Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whence the GeoBlogosphere

David Bressan and Michael Welland are co-hosting this month's Accretionary Wedge, which goes meta and asks questions about the Geoblogosphere and geoblogging. Where is the geoblogosphere going? Can geoblogging impact society? What is the purpose of geoblogging? Without going into a long rant about why I blog, which I've probably never done but which has been included in more than one blog and geoblog survey, I'll ramble into a few possibly related topics.

First off, when I speak of the Geoblogosphere, I include geologists, geophysicists, and other geoscientists who are blogging. Some of the bloggers in this larger Geoblogospheric group don't always blog about geology or geosciences, some do all or most of the time, some do occasionally to even rarely. This wide range of types of blogging — informal, formal, science-related, more personal — is really one of the things I like and enjoy about the Geoblogosphere as it is today and as it has been over the past couple-few years that I've been reading and blogging. I personally derive value from reading from a wide range of topics, and also in knowing — and sometimes even meeting — bloggers from many backgrounds, regions, and countries. For good summaries of geoblogging and the geoblogosphere see Active Margin, Clastic Detritus and Research at a Snail's Pace. I would also like to point out that Kim Hannula, Anne Jefferson, Suzanne Franks, and Pat Campbell studied women-in-science blogs (this blog is part of the Geoblogosphere and is also one of the many women-in-science blogs), and found that a diversity of blog types and topics is valuable to women. Their results were presented as a paper at the 2009 GSA Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, and are reported online here.

The Geoblogosphere as I know it consists of a broader range of geoscientists than the smaller, more restricted group I meet and know through professional and alumni associations.

The number of geobloggers seems to have increased greatly in the last year or so, at least judging by the number of feeds at AllGeo — and at Geoblogosphere News, which I don't follow as closely, but which aggregates a wide range of geoblogs. My sidebar GeoBlogosphere links also reflect this increase, though I list inactive to relatively inactive geoblogs, and have kept links to original blogs when a geoblogger has moved to a new site. What is inactive? Well, that's a matter of perception, and I've considered putting inactive geoblog links into another category, but haven't done that yet. Having them all there in my sidebar, listed alphabetically, is pleasing to me. I certainly don't have them all, especially on the palaeontology side of things — there are a huge number of palaeo blogs.

What does the Geoblogosphere do? We generally have strong to loose overlapping and intermingling groups of blog writers, who comment on each other's blogs, who sometimes meet here and there, who send each other information, who support each other in sometimes tangible and often intangible ways. Some geobloggers write about their research and the research of others. Some write about geology in a way that can interest both geologists and non-geologists. Some write more personal items and things not completely related to geoscience or work in the geosciences. Some are now writing articles for geo-magazines, or have written one or two magazine articles — which came about at least in part from our exposure at the 2009 GSA Annual Meeting in Portland.

Should the Geoblogosphere join together in a joint project of some kind? I'm not really sure what sort of thing that might be or who would coordinate it. I do know that several geobloggers have recently been involved in protesting the proposed removal of serpentinite as a state rock in California (see an incomplete list here). This geoblogging-tweeting-mediacontacting-letterwriting protest has been a way to (hopefully) increase people's understand about some geologic issues and terminology, and it arose naturally, without plan.

Possibly we in the Geoblogosphere are more civil than some bloggers in other parts of the science blogosphere. Possibly we used this general civility to our advantage with the above-mentioned serpentinite issue, an issue which was brought to our attention initially by Andrew Alden and Garry Hayes, and which was then carried on by many bloggers, including some outside our usual circle of geoblogs, many geotweeters and others on Twitter, and which was finally taken up by the MSM, who were contacted by @geotripper (Garry Hayes) and @westcenter (Jon Christensen). Would we garner more attention for this issue by loud shouting? Who knows? The activism aspect of geoblogging is described in more detail by Jim Repka.

Should the Geoblogosphere do more things like this? I don't know. I really hate the word "should."

Should we as a group promote ourselves somehow? I'm not really sure, other than the ways in which we promote currently, which is individually and also collectively as a group with a presence both in the blogosphere and on twitter.

Are blogs private business or public affairs? In musing on this question, I have to lean toward the idea that any given blog is what the blogger (author) wants and deems it to be, that there isn't and shouldn't be any one model of blogging or of geoblogging. Within this general topic, I have to say that I don't really like the idea of prior restraint (of topics or of blogging in general) by employers, but realize that many of the non-academic bloggers like myself have some kinds of blogging restrictions, either self or other imposed.

Are geoblogs a business, as in money-making business? Well, so far for me, no. For others, maybe some. I have recently and tentatively added a few Amazon Affiliate links to a small number of older posts, and am considering other types of advertising. What I have added so far is not a pay-per-click type of program; I would only get paid if someone clicks through and actually buys something. I'm not really sure how I feel about this small experiment; I'd love to get paid enough to quit my day job.

Where are we going? Into the future!

This post is a submission for The Accretionary Wedge #26 being hosted by David Bressan at History of Geology (he also blogs at Cryology and Company) and Michael Welland at Through the Sandglass.


Lockwood said...

I've been struck by how much work and thought people have put into this topic. I need to get something written up today, but my thoughts are pretty disorganized.

Silver Fox said...

I had this post knocking around for many days, finally found a bit of organization for it!

Gaelyn said...

I so enjoy reading several geoblogs and learn a lot. Yet I also enjoy the personal side.

Silver Fox said...

Gaelyn, I like the personal aspect also - I guess that's why I write about it (some).