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.

Alun Salt. ORCID 0000-0002-1261-4283

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 Responses

  1. Anne Osterrieder says:

    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.

  2. Jeanne says:

    Thanks for this post. We would love to fig­ure out how to gen­er­ate more pageviews for our The Botanist in the Kitchen blog (http://​bot​an​istin​thekit​chen​.word​press​.com/) and also have ques­tions about repro­du­cing con­tent from journal articles.

  3. Alun Salt says:

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

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