Friday, August 06, 2010

Metablogging Interlude

Sorry for the self-absorbed metablogpost today, but I was thinking about Blog Things during my week-long blog break last week and wanted to write about a few of these issues and questions:

1. Did I miss blogging during my blog-break?

Yes, but not as much as in previous years when I have taken a week off from blogging.

2. What does that mean?

I don't think I am burned out on blogging yet. During my week off, I thought about a lot of things that I wanted to discuss in the blog, so I have topics I want to write about and discuss. Blogging is still (mostly) fun.

I have found, though, that I still hear a persistent voice squawking anticipated comments at me while I am writing a post. I've written before about how this is helpful because it makes me work hard to be as clear as possible about the content and tone of my post (although, as the comments inevitably demonstrate, there is no avoiding some ambiguity and misunderstanding). This second-guessing is also annoying, though, and I have to work at not writing defensive-sounding posts as I anticipate the inevitable comments from those who think 'feminazi' is a really clever insult and from those who think that all professors are evil selfish jerks whose main goal in life is to torture hardworking students, ideally while we arrogant professors are raking in a high salary, not teaching, and taking lots of vacations.

I don't want to become a person who feels contempt for my readers, even the most ignorant and mean ones, because that's not a good place to be. Upon reflection, I decided that I have maintained a mostly optimistic view of the slice of humanity that comments on blogs, despite the at-times high level of incivility and mean-spiritedness.

3. Do I want to stay in my little corner of Blogspot or do I want to move somewhere else and be part of a science blogging community?

"You can hide on your own little Blogspot blog." -- Bora

Gosh, I didn't even realize I was hiding. Now that I know, should I do something about it?

That was (somewhat mean-spirited) sarcasm, but this is a question I have been pondering: What are the pros and cons of being in a (possibly more high profile) blog community?

In no particular order, some possible issues:

Blog Traffic: Bloggers in blogging communities get more traffic. Do I care about the magnitude of my blog traffic? Yes and no. I am not particularly concerned about this, but I do care a bit. This blog sort of has the mission of Explaining Academia from the point of view of a mid-career professor at a research university, and to the extent that such a goal is useful, more blog traffic is good. At the same time, though, I don't feel any great blog-zeal about upping my numbers, as long as they are not so low as to make this endeavor a not-good use of my time.

Audience: A significant number of my posts are about general academic issues, not just related to being a Science Professor. I like being in a general environment of more-or-less my own design, discussing things with academics (and others) of all sorts, not just other science people. Would non-scientists still find and read my blog if I were in a science blogging collective? I don't know the answer to that. How many of you non-scientist readers regularly read ScienceBlogs or others of that ilk?

Independence: I know that bloggers in the various blog communities can write about whatever they want, but they have to mostly like the overall sponsoring organization or group and its philosophy, perhaps in a way that is more direct than any feelings I may have about Blogspot's overlord (Google). See: Recent Angst-Laden Exodus from ScienceBlogs by Various Bloggers. Also, blogging groups such as ScienceBlogs and others are monetized; many have ads. I do not want ads popping up around my blog posts. Bloggers who make $ pegged to their blog traffic are also open to accusations that they write incendiary posts just to get their traffic up. Their motives are suspect, even if that is not a fair judgment in many cases.

Community: This is the most appealing reason for considering being part of a blogging collective (along with the possibility of having a much more awesome blog banner), but I haven't really wrapped my blog-mind around it yet because I already feel like I'm part of a community of sorts. Maybe I am delusional, but I don't feel like I am in some remote bloggy wilderness while the other science bloggers are in some cozy blog-camp toasting marshmallows and singing blog songs together. Nevertheless, would it be more fun to blog, at least part-time, in the same venue as other bloggers I like and admire? Maybe it would, or, since I don't actually know the answer to this question, maybe I should at least try it.

4. How long will I keep blogging? Is the end in sight?

Often I get requests for topics I have already discussed, in part because the archive is now quite large and it's hard to sift through the ever-growing pile to find relevant old posts. Do I want to spend my blog-future going over the same old topics, even if they are perpetually relevant to new crops of academics/readers? No.. but I also don't mind revisiting some topics from time to time, especially if my subsequent experiences have given me a different perspective or I have new anecdotes to describe.

