A brief dash of opinionated meta-blogging on blogging groups and their focus.*

Looking around the science blogging networks, I see a lot of fretting ’why aren’t we more like blogging group X’.

I’m not convinced it’s the problem some make it out to be, and I have to admit I feel a bit depressed when I see people fretting this way.

Bora has written comprehensively on issues about blogging groups. I couldn’t possibly complete; do read his posts (2 links). I have to admit his articles are so comprehensive I worry he’s already made my point somewhere in there and that this is hence redundant… (My contribution is certainly insignificant by comparison!)

I’d like to offer one small and rather modest thought, that a blogging group doesn’t have to be everything for everyone, and to my mind in many cases probably shouldn’t try to.

In business you need to know (a) what it is that you stand for and (b) your point of difference, what sets you apart from your rivals. Finding your own niche is more usually the game than copy-catting.

Take for example a comment by Heather Etchevers at Nature Network,

I received the following comment from a long-time reader, elsewhere, and it explained a lot for me. To add to the other anecdotes recounted earlier in the thread.

You’ll probably recall that I used to be a regular commenter before you moved your blog to nature.. at that point I felt kinda lost, like you’d moved to a community that as a layman i was outside of, so i wandered off.

A shame, and if he has expressed himself thus, The 90-9-1 rule applies in the other direction, so imagine how many other worthwhile contributing commenters do the same?

(I’m not trying to single out Nature Network, or make this about that blogging network in using this example.)

If the intention of Nature Networks was include a wider audience, then this might be a loss, otherwise it may simply be the reader (or blogger for that matter) realising, perhaps belatedly, the place isn’t a fit for them.

I personally rather like Nature Network’s ’scientist’ focus. It does mean the audience will be more limited. I lean towards blogs where visitors really discuss things (not argue or debate), and with that I often like the quieter places on the ‘web with substantive articles and thoughtful regulars who contribute.

There are blogging groups focused more tightly still. Genomes unzipped, for example, is a group that writes on many aspects of personal genomics including legal issues, diagnostics, and recent research findings. I imagine this works best for areas that are in high demand, and personal genomics is a very topical issue. Again, the tighter focus has it’s appeal.

I’d personally like to see more effort in exploring what each group can (successfully!) present as it’s own unique focus, rather than worrying too much about what the larger groups are doing. Let ’em be, perhaps, and worry more about how to make one own’s group successful in it’s own way, what it’s focus ought to be, and how to ’sell’ that particular focus.

Some of these issues are not just about the size and focus of a group, but also how the features of the group are presented (which has a lot to do with good web design) and how the group promotes the bloggers and their articles (two different things, note). Poor web design and promotion can thwart the aims of on-line efforts.

Lest this be thought of as being divisive, I am strongly for the suggestion made elsewhere (by Bora, for one) for better networking amongst the networks, for example by featuring work of other science blog groups. This is part of the reason I set up my Other science blogs links (see below banner). It also reminds me that I need to update my blogroll!


* I accept the gripes about meta-blogging being so much navel-grazing, but in my defence this is Sunday! ;-)

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