To Blog And How To Blog, That Is The Question

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog”: What does it mean to be a blog? The “Health Blog” participated on a panel over the weekend that included science bloggers from Seed Media and Nature Publishing; It sounds like a few of the “eggheads,” as WSJ called them, took issue with the WSJ team filing themselves under the “blog” category (check out a podcast here). Apparently, some people just don’t think they’re “bloggy” enough, what with their focus on, well, vetting their news and all. So, when are you considered a blogger, and when are you a journalist? Is there a difference? We at “C&ENtral Science,” less than one year into our endeavor, struggle with what content is appropriate for the blog and are well aware of the need to maintain a clear sense of journalistic integrity when reporting for the magazine and putting tidbits up on our blog. Are we keeping our balance? What would you like to see on our blog?

Author: Lisa Jarvis

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  1. I like to see the stuff where ACS is the source of info. Newsbytes is not “bloggy” enough for me. I want Ivan Amato to post something that corrects a story on material science, or Marc Reisch explaining why a particular coating works–or doesn’t, or Stu Borman’s view of a new analytical instrument, or Melody Voith correcting a story on earnings and saying what is really going on. I have a blog about going back in the Army. It’s not whole Army–it’s my view of the Army. The blogs on my blogroll (including CENtral Science) have a perspective I cannot get from Newsfeeds or other blogs.

  2. In my eyes, one of the defining characteristics of a blog–as opposed to C&EN and the like–is casual language. I think–in addition to being entertaining and maybe informative–blog posts should be fairly accessible to the general public. We all see how badly science can be butchered in the tiny space it gets in the newspaper, and how underrepresented chemistry is in general-interest science magazines. If people are going to have any idea what chemists do, they’re going to have to find out from us!
    Unlike other media, blogs are (should ideally be?) comment-driven. If readers aren’t sufficiently engaged to respond with anything, you’re doing it wrong. This is why posts on controversial topics tend to garner more comments, whereas specialized technical content will usually only get a few experts to speak up. I agree with Neil that you could maybe use a little more actual chemistry here. (Newsbytes is really interesting, but you’re not writing the articles you link in those posts.) You’re not confined to a specific niche of our science, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something cool to write about.
    The trouble in writing a technical post, though, is realizing when you’ve lost your audience. It’s also difficult to cover background that some readers are familiar with…without sounding condescending. There’s also the trouble of drawing contempt from readers who assume you don’t know much about the subject matter–it’s a very delicate balance. When things work out correctly, though, readers will have something interesting to say–and their ideas will make up a fair amount of your content. That’s the coolest part of blogging something worth reading–you learn a lot from your audience!