How do you decide what to blog about?

I was recently tagged in a post by Paige Brown over at From The Lab Bench to answer a few questions for her on science blogging. She wanted to know what science bloggers blog about, how we blog about it, how we decide what’s ‘blogworthy,’ and how our writing process works. Matt Shipman over at Communication Breakdown already posted his response (he was pretty fast, apparently because “things go quickly when you don’t think too much”) here.
I’m going to try the same ‘not thinking too much’ and see what I come up with.
According to the tag cloud on my blog, I apparently blog about science communication. Which is true – but in the context of water issues and environmental science, and from an academic perspective. I also mix a healthy dose of posts on writing and a few (very few) on personal issues that I think have universal appeal.
Like Matt, I’m not sure my blog would be considered a ‘science blog’.
While many of my original posts were strictly science-oriented, like this one on the 2013 Alberta floods, I’ve since branched out into communications and social media. In addition to more recent science-based posts (like this one on forests, fish and snow), there are also a lot of posts about writing and landscape, and how I utilize personal connections to the natural world.
I’m also really interested in science policy and politics, so many of my posts are politically-oriented in regards to science in Canada.
I’d describe my blog as a cross-pollinated nature and science writing blog.
I mainly write about things that I find interesting . Because this is my personal blog, anything is fair game, though I limit myself to topics I think I have some expertise in and have something useful to say about. For example, I’m really interested in women in science, but I have very few posts about this because there are so many aspects of feminist study that I know nothing about, that would be critical to include in women in STEM posts. As I noted above, I’m also interested in science policy, but I limit myself to discussing the impacts of specific policies instead of talking about how policy is made, because that’s an area I’m really not familiar with at all.
I also write about things that I think people need to know about. Some of my science policy posts, for example, are a way for me to communicate what’s happening to science in Canada (hint: it’s not good news). Some of my more personal posts are meant to share information that I think everyone would benefit from knowing about, whether it’s mental health issues or career advice for university students.
Usually a little nugget of an idea or a question will pop into my head while reading other blogs or articles, or in general conversation, and I’ll worry at it like an oyster creating a pearl, pulling together the strands of story that make a larger blog post.
For political posts, I’ll often read something about a new government policy or decision that relates to environmental science. I’ll check out the background on it by reading previous news articles and other peoples’ blog posts (John Dupuis is a particularly good resource in this regard, as is the Liber Ero blog), and then write a post that looks at the impact of that policy or decision.
For science posts, I tend to write about what I know. For example, my recent Fish, Forests and Snow post was generated by a request to give a conference presentation on the topic. While I couldn’t make it to the conference to present, the request got me thinking about what I would have talked about, which was a golden opportunity to write a blog post that a surprising number of people enjoyed.
For communication posts, I start with a question I’m trying to answer, like what exactly constitutes citizen science, for example, or why Twitter is a useful tool. I figure that there are likely others out there just like me, trying to answer the same questions. So my approach is to share what I’ve learned – from research and general interest articles, other blogs, etc. – in a blog post.
Finally there are the personal posts, which usually start from things I’m struggling with in my personal life. As with the communication posts, I figure there are others out there struggling with the same problems – but doing so in silence or shame. My goal with these (infrequent) posts is to show that tough things can happen to all of us, and that many of us have similar experiences that we can draw on and learn from to move forward.
My two main criteria are if I’m interested in something and have time, just like Matt notes in his response.
I want to make sure I have something to say and am not just regurgitating what others have been talking about but providing a new perspective or different way of thinking. I also have this (erroneous) idea that blog posts have to be relatively long. I’m working on writing shorter ones – not only because it makes frequent blogging more manageable, but because I think readers like to ingest shorter posts as well!

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1 thought on “How do you decide what to blog about?”

  1. I like the description of your blog as cross-pollinated. When I blog I usually try to make connections with issues of sustainability, peace and justice, and well being. Less being more is a maxim I appreciate. I generally shy away from reading blogs more than 1000 words. Having said that, is is a bit of a sad commentary so prevalent in our modern culture. – the quick pace and look & the 7 word sound bite. The bottom line for me in regards to the blogosphere is to be inspired and/or informed, as well as occasionally create a personal connection. I appreciate your posts Sarah – keep up your good work.


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