Even so, perhaps it would be more interesting if I left new discussion of these issues to other bloggers, young and old. Perhaps there should be more turnover in the blogosphere?

This is yet another blog-question for which I have no answer. Four years ago, I never imagined I would still be doing this, so maybe it's better to just take it one blog-day at a time and not have a long-term plan.

5. Are my cats still the cutest, most entertaining and affectionate felines on the planet? Is my daughter still an amazing, happy, interesting person even though she is a teenager and somehow has become taller than her mother? Will my husband ever stop acquiring new bicycles and bike-gizmos? Is my job still extremely fun and rewarding despite the 60+ hour work weeks and the crazy colleagues and accountants, and the dreaded faculty meetings?

Yes, yes, no, and yes.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry about the rude comments you have received; they seem to be part & parcel of any blog that discusses anything remotely close to feminism. I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your posts about academia and your perspective about being a woman professor in the STEM field, especially as I'm a female grad student. I hope that if you decide to stop blogging it will be because you want to and it feels right, not be because those comments have repulsed you to the point where you don't want to have an online presence anymore.

GMP said...

I don't think traffic-wise you are taking any hits by being on Blogspot. You are clearly one of the best established and most respected science bloggers out there -- I don't know of a single blogger who does not have you on their blogroll, you are universally regarded as the scientific blogging doyenne.

One thing I might suggest is to perhaps cetegorize your old posts similar to what you did in your book (I admit I bought it; what can I say -- I am a fan!), so people would have an easier time finding old posts.

I certainly admire you for being an independent blogger. I don't think your visibility will get significantly enahnced (if at all) by joining a collective.

Mordecai said...

I'm here to express a weird inexplicable rancor towards professors, who I'm convinced determinedly torture me and commit various sorts of injustice, while simultaneously devoting no energy or time to their teaching duties. Instead they seem to spend all their time on things I don't understand therefore don't care about therefore can't matter. This angers me.

College was supposed to be better than this. I'm not totally clear on why it's not, but because introspection is hard, I'm just going to blame you for all my problems. The justice of my case should be self-evident and inevitable. Yet you ignore it and talk about institutional sexism, which is clearly unjust slander!

How dare you disagree? The internet is a privilege, not a right -- one that should be reserved for people whose views are compatible with mine, whatever that happens to mean today.

DodgyBlot said...

I hope the end is not in sight! I really enjoy reading your blog and I'm sorry to hear about the negative comments you've been getting.

Anonymous said...

It's really difficult to track down old posts in the archive---a problem I seem to have with the blogger platform in general. So switching to a different blogging platform might be an improvement in that regard.

Susan B. Anthony said...

"Singing blog songs together" made me laugh out loud. Trying to imagine what those would be...

I am happy that your answers to 5. are so positive, and I'm very glad you'll be continuing to blog. You're a wonderful virtual mentor to lots of people (including me)!

DrugMonkey said...

#4- the healthiest way about it is to approach every blog day as if you might just stop tomorrow. I still feel this way. People who set out posting goals (every day, etc) for themselves seem to be the ones complaining most about burnout.

#3- Most of the collectivized gigs I've heard of don't feature any sort of genuine commitment. At Sb, certainly, people have left for a whole variety of reasons- the ones that are most salient are only that, salient, but they do not capture the distribution of departure modes. So try it and see. I have maintained my original blog and have now and again had reason to return to it. It will still be there should I ever need it (at least in backup form). No reason you couldn't just leave this one open as your return route either..

(ps, much appreciate you blogrolling the Scientopia site)

Heather said...

"I already feel like I'm part of a community of sorts."

Well, you are. You created it single-handedly, and it's a fine one.

I don't think you in particular have a *great* deal to gain by joining a community, except perhaps a different sort of relationship with the other bloggers on said site.

You can get technical support for more interesting geegaws without which you've functioned just fine until now.

You might get more visibility, but that depends if you want it. It entails a fair bit of pressure, I believe, and you probably don't need more of that.

I've wrapped things up for the time being, after over five years of much less quality blogging than you've done. There are other writing projects out there. Whatever you end up doing will be fine. Taking it in the short term is fine.

