ScienceOnlineSeattle #8: Science Blogging

ScienceOnlineSeattle is a conversation series exploring how the internet and social media are changing how we do & share our science. Our Feb 2013 gathering was an exploration of the how-to of science & environmental blogging. This is our recap of the in-person and online discussion as it unfolded.


    ScienceOnlineSeattle exists because of the phenomenal annual conference and community. Liz NeeleyJen DavisonBrian Glanz, and Peter Wallis are the co-conspirators responsible for organizing this monthly spin-off in Seattle. Many thanks to our organizations - COMPASSUW College of the EnvironmentOpen Science Federation, and UW Information Technology respectively - for making it possible.

  2. We kicked off our first panel discussion of 2013 with a lot of enthusiasm
  3. Your plan for next Thursday? Joining us, @b0yle @bdemelle & many more for #scioSEA science blogging event 
  4. Science Online Seattle is today! The subject is science blogging with several local science bloggers! #ssciosea
  5. Today=awesome. First, lab meeting at the pub, where the subject is our new lab twitter account, then #ScioSEA with more food and drink!
  6. Um...ENVY! :) MT @RockyRohde: Today=awesome. First, lab meeting at the pub, disc'n new lab twitter account, then #ScioSEA w/more food/drink!
  7. it's going to be a great day! small meetings about #arctic and #scicomm, then #bevan13 and #sciosea! and thai food!
  8. In Seattle tonight? Don't miss this - "Science Blogging: Who’s doing it, and why (not) try?" #scioSEA @scioSEA 
  9. We were excited about a new venue and new focus on socializing before AND after the event. With lots of new people in the mix, this worked out great. Plus, who can resist snacks? 
  10. To find #scioSEA, come upstairs to 2nd floor of Odergaard Library, look for room 220. Sorry for construction. Lost? Tweet at us!
  11. #scioSEA science blogging event tonight! Snacks & chat start at 5:30pm PT, livestream of discussion at 6:00pm 
  12. More than half of the people in the room new to #ScioSEA! Excited to see the community grow.
  13. I might have to show solidarity w #scioSEA event tonite by opening a drink as I wait for the livestream (9pm EST) 
  14. Ahh, all speakers here! Ready to start #scioSEA in just a few minutes :)

    Alan Boyle (@b0yle) is the NBC News Digital science editor and the brains behind CosmicLog
    Brendan DeMelle (@bdemelle) is the executive director and managing editor of DeSmog Blog, and blogger with the Huffington Post
    Sandra Porter (@digitalbio) is the president of Digital World Biology and a science blogger atScience Blogs
    Adrienne Roehrich (@fiainros) is a researcher at UW, manager of editorial services for GeekGirlCon, and chemistry editor for Double X Science

  16. I don't know how to live tweet when I'm in front of the crowd so no live tweeting from me tonight #scioSEA

  18. And some of you are very far away - Hong Kong, London? That's dedication!

    We began with briefing introductions from each panelists - where they blog, how long they've been at it, how big their audience is - and a promise that the plan for the evening was to be as interactive as possible. 
  20. good discussion raring up for #science bloggers at #scioSEA link: om/lieperlsteeperlste lets get some q's from twitter!
  21. #sciosea time! I wonder if the twitter q&a is more diverse than trad q&a #bevan13
  22. True to the ScienceOnline unconference spirit, not all, or even most, of the expertise in the room was seated on the panel. More than half the participants blog!
  23. Says @LizNeeley: “Let’s make this a conversation” at #scioSEA in the #scio13 spirit. Really enjoying listening to the voices from Seattle!
  24. ,@LizNeeley: "and who are you?" Cliff Mass: "I'm Cliff Mass..." crowd: "oooh...." cisciosea
  25. Here are bloggers who were in the room and introduced themselves:
         Hillary Burgess - Biodiverse Perspectives
         Rachel Ludwick - Fancy Beans
         Cliff Mass - Cliff Mass Weather Blog
         Rachel Aronson -
         Chris Terai - Forum on Science Ethics & Policy (FOSEP)
         Abbie Schindler - also of FOSEP as well as Science Politics
         Eric Buckler - Sculpted Head
         Fernando Gonzalez - ScienceSalsa (Best pitch of the night! "ScienceSalsa is all about science that is tasty and   
         wonderful and makes your life better")
         Amanda Chung - Demythify 
         Michelle Weirathmueller -
         Juliana Houghton - 
         Scott Bastion - Do Ya Think?
         Alexander B Fry - The Astronomist
         Sarah Gage - Botanical Rambles
         Sally James - Just about to launch SeattleScienceWriter

  26. And there were plenty more in the online audience:
         Bora Zivkovic - Blog Around the Clock
         Karyn Traphagen - Stay Curious
         Ed Yong - Not Exactly Rocket Science
         Danielle Lee - The Urban Scientist
         Jason Anthony Tetro - The Germ Guy Blog Confessions of a Mercurial Microbiologist
         and many more... (message @LizNeeley if I missed you!)
  27. The plan for the evening was to begin with advice for getting started, move to the craft and mechanics of blogging, and close on big picture questions. 

