I am very pleased to have a guest post this week from Julio Peironcely from NextScientist.com Julio is also the author of the free e-book 17 Simple Strategies To Survive Your PhD and the video tutorial How To Set Up your Academic Blog
Why I started with academic blogging
It all started out of frustration. Writing an academic blog saved my life, but I think academic blogging is not for everyone.
At the end of 2010, I was in the middle of my PhD, in other words, in the middle of nowhere. Lost without direction. Frustrated with the lack of progress.
I chose to write about it. I used my domain (juliopeironcely.com) to start a blog. I had used that blog as an online hub for my activities. There you could find my details about my research, my papers, news about my progress and a mix of posts about many things.
When I hit PhD rock bottom, I wrote to let some steam out. I was a bit angry I must say. Apart from saying what was not working for me, I tried to come up with advice for myself. This helped to look at my problems from a distance, to see the bigger picture and to think of ways of getting out of the Black Hole I was being sucked into.
Then something unexpected happened. My blog began to get more visitors. Most of them were experiencing the same type of problems. I was not alone!
People commented on the posts and sent emails of support. I really enjoyed writing about my PhD life. But my blog was becoming a bit messy. It lacked a clear theme. I was writing about too many things at the same time. People that landed in my blog could not get a clear idea of what it was about. Is it a collection of my scientific achievements? Is it advice for PhDs?
This is why in February 2012 I decided to branch out my tips for PhDs and NextScientist.com was born
NextScientist.com, the blog for PhD students
Thanks to having Next Scientist I could focus on topics I found interesting and at the same time relevant for young scientists. Time management, productivity, the use of social media, software tools. All these could fit in my new blog.
The goal was clear: help others and have fun. And boy I did.
The blog has grown beyond my expectations, from 100 visitors in the first month to 30k to 40k visitors per month in the last half year. Although I don’t post often, I try to make my posts useful and comprehensive.
Although it is “my” blog, I couldn’t have grown it to what it is today without the help of guest bloggers. I have been lucky to be helped by great contributors that thought Next Scientist was a good place to share their ideas. Thanks to them we could cover topics where I am not an expert, like academic writing, alternative careers or how to start a PhD in a new field.
There have also been some sad moments, specially because of negative feedback by some visitors. A reader was quite angry with me using affiliate links in some of the products I recommend. (If you click on an affiliate link I use and you end up buying that product I get a fee, which can go from 4% to 50% of the sale). After reading other bloggers and online entrepreneurs, it is clear that no matter what you do online (specially if it has to do with money) somebody will hate you for that. It’s a fact, so I don’t worry about it anymore.
The saddest moment was when a scientific director rejected me during a job selection process because of the contents of one of my posts about getting a job in industry after my PhD. After 5 interviews, the director decided that I was an aggressive person and that I would be difficult to manage because in this post I used explicit language.
In retrospect that was good. If you are going to get so sensitive and you don’t even discuss with me to clarify your doubts, then probably I don’t want to work with you.
Not everything have been sad moments, not at all. I have received lots of emails, tweets, comments and LinkedIn invites with encouraging and appreciating messages that motivated me to keep going.
I met lots of great people and many doors opened for me, like writing this guest post for Finish Your Thesis.
As you can see my academic blogging story starts with first helping me and evolved into helping others. That’s one type of academic blog. That worked for me. But could it work for you? Maybe you are interested in other sort of academic blogging. Do you know other types of academic blogs?
3 Types Of Academic Blogging
Well, probably a few more types exist, but these are the most common ones.
- Talking about PhD or science life: This is what I do at Next Scientist or what Dora does here at Finish Your PhD.The goal is to share tips about what it takes to be a scientist. Sometimes the posts are just rants out of sheer frustration, other times they are well thought tips.
- Science outreach: These blogs are closer to scientific journalism. They try to make science accessible to a wide audience that are not scientists per se. You can find blog posts that describe a scientific publication in simple words. Other posts try to educate readers on a topic using scientific publications as inspiration.
- Online diary of scientific activities:
Now the question is: should you write an academic blog?
Opinions come in many flavors. Some say it’s a must. Others say it’s dangerous for your career. I see academic blogging as something positive, yet I would say that you should first think by yourself if a blog aligns with your goals and interests.
To make it a bit easier on you, I have a short list of some of the benefits that an academic blog has for you.
6 Benefits Of Academic Blogging
- Improve your writing: The more you write the better you write. Writing a blog regularly will sharpen your writing skills. This is extra beneficial for PhD students whose native language is not English (provided your academic blog in English, duh)
- Get exposure: People and uncle Google will find your blog and relate your name and surname to the topics you write. If you give well written and insightful posts your reputation will grow.
- Help others: As you have seen with my experience at Next Scientist, helping others from a blog is possible, and rewarding. It feels great when somebody sends an email saying “thanks to your latest post I decided not to quit and try harder” or “you put into words my thoughts, thanks a lot”.
- Clarify your ideas: Coming up with ideas to write, thinking how to write them so they are accessible and writing them, helps you to reconsider your idea multiple times and to look at it from new angles.
- Get feedback: If you share with your readers they will share back their opinion. They will let you know what posts they like and which ones they don’t. They will share new points of view to your research. They will even propose solutions to your challenges.
- See the bigger picture: When blogging you will think What is interesting to write? What is relevant? Why am I writing this? Thanks to this thought process you will take a few steps back from the little details, that daily grind in which we get stuck and see the bigger picture of what you are doing.
Ok, that was for the benefits. Now. let’s shift gears and let’s tackle some of the reasons sceptics tell why you shouldn’t blog as a scientist.
Demystifying Some Academic Blogging Stereotypes
- Peer-reviewed papers count, blogs don’t: The reasoning goes that in grant proposals, job interviews and the like, what people check are your publications and not if you blog. That’s true. But an academic blog can help you progress in science. With a blog you get exposure, you expand your network and you show to more people that you are an expert in that topic. With all these ingredients, some positive things will happen down the road. When you look back to see why they happened, the connecting dots will give you the answer because I was blogging.
- Blogging takes too much time: It takes a lot of time if you want to blog every single day, true. The key is to write one quality post in your academic blog with a frequency that is comfortable for you. What about one post every 3 weeks? Here’s how to do it: you come up with blogging ideas daily, let’s say in the shower, toilet or while commuting. Write them down, just a sentence is enough. Spend one hour a week writing. Use the first two hours to produce a draft. Let it rest for a week. Spend the last of the three hours editing and improving the flow of the post. Click publish. Done. 1h/week. Is it that much?
- You can get into conflict with your boss: If you use common sense, politeness and make clear that “all opinions expressed here are mine and only mine. They don’t represent the views of my employer”, nothing bad has to happened. Or do you really need to mention the mother of your boss in every post??
- Blogging is technically difficult: Nothing further from the truth. No seriously, you can have a free blog up and running in 2 minutes and a blog in your own domain and with total control in 5 minutes. That’s for the set up. It’s embarrassingly easy also to add functionality, like having those social media buttons or enable comments.
So, tempted to start your own academic blog? In other to make the jump even easier, I have a free video tutorial for you that shows how to set up your academic blog in your own domain (your name.com).
Hosting your academic blog in your own domain costs a few bucks but it’s an investment worth every single dollar. Your long-term scientific reputation will benefit. Click here to have access to the blogging video tutorial.
Are you already a blogger? Why don’t you leave a comment with your blogging story? What are your blogging tips and tricks?