). I'm amazed that anyone found my blog at all, but I was really happy to see that someone thought my post was worth a share on Twitter. One advantage of blog posts over tweets, I suppose, is the longer half-life.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why is this even still here?

Do people still read blogs like these? For most people, the answer probably is "only when someone links to it from Facebook". On the other hand, I'm guessing that a lot more people are on Facebook (and available to be led 'astray' by links) than ever read blogs in their heyday. So is this good or bad?

Back in the day we had quite the community around science blogs. People knew each other, people read each other's blogs, people linked to one-another from their blogs. I suspect that the same people are still active on Facebook (though in my experience, a lot of them don't really blog any more). The discussions which once kept blog comments lively are not fragmented among various people's Facebook feeds, while the active community-type stuff, where you interacted with people you didn't know (and get to know them) now happens on Twitter.

If you want readers, they say, you need to establish a strong voice, a 'brand'. So don't blog about all sorts of disparate things - focus on something you know a lot about and are passionate about. This, at one stage, led people to split their thoughts into multiple blogs. The obvious down-side of that is that the more you split yourself, the less you publish per site. Since readership is probably the thing that keeps people going, this is likely to be a bad idea. For a blog, at least.

I managed to split my blogging into more pieces than Voldemort split his soul. This site, which I managed to keep updating for five years, fell by the way-side. It remains an archive to various attempts at blogging. Worse yet, when I copied the good stuff to my first WordPress blog, I probably diluted what little Google-juice this site had acquired.

I have mixed feelings about writing here at all. I've started to write a little again, started to update those fragmented bits of my writing (at least some of them). Would I be better just updating one or two of them, while letting the others die a natural death? And if I update some, which ones should I update? Although this blog is the dustiest, longest-abandoned of any of my writing, it still attracts traffic, which is more than I can say for some of my blogging attempts. Should I work here, on a blog that has no 'brand' (it is, after all, a blog about nothing) but has traffic, or try to work on blogs that have brand, but no traffic?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where are the female bloggers?

MissLaura at DailyKos writes
There's this question that the traditional media likes to ask:
"Why aren't there more women blogging about politics?"
"Why are most of the big political bloggers men?"
It's an interesting question - why aren't more of the prominent political bloggers women? When I started reading political bloggers in late 2003 or early 2004 I don't think there were many of them. But that hasn't been the case for a long time. Marcia Wheeler, Barbara O'Brien, Digby and Jane Hamsher (to name a few) are prominent female political bloggers. Seven of the leading bloggers at dKos are women: SusanG, McJoan, MissLaura, Georgia10, Plutonium Page, Scout Finch and BarbinMD. There's Arianna Huffington. And just because Michelle Malkin is a horrible person doesn't mean she isn't a prominent female political blogger.

Is there a deficiency of women among the prominent political bloggers? MissLaura concludes
Megan Carpentier wrote a really stupid piece for Glamocracy, and her failure to quote Markos rejecting her premise makes you wonder how many other people she left out because what they said didn't fit her narrative. But she didn't pioneer this kind of stupidity. She was rerunning a hackneyed story the traditional media has been telling about blogging for quite some time. There are lots of different stories to write about blogs and gender -- never mind "prominent" bloggers, why does it seem that state bloggers are so disproportionately male? How do women and men blogging together at group blogs get treated differently by readers or the traditional media? Is it the case that men started the earlier blogs, and if so, at what rate have women been catching up? Whose blogging is more likely to lead to paid work as an institutional or campaign blogger, as a journalist, as a consultant? Do meat-world credentials play a different role in how male and female bloggers are received? These questions don't get asked, going unmentioned to leave room for the fortieth retread of "why are the three bloggers the laziest journalist can think of all men?"
I have no idea if there are fewer prominent female political bloggers than there "should" be. But I don't see any reason to assume that there is a dearth of female political bloggers. There are lots of good questions related to why men tend to be early adopters of technology. But the question of why there aren't more prominent female political bloggers is only valid if there are fewer prominent female bloggers than would be expected. Are there?

