Preposterous Universe

Monday, February 28, 2005
A year, leapt

Here's how bad I am at advance planning: one year ago, I started this blog on leap day, February 29th. You can look it up. Which means that I have to wait another three years before I can celebrate a proper anniversary. Not that I have the patience to wait.

I only really discovered blogs slightly over a year ago. The idea seemed interesting, but the signal-to-noise ratio was awfully low. Of course, that's mostly a matter of finding the really good blogs out there, and eventually I was astonished at the quality of these things that people were apparently throwing together in their spare time. Roger Ailes, Pandagon, The Poor Man -- how did these guys do it?

Admittedly, there weren't many physicists out there -- Jacques Distler being the lonely pioneering voice from the particle/string/cosmo crowd that I would be familiar with in my professional life. (One year later, among others, we have all of Quantum Diaries!) So, although I've had my own web page since about 1994, I was a little leery about jumping into this blogging thing myself. The last thing I needed was extra stuff to do.

The tipping point was noticing Michael Bérubé's blog. Now here was a famous academic whose work I had admired for years, who was clearly much more busy than I am, who nevertheless had recently started a blog that he was regularly filling with marvelously entertaining and provocative posts, all while maintaining a rigorous hockey schedule, it seemed. If he could do it -- well, okay, just because Michael can do it doesn't mean that I could do it, but at least it means that it can be done, so why not give it a try?

So I actually emailed Michael to ask about how blogging fit in with the usual chores of academic life, and he immediately responded with words of encouragement. I still didn't want to go through any significant wrangling with new software or any such thing, but I devoted one Sunday to trying to figure out how the basic mechanics worked. I found that blogspot provided hosting and software for free, and Haloscan did the same for comments and trackbacks, so I just went that route of least resistance. Longtime Preposterous readers will recognize that I've never put much effort into tweaking the aesthetics of the site, but after an afternoon of effort it seemed to be working, and we went live on February 29th.

And, lo and behold, people started visiting! My first link was from PZ Myers at Pharyngula, who soon became another blog role-model, although I will never have a fraction of his energy. Henry Farrell at the incomparable Crooked Timber added me to their blogroll, and offered other useful advice. Soon after starting up, I was invited to appear on Science Friday after a producer found the blog, and whenever I travel somewhere to give a talk I hear nice things from people who are regular or occasional readers. We're up to about a thousand visitors per day, not that I notice or anything. Growth still seems to be linear, although you never know when it might plateau.

I've been pretty good at keeping to my self-imposed goal of having about one post per weekday (helped along the way by guest-bloggers Gretchen Helfrich, Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise, and Risa Wechsler [who has a great blogging career ahead of her when she decides to take up the challenge]). And, glancing through the archives, I actually really liked some of the posts! (Others were kind of pot-boilers, I admit.) Here are some of my personal favorites, for those of you who haven't been regulars from the start.
I'm always asked how I can find the time to do the blog. It does take time, but it's leisure time to me, and I honestly don't think it affects work in any noticeable way. (Reading other people's blogs -- that's a different matter.) Still, I would certainly never want it to become a burden. As you may have noticed, this is not a public-service blog -- it exists only to amuse me. I might write a lot about physics, but that's just because it's what I'm often thinking about, not because I'm trying to fill any systematic science-news-reporting niche. (Although I was greatly tickled/horrified to get email from Chris Mooney saying that he was going to send me a copy of his upcoming book, in my role as a member of the media. That's not the side of the divide that I think of myself as being on, but okay.) So, I certainly intend to keep it up, although I'll be more than willing to reduce the pace of posting or to take a sabbatical if that seems necessary to maintain my sanity.

Thanks to everyone for reading over the last year. In celebration, I will depart from my usual custom and actually ask for suggestions on how to make the blog even better. This is your chance to sound off, so what do you think? More pictures of me? Switch to a purple background? More basketball content? Not that I will take any advice, but at least I'll think about it.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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