Last week, Amara and I had the pleasure of sharing a platform with other blogging “experts” at the Society for Applied Microbiology (SfAM) summer conference at Edinburgh to chat all things blogging with a group of early career scientists… Edinburgh itself is a really good welcoming city, with great sights to see and lots to do and if you are a big fan of shopping, well, you might quite like it..oh and the scottish shortbread biscuits..enough said there!!..
The conversation about blogging was varied and went from the simple to quite complex. I’d like to share some of the questions which were asked and responses from the session and for the benefit of our readers, some extra useful information Enjoy reading!
Starting from the basics, what is a blog?
There are different definitions of what a blog is – according to the Oxford dictionaries, a blog is “A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group that is written in an informal or conversational style.” Blogging can be formal or informal – blogging can be as simple as having an online diary where you share your thoughts or experiences on a regular or irregular basis (whatever is convenient for you) or it could be something much bigger e.g. blogs run by University departments, biopharma companies sharing information with shareholders and consumers or simple trivia blogs with lots of fun things. In effect, a blog could be whatever you want it to be and that is what makes blogging an exciting and often rewarding activity.
I have a personal blog, is there a space for it out there and how do I grow it?
As mentioned above, there is a space out there for personal blogs and many people tend to start with personal blogs and are able to gravitate from personal blogs to group blogging or blogging for organisations. Both Amara and I started initially with our own personal blogs and the experience (good and bad) contributed to the lessons of running this blog.
Regarding growing a blog, some tips that shared at the session and are very helpful include contributing to blogs owned by other people whilst leaving a link to your blog (if you have one), commenting on other blogs, talking to friends, colleagues and family about your blog. In effect, when you have a blog, a simple way to begin, is sharing with those closest to you, testing the quality of the blog with them, for quality, understanding and ease of access.
The type of language you use on your blog is also important and when blogging it is important you reflect that. If your blog is aimed at sharing technical material with a non-technical audience, can people without technical knowledge understand what you have written? Worth thinking about!
How do I protect myself from people who go on my blog and create issues i.e. writing bad things
There are people I refer to as keyboard gremlins and internet ninjas – people who “sit” online waiting to attack any post that goes up on social media or the internet..for whatever reason(s) i’m sure i won’t know even if i tried to understand. If you spend a lot of time online you might have encountered one of these individuals.Whilst there is no one way or perfect way to deal with these sort of individuals, at least the different blogging platforms have tools that can help you review comments (to approve or disapprove) before letting them onto your site.
Although it is important you remember that not all negative comments are bad and at times, negative comments can help stimulate discussion on your blog which is another way of keeping people interested in your material. However, as long as you are comfortable with the information you have on your blog and as long as it is correct then you don’t have to worry.
What would you advise early career scientists who also blog about sharing speculative data on a blog before publishing the full data?
This is a tricky one indeed and whilst there is no correct or incorrect answer, it is dependent on the nature of the research and “who owns the data” that you want to share on the blog. Is it for your research e.g. a PhD or is it for some work you are carrying out for a research group or lead or a company?
It is important to know/remember who “owns” the data including what you can and cannot share. Having worked in the biopharma sector, some contracts are clear about what you cannot discuss or share. Thus blogging about the information from your experiments or speculative data in such a situation might not advisable as it could carry more than a reprimand. Worth checking with your boss or employer and if it is for your research, the funder.
So you’ve published a scientific paper or findings from your research, how can you maximise sharing that information with the public?
This thought of this question puts a smile on my face as I am forced to face the challenge that many of our “older” academics and professors faced without the plethora of options online to share their research findings. Nowadays, outside sharing your data on the core scientific databases, you can blog about your published data and create discussions. You can now share such on other platforms such as LinkedIn, Researchgate, Facebook, Twitter and many more. You can also do other things such as public engagement, sharing on local radio etc – it all depends on the “public” that you want to hear, share or access your research.
How do you manage your time blogging especially as people are busy with other commitments e.g. work, family, other social media etc.
Blogging can be a challenging, often time consuming but well worthy activity. There are many ways you can manage your time such as having scheduled posting which can also aid you if you write in spurts i.e. when you able to make time to write, you write a lot. Co-blogging or writing with others on your blog reduces the challenge of managing a blog as well.
Other tips included –
- Video blogging or podcasts are a good idea if you struggle to find time to write
- Blogging does not bring immediate success. It takes a sustained effort to build up a profile.
- Give credit to other articles or people who contribute to your blog.
Credit to Dr Heather Doran who we shared the writing workshop session with.
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