Only our most obsessive readers will remember that I once wrote a post about why I was still blogging even as other bloggers were stopping. The post was framed around the old joke about how the hardest part of spelling “banana” is knowing when to stop. Trouble was, the beginning of the post accidentally made it sound like we were going to stop blogging! But this time, the joke about spelling banana actually applies to us. We have a big announcement to make: Dynamic Ecology in its current form is coming to an end.
Note that it’s an end, not the end. Brian, Meghan, and I are going to leave the blog up. We hope and anticipate that we’ll post occasionally in the future, when we feel inspired to do so. But we’ll no longer be posting once or twice a week, never mind the near-daily posting we used to do back in the day. Many blogs these days are “slow blogs”; that’s what Dynamic Ecology will be too.
Between the pandemic, and our growing personal and professional obligations, it’s been a long time since any of us had both the time and inspiration to blog well. So Dynamic Ecology has slowly been going downhill, in terms of the number, quality, and variety of posts. That’s reflected in our traffic as well. We now get many fewer pageviews than we used to, both on a per-post basis, and in total. Our posts are no longer widely shared on social media (which may reflect changes to social media as well as to Dynamic Ecology…). We still retain many longtime readers, but other readers have gradually drifted away, and we’re no longer attracting many new readers. For a while, we hoped that all this was just a temporary state of affairs, that we’d eventually get back to normal and feel the urge to post again. But the longer any “temporary” state of affairs goes on, the more permanent it feels. The three of us talked recently, and we all agreed that it was time to read the writing on the wall. Dynamic Ecology’s never going to go back to what it was. It’s time to acknowledge that, and turn it into something else.
Dynamic Ecology has been a big part of our professional lives for the last 9+ years (yes, it’s been that long!). We’re proud of our body of work, and gratified that so many others have found it interesting, thought-provoking, inspiring, and helpful (while also recognizing that we weren’t always perfect…) And even in our current diminished blogging state, we still have a large readership, for which we’re very appreciative. It’s tremendously validating that so many of you have read, shared, and discussed our posts over the years, and we’ve learned so much from your comments. We didn’t want to let Dynamic Ecology just silently peter out, which is the fate of so many blogs. So below, we each reflect on Dynamic Ecology, and say a big THANK YOU to all of you for reading. We hope that you’ll continue to do so in future.
A few additional thoughts from Meghan:
Back when Jeremy first invited me to blog, I knew it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up, and I’m so glad I’ve had this opportunity — grateful that Jeremy reached out, grateful to Jeremy and Brian for all the conversations we’ve had over the years, and grateful to all the people who’ve read, commented on, and otherwise responded to posts I wrote over the years. Hearing from readers about a post that resonated meant so much!
So why stop? In the past, I would write posts in my head all the time — on a run, walking to daycare, during seminars. During periods where I didn’t have enough time to get them from my head into wordpress, it almost felt like I would explode for not being able to write them. Then the pandemic came.
In general, right now, what feels right for me is to focus my energy and time more locally. (I’ve also been off twitter.) Maybe that will change some time in the future but, for now, I think it’s telling that, for the first time in over a year, I found myself unable to stop my brain from trying to write a post at 2AM. It was this one.
I shall remain forever grateful to Jeremy for inviting me to join this blog and to Meghan for also agreeing to join. I knew when invited that it was one of those things that my career advisors would tell me to reject (if I asked them), but that I was going to say yes to. Hard to believe it’s been 9 years. I’ve said since the first day that the reason I blog is to have discussions with a community I could not talk with through other channels (i.e. more than my university, my colleagues and my meetings). And that has happened in spades. DE has been blessed with what is surely the best commentor community ever. I have agreed, disagreed, and learned a ton from commentors, all while having fun. And Jeremy and Meghan have become very close colleagues. So I am really glad I ignored my head and followed my heart and jumped on board!
For me the transition has been gradual. The pandemic has not helped for sure. But I had been trending to fewer posts even before. Partly other career directions (including the increased levels of service that come with advancing career stage and fun things like working on a book). Partly the shifting social media trends (twitter is where it is at these days, at least in professional academic circles, and I have no desire to move over there and honestly even felt like it robbed the blog of some of its ambience as a place for thoughtful discourse). And a big part is just that I have now already said a lot of the things I most cared about saying (question whether complex statistics are an improvement, do science for science’s sake and ignore attempts to quantify productivity, think deeply about how science works and how science is embedded in society, biodiversity is unsurprisingly showing really complex and varied responses to human impacts and if scientists want to earn credibility we have to do better than sweeping scare stories implying the world is doomed, academic careers are achievable and can be really rewarding, be kind to your peers who are mostly trying to be kind to you, and much more). Probably the thing accomplished that I’m most proud of is that I think all 3 of us did a lot to write down and decode the unwritten rules of how to succeed in academic ecology – I hope there are people still in science today that otherwise wouldn’t have been.
I’m not done done. I’ve still got random posts rattling in my head, and plan to continue to post on an occasional basis. But it is important to recognize the transition. And hence to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the community (who I hope will also continue to check back in) and to my co-bloggers.
The fox knows many things, as our pretentious tagline says. Including when to stop blogging so much.
Some readers will know that I’ve actually been blogging about ecology for even longer than Brian and Meghan–almost 11 years. At this point, I think you have what Meghan calls “old school science cred” if you read my work for Oikos Blog. 🙂 Blogging’s been my main professional identity for years now. At in-person conferences (remember them?), most everyone I meet, friends and strangers alike, compliments me on Dynamic Ecology or else apologizes for not reading it. So you might be surprised to learn that I’m not sad about closing this chapter of my professional life. Indeed, I’m a bit surprised myself to discover that I’m not sad! It feels like the right time to stop–like a retirement.
One small indicator that it’s the right time: I have no urge to go back and total up all the posts we’ve written, all the pageviews and comments we’ve gotten, etc. I know the ballpark figures without having to look–we’ve written 2000ish posts and gotten millions of pageviews. But I can’t be arsed to look up the exact values. I’m sure longtime readers will agree that, when I no longer feel like compiling any data to make my point, something has clearly changed for me. 🙂
So I’m not sad, and I hope you’re not either. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to start blogging, I tried my best to make the most of it, I had a blast doing so, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from others, and hopefully I’ve had some net-positive influence on ecology. Oh, and last but most: I now count Meghan and Brian as two of my closest colleagues and best friends in ecology. What more can anyone ever ask for, professionally? And who knows, maybe one of these years I’ll finish the book I’ve been trying to write–the ideas for which all grew out of my blogging. Dynamic Ecology is over, at least in its current form, but its legacy will hopefully live on for a little while yet.
I’ve been on a music kick lately, so I’ll leave you with this. It feels apropos.