If you’ve been blogging for a while, or if you have a decent amount of traffic, you’re going to start getting these emails. It’s basically a form letter, asking if you would let some
blogger corporate shill do a guest post, or offering to write a post for you.
This particular one is pretty standard; note that the template has some non sequiturs where the template breaks. (Also, SNORF at “related to the niche of our sex shop.”)
The typical setup if you agree is the spammer provides a blog post that is shot through with links to their shop or to marketing partners. That creates more links for them and more Google Juice, as well as increases their exposure. They don’t want to pay for this, of course.
The letters I get are usually from pesticide companies, although I did get a bunch like this right after I wrote my post about SpiderMan’s penis. I’ve found that if I reply with a completely off-the-wall request, but make it seem serious, they run away and never come back. You want to sound like you are both in earnest and completely unhinged.
This was my reply.
Have never heard from this company or person again
I’m not sure if I would recommend this as a method of dealing with all the spam requests I receive, but it amuses me, and probably wastes some of the spammer’s time. So we’re even.
The latest buzz going round the online science community is an article that suggests that scientists might not be doing enough to communicate with the public. Scicurious wrote an excellent reply. I struggled to find an excerpt that I could quote here, because the whole thing had me jumping up and down and shouting “AMEN, SISTER.” Here’s one bit:
“…all this emphasis on these BIG names bothers me more than that. Big names are fine. Everyone wants someone to look up to. But small name researchers make great communicators too. I know I’m not winning any big prizes soon, but I’d like to think I write a witty, educational blog post now and again. Why is fame the most important thing here? Why do we need a big scientific name? Why can’t we make our names, say, through the outreach we do (and some solid, but perhaps lesser known science)?
If no one knows who these big name scientists are anyway (as the article implies), then why is it necessary that they be the ones to do the outreach? After all, many of the science communication success stories the author cites GOT THEIR NAMES through their outreach. Who were the Mythbusters…before Mythbusters? No one outside his field knew who Neil deGrasse Tyson was before he started doing outreach. These people made their names THROUGH their outreach. The emphasis on Big Names that are ALREADY big seems really elitist.”
I’ve said this before, but it’s especially relevant to me now, as I’m in what seems to be the twilight of my career:
I love insects, I love to write, and I love to find ways to get people to share my OMGBUGZ moments. I’m busting my ass here and on social media every day, not because I am getting famous, and certainly not because it makes me any money. I do it for love.
We know, from decades of research, that what makes a good teacher is passion. Why were Sagan, or DeGrasse Tyson, Nye, or Attenborough successful? Because they love what they do, they love their science, and it shows. (Also, they started in a completely different media environment. And are dudes. But let’s not go there right now.)
There are people out here online with me, passionately writing, podcasting, or videocasting their hearts out. A few lucky ones make a living at it. But just because I don’t have name recognition, that doesn’t mean that I’m not successful. I measure success one comment and one retweet at a time. I don’t have a klout score as high as John Cusack anymore, but that’s not the point.
One person says they changed their mind about hating spiders.
I said something kind to a graduate student and encouraged her.
A local newspaper corrects a mangled insect factoid.
That is what online science communication success looks like now.
With the advent of the internet, ideas or passions bring people together, rather than physical locations or media channels. Scientists that do outreach online–even when it’s looked down upon by fellow scientists? We are modeling positive deviance. It’s not so much what we write that is important, but THAT WE WRITE AT ALL.
We are creating a model for a new kind of science communication. And we are having a bitchin’ time doing it, which invites new people over to have fun with us. We are modeling different ways to share science online to our friends, our friends’ friends, and to the random strange people who keep searching my blog for “sex with insects.” (You know who you are.)
It’s personal relationships that really change the world. I was inspired by Sagan and Attenborough…but it was my not-famous teachers and mentors that helped me get through school and believe that I could be a scientist too. Small individual creative acts (tweets, blog posts, or just chatting on Facebook) can become a thing of lasting value. Shared and random effort can produce useful and meaningful results.
The beauty of the web is that we don’t all have to have the same motivations or professional level of skill. We don’t all have to be working toward the same goal. We can still make change happen simply by putting our ideas out there. The beauty of the web is that scientists can get online and screw around together, playing with ideas.
Who cares if we’re “doing it right.” We’re doing it.
Which is exactly how Insect Carl Sagan Happened. Enjoy.
And then things started to get really awesome:
I wanted to update my regular readers about some upcoming changes here at the Bug Blog!
Diapause is a delay in development in insects. It’s usually in response to periods of adverse environmental conditions. After October 1, I’ll be on posting hiatus, and will close comments. I’ll also be dialing back the Bug Media Empire™ social streams a bit.
