Why I left the Oikos blog

To understand why I started this blog, you need to understand why I left the Oikos Blog, which means you need to understand why I started blogging over there in the first place. (The following story is the same one I told in my goodbye post over on Oikos Blog)

The Oikos Blog wasn’t my idea. I first heard about it when it was announced to the Oikos editorial board. The initial vision was basically that it would be a group blog: all ~30 editors would post occasionally. The hope, I think, was that the blog would be a new way to promote the kinds of interesting conversations and novel thinking that the journal had always tried to promote. Certainly, that was my own hope. I thought the blog was a great idea, a case of Oikos thinking outside the box and recognizing the potential of a new technology. There are lots of ideas in science that are worth sharing and discussing, but aren’t best shared or discussed via formal papers, or at least not only via formal papers. Besides being valuable in its own right, I had high hopes that the blog could burnish the journal’s image, especially among younger readers like grad students and postdocs, and encourage them to submit to and review for the journal.

At the time I was reading a few blogs, including one by a good friend, but I’d never thought of blogging myself. But since the journal was starting a blog, I figured it might be fun to try it out. Finally, when colleagues ask me to do this sort of thing, I try to default to saying “yes”.

So I started posting. I quickly realized several things:

  • I was pretty good at it. I was quite pleased with how some of my early posts turned out. And close colleagues were very positive.
  • It didn’t take much of my time, not more than I was prepared to give at any rate. I’m a reasonably good and reasonably quick writer. I’m based in Canada, so I don’t have to chase money all the time thanks to the way our federal granting agencies work. And I’m tenured, so while I still have plenty of incentive and desire to publish papers, I’m not under the same pressure as untenured faculty to publishasmuchaspossibleasfastaspossiblenownownowNOW!!!111!!!1!
  • I liked doing it. It gave me an outlet to share my opinions about ecology and how it’s done. As my friends, and regular Oikos Blog readers, know, I’m not shy about sharing my opinions! 😉 I also enjoy a good debate, and blogging is good for that.

But Chris and I were the only editors who chose to post, with me posting most frequently. I figured other folks might start posting once we built a bit of an audience. So I just kept doing what I was doing, and during occasional email discussions among the editors I’d talk up the blog and encourage folks to post. And we did build an audience, which both flattered and humbled me. Indeed, we built a bigger audience than I ever thought we would–eventually something like 5000 page views per week on average, which as far as I can tell is a very large audience for a blog aimed at academics and focused on non-controversial topics (well, non-controversial compared to, say, politics). But no one else chose to post. To be clear, I’m not criticizing my colleagues at all for this. It’s up to each of us to choose how to allocate our time, and  I recognize that I’ve made an unusual time allocation decision that others aren’t necessarily in a position to make. But it became increasingly clear to me that the Oikos Blog wasn’t really serving its original intended purpose. In the minds of many readers, the blog had become identified with me rather than the journal.

Which I found increasingly awkward. There were topics I wanted to blog about (e.g., new papers coming out in other ecology journals), but which I avoided because they seemed inappropriate even for a journal blog as broadly-defined as the Oikos Blog. And there were things I wanted to try that just couldn’t be tried at the Oikos Blog. And while no one at Oikos had ever said anything but very positive things about my blogging, it wasn’t hard to imagine that at some point there might be a (quite reasonable) push to link the blog more tightly to the journal. And I realized I wasn’t necessarily keen to see that happen, because it might dilute “my” content. It wasn’t just the readers who’d started to identify the Oikos Blog with me; I’d started to do so too. Which meant it was time for me to go.

I’m tremendously grateful to Chris Lortie, Dries Bonte, Tim Benton (the previous EiC), and the other higher-ups at Oikos and Wiley for coming up with the idea for the Oikos Blog, for trusting me to run with it pretty much as I saw fit (I was free to write whatever I wanted, with no pre- or post-publication oversight), and for all the positive feedback they gave me along the way. I hope that I lived up to their trust, and I’m glad there are no hard feelings about my departure. My decision to leave was entirely my own; I have nothing but good things to say about everyone at Oikos. I continue to want to see the Oikos journal do well, and I’ll continue to support it.

I’ll look forward to seeing what Chris et al. do with the Oikos Blog now that I’ve gone my own way. Right now the blog and the journal are essentially independent of one another. I think they can be greater than the sum of their parts. I’ve suggested some ideas to Chris on how that could happen, and he and other folks at Oikos have their own ideas as well. Oikos Blog isn’t ending, it’s merely changing, and I’ll look forward to following the changes.

And of course, I’m looking forward to furnishing my new blogging home. Initially, it will be similar to the Oikos Blog, but I’m working on what I think are some fun new ideas. Welcome to Dynamic Ecology!

2 thoughts on “Why I left the Oikos blog

  1. Pingback: Dynamic Ecology is becoming a group blog! | Dynamic Ecology

  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday to us! | Dynamic Ecology

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