    Getting Started

    First question: is this an innate skill?
  28. .@LizNeeley: are you natural born bloggers or is it a skill you developed? #ScioSEA
  29. Most people seemed to agree this is something everyone has to work on, as the world is rapidly changing.
  30. .@bdemelle says the blog reader attention span shrinking: most people will maybe read your lead, probably just your headline. #ScioSEA
  31. Great pt at #scioSEA by @digitalbio: to communicate online need short paragraphs & catchy phrases!
  32. good writers are also good readers, is that surprising? #scioSEA
  33. I note that we all are in agreement that blogging is important and valuable, and challenge us to push into more difficult territory about how to make it sustainable. Question: how much time do people invest into their blogs?
  34. How many hours a day do you spend on blogging? 16! @b0yle #scioSEA
  35. How much time do you spend blogging? @bdemelle: 8 hours. @b0yle: 16 hours. @digitalbio: I wake myself up and I'm blogging #sciosea
  36. @CliffMass : sci blogging fills the hole left by the death of mainstream sci journalism. #sciosea
  37. Mass: blogging is important because journalism is tanking, even tho the quality can vary greatly. #sciosea
  38. Science journalism has gone down in quality thus science blogging has risen in importance? #scioSEA
  39. Question: Why invest so much? What keeps you going?
  40. Q: Why do you blog? @b0yle branding information. @bdemelle counteracting misinformation #sciosea
  41. .@fiainros started blogging to practice writing: "I am totally in it for me" #sciosea
  42. .@digitalbio: rhinking to shut down blog, but someone contacted me saying "yr video is broken and I'd like to use it in my class" #sciosea
  43. #scienceblogging as The Germ Guy helped me develop a TV, radio & media presence. Now I'm a regular contributor to Huffington Post #scioSEA
  44. I put another question to the crowd:
  45. From @LizNeeley #sciosea: No blogger is an island. We belong to important networks of blogs...Be inspired.
  46. Question: wo where do you your information and inspiration in the blogosphere?
  47. Pharyngula, Recycled Electrons, The Onion... some of the crowd's favorite blogs... #sciosea
  48. Some favorites mentioned in the room:
         NASA Watch
         Bug Girl
         Rock Talk
  49. @edyong209 In fact, @JenEDavison is telepathically controlling a cyborg cat in our ceiling. #sciosea
  50. It's vitally important to read widely, not only to comment, share, and riff off each other's work, but also to be inspired by how different approaches to blogging. With that thought, we transitioned to... 

