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.)


14 thoughts on “Pinning one’s hamster to the mast

  1. Fascinating insights until I came to the phrase 'I might just stop blogging…' Please carry on we need you to keep bringing us the good, the intelligent and the enlightening content that is Petrona.

  2. …which is rather good, in fact. Now that I've met a few of these bloggers, I would say you'd 'got them' surprisingly well! Very funny too – I especially like the reference to the distractions of minor characters. More please.

  3. Pray do not abandon your blog, Maxine, for else I should be bereft and bereaved, forsaken and forlorn. Mayhap I might eschew all nourishment, pining pitifully, fading to a shade…requiescat. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth and people will blame YOU! Now we've got that out of the way, stop messing about and set about conjuring some nifty divertissement for your next post.

  4. Prosaic!? Hardly – I've just read your 'Petronarati'. If there ever comes another time we meet in the vicinity of a bar, I want a shot of whatever poison you partake of.

  5. I love your blog, even if I don't comment much these days. And I'm sure glad you're doing this instead of being a "roving axe murderer"!

  6. I should really stop reading these answers to the "martinmeme" you cleverly coined – everyone's taking away any potential answers I might make.
    This rang so true: "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."
    You can count me among your FF readers of fiction – but not reviewers. I've recently finished the third novel of the Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson – ha! I see they're not out in English yet! advantage of being bilingual – and they do get better and better. This explains why I've not been posting a lot of blog entries lately. The French cover is better, too…
    Anyhow, your posts are eminently appreciated, and your ability to lead quite so many parallel lives leaves me in awe.

  7. Oh thanks, Heather – how lovely of you. And thanks also for the news on Millennium – I have a proof copy of book 2 (out in UK in Jan) to read, but I am wondering whether to wait until nearer to Jan 2010, when book 3 will be out here… probably will not be able to.
    And thank you, Susan, much appreciated also.

  8. Let me echo the comments above that cried "Don't stop!" – though I can understand that managing quite so many blogs might get to you from time to time. I don't know how you do it: my hat is off!

  9. Oh please let me add my plaintive cry to those above: Don't Stop Blogging!!! Petrona would be very very sadly missed indeed.
    (And delighted to discover, once and for all, that you are NOT a roving axe-murderer, but then I never did believe all those who were suggesting that it was you!!)

  10. Maxine, you have been avid reading for me, for a few years now. I may not always comment, but, unsophisticated that I am in comparison to you, to get these "RSS feeds" you talk about, I look at Petrona at least once daily when I am home. So I say, do not give up. Please.
    I know that when you have so many other things to juggle in life, blogging can become a chore. I will admit to struggling with it myself this year, but for different reasons to yours. But then something seems to happen provide a lift and I'm sure you have those too. The comments here should make your most recent!
    My advice would be to cut down on the breadth of your blogging. It is Petrona that proves to be your main site, I suspect. Look at your stats, compare them and ask yourself how much you really need the others, such as Vox etc.
    I would prefer to read more from you than less from you. But perhaps narrowing down the sites? Just a thought.
    I believe that anyone with a blog goes through cycles of disillusion and doubt. Two years in – "This is proving a bit heavy but I will carry on". Three years in – "Why am I bothering?"
    We can only apply what time and enthusiasm we have. And when the enthusiasm wanes in a significant way, it is then time to draw a line. Maxine, I do not think you have reached the drawing line; you are querying the juggling you have to manage each day. All the best!
    [And go on, give me a smile and a clap for a comment that has no inverted commas to be lost in the comment bug! 😉 ]
    Stick with it, Maxine. I do hope so.

  11. Oh well, Typepad lost my double inverted commas too, such is the life of a bug. I am so not about to sign up for beta testing!
    LOL – a grouchy crimefic…

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