Saturday, January 24, 2009

Questions on Nature Blogging

Last weekend Coturnix hosted a science blogging conference down in North Carolina. One session, moderated by GrrlScientist and Kevin Zelnio, was devoted to nature blogging. The session discussed a series of questions, and the audience's written responses are posted here. I'll add my own responses, since I wasn't in attendance.

1. What is a nature blog? What is the difference between nature and science blog writing? What is the difference between nature blog writing and other types of blog writing?

I believe that science blogging and nature blogging overlap, but only partially. I think the term "science blog" implies a higher level of professional knowledge than is found on most nature blogs, including my own. Nature blogs can be many things, but it seems the most common subjects are encounters with the natural world.

2. What are (should be) the goals for nature blog writing? [This is the "why bother with nature blog writing at all?" question]

I think the goal depends on the individual blog. I would not try to prescribe what other blogs ought to be doing since ultimately a blog is just a medium for communication.

3. How important are blog carnivals for connecting nature-loving folks (e.g., I And The Bird, Circus of the Spineless, Carnival of the Blue, Oekologie...)?

Blog carnivals are useful for drawing attention to one's blog, especially for new bloggers. I think it also serves as a way to build blogger communities by making it easier to find other people writing about similar topics.

4. What do you think about collaborative global sites like: iNaturalist, Faunapolis, Scratchpads, The Internet Bird Collection, UKmoths, Identify a butterfly and Useum?

I like the idea of sharing observations, and I think that will be more prevalent in the future. I use eBird more than any of those, though. (BirdStack deserves a shout-out too.)

5. Who is the audience? What are they looking for, what are they finding?

My primary audience is random Googlers. Beyond that, there are other nature bloggers, nonbloggers interested in similar topics, and some family and friends. Oh, and, what Respondent #8 said.

6. How much science is (and should or should not be) associated with nature stories and pictures?

It really depends on the skills and inclinations of the blogger. Most nature blogs that I read involve at the very least basic taxonomy (i.e., identifying sightings) and some behavioral observations (sometimes with explanations).

7. What is the best nature essay you've read in the past year or so? Why did you like this essay so much?

I can't think of one off the top of my head because I have read so much nature writing in the past year.

If anyone reading this wants to leave their own answers, go here.