And who are you?

Dear reader,

two weeks ago I moved this blog from Nature Network to PLoS Blogs. I hope that most of my old readers have followed me here, and that I might even have a few new readers.

The Reader 1770-72

Flickr image by grewlike.

Ed Yong recently talked about how he interacts with his many, many blog readers. One important strategy he uses is to ask his readers for feedback in regular intervals – he calls it delurking. AJ Cann has picked up the idea, and on Wednesday asked the readers of his blog MicrobiologyBytes a few questions. I like them and have blatantly reused most of them:

  • Who are you and what’s your background?
  • How long have you been reading Gobbledygook?
  • Where do you read Gobbledygook – website or RSS?
  • What do you like best about Gobbledygook?
  • How could I make Gobbledygook better for you?

It would be kind if you could provide some feedback in the comments section below.

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18 Responses to And who are you?

  1. AJ Cann says:

    I am the fabled AJ Cann and I borrowed Ed Yong’s great idea too :-) I’m in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Leicester and am a serial blogger.

    I’ve been reading Goobledygook (via RSS) for about a year, Since Solo09, but I was never happy reading it on the Nature Network – commenting was always a problem and I tend not to read blogs (as opposed to news sources) I can’t comment on. I would often like to join in on conversations arising from your thoughtful posts, and I’m very pleased I can now do that here rather than via Friendfeed.

    I like the mix of topics you write about – keep it up.

  2. Martin Fenner says:

    Thanks AJ. This is very valuable feedback. I read a lot of blogs via RSS myself, and therefore like to publish everything via RSS and not just the first paragraph.

    As for commenting, would you like to have a like/dislike button? And what is your experience with Disqus as a commenting system?

    It is good to know that you like to read about a mix of topics, I also like blogs that are very focussed like MicrobiologyBytes (OncoChat and Embargo Watch are two other examples from my blogroll).

    But what is a serial blogger? Something to be concerned about?

  3. Mr. Gunn says:

    Hi Martin!

    I’m William Gunn, and I’m by no means a lurker. I tend to like science-focused posts, mainly because there’s enough room on the web for everyone to be focused on a specific thing and do it well, while readers can get a mix by who they subscribe to. By subscribe I mean RSS, because I read most blogs either by RSS or through sharing of the feeds via Friendfeed/Twitter. Not too big of Facebook, and Nature Network has gotten much better, but still isn’t an easy destination for me.

    I do have opinions about Disqus. I actually tend not to like it third-party commenting services because they increase pageload times and require yet another login. WordPress does a good job of filtering spam via the Akismet plugin, so I don’t use Disqus on my blog.

  4. Martin Fenner says:

    Thanks William! Another reader I have already met in real life. Subscribing to RSS feeds probably means that you normally don’t see the other blog posts in a blogging network (e.g. Nature Network or PLoS Blogs). May I ask what RSS reader you use, e.g. desktop client, Google Reader or RSS reader on mobile phone? I do a lot of my RSS reading on the iPhone on my way to work.

    I also find Twitter and FriendFeed very helpful, and I would add shared posts in Google Reader to that list. And thanks for the feedback on Disqus.

  5. AJ Cann says:

    A serial blogger is someone who has far too many blogs 😉
    I use Disqus at and I was previously very happy with it, but lately it seems to have become increasingly problematic so I can’t recommend it any more. I suggest you look at

  6. Jen Melinn says:

    Hi Martin,

    You can add one more reader you know in person to your list. 😉 I am a lurker. And that goes for most places, not just here. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, couldn’t say exactly how long. But even before I was a regular subscriber I remember people sending me links to posts. I am subscribed via RSS, but I’m sometimes lazy about reading my feeds. It’s usually through FF or Twitter that I’m actually directed to the website before I get to the feed.

    I always enjoy what you post, and I appreciate your enthusiasm for the topics. But most of the time I’m drawn in by the comments and discussions. I think you’re a wonderful moderator and that helps to keep things focused and interesting.

    I read a wide range of blogs, and don’t really pay much attention to the others in a network. I don’t run into formal blogging networks on most of the other topics I care about, so they’re not something I look for. I am a fan of the blogroll though, they’re always helpful.

  7. Martin Fenner says:

    Jen, thanks for your kind words. You are one of the few people pictured in one of my blog posts.

    Like AJ, William and myself, you also seem to be using Twitter and FriendFeed for discovery and discussion of blog posts. I hope you also like the new reading list that I started yesterday. Facebook hasn’t been mentioned yet, but I know that AJ uses it with his blog. In contrast to my old blog at Nature Network, this blog gives me access statistics (through Google Analytics) – another way to get some feedback.

