The changing ecosystem of blogging

In 2006 I stuck a toe into what could be called science blogging when I started ‘Plant News‘. It wasn’t exactly a resounding success – over the course of the next two years I added a total of 63 posts. Unlike my previous forays into blogging, I actually had something to talk about, but I never managed to develop a voice or any real readership. And it’s a shame, since back in 2006 there were few competitors.

My first serious attempt at science blogging came about a year later, when Bill Dembski came to campus peddling intelligent design. This time everything was different – I had already started to blog (although mostly about politics and religion) and I was in the process of getting to know the science blogging community. Over the next several months my blogging output grew, peaking in February of 2008. By July 2008 it was mostly over. Blogging had gone from fun to work. Since then, from time to time I have tried to re-launch my blog(s), but with limited success. At some point, blogging stopped being easy.

The idea behind blogging was ‘easy’ writing. The medium is immediacy, the ability to post whatever you’re thinking. But the more I wrote, the more I thought about what I wrote.

Short posts have their value, but they quickly get old. Short posts don’t really stand alone. You can build a narrative of short posts (some people have done really well with that on Twitter) but it leaves very little room for nuance, for background, for explanation. But the longer your posts get, the more you realise the value of editing…not copy-editing, that’s something you can fix later (or, if you’re careful, while you write). No, what’s difficult about long posts is that they require a plan. You need some vision of how you’re going to write them without getting lost, without repeating yourself, without losing sight of your point entirely. And writing turns into work. A post that you might otherwise have thrown up in 10 or 15 minutes now takes hours or, worse yet, after days of editing simply sinks into the growing pile of drafts. And other priorities, like work, take over…

[More later]

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