Today I am introducing a new guest blog series on my blog (fun!) featuring science bloggers who recently got their start in the science blogosphere. I hope that this series of posts I'll be inviting from new science bloggers, or anyone who started blogging about science in the last year or so, will help paint a picture of how science bloggers get their start today.
Recently we've heard rumors that blogging is dying, which I have argued isn't true - at least for science blogging. But in conversations about the evolution and history of science blogging, we often hear from veteran science bloggers. In this series, I want to hand over this conversation, and the conversation of why we blog and how our blogging morphs over time, to science bloggers who are just getting started*. I hope we learn something along the way!
*If you want to contribute to this series, and you recently (within the last year or so) started any form of science blogging, e-mail me at pbrow11[at]tigers.lsu.edu. You can either write a free-form post, or I'll send you a list of Q&A questions to guide you. Thanks!
First up in the "New to Science Blogging" series is Shayan Farahani, founder of www.entohub.com, a blog site featuring posts/articles about insects and entomology. Shayan is studying molecular biology at the University of Minnesota and is involved in genetic engineering research. He is always interested in topics relating to insect biology and plant biology/agriculture both in science and in society. He started EntoHub in September 2014. Four other bloggers have contributed articles of their own to the site, while a few others have co-authored articles with Shayan. Shayan says there are currently three other writers who have expressed some long-term interest with Entohub.
Me: What motivated you to start blogging about science? Why did you start a blog, vs. using only other newer forms of social media like Twitter?
Shayan: When I discovered that I enjoyed writing entomology-related content, I had way too many ideas and thoughts in my head to fit into something like Twitter's 140 character limit. What I liked about blog and article-style writing is that the process takes me through an experience that leaves me knowing more about the world than I knew before. From finding something interesting and original to making it relevant in society, blog-style writing provides me with an experience that isn't limited in terms of length or platform. A strong interest to learn about other people's work and discoveries remains my primary motivation for writing.
Me: How did you navigate deciding where to blog and how to blog about science? Did you have an idea of what the blog would be before you started? Can you describe that and perhaps where it came from?
Shayan: My approach to blogging about science is usually to find a researcher or institution willing to provide me with information about their work and then carving an article out of our conversations. I prefer to work together with them to write content that captures the true goals of their work and the implications in other fields and society. The reason I have a website for content (as opposed to making an account on a blog website) is because I already had a website running for supplying insect breeders with materials when I realized I enjoyed writing about entomology- I didn't really have an idea of what the website would become when I started writing. It was easier to just throw everything onto the website I already had, which actually ended up resulting in a personal conflict for me because I'm not really interested in commercial activity anymore.
Me: How do you feel your blog is evolving now, if at all?
It has basically undergone a complete re-brand in the past couple weeks. For starters, I recently changed the name to Entohub (entomology hub) and embarked on a campaign using social media to recruit amateur entomologists or insect blog writers to write entomology-related content. In the past I've written about more scientific topics such as a likely new species of wood roach, scanning electron microscopy of arthropods and the distribution of the beetle genus Megasoma in the US. However, I've noticed myself (and other writers helping out with Entohub) approaching topics that are not only oriented around entomological research but also include the activities of scientific institutions and insect-related trends/patterns in society.
Me: How you are finding your niche in the science blogosphere? Have other science bloggers influenced you or your blog direction, and if so how?
Shayan: I'm usually the first one to reach out to someone when I'm looking for information, so I learn about niches by not hesitating to talk to people when I see something interesting or have questions on the internet. I find out about a lot of niches and people through Facebook groups, Instagram and Twitter. Through twitter I found out about a science writer, Dr. Gwen Pearson aka @Bug_Gwen, who has influenced me through her extensive coverage on various entomology-related topics. That's just one example of how social media has opened my eyes to the science blogosphere- I found out about the world record Hercules beetle breeder through Facebook and was able to get in contact with him to write an article about it. Although we've never really talked about blogging, he has influenced me by providing recognition of my writing on his own blog, talking about how his beetle had made it into websites overseas. That really encouraged me to keep reaching out to people and dive deeper into the social media sphere.
Probably the main thing that helps me find my place as a new writer is studying the knowledge and experiences of other, much more experienced writers who occupy the same scientific niches online. I've talked to people with decades of experience and I feel really lucky when they take time out of their day to share what they know with me. Recognition of other people's work and experience drives me to stay on the amateur side of things until I learn more about what's already out there. I primarily reach out to college students to write articles or people with several years of experience to learn from and I plan on continuing to do so, hopefully establishing Entohub as a reliable source of information on the way.
Me: Can you comment on how you chose your blogging platform, decided on the style, your goals when you started and now, etc.?
Shayan: I honestly didn't pay too much attention to the blogging platform when I first started writing- since I already had a website, I just uploaded everything there because that was easiest. I want to provide an avenue for amateur (or experienced) entomologists and science writers to share their work. The driving factor behind this is that I think it's important to provide people with original, quality content.
I think Shayan's story of how he got started is a great example of the "ecosystem blogging" theme I've observed in my dissertation research, a theme that describes how science bloggers make content decisions for their blogs. By learning from other often more veteran bloggers, and keeping an eye out for other blogs in one's niche, science bloggers often fill in online content gaps versus competing to produce content that is already available elsewhere. Group blogging also seems to be growing in popularity. Can't wait to hear from other "new" science bloggers!