[Update Sept. 12, 2014]: Eight years later, this seems so naive. The internet can be a horrible place to be female, with all sorts of hideous comments and threats thrown your way. Granted, it can be horrible for anyone. But the threats seem to get more graphic and horrible if you're female.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tangled Bank #102

Tangled Bank #102 is up at Further Thoughts. Berry Go Round #3 was published a week ago at Greg Laden's blog.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blogging Heroes

Bora got an email from Amazon recommending Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers. He points out that it should really be subtitled "Interviews with 30 of America's Top Tech Bloggers".

While Bora had an idea as to who he would have considered the world's top bloggers, I realised that I had no idea who I would consider top bloggers. Markos Moulitsas, of course. Josh Marshall. Juan Cole. Volokh. Hindraker. Drudge. Malkin. Andrew Sullivan. PZ Myers? Seriously though - outside of politics, I wouldn't have a clue. And more importantly, I wouldn't know how to rank them.

How do you rank the top bloggers? Traffic? Impact? Recognition outside of their corner of the blogosphere?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Blogs meet Old Media

At the heart of Web 2.0 is the idea of user-generated content. While the vast majority of blogs probably are crap, some of the more popular ones play an important role in the dissemination of news. As a result of this, their relationship with the older media sources has been a rocky one. But as blogs have become more popular, "old media" has tried to bring new media into the fold. The result has been a clash of cultures.

In her article about blogs which I keep referring to, Sarah Boxer criticised the paid bloggers attached to newspapers and magazines. Part of the problem with these ventures into blogging lies in a cultural divide - asking reporters to blog tends not to work, while "organic" bloggers are unlikely to be a good fit in the newsroom.

Hank at Scientific Blogging commented on an article published by Neil Thurman1 in the journal New Media & Society in which Thurman looked at the adoption of web 2.0 concepts by the British news media. Thurman found that, as of 2005, only the Guardian had really done much to incorporate user-generated content. While they all saw users as a source of information, they preferred to incorporate it into older paradigms - bulletin boards, polls and restricted areas for feedback. Hank wrote

I read things like this and I shake my head in wonder. Web 2.0 today is like the WWW of 1999 in many ways. People thought if they threw up a website to sell dog food, it would somehow be better than buying dog food down the street. In the past 8 months I have had phone calls from various journalists or media reps who have wondered why our brand of Science 2.0 has worked well and others have stagnated.

The answer is simple; let people write.
Some of the areas of conflict that Thurman writes about are cultural: a reporter works to deadlines, with editors, and is taught to fact check. Bloggers are more like columnists, writing when they feels like it, about whatever catches their fancy. To make matters worse, they are constrained by stereotypes.

There is a stereotype of blogs as being misspelt, semi-literate rants. Like any good stereotype, it has an element of truth. But it isn't necessarily true. Wikinews, which is classic user-generated content, is a decent news source and is generally well written. Like any wiki, it's possible for better writers to correct and polish content added by others.

Other stereotypes are that blogs don't contribute anything new, they simply work of the reporting of established news media and, as mentioned in the Thurman article, the fact that a blog tends to be more about the blogger than about the story - the personality gets in the way. Again, there is some truth to these assertions, but they aren't necessarily the case. Most notably different is Talking Points Memo (and its associated projects). While TPM is the creation of Josh Marshall, his personality never overshadows the news (except for the occasional pictures of his son). TPM has done original investigative reporting and recently won a Polk Award for their coverage of the US Attorneys firing scandal.

Bloggings (as both a medium and a style of writing) has most to offer to traditional media when it is incorporated into the system. TPM has done it very successfully.

When is comes to science writing, science blogging can be superior to conventional ways of reporting on science. While there are excellent science journalists, there are also many who lack the necessary understanding of the material they are covering. Science bloggers, because they have a depth of knowledge of the field about which they write, are excellent sources for the communication and dissemination of science. And very often, they can be incorporated into traditional media.

  1. Thurman, Neil. 2008. Forums for citizen journalists? Adoption of user generated content initiatives by online news media. New Media Society 10(1): 139-157 doi:10.1177/1461444807085325