I felt compelled to comment because you've been receiving snarky ones, and I've been reading in my feed reader and forgetting that the commenting is what keeps a blog alive and worthwhile for the writer as well as the readers.

Candid Engineer said...

You write a thoughtful, well-informed blog, and despite the occasional caveat associated with being a woman, the tone of the blog is overwhelmingly positive. You also just make a lot of sense. Your blog, imo, is consistent public service, and the bigger the audience, the more service. Traffic shmaffic.

It's the people you want to reach, the young and impressionable ones. I would not be exaggerating by saying that your blog has substantially influenced my career development. I can only hope the same for other readers.

So, thanks for all of this, wherever you are.

Female Science Professor said...

I didn't mean to imply that I would stop blogging because of the rude comments that appear with some frequency. I just don't want anticipation of such comments to make my blogs too proactively defensive.

In some ways, the obnoxious commenters serve a useful purpose by demonstrating in a dramatic way exactly the points I make (particularly about sexism), although that is, of course, not the intention of these comments. The professor-haters are just sad, bitter people and I feel sorry for them and hope their situations improve and they get a better perspective on the world, academic and otherwise, with more positive experiences and maturity.

Candid Engineer said...

And I can't help chuckling at this:

GMP says, I certainly admire you for being an independent blogger. I don't think your visibility will get significantly enahnced (if at all) by joining a collective.

She is clearly a bit biased, as was evidenced by her last post- yawn, I am so tired with science bloggers and all of their moving to new collectives, yawn and her subsequent blog pull.

Of course your visibility would be enhanced, even if only a little bit, by joining a blog collective. Even though you have excellent traffic already, there are still plenty more people out there to reach.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I'm a non-scientist reader and though I read several individual blogs by science types, I don't like the collective blogs. They're often more of a pain to navigate, and I think the individual voices do flatten out a little bit. I have the same reaction to group blogs by humanities scholars.

UnlikelyGrad said...

I have been reading your blog for ~ 2 years now and have learned so much that I keep crossing my fingers and hoping that you're still around when I go on the TT job market in...what...another 5 years?

If you ever do decide to quit blogging, please update your book first!

One of the things I like about your posts is that they are clearly designed to stimulate discussion--they usually end with a pertinent question. The comments that these generate are sometimes as amusing to read as the original post (though rarely as thoughtful).

Having been a blogger myself for ~1.5 years now, I realize what this accomplishment this is--I can get 300 page views and still only have 4-5 comments on a post. Of course you get a lot more traffic than I do but I think the way you write helps.

I think you are awesome.

Anonymous said...

goooooooooo FSP!

I'll read you on blogspot or scienceblogs or the new york times. :) I already read you in your printed book.

I hope you keep blogging. You're the first blog I ever followed and definitely the only one I check daily. That said if you feel like you have nothing to say, you should probably finish up and move on. :)

You could also try passing the FSP mantle onto someone through guest posts - either someone you know IRL or online. Someone who would follow the general formula you use (anonymous, female science prof), but maybe a slightly different perspective - say younger, or slightly different field.

Anyway, rock on. :)

Anonymous said...

As someone who has read your blog fairly regularly for ~2 years, as a grad student and now rookie faculty member (in social science), I've found it tremendously insightful. I frequently forward posts to non-blog follower friends (e.g. the post earlier this week about continuing to work with your PhD adviser - an issue I have been wondering about and struggling with). I agree w/ others that an easier way to search the archives would be helpful. And - too bad there's no way to count this - but I suspect the # of people who read, appreciate, and benefit from the blog and its community of commenters (even if we rarely comment ourselves!) is far greater than the # of obnoxious commenters.

Anonymous said...

i've been reading your blog for years. i don't think i've ever commented before. I've recently strayed into the Science blogs universe and could not believe the amount of self absorbed, metablogging:practically all their posts were about Science blogs, and were so angry (and not in that funny YFS way) and provided nothing of interest to a general casual reader. I also found a lot of those people just spew out multiple posts a day, none of which are a fraction as interesting as yours, or as well thought out. i guess what i am saying is, i really appreciate your blog, so don't get sucked into one of these "communities" were they will murder your soul. and please do keep blogging!

Alyssa said...

