Writing the title of this post does make me wonder how it happened. That blogs are still being read, WordPress that hosts it is still around, and I’m still in academia writing about research and other topics. Honestly, when I started dabbling in writing blog posts, I didn’t expect to last it this long, nor when it celebrated 5 years that another 5 would be added. Nor did I expect to end up persistently receiving typically over 1000 visitors/month, which is fairly popular given the blog’s topics, and surpass the 100 000th visitor some time last year. Admitted, there are not a lot of comments, but then, nor do I comment a lot on other blogs (uncontrollable digital footprint and all that). So, I sat down and wrote a few reflections, which might be of use to someone thinking of starting a (science-oriented) blog or having a dip in posting.
Having a blog is useful for learning to try to simplify one’s own research papers into a roughly presentable ‘sound byte’ that can be read in a few minutes. (I don’t get a lot of click-throughs to my papers though, so it may not help with getting people to actually read your papers.)
It is useful to push oneself to take notes during conferences and read those papers, and therewith also reflect on the conferences and workshops one attended (Which papers were actually interesting? Which ones might be useful for your own research? Did someone present a cool solution to a problem you knew of but hadn’t had [at all/enough] time for to solve but are happy someone did?).
If you don’t know what to write about: present/discuss a paper you found interesting, or disagreed with. This helped me at the start to post and not let the blog fizzle out. Admittedly, I have plenty of accepted papers now so as to space it out to ‘market’ one per month. Nevertheless, giving ‘airtime’ to others has its merits, especially when they are in the area of your research, for it shows you actually do read other papers, critically. The offline thank-yous are just a bonus.
That said, it is nice to get feedback from other researchers and readers on the posts; and it really doesn’t matter whether that is left as a comment on the blog, by email, or in person. While they may be pleased I mentioned their paper in a post, I’m happy to know someone used up some of that extremely precious resource—time—to read what I wrote.
I like to think that my writing has improved over the years. If not that, then at least it now takes less time to write at that very same level.
That much for the good side that I could come up with. What about the negative side? Mainly, it does take up quite a lot of time to write up the posts. Writing one evening, reading and revising it the next day, and all the layouting of the post can take up several hours. Those hours could have been spent differently.
You won’t know upfront which posts will be ‘popular’; some posts that I liked aren’t popular at all, yet some that I thought were minor, are. I haven’t deciphered a correlation between effort put in to write a post and its popularity either. I write what I fancy writing about and then hope for the best. Looking at the statistics of page visits, popular-science posts have many, many more visits than posts about my research.
Even when trying to be polite when writing, reading some of the posts years hence, some things seem to be formulated harsher than intended. There is the danger to piss off someone, and therewith feeding the rumour that blogs may be harmful.
Related to the latter, is that there are some things I wanted, or even craved, to write about, but couldn’t due to the decision to have a non-anonymous blog. That said, even anonymous blogs can be ‘revealed’ (e.g., fsp), and some things just fester better through the grapevine.
You may have trolls. I did have them. This depended on the topic (such as positive posts about Cuba), but may also be immature students or a colleague with an axe (of the xenophobic, racist, and/or sexist type) to grind. Ignore them.
Does doing this blogging actually have any impact on the level of my ‘popularity’ or ‘standing’ (good or bad) in the research community? I don’t have the faintest idea.
Will I go on for another 10 years? I don’t know. For now, I still try to write at least 2 posts per month. I hope you stay with me, but I also know that interests change, so I will not hold abandoning keetblog against you J. In fact, I am grateful you have taken, take, and/or will take the time to read the blog, and I hope you consider it time well spent, not wasted, or that it may have been effective for your structured procrastination.