…is knowing when to stop.
Recently Terry McGlynn reflected on how the audience of his Small Pond Science blog is no longer growing. And how he now has both more demands on his time than he used to, and sees new opportunities to reach new (and bigger) groups of people in other ways. He says he’s not giving up blogging, and I for one hope he doesn’t, because I’ve learned a lot from Terry’s posts. But clearly, things are going to be different at SPS going forward.
Which prompted me to reflect on my own blogging. I’ve been doing it only slightly longer than Terry has. Dynamic Ecology’s traffic asymptoted years ago. And for years now, my posts mostly have been revisiting topics I’ve blogged about before; my really new posts are fewer and farther between. So here are some
rationalizations reflections rationalflections. They’ll be of interest to the very few of you who are also bloggers. And perhaps to others as a tiny case study of thinking about what to do with your life.
Why am I still blogging?
- I still enjoy it.
- Our readers still find it valuable.
- The impact of blogging is long-term and cumulative. As a blogger, you’re giving lots of little nudges to the thinking of many people over many years, and hoping that it adds up to something worthwhile and lasting. Cumulative influence keeps growing even if audience size doesn’t. Also, I’m kind of scared to find out how quickly this blog would be forgotten if it stopped.*
- Brian and Meghan are still blogging. Dynamic Ecology isn’t my blog, it’s our blog. Even if I wanted to stop blogging (and I don’t), I’d want to discuss it with them first. And a big part of the reason I don’t want to stop is because blogging is mostly how I “hang out” with Brian and Meghan. I’d be loathe to give up blogging for the same reason someone else might be loathe to stop grabbing a weekly coffee with a good friend.
- I suck at teaching myself to do new things. This isn’t a humblebrag, it’s just the truth. I’m a creature of habit in a lot of ways, and not just in terms of blogging or my approach to science more generally. Despite my name, I’m more of a hedgehog than a fox in many ways. I mostly go through life trying to play to my strengths rather than discover or develop new ones. And if your response is “You should get out of your rut,” my reply is “Yes, quite possibly. But if I could do that easily, I’d have done it already.”
- My professional goals are sinisterly narrow. “Sinisterly narrow” is a phrase Hugh Grant once used to describe his range as an actor. The same could be said of my goals as a blogger. My imagined audience for this blog, and the range of subjects I want to talk to that audience about, are both much narrower than Terry’s, I think. I don’t know any better way to reach the narrow audience I want to reach, on the narrow range of subjects about which I want to reach them, besides this blog.
- Some of the alternatives really would not suit me. For instance, Twitter just doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried it, and found that being on it is bad for my emotional well-being on balance. So tweeting instead of blogging is a non-starter for me. YMMV, of course.
- Blogging is one way I stay connected to the broader field. I don’t attend many conferences–most years just the ESA meeting. I’m not on social media. My university is several hours drive away from any other university with a sizable number of ecologists. Without blogging, I’d probably feel a bit professionally isolated from the wider world outside my own university.
- It helps me write the book I’m supposed to be writing. Blogging is a good way to try out ideas that might end up in the book.
- Maybe if I keep doing it long enough, it will be celebrated for its sheer eccentric longevity. Like swan upping. I can’t decide if I’m kidding about this last one or not.
But who knows? It’s a judgment call. Life is a series of unreplicated uncontrolled experiments, of which “me continuing to blog” is one. Maybe someday future-me will look back and wish now-me had followed Larry Wasserman’s example. Guess I’ll find out when I become future-me.
*Then again, maybe I should give it up for a while so that I can make a triumphant return down the road. I was inspired to blog (originally for the Oikos Blog) in part because as a grad student I loved John Lawton’s View From The Park column in Oikos, which was basically a blog before blogs were a thing. So you can imagine how excited I was yesterday when I saw that View From The Park is back! For one month, anyway.