Science Blogging: The Essential Guide
by Christie Wilcox, Bethany Brookshire, Jason G. Goldman, Editors. Yale university Press, 2016.
There is a little something for everyone in this book. On the other hand, as the editors themselves clearly state in the introduction, each chapter will likely be useful to only a subset of its targeted readership (therefore the description of this book as “essential” is a tad of a stretch in my opinion…). That being said, the editors did a particularly good job in their introduction, explicitly stating the topics of each chapter.
I must say that I enjoyed reading the whole book though. As expected from all the authors, the book is very well written, no question about it. However, the editors deserve all the recognition they can get for integrating the different styles of so many talented writers into a coherent whole. This is the best feature of the book. I also loved that almost every chapter included quite a few notes with very useful references and suggestions for further reading.
As usually happens in an anthology-type book, the various writing styles resonate with various types of readership. Here we have everything from systematic explorations of the topic at hand to essentially “pep-talks” to motivate the reader to blog. All of these approaches have their usefulness. As you may expect, my review is largely based on the chapters that I liked the most or that were the most useful to me. In no way I am implying that the chapters I do not mention are bad. That being said, here are my “gems”:
Using science art and imagery in a blog (G. Mellow)
***As a non-artistic person, I learned quite a bit from this chapter.
Ethical consideration for science bloggers (J.D. Stemwedel)
***Now, this chapter should be labelled “hyperessential”!
Indie blogging: On being a “Ronin” (Z. Faulkes)
***I personally identified with this chapter, as an independent blogger, professor, and neuroscientist.
Blogging as a resource for science education (M.-C. Shanahan)
***Education is my day job; need I say more?
Blogging about controversial topics (E. Willingham)
***I am an autism parent (and an opinionated one at that), and I am not afraid to express my opinions in such a controversial topic (see next entry below).
Persuading the unpersuadable: Deniers, cynics, and trolls (M. Tannenbaum)
***I’ve crossed swords with these three types of commenters, and in this chapter I found many useful ideas to deal with these types of interactions.
From science blog to book (B. Switek)
***This chapter has a special meaning to me, because I credit the blogs of Mr. Switek and Dr. Mark Changizi (another blogger and scientist) with inspiring me to blog so I can test the proverbial waters to see if I had the ability to write a book. It did work out, and these two gentlemen were acknowledged in my first book!
Science and the art of personal storytelling (B. Lillie)
***This chapter was very useful to me because I want to try to develop a friendly style of blogging, mainly free of my scientific jargon. I aspire to continue writing popular science.
Now for the bad news…
I had a strong visceral reaction when I read Chapter 5, “Building an audience for your blog” by Mr. E. Yong. Mr. Yong is a very well-regarded journalist and science writer. If you are even peripherally interested in science blogging, you have most certainly read him. His chapter makes for excellent reading. However, I got really irritated when I read the following: “When I started Not Exactly Rocket Science as an independent WordPress site, I had just a few hundred page views a day for at least eighteen months…”
Here’s my problem with his statement: Any beginning blogger would ***love*** to have even just a hundred page views per day. Was this a typo? Did he mean “…a few hundred page views per month”? If not a typo, I find the statement rather patronizing and very discouraging to a budding science writer (and I, for one, would love to know how to get a few hundred views per day in a brand new blog). I could go on, but for now I will just say that I would like this point to be clarified. I am almost positive this is a misunderstanding of some sort.
In summary, if you are interested in the wonderful world of science blogging, there will be something for you in this book. I do not think that you will be disappointed.
Credit: Yale University Press
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