11 December 2013

Live blogging – the AGU bloggers forum

Posted by Dave Petley

It seems sensible to live blog the blogging forum.  The audience is quite large – the room is about 2/3rds full I guess a show of hands suggests that the audience is about 50% existing bloggers and 50% those who might want to blog in the future. I’m not going to give a step-by-step description of the session, just highlight the most interesting points.  The panel is Jessica Ball and Austin Elliott, both of whom are existing AGU bloggers, and Laura Guertin, who is “being courted” by the AGU blog network. The master of ceremonies is Larry O’Hanlon, who manages the AGU blog network.

Laura Guertin impressively runs two blogs (how can she manage that!).  One is aimed at informing her own students about her activities outside the classroom. The second is a teaching with technology blog.  She is emphasising the key role of Twitter – I can only agree, but was far too late to the twitter thing.   Twitter is a key way to raise the profile of both the blog and of individual posts.

Larry rather kindly described my own experiences of blogging, and in particular the way that it has raised my own profile.  This is undoubtedly true – almost everyone I meet here mentions this blog – so it justifies the time I have to commit to it.  Jess Ball talked about the role that it has played for her – she is now moving to a one year post as a policy fellow at GSA, so I guess blogging has been quite instrumental in terms of developing her career direction.

One member of the audience highlighted his own blog – called bogology – great title!   It’s on peatlands in case you were wondering…  And now someone is talking about a blog called the Rock Crusher, which highlights what happens to field samples back in the lab.

There is some discussion about the length of posts – the key point being that they don’t need to be very long.  But others disagree interestingly Gavin from Real Climate made this point- the key is that you need to find your blog voice – some blog posts need to be long in order to explain context or to provide a new perspective. The key is to have something to say, and to then write a post to say it.  If you have nothing to say, don’t say it.  A key may be to review continuously review what you are providing and what your audience wanted. One blogger in the audience eve runs focus groups.  Very impressive!

The discussion is getting a bit metaphysical now!  There is some discussion about what a blog actually is – some things that are called blogs may well not really be blogs – perhaps they are just “news light” journalism.

There is also some discussion about how to grow your audience – tags, keywords (especially food!), twitter are all key.  This issue was raised by the author of the Social Mathematics blog – actually a very cool and interesting blog that deserves a wide readership.

Issues of plagiarism have cropped up – this does happen and can be a big issue, though it hasn’t been a problem for me.  The key is to be clear about copyright and to challenge the perpetrators when it happens. It does seem to be a good reason not to pre-publish your research on your blog before it comes out in a paper though.  There has also been some discussion about correcting posts that are factually incorrect. Personally I think this is vital, but it is sensible to flag when you have made major changes.

An audience member asked about how to get comments on your blog.  I have never managed to get lots of comments on my blog (shame really – that’s a hint by the way!), but interestingly no-one else seems to know how to either (one suggestion is to make deliberate minor errors to prod people to interact – I’m not sure I want to go that far!).  An alternative approach is when you get deluged with trivial or even mendacious comments – Real Climate has an open threat to deal with off topic stuff and an other thread (called the borehole) into which the real drivel is put.

Now closing – it was an excellent session.