Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Advice for beginning bloggers

A friend asked me for any advice I have before he launches a blog. What mistakes have I made? How do I manage comments? What is the best platform?
So here are my rough thoughts.

Just do it!
This applies to both starting, persevering, and what you write. Blogging is not for perfectionists and procrastinators. A major strength (and weakness) of the medium is that one can float tentative and controversial ideas and not worry about endless editing and polishing. It can be an incredibly enriching experience, for both yourself and others.

The biggest impact of your blog may be on you not on your audience.
This is really true in my case. Blogging has clarified my thinking on a wide range of issues, from science to politics to religion.

Blogging saves time rather than taking time.

Don't be driven by metrics.
It is easy to keep track of page views and an abundance of other data. It is not clear how accurate or helpful it is. Furthermore, this can easily lead to feelings of insecurity and a temptation to write "click bait". I think the only really meaningful "metrics" are whether a post generates some useful discussion, someone learns something, or even changes their mind.

Go for the long haul.
Many people start blogs but quickly give up because they don't get much feedback. After about four years I was really wondering whether many people were reading this blog or whether it was having much impact. Then on an international trip, I kept meeting people who read it and thanked me for it. This provided motivation to keep going.

Most readers enjoy a diverse range of subjects.
That is the feedback I received from many readers, as I traverse from the technicalities of constructing diabatic states to mental health to teaching philosophy to ranting about metrics .... Obviously, some posts will be of more interest to some readers than to others. Don't worry about it.

Find ways to stimulate discussion in the comments section
This is probably my only regret. I was too slow to ask readers questions, to engage in discussion with commenters and to allow anonymous comments. On the one hand, I have not attracted as many comments as I would like. I am quite "jealous" of some of the discussions that people like Peter Woit, John Quiggin, and Peter Enns [there is an interesting mix of three people!] can generate. On the other hand, I have been blessed by the absence of trolls or the inane comments or abusive debates that seem so common on many blogs, youtube, and newspaper websites. The only comments I have felt the need to delete are spam advertising. But maybe I am not controversial enough to generate heated debate. One thing I do have to discipline myself is to not "name and shame" scientists and administrators that I think are charlatans. There are also certain topics I just avoid because it tragically seems almost impossible to have a civil online discussion and I am too scared of getting "condemned" for life for exploring some nuanced view that is "offensive", whether to people on the left or on the right.

Keep the software and formatting simple
There are endless possibilities for flashy formats. I am sticking with the most basic format. There are plenty of popular and valuable blogs (e.g. John Quiggin and Peter Woit) that also use rudimentary formats. I suspect wordpress may be better than because it does give more reliable and wider statistics.

Do readers or bloggers have other suggestions for someone about to start out?


  1. Since it arrived in my feeds today, I'll allow serendipity to select this link of suggestions for bloggers,, but of course there must be thousands of good guides.

  2. Is it possible to publish review papers as a blogger in journals?

  3. This ted talk by Prof Firestein at 6.24 min states there 3 paper per min published in 2012. Now it must be more.

    Subject wise the rate is not known. One feels that reviews are required for the large number of papers published (in millions) Good reviews should be allowed to be published in journals when not affiliated to an University or institution. 1905 A Einstein published from a patent office. Did he have funding?. There was no hierarchy and its glory for Einstein. So why not publish critical reviews as a quasi altruistic activity from web site ( blog)