The really exciting thing?
YOU DON’T NEED ME ANYMORE.
Eight years ago there were no bug blogs. Hell, there weren’t that many nature-related blogs. But today? There is an amazing amount of writing and media related to entomology online. Just look at my list–which is still incomplete. I discover new blogs daily.
I’ve been working on giving all of you a brain dump about how to dominate insect social media for the last couple of weeks because I have learned a LOT of stuff in the 7 years I’ve been blogging. I want all of you to benefit from that.
I’m not leaving forever! I’ll still post at Skepchick as Bug Girl, and I’ll still be socializing on social media–just not as much as in the past. I need to spend more time on things I do with my real name in the real world. I serve as Webmaster for several non-profits, and they will be what I focus more energy on in the near future. I hope to also finally find time to finish up the bug blog survey project, and a few other dangling threads.
More rambling below the fold for those who are morbidly curious.
Welcome to part 2 of the series on social media! This series of tips will focus on how to make your online reading more efficient.
Social Media Tip #4: Work Smarter, not Harder.
I love the internet. Billions of fascinating bits of information, lovely photos, and hilarious viral videos are uploaded daily.
That would also be the primary problem with the internet.
It’s easy to end up curled in a fetal ball under your desk just thinking about all the journals you aren’t reading, but that you think you should. And that’s the boring stuff.
What amazing podcasts and blog posts are you missing? What fresh hell of asshattery is some politician spouting off about? The most important corollary to Tip 4 is:
4.1. Give yourself permission to not read everything.
You can’t read it all. It’s impossible. So stop feeling guilty about it.
4.2. No. Seriously. Don’t try to read it all.
Later in this post, I will explain how you can have have all the awesomeness of the internet delivered to you automatically. That can then become an additional source of stress.
Journal Table of Contents in your inbox? For a journal you haven’t looked at in months? Unsubscribe.
Feed or bookmark for a blog that updates rarely, or doesn’t match your interests anymore? Delete.
Be realistic. If you have a bunch of stuff sitting in your inbox, and you haven’t read it in weeks? It’s not urgent, and you can just delete or archive it.
Before you start using any of the tools I’m going to tell you about, take a hard look at what you are doing right now in terms of your reading and work habits. What can you stop doing?
Look at your “dumb things I gotta do” list and get rid of items that are vague. Take a day and clean your inbox and workspace completely. Have you turned off your email notifications, so that you aren’t interrupted constantly? Everything piled up digitally or physically around you is taking up emotional space.
This paper (just pages 4-8 to skip the academic jargon) has a very nice summary of the Getting Things Done methodology. Give it a look. GTD made a HUGE difference in my stress levels when I found it 7 yrs ago.
Now you are ready, grasshopper.
4.3 Use tools to make the time you spend sifting and looking for information as short and convenient as possible.
Still clicking through a bunch of bookmarks to look at stuff? Dude. UR Doin’ It Wrong. You can have information delivered to you!
Many of my readers already know this, but I find that when I start talking about “RSS feeds” to my medium to low-tech-savvy friends, eyes tend to glaze over. So let’s have a very brief review, and then jump into tools I like.
XML is basically a type of web language that contains the content of a blog, newspaper, or many other types of media, stripped of formatting and packaged to be portable. XML feeds are usually indicated with an icon; this orange RSS one is the most common. Here’s the Bug Blog Feed, for example. Because of this packaging, you can have news, blog posts and comments, or journal Table of Contents ported into a web application or emailed to you at your convenience.
Personally, I try to avoid having emails sent, because it not only further clutters my inbox, but it is delivered to me when it’s convenient for the publisher, not me. Then it sits there in the inbox. J’accuse! You have not done your reading!
Email is such a bastard sometimes.
4.4. Sometimes being a tool is a good thing.
Here are my favorite tools to automate my reading; most of them work on a “dashboard” model that allows you to arrange your feeds into groups, and even play a little with colors. The key here is that I retrieve information when it is convenient for ME. Not when it is published.
- Hootsuite (Yes, the same tool that automates your social media posting!)
- Google Alerts
When I got back from ScienceOnline, my boss asked me how it went. (I was sort of AWOL from the first week of class, and she was not real thrilled about that.) “It was one of the greatest experiences of my life” was my response. That’s what I feel–but I’ve been trying to figure out WHY.
You can see the full list of attendees here–it’s a really fascinating bunch. To name check just a few: Wired. BoingBoing. Nature. Science. Ed Yong. Carl Zimmer. Museums. And, uh, independent blogger/social media types like me. And so here I am, feeling like a little bug scuttling among giant writers. And I discover…that people actually read my shit. And know who the hell I am. Whoa.
