Welcome back! Changes for Fall 2013!


I slowed the blog down over the summer, and now we’re shifting back the academic-year again. After reflection and experience, there’ll be some changes.

But first, what did I do this summer? I worked with students in the field for about three weeks, went to a conference, joined a working group, partially taught a field course, and a few other things. I am now just back from three weeks of bona-fide vacation away from home. Vacation was great, but this ain’t the venue for that.

My kid is back in school, I’m back on campus getting ready for the semester, and we have a ton of samples and a mountain of data to work up. And about three almost-submitted papers that need go get out. Good times!

The aspirational goal of the site is to promote the role of research in teaching institutions, and to enhance our profile and engagement in research communities. I don’t know exactly how a blog is supposed to do that, but I suppose being part of the conversation matters. I think things are at least going in that direction, though I don’t know the rate of travel. I have some related anecdotes that might be fun to share later on.

In the six months since starting the site, I’ve learned a lot about the time required to run a journalistic blog. The upshot is that, now that site is launched, I’m thinking it is reasonable to publish 2-3 times per week, instead of the five times per week when I started the site. Here’s the rationale, below. I realize I don’t need to provide one, but if you’re wondering my reasoning, here you go. Thoughts and corrections are welcome, of course:

  • Blogs should be well read by the core audience and is regularly updated. A bunch of people read most things that are posted on the site. I’m not an analytics dude, but I suspect that most regular readers look at the site a few times per week. That makes me more comfortable with the idea of posting a few times per week. I realize that it is critical to post regularly, if not daily, but also, I suspect that some posts are not seen by regular readers because they come out too frequently. If I make a point of creating posts that are thoughtful and substantial, then I’d rather have them have a broader reach. Simply put, I think it takes a few days for a post to have its full reach, and if I keep coming out with new posts before people are done reading the older ones, then they get overlooked.
  • Quality writing takes time.  When it comes to workload, time = money. I cannot sustainably write a post to my level of satisfaction every weekday, unless I am able to purchase a formal part of my university workload for blogging. When people have asked, “how do I find the time?” I answer that I’ve treated the site like a class of its own, just with a bigger audience. While blogging has a bigger reach, it doesn’t (yet) pay the bills and my primary duty is to my own students. If I were to maintain the level of journalistic quantity and quality for the indefinite future, I’d need modest, but non-trivial, amount of cash. (Sugar daddies, feel free to call.)
  • I realize that I’d have more readers if I included images with every post. But I don’t. Most posts won’t be improved with a corresponding image that someone else already created. If you think text is boring, then perhaps you aren’t reading enough literature. You want photos of stuff? Go read some pap on the Huffington Post. The world is gorgeously visual. If you want beautiful images, go outside. On the other hand, if you’re an artistically talented person and wanted to make an original sketch to go with each post, then I’d be interested in the possibility of teaming up. (I usually have my posts written a few days before going to press, unless it’s on a very current topic.)
  • I enjoy a good novel. I haven’t read enough non-science since starting the blog. This is a problem.
  • I need to finish more manuscripts, and I still need to learn R. I have too many projects at the almost-done stage, and a few in the exciting early-development phase. I want to get working on these, and this is the kind of stuff that I might get done if I’m blogging every single day.
  • A multiplicity of views is great. I’m thinking about taking on one or two occasional or regular contributors. I don’t exactly know how this would work out, and I need to sort this out more, but there are lots of people with experiences different from myself who would be able to write some amazing things for the site. Wouldn’t that be neat? (Interested in being one of them? Let me know.) Also, along with the notion of facilitating a multiplicity of views, I’m going to make a point from refraining from commenting on posts within the first day or two after it appears, except when there are questions directed specifically to me. This practice follows changes made by Jeremy Fox at Dynamic Ecology. When the blog was younger, I wanted to respond to comments to facilitate a conversation. Now that there are more readers, I don’t need to fulfill that role. I’ve already had my say in the post, and what others choose to say should matter more in the comments.

These are things of which I was aware, but I hadn’t really learned until after doing it for six months. Thanks for your continuing interest. If you’d like to give feedback on what is working, and not working on the site, I’d be appreciative if you were to share in the comments in this post, anonymously or otherwise. Or send me an email or use some other social media platform.

5 thoughts on “Welcome back! Changes for Fall 2013!

  1. Keep up the good work! Just glad you’re still gong to be posting on a regular basis.

  2. Continuing to enjoy the blog. Sounds like a good plan. I really appreciate your perspective. That said, I think contributors might a good idea to add a little breadth and lighten the load on you.

  3. I think multiple substantive posts per week will still be plenty frequent enough to keep your audience growing rapidly. We too have worried about putting out too much content too quickly and so having some good stuff get lost in the shuffle.

    Re: making it a group blog, my experience with that has been hugely positive. But in retrospect I got hugely lucky with who I brought on board. Drop me a line if you want to chat about the experience we’ve had with starting up group blogging, and with inviting one-off guest posts.

    Keep up the great work, Terry!

  4. “Need to learn R” – I started that during my sabbatical this past year by taking an Intro to Computer Science class where I learned Python, and it dramatically eased the transition to R. Good luck! :)

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