    BlogCraft - The mechanics of blogging

    Question: Where do you get your story ideas?
  51. Most of the work that I do is based on recent scientific articles found on Pubmed search. Tho I take requests. :) #scioSEA #scienceblogging
  52. Question: what reflexes have you honed in pursuit of those stories?
  53. good question from Liz, and add-on does having habits create an echo chamber in the scio-blogozone? #scioSEA
  54. Habits of mind... Writing blog posts in your head while biking #scioSEA
  55. .@LizNeeley: what are the habits and skills that you've developed thru blogging? @bdemelle: Writing leads thru being on Twitter #sciosea
  56. Which led to a tangent about writing headlines and ledes
  57. .@bdemelle: it's a good practice to read others' posts and think of your own headline #sciosea
  58. #scioSEA oh my, I hate writing headlines, too, even as I am getting better with it over time...
  59. @BoraZ I don’t hate it so much as just don’t do it well so it’s hard. #scioSEA
  60. Writing a headline: Take a popular idea, then add your perspective and thesis. Also known as the @nypost method. #scioSEA
  61. Getting really nerdy here, talking about A/B testing for blog headlines... #sciosea #scienceofscienceblogging
  62. Tips for writing headlines? @bdemelle - picking keywords that work for SEO. #scioSEA
  63. .@r343l #scioSEA I like funny, bloggy headlines that are bad for SEO, clicks via feeds, etc.
  64. why do you need to a/b test a blog? does having good SEO affect the message? #scioSEA geniunely curious
  65. @scioSEA How does one pull of this A/B-testing kung-fu on blog headlines? Plug-in? Code your own stuff? Arcane ritual? #scioSEA
  66. @edyong209 I’ve never done it but being a programmer I can imagine how. Server-side code basically, serve different titles. #sciosea
  67. @r343l I was really hoping you were going to say either the plug-in or arcane ritual... #scioSEA
  68. @edyong209 @scioSEA we provide our bloggers in WordPress with A/B testing via plugin. Drupal also has code for this but it's DRUPAL #sciosea
  69. @edyong209 @scioSEA We have a few bloggers who A/B test lay outs, what to put in the sidebar, etc. integrated w Google Analytics. #scioSEA
  70. (Meanwhile, fun was to be had on the twitterfeed)
  71. #scioSEA needs to hook up a twitter driven remote control for pointing the webcam #upupdowndownleftrightleftright
  72. @dennyluan Point us to this technology -- or better yet, send it by mail! #sciosea
  73. We got a little ambitious with our new toys (ceiling-mounted camera)... with mixed success
  74. @LizNeeley Audio from the #scioSEA drone is good. Testing targeting reticle now...
  75. @edyong209 In fact, @JenEDavison is telepathically controlling a cyborg cat in our ceiling. #sciosea
  76. (Thanks Jen for manning the camera!)
  77. i might be enjoying #sciosea twitter feed more than being physically in the room... is that wrong?
  78. @RachelAronson well, I still wish I was in the room instead of just in the twitter stream! Enjoy it! Plus, you have snacks. #scioSEA
  79. @JenEDavison Was missing all the SciComm activity at AAAS. Great to watch this! #scioSEA
  80. Want to follow #scioSEA but have to rush to finish internship applications. Been helping move G-parents (alzheimers) to assisted living home
  81. Ahem, yes, back to that. 
  82. .@jamesian: how do you decide that you're not being redundant of someone else's blog? #sciosea
  83. Question: what are options for more visual (less text-based) creativity in blogging?
  84. I'd like to know how visual ppl try to be w their blogs (vs just text) #scioSEA
  85. The twittersphere is going off! YAY! Will try to get your questions answered! #sciosea
  86. Q from @kTraphagen: how to blog if you're more visual? @digitalbio: I draw a lot, and digitize them. A lot of posts come from that #sciosea
  87. #scioSEA ooh - good question about visual thinkers and blogging!
  88. #scioSEA - software for infographics? what you're comfortable with - photoshop or InDesign... depends on how complex the message is...
  89. #scioSEA those long things are called infoposters (and pros hate when you call them infographics).
  90. @LizNeeley #scioSEA Establishing credibility? See: review of particular stories, journals, etc.
  91. @edyong209 I’m sure something exists mostly out of the box because it’s not a hard software problem. #scioSEA
  92. #scioSEA there was a whole amazing conference in Nashville yesterday about infographics and dataviz - search #tapestryconf for links.
  93. wow, scientists are really using quickmeme for blogging? #scioSEA
  94. Q from @sgalla: where/how do you find your images? @bdemelle: Creative Commons, Shutterstock. @fiainros: often try to create my own #sciosea
  95. @RachelAronson @scioSEA Has anything I've ever tweeted led you to expect horror when you click my links? Wait... #scioSEA
  96. #ScioSEA - if your post discusses the image, it's Fair Use to embed it.
  97. #sciosea: wikimedia, Flickr and @LizNeeley mentions idea lab where u can get specific with colors, even
  98. (That's - check it out!)
  99. One point to make about Creative Commons is that there are several different licenses. Some don’t allow commercial use, etc. #scioSEA
  100. @r343l Great point. Love how the advanced search allows you to look for less restricted photos. #scioSEA
  101. @BoraZ 'It is fair use if you talk about the image' Is this really safe to assume, like say if you are criticizing the image? #scioSEA
  102. @r343l #scioSEA some journal got in trouble when they warned Shelley Batts not to use the image from the paper.
  103. #scioSEA lots of discussion of using images from papers in blogs and Fair Use here: 
  104. Question: how do you decide when a post is good enough to be released into the wild?

