Wednesday, September 27, 2006

science writers hear the blogging buzz

Tonight's DC Science Writers Association session on "Blogging: Beyond the Buzz" drew a sold-out crowd of 85 journalists, communicators and freelancers, eager to hear and talk through blogging issues. As before, I heard from many frustrated would-be government bloggers, but just as many other potential bloggers who've wondered about it and not felt comfortable trying it out. My great insight came when I asked the crowd who could do one less email a day -- because a blog post is as easy as writing an email -- and only one person raised his hand! Surely, folks can rethink that.

My fellow speakers had wonderful insights to share. Matthew Nisbet, author of the "Framing Science" blog, a newcomer to Washington and an American University faculty member, walked us through how scientists, strategists and journalists use blogs. His observations of the audiences we all seek online: Most people are "cognitive misers" who seek information shortcuts and summaries...the "just tell me what I need to know crowd," which bespeaks brevity and value in content. Tamara Zemlo, executive director of the Science Advisory Board, a network of 31,000 life scientists, has launched six blogs for and with her members. Some 75 percent of the SAB's website is member-contributed to begin with, and her blogging goal was to facilitate more conversation between scientists and their high-tech suppliers. Her five lessons-learned, after a mixed experience with some successful and not-so-successful blogs:

- Organizations that blog need to participate more in the larger blog community;
- Organization blogs need to connect with their audiences -- no matter how small and focused;
- Considering less-frequent posts may be a more viable option for many organizations;
- Encourage and nurture subscribers via RSS and other ways to push forward your content; and
- Don't tune out readers by losing interest in your topic over time--choose a topic about which you can write with passion in your blog.


Anonymous said...

Hi Denise! I was at the event last night and enjoyed it very much. However, regarding your comment about "blogs being a listserv with a strap-on"...while it was partially humorous and meant to be jocular, it seemed a bit lewd considering the forum.

Otherwise, good show!

Ira R. Allen said...

I agree that last night's panel was one of the best I have attended on any subject.

I beg to disagree, however, on your assumption that posting an original item should take as little time as one e-mail.

That may be true if you are responding to someone else's opinion; in fact the pithier you can make it the better chance you have of pithing someone off.

However, if you are commenting on a topic with any complexity -- like science or policy -- you better take the time to get the underlying facts straight, which means checking and rechecking and finding the right links. As journalists we also want to make sure that the posts are concise.

It is as Mark Twain said, (and even if he didn't, he should have) "I would have written you a shorter letter but I didn't have the time."

Denise Graveline said...

My goodness! I wish the anonymous commenter had approached me directly with his or her concern. I merely wanted to convey that blogs -- unlike the more regulated world of listservs -- is a bit more like a runaway horse, depending on the type of blog. It was entirely meant as cautionary.

To the second comment, perhaps you missed my preface to the email comment, which was "once your blog is set up and established." By that, I mean, you know your sources, know how to check them, and to write concisely and fast. Some of us write faster than others, certainly, and I always spend time thinking about my posts before I sit down to write them. And I'd write a longer response to you, Ira, but I don't have the time! :)

Takoma Gardener said...

Hi. I just wrote about this excellent presentation on a team blog I'm part of - Stop by sometime. Susan