I hope that you keep your blog an independent one. This mass movement toward blogging communities doesn't really make sense to me, as a URL is a URL. It is also creating somewhat of a "popularity" contest among the science bloggers, which may create rifts between communities (or may not - maybe I'm just pessimistic, or just bitter for not being included).

I think you are one of the most widely-known science bloggers (I know you were one of the first blogs I found), and I don't think being on Blogger hurts you. Plus, if you stay independent, it gives the rest of us who are not in on the blogging-community action hope!

Anonymous said...

I'm an early-mid-career (read: recently-tenured associate prof) FSP who started reading your blog a year ago. It was recommended by another FSP, and the blog anecdotes she could recall from memory were so funny and so on-point that I ran straight to my laptop to see what I'd been missing. A lot, it turned out. I've been a daily reader ever since, and I routinely distribute the URL to friends and colleagues.

As for the searchability of the archive: I love it when your post revisits a classic topic and include links to your earlier posts on the topic. Those links have been a great way for me to catch up on all things FSP, without slogging through the archives directly (although I do that some, too).

Kate said...

I've thought about seeing if I could move my blog to a collective too... but I worry I would feel more pressured to post more frequently, or to have more of my posts contain science. I worry I wouldn't feel I could talk about my kid as much. And I kinda like my house on blogspot. I would get more hits elsewhere (and more trolls)... but something about the science collectives feels a little to clique-y to me. Maybe it's because I was an awkward kid who never belonged in a clique :). But they are constantly referencing each other and sending hits to each other, and mention independent blogs far less frequently. I don't know if I want to drink the kool aid, you know?

BikeMonkey said...

There can never be too many bikes (unless he's into recumbents, then he's on his own) or gizmos!

unexplained said...

I've been reading blogs of various types for 4 years. One of the things I like about them is getting to "know" the writer. I find collective blogs to be confusing - I don't know who's talking. So please stay independent!

Kevin said...

I don't read any of the science collective blogs---I subscribe to several high-school teacher blogs, a few parent blogs, and a handful of blogs by scientists in my field.

This is the only general-interest "science" blog I've found that was worth reading, and I've ended up recommending it to all my colleagues and students. If someone knows another good one, let me know.

I've ended up reading a lot of high-school math teacher blogs, though I'm an engineering professor, not a high-school teacher, because they are discussing how to teach, something that few (if any) science or engineering professors are blogging about. An the teachers are not just mouthing theories they learned in school (though there is a little of that), but sharing approaches they have tried, asking for feedback on improving lessons they are using, sharing course designs, ... all the things that are essential for making teaching a really professional activity but are too often missing from professorial life.

Oh, and if FSP is looking for better-looking templates and easier categorizing of posts, I believe that wordpress provides these for free, with as good service as blogger. (Blogger must be worried, as for the past couple of days they have been blocking all comments that have OpenID from wordpress.
My blog is at

Anonymous said...

Hmm. When I write (or even collect data for) papers, I anticipate what reviewers are going to say or question. Do you?

Re: bikes, 2nd bikemonkey. I will soon buy a 4th bike for my quiver. My cat is patient with me on this front, as long bike rides make for plenty of available lap time later.

Cherish said...

I do realize that traffic isn't the only consideration in your decision, but I think the other bloggers want you to bring in traffic. You're one of the top listed blogs on IOP (at fourth) and everyone I read has you on their blogroll. I'd be very surprised if such a move would bring in more traffic, and from my experience moving my little tiny blog, might actually cause a drop.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Is my daughter still an amazing, happy, interesting person even though she is a teenager and somehow has become taller than her mother?"

and "I am a full professor in a physical sciences field at a large research university. I am married and have a young child."

I like to think I still have young children too but unfortunately one is a senior and the other is going to be a teen in six months. Sadly, you might have to edit your description.

Mark P

Rosie Redfield said...

I'm with Dame Eleanor on this. I read ScienceBlogs avidly but it does sometimes get a bit cultish. I find that Blogspot works fine for my posts, and I think, for your posts too. Anyone who's interested in science enough to regularly read any of the science blogging collectives will soon discover your blog.

Ms.PhD said...

This made me laugh:

I don't feel like I am in some remote bloggy wilderness while the other science bloggers are in some cozy blog-camp toasting marshmallows and singing blog songs together.

