Monday, April 06, 2009

record the discovery process with a blog

When communicators are thinking about creating a blog, one of the most overlooked options is to make it true to its origins as a log: a timed, dated entry of ongoing observations. One of the best examples I've seen is this relatively new blog from Colonial Williamsburg, chronicling "The Cannon Project," an effort to recreate a British Infantry light three-pounder cannon. The effort will involve a variety of the "trades" employed at the historic site:
Reproducing the cannon will require the participation of a number of trade shops: founders, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, gunsmiths, harness makers, tailors, weavers, brick makers, tool makers, and carpenters. Together, they will illustrate the complexity of production needed to support the Revolution.
So far, posts on this blog support the principles I encourage scientists to use in describing their methodology, using the process--and the progress, or lack thereof--to create a story non-technical experts can appreciate and follow. Sharing simple observations works: Discovery and disappointments are shared in equal measure, with great visuals to capture each step. Here's an example from a recent post that demonstrates the virtues of detail when you've committed to an observational blog:
After turning down the surface of the casting several tenths of an inch, we’re finding even more porosity, including some large, and relatively speaking, deep holes. While this is disappointing, discovering such problems was the reason for this initial pour.
You don't need to re-cast a cannon to fire up a good observational blog. What processes, observations or methods can you unfold for your blog's readers? Can you chronicle a project--the cannon will take two years' work--or follow a new initiative? Are there new things to discover and describe at frequent intervals? Then you may have a true log-blog in the making.

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