It’s personal, it’s growing
Geoblogosphere CommunicationEverybody’s talking at me.
I don’t hear a word they’re saying,
Only the echoes of my mind.
– Harry Nilsson
Geoscience information is getting personal.
In the past two years, the number of science blogs on the Web has grown remarkably.
And that’s also true for geoblogs, or Web logs devoted to the geosciences. AAPG is also entering the blogoshpere. Watch for details.
“You can’t ignore it,” said AAPG member Lee Allison, Arizona’s state geologist.
Allison, who received an AAPG Public Service Award in 2004, said he was the first state geologist to start blogging about local geology, and might be the only state geologist with an official blog.
You’ll find his blog, Arizona Geology, at: http://arizonageology.blogspot.com.
While he still considers blogging an advanced communication tool, Allison said geologists can no longer ignore the wealth of information in blogs.
“That’s like saying, ‘I’m not going to have e-mail,’” he said.
“It’s an amazing communication tool, one of a whole array of capabilities that are coming out,” Allison noted. “This is becoming a very important source of information and communication in the industry.”
Kim Hannula writes the geoblog All of My Faults Are Stress- Related. She’s an associate professor of geoscience at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., and her blog appears at: http://shearsensibility.blogspot.com.
Hannula said the oil and gas and mining industries are hoping to interest young people in geology careers. But right now, they’re trying to communicate with a generation that can sometimes be hard to reach.
Blogs can bridge that gap, she believes. It might be helpful for some petroleum geologists to blog about what their jobs are like day-to-day.
“It’s hard to balance the proprietary nature of business with the openness of blogging,” she said. “On the other hand, it’s a good way of communicating with students about the jobs that are out there.
“There are all sorts of mentoring opportunities, but one thing that’s nice about blogging is that you can do it without buying expensive plane tickets,” she added.
Maria Brumm is the grandmother of geoblogging, attaining a senior status from blogging online for six years. Brumm, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, had her 27th birthday in April.
“For me, it started out as selfexpression and practicing writing,” she said. “It was a way for me to attract a community of people with like interests on the Internet.
“It’s also about what life is like – and that’s part of the outreach,” Brumm noted.
Both the personal nature and the immediacy of geoblogging appeal to her.
Like most other geobloggers, though, she maintains an anchoring interest in geosciece.
“It’s helped me to feel more comfortable about it, writing about science.
I think science blogging in general has really taken off. And it’s timely – you can write a really current article,” she said.
Everybody’s got a story they can tell.
You know you’re not the only one counting
On a quarter and a wishing well.
– Keith Urban
Brumm’s Green Gabbro blog is posted at: http://scienceblogs.com/greengabbro/.
“I read a ‘New Yorker’ article about it, ‘Blogging – The New Trend.’ So I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll join the trend,’” Brumm said.
“Since I’ve been doing it for six years, I’m able to see how I’ve changed in that time,” she added.
Today she’s thinking about expanding into wiki editing, polishing the science entries on the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.
“I’ve been disappointed in the quality of the geology pages,” she said. “It’s one of the things that people turn to and it is kind of disappointing when it’s not very good.”
One of the best places to find links to geoblogs, science blogs and other blogs is Ron Schott’s geoblog Geology Home Companion at: http://ron.outcrop.org/blog/.
“One of the reasons to go out there and look for geoblogs is if you’re interested in geology. There are some interesting discussions, on relevant topics,” said Schott, assistant professor of geology at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan.
Blogs can include information on current events, scientific literature and field trips, as well as pertinent discussion topics, Schott said.
He also said he approaches blogging from an educator’s perspective.
“There are a lot of people using the Internet right now to get information. One of the reasons to blog is to put good information out there,” he said.
“I think the more information about geology there is, the more interest in geology there will be,” he added.
Schott came to the Internet early, but to blogging much later.
“I’ve had Web pages since very early on. I had a personal Web page when I was a graduate student in Wisconsin. At that time, Mosaic was the Web browser of choice,” he recalled.
The motivation to write a blog is probably different for every individual blogger. Schott said blogging may or may not be right for you, but you won’t know until you’ve tried.
“If you have something interesting to say, why not say it in a blog? One of my motivations is to make people more aware of the science of geology,” he said.
Hannula said her blog began as a personal look at geology and a way to include musings on the science.
“It started partly as an outlet for things you would think about in the field that would never make it into a paper, but that are still part of doing the science, of doing geology,” she said.
Blogs also serve as a way to reach out, attract attention, create a personal journal and work through issues professional and personal.
“I think it’s different for everyone who does it. I know some people who do it to get into communication with nonscientists,” Hannula said.
“There are a number of people who use it to work through their thoughts,” she said.
“I use it that way a lot.”
Ain’t no tellin’ lies.
Ain’t no holdin’ back.
Ain’t no tip-toeing.
We too grown for that.
– Mary J. Blige
Allison said he was the first Arizona state official to begin a blog, and he attracted attention in the government because of it.
“My blog is very conservative – not politically, but conservative in nature. I’m treating it as the blog of the state geologist, not as my own blog,” he said.
“I’m fairly certain that I’m the only state geologist blogging right now,” he added. “I’m being a little cautious how I do this, because I know people are watching.”
When Allison reads blogs, he looks for the social angle on geology, not so much the scientific viewpoint.
“I’m coming from the position of a scientist who’s involved in public policy a lot. The most interesting blogs to me are the ones that discuss the intent of science, or science in a social setting,” Allison said.
“This is a way to deal with science in the public arena, because it’s fastmoving,” he noted.
Blogs also can be very current, so “the emergency response aspect is also a piece of it,” Allison observed.
As an example, he cited a recent rockslide that closed Highway 87 in Arizona. His blog became a current source of public information.
“Most of the early reports were, ‘Well, it’s somewhere on this 60-mile road,’ and no one knew where it really was or what was going on,” he recalled.
Allison was able to post exact location information and even photos on his blog site. Newspapers and other media were directing people to his blog, he said.
Geoblogs in general tend to feature more visuals – photos, drawings, maps – than many other types of blogs. And they usually combine personal and scientific views in an outgoing way.
“It tends to be very polite and friendly in a way that political blogs wouldn’t be, unless people post about religion or climate change,” Hannula said. A geoblog reader could be anyone, from a seven-year-old student looking for information to a fellow geologist to a casual observer.
“One of the oddest things is that a mining company tried to headhunt me after reading my blog,” Hannula said, “and I don’t have a strong background in economic geology.”
One of the most interesting developments in geoblogging is The Accretionary Wedge, a blog carnival with a geological theme hosted each month by a different geoblogger.
“The idea, basically, is that you put out a topic and you invite people to make comments on this particular topic,” Schott said. “It actually kind of spurs people to write about things you might not have written about.”
He appreciates that feeling of community and shared interest among geobloggers.
“One good thing about the geoblogosphere is that a lot of things we’ve done have been shared community things. There’s no one dominant,” he noted.
For anyone interested in geoblogs, there’s certainly no shortage of reading material, science topics or current issues to consider.
“What I’ve discovered in the past year and a half is that this thing has proliferated at an amazing rate. It’s really catching on,” Allison said.
“I expect everyone to find blogs they keep reading or linking to. You can’t ignore it, unless you just want to walk away from what’s happening,” he added.
Just one warning: Blogs may be addictive.
“I could probably spend all day reading blogs,” Allison said, “and find wonderful stuff.”
Say what you feel like,
Say how you feel.
You’ll go backwards, but then
You’ll go forwards again.