Pinning one’s hamster to the mast

Why do we blog (and other important questions)? So asks Martin Fenner at Nature Network, and although the questions are intended for bloggers (scientists or people in science-related professions, in the main) on Nature Network, I thought I'd answer Martin's questions over here. Henry got in first, with his usual inventive answer, while the rest of us were still dithering over whether to do it, when, etc. Henry's post starts: "Unafraid as I am to pin my hamster to the mast in a sudden crisis, I shall splench my mainwairing to the thistledown and gladiate hencewithstanding." In my characterstically more prosaic (OK, boring) style, here's my stab.

1. What is your blog about?

Mainly books, but anything, really.

2. What will you never write about?

I will never ask anyone to give me money via this blog (or anywhere else, probably).

3. Have you ever considered leaving science?

I already did.

4. What would you do instead?

Mooch about in some sphere related to editing or reading or writing.

5. What do you think science blogging will be like in 5 years?

More scientists will be doing it, maybe as part of an integrated lab page or personal page. I am not sure if blogging about research output will increase that much, but some more scientists than now will probably be using blogs to post preliminary progress reports and so on. I think the biggest growth will be among those using blogs to showcase their work and career.

6. What is the most extraordinary thing that happened to you because of blogging?

I got work (some even paid), and I made some very good friends. Also, I sometimes get to meet authors of books I love reading.

7. Did you write a blog post or comment you later regretted?

Yes. I've learnt quickly that I don't like to blog about my personal circumstances or those of my family and friends. I tend to stick to thoughts rather than feelings, it is safer.

8. When did you first learn about science blogging?

Through discovering (and being shown how to use) RSS.

9. What do your colleagues at work say about your blogging?

They either ignore it (most of them); or they acknowledge it and are either vaguely positive or vaguely negative about it. Two people (only, out of several hundred colleagues) engage me in conversation about what I post on my personal blog. One (other) person told me that he values a particular regular feature I write on one of my work blogs. One treasures these little gems.

10. An additional question, or maybe challenge, is to write a blog entry which takes the form of a poem about your work. I can't do that, but I did once write a play arising from my blog, called Petronarati.

11. Another additional question is "how the heck do you have time to blog and do your research at the same time?" I don't do research, but I do work, commute and have a general stab at running a domestic establishment. After taking that out of the daily equation, I have about an hour, or maybe two, left. So I prioritise. For three years, I've spent a good deal of that "free" time blogging and reading or commenting on blogs. I could do other things, like "do good", or read, or watch TV, or listen to the radio etc, or have a social life, or be a roving axe-murderer, but I don't do much of any of that. (Some categories I don't do at all.) But I'm wondering now whether to wind blogging up, having gone through a euphoric phase when I began back in 2005, which transitioned to a general appreciation of it and the connections I made, through to it becoming a bit of a chore. Now I've discovered Friend Feed, I might just stop blogging in its favour – though at the moment, the Friend Feed "rooms" I know about are heavily science-focused, there are not very many readers of fiction on there, and I like a balance. (We do have a great crime fiction room, though, which could do with a few more members.)