  8. Peter says:

    Hi Martin. As an average lurker I only recently began reading your blog via the PLoS-feed (and googlereader) — and already you caused me to comment. Go figure 😉

    I find your topics very interesting. Actually, I quickly ran through your posts here and I cannot find one uninteresting post. Add to that that you’re one of the few German science bloggers I like to read I actually read your stuff, too!

    Well, I guess I should apologize for not giving a helpful answer to the last two questions. Btw I’m a pure mathematician myself, but somehow you scientist seem to have the better blogs (just kidding, but then again I certainly don’t know a blog of this kind in the math community).

  9. Rintze Zelle says:

    My name is Rintze Zelle, I’m a scientist in the field of biotechnology, and during my PhD studies I became involved with the open source projects Zotero and the Citation Style Language. I have been reading Gobbledygook for a bit over a year now. I follow blogs via Google Reader, but I usually open up the website to read the posts.The coverage of this blog aligns quite well with my interests in academic publishing. My only point of criticism would be that the interviews could perhaps be made a bit more challenging for the interviewee by focusing more on the weak points of the products or services that are described (some of the interviews read a little bit too much like an advertisement). It would also be nice to have the interviewees respond to the user comments.

  10. Martin Fenner says:

    Thanks Peter. Also for your very thoughtful and detailed comments on my Unmeasurable Science post. If you have started reading this blog recently, you might also take a look at my older blog posts. I will transfer them to this blog, but that will take a few more weeks.

    Michael Nielsen obviously is a physicist and not a mathematician, but he writes a wonderful blog about online tools for collaboration and sharing. He has perfected slow-blogging, blog posts as essays, a perfect example is the must-read The Future of Science.

  11. Martin Fenner says:

    Rintze, thanks a lot for your comments regarding interviews, and I completely agree. Ideally an interview should be a good dialogue that also includes the reader. I think a slight change in format will make interviews much more interesting, and I will try that in future interviews.

    After a few introductory questions I will give blog readers the chance to comment and ask questions, and expect interviewees to be available to answer them. Of course there will always be questions that interviewees are uncomfortable answering (e.g. future plans for commercial products), and I would respect that.

    One of the first interviews in that new format could be about Citation Style Language with you and/or Bruce d’Arcus 😉

  12. Martin Fenner says:

    AJ, now I understand serial blogger. I am actually working on starting a second blog myself. This will be a blog about cancer research, written in German and hosted by my university. Is there a serial blogger support group?

  13. Cromercrox says:

    I had no idea you’d moved to PLoS from NN. What brought that on? And do you know I’d this bus goes to the station?

  14. Peter says:

    Martin, thanks for the tip. Nielsen’s blog is really good (even though I knew it already).

    It’s not that there aren’t any mathematics blogs (I follow roughly 20 of them, but there’s plenty more). However, they are either very personal or focused on (personal) research.

    Neither have I found the ‘Research blogging’ idea nor a real blogging network in mathematics. Also, nobody seems to be discussing ‘meta research’ topics (like ORCID, open data or peer review to just quote the things you discussed recently here). And even the most famous Terry Tao writes expository posts for mathematicians only (don’t get me wrong, it’s brilliant, but compare it to Starts with a bang).

    Oh and this finally reminds me of a detail that could be better on PLoS blogs — a simpler markup for the comments (like markdown or textile) would be great, html tags are such a pain…

  15. Martin Fenner says:

    Henry, you apparently didn’t read my Nature Network farewell post two weeks ago. I thought it was time for something new after three years there.

    For those who don’t know Henry, he blogs at The End Of The Pier Show – sometimes as poetry – and is an expert on unicycling giraffes and other interesting things.

    Peter, you are right about the HTML markup for comments. I will find out if we can use Textile or Markup for PLoS Blogs.

  16. Rintze Zelle says:

    @Martin: Sure, and feel free to ask difficult questions :).

  17. Martin Fenner says:

    Rintze, thanks a lot! Watch your email inbox for a few questions about the Citation Style Language.

  18. stranger in a strange land says:

    First, I’m not a scientist.
    Second, I don’t like being called a lurker, it sounds like your calling me a pervert. I don’t understand where some of these terms come from and it doesn’t make sense to me. I read the internet like you would read a newspaper or magazine.
    BTW, I’m not going to take sides in the evolution vs. creation debate. I think such arguments are a horrendous waste of time, effort and money. While I don’t believe that the religious will ever disprove science, I also don’t believe that any scientist has proven that there is no god. Evolutionary theory is the argument most often cited against god’s existance, but at best, evolution theory only takes exception with the story of creation. It doesn not, by any stretch of the imagination, prove that there is no god. As scientists, you folks should know better . . . nuff said.
    As a lurker, I only come here to watch the Alpacas Gone Wild videos, so you know how much stock to put in anything I say. Bring on the salacious stuff!