The blog experiment

By Joern Fischer

On the 17th of June 2011, my research team and I joined the blogging world. At the time, I stated our blog would be an experiment — something we’d run for a little while, and then see whether we feel it’s worthwhile. It’s now been going for six months. With the year ending, it’s a good time to reflect on whether this has been useful.

I was skeptical initially because after all, do we really need yet more ‘stuff’ on the web? It’s not like any of us are short of things to read! By now I feel more positive about the blog, and for the time being, we will keep it running. I’ll summarise here some of the statistics about the blog, some of its most popular posts, and some conclusions about why I find the blog useful.

On statistics: We now have dozens of people subscribed to the blog, and we get thousands of hits in a given month. So one thing is clear: what we write here reaches more people, and faster, than through traditional publishing channels. What’s particularly pleasing is that some readers are now using the commenting facility — and for some entries, we’ve actually had little discussions. To those of you reading this: do comment, please, because that’s when things get more interesting for everyone!

Here are some of the most popular posts, including a short summary of what they were all about:

Responsible reporting and responsible conduct with the media: Here we discussed a paper on land sparing versus land sharing. We later published a response to that paper in Science.

The 2010 journal impact factors are out: should we care? Here I discussed the addictive phenomenon of impact factors; suggesting that we shouldn’t ignore them, but that we shouldn’t let them rule our lives, either.

Joining forces to close the sustainability gap: Here I discussed the Millennium Alliance of Humanity and the Biosphere — which appears to be growing. It now has a bunch of different members.

Perception about life and the trajectory of traditional rural societies and landscapes in Romania (and possibly Eastern Europe): Here, Tibi gave us an overview of some of the most pertinent changes in Transylvania’s rural societies.

Is diversity good or bad? Here, Tibi discussed whether diversity in social groups was always a good thing — or whether it could in fact lead to problems. This post was very short, but got a few thoughtful responses — so clearly a question worth pondering!

Sustainability starts in your own life: This is my favourite hobby horse. The insanity of academia drives me mad! I just read a quote by a professor that ‘most professors just want to be left alone to work 60-80 hours a week’. For those of us not so mathematically inclined, this means working 11 hours per day on 6 days a week, plus 14 hours on the 7th. Do work hours = quality of research = excellence? I don’t think so! Surely, our quantity-driven insanity is part of the problem, not the solution.

Evidence based conservation: an always actual issue? Here Tibi discussed evidence-based conservation. The post was subsequently picked up on an international environmental news site.

And then, of course, there were a bunch of less widely read blogs. Personally, I feel most attached to my entry on ‘why we need a new culture of science‘, so if you want to make me feel better about it not having been read as widely as I’d like, you can read it now  (:

In summary, I’ve found the blog useful:

1. To communicate ideas broadly;

2. To rapidly respond to emerging issues in the literature; and

3. To reflect on my own thinking.

Thank you for following our blog — I hope we will continue to write things that are of interest to you!


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