Another year older
May 26, 2011 § 10 Comments
Well, it’s been a year. Anniversaries do encourage you to look back and say, huh, has it been that long? How fast a year goes by. Was it worth it? And other such musings.
One thing about writing this blog that’s surprised me is that it’s a very effective way of maintaining an external memory. I’m a bit of a dilettante, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed: I skip from topic to topic a lot, and the result is that I forget a lot. Since I started writing the blog, I can say “hold on, I’m sure I wrote about that” when a topic or a paper comes up, and remind myself of what I thought when I read the paper. [Come on, you’ve had this experience too. Do you remember reading your old exam papers, back in the days when you had to pass exams, and wondering who on earth wrote them?] It’s surprisingly helpful; the unpleasant part of the surprise is that it makes it clear just how much I do forget.
Was it worth it? From my point of view, it’s mostly been enjoyable. I don’t entirely like the little monkey that now rides my back, reminding me of the fact that I haven’t started writing a serious post this week, that it’s been xxx days since I last posted something serious, that my pile of potentially interesting papers is currently depleted. But on the whole it’s been good. From your point of view, it’s harder to know. Yes, I can look at a number of interesting metrics that purport to tell me how widely the blog is read. On that level, the year has been quite successful: over 65,000 page views isn’t bad for a science blog in its first year, let alone one focused on systems biology. On the other hand, how many of those page views were real — someone reading and enjoying what I wrote, or at least finding it useful — and how many of them were hapless googlers accidentally stumbling across a page and thinking “gosh, how boring”? I notice that posts that refer to sex, drugs or evolution tend to get more hits than posts that focus on molecular mechanisms or modeling. I fear that the people who googled for topics to do with sex are the most likely to have been disappointed by what they found. On the other hand, the people who looked for “systems biology humor” deserved exactly what they got.
In any case, the number of regular readers of the blog seems to be increasing. I hope this means that at least a few people out there (maybe including you, dear reader) who actually like reading about statistical models of red blood cell populations, biochemical reconstitutions of mesoscale cellular structures, and how you can set up a signaling gradient within a single bacterium. Odd tastes, but that’s what the internet is good for — finding people who share your odd tastes. I think there are at least a couple of hundred of you who come by frequently, and many more who stop by occasionally. I’ve met a few of you in person, and a few more by e-mail, but since most of you (if you’re out there) are fairly quiet lurkers, I’m really not sure who you are or what you like. You could tell me. You could leave a comment, or even send me an e-mail: becky[at]hms.harvard.edu.
Unless you blog, you probably don’t realize what a thrill it is (at least for a little blog) to get a real comment from an actual real person who’s thought about what you have to say. One moment you’re sending words out into the void, and the next moment the void is talking back. It’s exciting. And I like the fact that I can sometimes catalyze a conversation (see this post for example) between the original author of the paper I wrote about and the commenter. When this works, I think it’s unusual and potentially valuable. I don’t think I would have lasted the year without the evidence of real readers, really out there, that comments (and, yes, pageview statistics too) provide.
So. Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting. Keep it up. Tell your friends that reading It Takes 30 is the cool thing to do these days. Send me suggestions on papers you’d like me to cover (note: I don’t usually cover Nature or Science, on the grounds that papers published in those journals get enough attention anyway — but I can make exceptions). Tell me what you’d like me to do differently. I may listen.
Happy anniversary, us.