Everyone was geeked about science and about communicating science. IT WAS AWESOME. But Why was it so awesome? I think Ed Yong nails it in his summary–we “knew” everyone before we arrived. Even though I hadn’t ever met 447 of the 450 folks attending in meatspace, I had chatted with them online, commented on their blogs, and read their books. From further discussion in the comments from David Dobbs:
“The steady message, via the unconference idea, that it’s a relatively level playing field — or, as someone put it on Twitter, that it’s not experts and non-experts, but different people all bringing different experiences in areas we’re all interested in. It’s a steady insistence that it’s not a producer-consumer model, with the audience full of consumers, but rather a conversation.
The other key, it seems to me, is that it’s a fairly balanced mix of mainly-scientists and mainly-journalists/communicators, so it’s not a single peer group, as it were — not a single discipline. There’s always this chemistry of excitement, of mixing with another tribe. To me that’s an important part of what distinguishes ScienceOnline. And I think it helps create the sense of humility and egalitarianism: Prominence in one area doesn’t make anyone top dog at this conference, because even the most distinguished people in one area are among not just their own discipline’s peers but amid those of another discipline in which they have little expertise or distinction.”
Just before I went to ScienceOnline, I read a book called Cognitive Surplus. And it kind of blew my mind. Shirky’s central thesis is that the web and the relatively large amount of leisure time in the first world (i.e, time not spent working for the man, or raising our food) has created an amazing opportunity.
We kill a lot of that free time in very unimaginative ways. Americans spend 200 BILLION hours each year watching television. What if all that brain power was directed toward something? Shirky posits a surplus of creative energy exists, and is only beginning to be tapped. For example, take the humble LOLcat:
“Formed quickly and with a minimum of craft, the average LOLcat has the social value of a whoopie cushion and the lifespan of a mayfly. Yet anyone seeing a LOLcat gets a second unrelated message: You can play this game too.”
The internet bridges the gap between doing nothing and doing something. Creating a LOLcat is more than passive consumption of pre-packaged TV shows…and opens the door to doing other original things.
Time and space are not a constraint to community formation–ideas or passions now bring people together, rather than physical locations. Scientists that blog online–even when it’s looked down upon by fellow scientists? We are modeling positive deviance. It’s not so much what we write that is important, but THAT WE WRITE AT ALL.
We are creating a model for a new way of science communication. And we are having a bitchin’ time doing it, which invites new people over to have fun with us. You can play this game too. We are showing lots of different ways to share science online to our friends, our friends’ friends, and to the random strange people who keep searching my blog for “sex with insects.”
It’s a kind of nerdibacter called social contagion. The internet creates social change among total strangers. Think it’s too sparkly-kumbaya to really work? Just look at an example from earlier this month: A shark researcher calls out a company for sponsoring a shark hunt. He manages to mobilize an amazing network via Twitter, and the company not only pulls the promotion, but blacklists the person from ever posting with them again. And that all played out within the space of one day.
Small individual creative acts (tweets or blog posts) can become a thing of lasting value. Shared and unmanaged effort can produce useful and meaningful results. No one is in charge, and that’s OK. The beauty of the web is that we don’t all have to have the same motivations, or skills, or professional level of skill. We don’t all have to be working toward the same goal. We can still make change happen simply by putting our ideas out there. And the value of that work isn’t from professional production values; it’s from the sharing.
A lot of the attendees at SciOnline were people like me–folks who don’t get paid to write about science. We do our thing (write, podcast, tweet, whatever) simply for the love of it. And we are wearers of many hats–as Bora reports in his ScienceOnline2012 wrap-up post:
According to our registration form report, ScienceOnline2012 had 243 bloggers, 153 journalists, 151 scientists, 115 educators, 71 students, 43 enterpreneurs, 34 Web developers and 46 who identified as ‘other’. That total is almost 900, so on average everyone (457 people checked in at the registration desk) checked two boxes.
Even though the US is clearly falling apart politically, in a lot of ways SciOnline left me more optimistic and hopeful about the future than I’ve been for a long time. All these people doing something because of a passion for science–it was wonderful.
“Magical things can happen when you enthusiastically open your mouth on the internet….Looking into others causes you to look into yourself. And then something really magical happens – we learn we are not alone.”
I will totally be up at 1AM next year trying to get a seat for ScienceOnline2013. But you know what? If I don’t get a seat? Or if I don’t have the time or energy to keep blogging/tweeting/whatevering at the same rate I do now?
It’s ok. The kids have it covered.