I don't feel like I am missing out on toasting blog marshmallows or singing group blog songs, either.

I agree with GMP that we should categorize our old posts to make them easier to find. I tagged mine and I still find it's a PITA to sort through them.

Have you considered switching to a different hosting service? I feel like there's a lot of demand for people who have mad skillz with Wordpress so it might be worthwhile for me to learn. But right now I am just too lazy.

Naomi said...

FSP, I have read your blog for the past year and a half. Your posts have provided insight into academic life, grad student-mentor dynamics, the research process and life as a professor that I have not had access to elsewhere. As a professional going back to school for my Ph.D. (social sciences), your blog posts have given me direction and (hopefully) helped me avoid more common student faux pas. While I don't often comment on your posts, I am very grateful for your thoughts and reflections on your career, colleagues, funding conundrums and of course your cats. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm a female STEM PhD (~6 years in industry) and having been reading your blog on a semi-regular basis since I discovered it earlier this year. I find it interesting and insightful, even though I left academia. (I had a fairly bad graduate school experience at a top 5 school in my field. It's interesting to think about it all in hindsight.)

I don't frequently read any of the science blogging communities (never even heard of ScienceBlogs and whatnot until I happened to catch GMP's final post a day or two before she pulled her blog).

a physicist said...

I only read two blogs: this one and Ms. PhD's blog. Occasionally I'll read other blogs if one of you posts a link to something interesting, but I haven't found any other blogs worth following given my limited time.

Make sure whatever you're doing that you're having fun. Yes, your blog is a huge service to many people, but I hope it stays lots of fun for you too. I wouldn't want you to make any switch that makes this less enjoyable for you.

Female Science Professor said...

Actually, I thought I deleted the 'young' description of my offspring from my profile awhile ago, but never noticed until now that this edit didn't save. Thanks for catching that, Mark P.

FrauTech said...

This post reminds me you need more photos of your cats. Otherwise I think you're doing fine.

Patchi said...

I agree with Alyssa, it's a URL. Like your maiden name, change it if you want to. In you case you're already well published under this URL, so why go through the hassle unless you are unhappy with what you have?

In any case, most of us get blogs by RSS feed. All this moving around just makes us go through all the work of re-subscribing to everything. I find blogs by links on other blogs and not by browsing around community sites (most of which are impossible to search).

Kevin said...

One advantage to switching blog providers is that you could then provide RSS feeds to comments for the entire blog, so that we don't have subscribe separately to each message.
Maybe blogger provides that also, but it seems that it is trailing the industry in features, so maybe not also.

You would lose a number of subscribers if you changed the location of your blog, and it might take months to regain audience size.

GMP said...

Of course, FSP would need to move to a blog collective for her to conclusively see whether that enhances her traffic. However, barring the move, I believe we can use the following guesstimation to show FSP already has better traffic than some popular blogs on ScienceBlogs before the collapse (SB being a representative of established collectives).

Namely, I used to employ Google Analytics to track my blog statistics, and, overwhelmingly, I received the most referrals from FSP place while I was on her blogroll (thanks for that, FSP). However, let us focus on the period June 2 to June 4, 2010 (on June 2 Isis made a spectacle out of me), as it can help us infer something about the relative traffic of FSP’s blogs and Isis’ blogs without either of them having to actually compare notes on traffic. In this 3-day period, I received 538 referrals from ScienceBlogs and 376 from FSP place. Now, the number of visits I used to get daily from FSP is fairly constant, and hers is an established blog with nearly constant number of daily visitors. We can thus talk about a nearly constant probability p1 for someone to visit my blog from FSP's website (p1 is maybe 1 in 50 or so) simply by checking her blogroll. Therefore, in those 3 days, FSP's traffic (number of visits) was 376/p1. Similarly, the number of visits from Isis' site was 538/p2, where p2 was the probability of someone visiting my site from Isis' during the period in question. Now, considering that the post over there was one about me, linked to mine, and on an inflammatory topic, it is fair to assume that p2 is significantly higher than p1 (much higher probability of someone visiting my site because it was directly torn up in a blog (p2) than just because it was on someone's blogroll (p1).

