Blogging Encouragement to an eScientist – Toowoomba-style

I recently posted some ideas (Blogging encouragement to an eScientist) on how to get started with blogging. Here’s some more thoughts while I wait for the pre-final version of the Chem4Word demo…

Peter Sefton has shown me how to use Open Office (or Word) with the ICE toolbar/addin and I’m using this for this post. But the main thrust is a discussion we had in Magee’s bar.

What happens if no-one comments on your blog? This is a hard thing for any of us. You have no idea how many people are reading your blog and for what purpose. Yes, there are Feedburner and Technorati and they give a very rough picture but it’s crude (I suspect a lot of my previous Technorati blogs were pseudo-linkspam).

Some blogs generate lots of comment on every post. Some of the chemistry blogs are like this – Tenderbutton before he had to quit to write his thesis, and Totally Synthetic. There could easily be 50-100 comments, almost by return. This really anticipated Twitter and indeed Twitter and Friendfeed may take over some of this. It clearly suggested that a strong community grew up round these blogs – in this case practising laboratory scientists for the most part. It encouraged chemical gossip – what were things like in other laboratories, etc.

Sometimes, but not always, you can create posts which get reactive comments. These are normally when you air views that are likely to be controversial. (It’s not generally a good idea to invite – say – political discussion just for the sake of it, though obviously some science blogs interact well with current politics. The new enlightenment in the US is crucially important for Open practices.
But sometimes you get quite unusual comments, as Peter Sefton found. He’s a committed cyclist and has a trailer – I think for children. Anyway he mentioned this – or showed a picture – and now his biggest blog karma comes from cyclists (and not from ICE fanatics).

So I was listening to Radio Queensland and it was focusing on Toowoomba where one of the police officers is concerned about bad motoring habits engangering cyclists. So he has installed a camera on his bicycle and uses this to record bad driving, ultimately with a view to prosecution. He’s also said that if any cyclist wishes to do the same, then the police would take such videos seriously.

As a daily cyclist in Cambridge I think this is a great idea. I’ve had a few moderately near misses (I had actual contacts in London which damaged me). I can imagine the idea catching on very rapidly here – the home of web-based government such as FixMyStreet and WhatDoTheyKnow. And, of course, Cambridge is the most comprehensively OpenStreetMapped city anywhere (I think). So just as FixMyStreet encourages people to take photos of potholes, uncleared ice, bad signs, broken railings, etc. what about FixMyDriving?

[I thought I had remembered how to use OO+ICE to post this but it crashed and only posted half the document so I am back to the old methods until the ICE patch].

Oh, and one of the most depressing aspects is that when you do get a comment and think – great! – it’s often some mindlessly depressing linkspam. I have installed Akismet and it’s caught over 100, 000 spams, but some still get through. Make sure you get used to recognising them because otherwise you could ge deindexed by Google. That’s happened to us. Really, really depressing.

Just found The Open Laboratory 2009 blogging competition. An excellent place to see what top-class science blogs are like. Enter yours if you feel like it!

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