Blogs have been around in one form or the other almost from the beginning of the web. And they have become extremely widely adopted. One of the biggest reasons why is because it is extremely easy to start a blog. In fact we’ve created one that you’ll be using this week. Additionally, the platform itself is very dynamic. You can present a blog in many different formats and optimize it for any device.
From a user perspective, blogs are very easy to navigate, search, and read. Content is displayed in reverse chronological order (most of the time), usually with the most recent post at the top. Categories and tags are used to organize similar posts and help a user find similar content quickly (we’ll fill you in later in this post about the details on categories and tags).
One of the most powerful advantages of blogs (and one that has contributed greatly to its popularity as a publishing platform) is the integration of community. Most blogs provide users a place to leave comments. Before social media came along, blogs were a primary place to build a discussion on the internet. Even now in our Facebook world, tremendous discussion and community building still takes place on blogs.
As scientists look for new ways to engage with the public, blogging has become a major tool for that outreach. Scientists are using blogs for a giant variety of purposes, from advancing their research to connecting to the public with their science. It is impossible to give an exhaustive list of everything that scientists are doing with blogs, but the following are a few very different kinds of science blogs built for very different kinds of audiences:
- Statistics and programming blogs: R-bloggers (aggregator of R blogs), Cross Validated (stats stuff, not precisely a blog)
- Blogs focussed on researchers within the blogger’s field: Dynamic Ecology (ecology stuff), Research Blogging (aggregator of generally technical discussions of the scientific literature)
- Outreach-oriented blogs: Deep Sea News (marine biology), Bad Astronomy (astronomy mostly), Scientific American (lots of specific blogs to choose from here)
The advantage to you of having such a large blog universe is that there are countless blogs for you to mine for ideas for your own outreach efforts. What are right blogs for you to look at for ideas? The ones that are potentially interesting to your audience. In your investigation of your audience on Twitter, keep an eye out for any blogs that come up (science-related or otherwise). What about those blogs might be appealing to your audience? Is is something about the content? Tone? Layout? Something else?