Therefore, the ratio of FSP's traffic to Isis' traffic June 2-4 can roughly be calculated as
p2*376/p1*538 = (p2/p1)/1.43

I am betting that p2/p1 is significantly larger than 1, maybe an order of magnitude, and certainly greater than 1.43. Therefore the ratio above, [(p2/p1)/1.43] is certainly greater than 1.

Conclusion is that FSP's traffic, where she is now, is at least as good as and likely better than that of a prominent blog in an established science collective. QED

Zuska said...

I have recently moved to a new blogging collective where, in exchange for allowing them to kill my soul, promising to post furiously, participating in the nightly blog song sing-a-long, and agreeing not to talk about non-sciency crap like elder care or feminism, I will obtain incredibly high traffic - more than PZ! I swear! - and flashy software. It will all be financed with ads for porn and free Russian brides. You should totes sell your soul too. Maybe to the MSM if you can't find a blog collective you are happy with. Everyone is doing it. Everyone. Groupthink ROCKS! And I am changing my blog name to Zuska Is A Traffic Whore.

More seriously: you are a high profile blogger and have captured the attention of the academic mainstream press. Any blogging network you joined would benefit just as much from you signing on as you would from joining up with them, imho. So it's not about traffic, it's about what you want to do. For any other blogger who is not so well known - there are pros and cons, certainly, with being associated with any given blogging network, but surely we all desire to be read, or we wouldn't blog in the first place (with the possible exception of GMP) so joining a blogging network can be a real positive. Having the chance to feed off the energy and ideas of others in a blogging community, to be advised and mentored more closely by community pals, is a nice perk too - again, something you are less likely to need, but something younger bloggers might desire.

Of course, you have to agree to have your soul killed, and sing the songs, and never talk about what matters to you, as anyone can see from my blogging history at ScienceBlogs, but beyond that it's all great.

Mordecai said...

More sincerely: I'm 100% behind you, and am super grateful for blogs like this; seeing these matters articulated so precisely and professionally is extremely useful.

My only issue is that sometimes the secondhand anguish and injustice overwhelms my heretofore untempered defenses, and I lose the ability to speak unsarcastically for a day or so.

Which makes my votes of confidence perhaps hard to interpret.

Image Goddess said...

I'm so sorry you feel the way you do. I've been out of the blog world for a while and I'm just catching up so I'm not sure of the rude comments you're referring to but I get the gist of it. I'm in an academic role that deals with faculty where my peers don't understand how much professors actually do. They think professors get paid a lot and have flexible hours. Come and go as they please. Stuff like that. They don't understand why I give professors my cell phone number and I have theirs. They are appaulled that I let them call me after work hours. They just don't understand work doesn't stop at 4:30 and to get research and academic projects done it isn't a 8:00 - 4:30 job. It's a two way street though, they call me and I can call them. People in academia don't even get it, let alone people outside academia.

Karina said...

I love that you have stayed independent. I followed several science bloggers before they joined Sb, and many of them left (even before the kerfuffle). I have wondered, if they had stayed on whatever independent platform they were on before, if they would have continued blogging but just less frequently. I suspect that meeting the posting expectations of the community to which they belonged contributed to their decision to "retire."

Even if you started posting only once a week or even once a month, I bet your traffic wouldn't drop much since so many people use feed readers.

I love that you consistently write fantastic stand-alone posts that don't rely on lot of links or backstory. This reminds me that I have a draft post in blogger called "why I love FSP" that I haven't finished. I was inspired to start it during a time a few months ago when I felt like many of the blogs I was reading were low on substance.

Just out of curiosity, I've compared the number of people that subscribe to your blog in Google Reader to some other well known science blogs (and my own), although not recently. You have an enormous readership, and rightfully so. I think if you write really awesome things, you'll eventually be discovered wherever you are on the internet.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

I never fail to be surprised to read negative comments about the different blog collectives.

I enjoy reading blogs on blogspot. And wordpress. And some on sciblogwhathaveyou. And labspaces. And Scientopia.

I'm not drawn to all of the blogs on each collective, but I certainly don't read all of the blogs on blogger, either. Of course, I don't know all the back stories or politics of the different blog communities, so perhaps that's why I don't care where I read posts.

Keep rockin', FSP, no matter where you are hosted.

Anonymous said...

GMP, I love that you proved that mathematically. :-D