  105. I have a fellow scientist who reads my posts and provides me with feedback. Once I know that person 'likes' it, it's off! #scioSEA
  106. .@bdemelle, @fiainros often find difficult to finish a piece and publish it. @fiainros: helps to have someone else look at it. #sciosea
  107. .@digitalbio: If I can't let a post go, I break it into a series. @b0yle: I have to get stuff out the door. #sciosea
  108. @scioSEA "Writers don't finish. They give up." - Someone.pretentious but knowing. #scioSEA
  109. We ran out of time long before we ran out of conversation
  110. We will spend a few more minutes on livestream because of the great conversation #sciosea
  111. Great Q: are there blogs that exemplify best practices? #sciosea
  112. Here's an answer to that question regarding blogging advice: Follow @BoraZ !!! #scioSEA
  113. Is there anything out there about blogging and Human Subjects? #sciosea
  114. Question was about self-promotion. How can we do it efficiently and gracefully?
  115. Q: What is the most efficient way to publicize yr work? @b0yle: different ecosystems resonate for different people: FB, Twitter... #sciosea
  116. Some of the blogs that give advice to business bloggers, e.g., Problogger, are not really correct/applicable to #scienceblogging #ScioSEA
  117. Also #scioSEA when #scienceblogging, remember the 4Es: educate, enrich, entertain and engage. And if you are comfortable, Evangelize!
  118. It's not a black art - this is data-based adaptive management, people!
  119. @digitalbio: use statcounter to figure out how people are finding you #scioSEA
  120. I only recently setup Google Analytics on my blog and it’s really great. Recommended. #scioSEA
  121. Want help on this? We've got your back
  122. if anyone needs help with the technical aspects (analytics, caching, DNS/domains, tumblr and wordpress) let me know and I can help! #scioSEA
  123. I found this blog really helpful for learning how to blog, too. Science needs good advice marketing. d.cscioSEAioSEA
  124. But in terms of audience and reach...
  125. Q: Is it more efficient to DYI blog, or guest-blog? @bdemelle: both! @LizNeeley: depends on your goals #sciosea
  126. #sciosea both! Run your own blog for a little while, then start pitching to Guest Blogs on networks.
  127. .@fiainros: @DoubleXSci is an example of a group of ppl who all wanted to blog abt a theme. #sciosea
  128. Question: Does frequency matter? How often should we post?
    Variety of perspectives
  129. How important is frequency? @LizNeeley depends on your audience. Most people here are at once a week. #scioSEA
  130. (Note from Liz: At COMPASSblogs, we don't want to deluge busy scientists who are just venturing into the blogosphere, so we typically have one main post a week)
  131. I write for HuffPost once a week and to my own blog sporadically. It's more than enough considering a FT position. #scioSEA
  132. .@b0yle often posts 2 in one day, and it's an interesting informal experiment on what gets most visibility #sciosea
  133. #scioSEA I used to do 8.2 posts per day, now more like 8.2 per month, but don't have to worry about visibility.
  134. Question: For those times when we just can't keep it up?
  135. #sciosea let the blog sit. When you ready to restart, don't apologize, just write the next post. People have you in their RSS feeds.
  136. TY this is the kick in the pants I need MT @BoraZ #sciosea let blog sit. When you are ready...don't apologize, just write the next post...
  137. .@LizNeeley suggests letting your blog-followers know where you're going, if you'll be avail. on other media #sciosea
  138. Finally... ending on a fun note:
  139. Liz mentions loving graphic design
  140. Questions we didn't answer, seed for further conversations

  141. question for panel: if you had to pick one, would you rather have more comments, or more views? #scioSEA

  143. Final thoughts: @fiainros: be passionate @digitalbio: write for others @bdemelle: be personal @b0yle: community. #sciosea
  144. Some parting advice - make it real, be yourself, be passionate, engage with your audience. #scioSEA
  145. .@bdemelle: Keep it real, it helps the reader engage. I really like this advice. #ScioSEA
  146. .@LizNeeley: Find your voice, find your niche, find your network, and remember why you got started. #sciosea
  147. Passion. Conversation. Community. Ingredients for blogging, say panelists @scioSEA #sciosea #scio13 I agree!
  148. Thank you, @BoraZ. Your input during #scioSEA on science blogging was insightful and appreciated!
  149. First ever attempt at live tweeting. Whew! Great conversation, thanks @scioSEA and panelists! #scioSEA
  150. Gr8 advice! MT @mistersugar: Passion. Conversation. Community. Ingredients for #blogging, say panelists @scioSEA #sciosea #scio13 I agree!
  151. Always sad when the broadcast page goes offline. Another great @ScienceOnline satellite event! Thx #scioSEA
  152. But the conversation goes on...
  153. Ah, the pain of not being able to live tweet because you're moderating! Is there a name for this? Thanks SO MUCH to all who joined #scioSEA
  154. @LizNeeley according to DSM-5, it's called Moderating Tweetabstantion #scioSEA
  155. Only reasonable solution? Shut down computers. Head to the pub.
  156. Continuing the #scioSEA convo with @SciencePolitics, she gives Jell-O shots to rats. Awesome.
  157. Pleased with how the evening went at #scioSEA. Thanks so much for inviting me to participate, @JenEDavison @LizNeeley
  158. Now to read all the stuff I didn't read earlier because of #scioSEA. :)
  159. AND THE BLOGS GO ON....

    Find reactions, commentary, and thoughts inspired by the discussion at:
  160. My student bloggers are here: g/home/blog/ ere:'re both wonderful at writing & photos. #sciosea
  161. Let us know of others!