What help do new bloggers need?

Woman blogging (?) in the park.

Photo: Ed Yourdon.

One of the peculiar things from the Science Online London conference was the number of people who’d like to blog. If you’re blogger this seems odd. It’s like someone telling you they’d like to read a book. What’s stopping you? However, my recent project has made it clear blogging is becoming more complicated.

At the moment I’m working on some changes to the AoB Blog templates in preparation for a new version of WordPress coming out. Normally I’d patch things to make sure nothing too serious was broken and I’d hope no-one would notice the upgrade. This time round I’ll be making some bigger changes to clean up the code. Along the way it’s easy to see how some things can be confusing. What’s the difference a photo post and an ordinary post with a photo in it? What’s an aside? And why do we need all this anyway?

Then there’s the social side. How do you get people to read your blog? From the outside it can easily look like blogging is an in-group talking to one another – and sometimes it is. Ideally there should be some sort of help for newcomers. Here we often have guest bloggers, who are all brilliant, but new blogs would be good too.

So what sort of help is needed?

Some of it is basic mechanical stuff, like this is how you set up a blog. This is how you make text into a link. This is how you add an image. That might surprise some people, but really I do have to go to that level with some people who are perfectly intelligent, but simply unfamiliar with how a web page is put together.

Some of it is etiquette and language. For example should you blog under your own name if you want to be taken seriously, or can you blog eponymously? Some of it is how to connect to Twitter or Facebook and what this all means. There are other non-coding problems. Where can you find photos that you can legally use on your weblog? What can you reproduce when you’re blogging about a science paper?

But these are just some of the problems I’ve been asked about. What else should go into a guide to science blogging? At the moment I’ve thinking of a book with many short chapters that can be updated when needed, so that you can skip any parts that you don’t need to know.

There’s no deadline as such, but it would be nice to get something up for another science blogging conference if it’ll be a help.

Photo: Bryant Park, late Apr 2009 by Ed Yourdon. This image licensed under a Creative Commons by-sa licence.

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About Alun Salt

When he's not the web developer for AoB Blog, Alun Salt researches something that could be mistaken for the archaeology of science. His current research is about whether there's such a thing as scientific heritage and if there is how would you recognise it?

4 thoughts on “What help do new bloggers need?

  1. Anne Osterrieder

    Great post! One massive barrier for me at the moment is, that I don’t know how to blog about papers. What I mean is: Writing a journal club type post, and make it interesting by including some of the figures.

    What are the copyright issues? It varies from journal to journal and often from publisher to publisher. Do I need to ask everyone individually? What do all these licenses mean? I am confused and researching it takes time. So I don’t blog about papers.

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  2. I’ve got an exercise I run with students about writing critical appraisals of papers which could easily be converted into a blogging template. Examples:
    http://www.microbiologybytes.com/blog/2013/03/07/virology-journal-club-07-03-2013/
    http://www.microbiologybytes.com/blog/2013/02/21/virology-journal-club-21-02-2013/
    http://www.microbiologybytes.com/blog/2013/02/07/virology-journal-club-07-02-2013/

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  3. Well, I’ve just added your site to my RSS reader. So you have one extra reader already. :)

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