Why I Blog?

Life is Short. Do Z-turn!

Sheer egoism”, George Orwell wrote in his famous article Why I Write, “Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc”. Honestly, this is one of my motivations why I plan to blog here. Although I’ve learned English for more than ten years, writing skill is still my shortage, comparing with reading and speaking. Now I will push myself to write more in English either on topics related to my life or my research. As a neophyte PhD student, public my information on Internet will help others to find me easier, and know me better.

I may be a later bird to start blogging, but I am still glad to try and keep on. Several years ago, I had a dream to build a personal website, now the dream came true. I should work harder and contribute more to my website, which is a recorder of my life and offers me an opportunity to look back what I have done in the past.

I taught myself and firstly created this website in December, 2013 by WordPress, whereas two months later I migrated it to Jekyll hosted by GitHub. Because I do not want to waste too much time on maintaining websites and database which is a tedious work. Luckily, GitHub helps me to host all my website’s documents and database for free. By far, this is the best choice as I know. With the great service of GitHub and the plain-text writing interface with Jekyll, I decide to stay here as the home of my website in the future.

Note: Today (2014-05-27), I hunt a great article Scientists should blog wrote by CJA Bradshaw. He listed 11 reasons why scientists should blog that I completely agree, which are:

I’ve written before about the importance of having a vibrant, attractive and up-to-date online profile (along with plenty of other tips), but I don’t think I’ve ever put down my thoughts on blogging in particular. So here goes.

  1. The main reasons scientists should consider blogging is the hard, cold fact that not nearly enough people read scientific papers. Most scientists are lucky if a few of their papers ever top 100 citations, and I’d wager that most are read by only a handful of specialists (there are exceptions, of course, but these are rare). If you’re a scientist, I don’t have to tell you the disappointment of realising that the blood, sweat and tears shed over each and every paper is largely for nought considering just how few people will ever read our hard-won results. It’s simply too depressing to contemplate, especially considering that the sum of human knowledge is so vast and expanding that this trend will only ever get worse. For that reasons alone, blogging about your own work widens the readership by orders of magnitude. More people read my blog every day than will probably ever read the majority of my papers.
  2. Related to (1), even your audience diversifies when you blog. From school children to journalists to politicians to scientists in other disciplines, people who would never think to read (or be able to understand) your technical paper will suddenly be able to digest the results in at least their basic form. In essence, a blog post becomes your own personal newspaper article about your work.
  3. A greater audience means that you’ll also likely get your work across to more of your peers who will be interested in collaborating with you. Yes, even scientists read other scientists’ blog posts. I have been approached many times by previously unacquainted peers with ideas for collaboration based solely on the subject of my blog posts.
  4. You have a moral obligation to disseminate your results to the public as best you can, because let’s face it, most of our funding comes from public sources (national science agencies, government grants, NGOs and even philanthropists). In my view, believing that you’ve achieved that dissemination once your paper goes online is self-delusional and unfair to the members of society that funded it.
  5. Even if you’re a cold-hearted bastard that isn’t swayed by the moral or goodwill arguments, you can justify blogging by appreciating that it will probably lead to a higher number of citations of the original article. But don’t just take it from me, there are now empirical studies emerging that show that the more a paper is visualised outside of academia, the more it’s cited within (see here and here for examples).
  6. Have you ever had one of your papers butchered by a so-called ‘journalist’, sensationalised by a reporter or just ignored by an influential news outlet? Most scientists can relate. A great reason to blog is, as I hinted above, that you can ‘cut out the middle man’ and publish your own ‘news’. Of course, still deal with traditional journalists and reporters, but take more of the matter into your own hands and rely less on non-specialists.
  7. Related to (6), blog posts are a great precursor to traditional media releases. Every time I wish to send out a press release, I e-mail a copy of the paper in question and the blog post covering the topic to my university’s media team. It makes their job much easier and limits the probability of translation errors.
  8. Blogging allows for a certain amount of independence from the shackles of institutional restraint. Like people afraid of inadvertently raising the ire of their employers for posting online material, blogging ‘independently’ of your institution’s main web presence gives you some (but not necessarily complete) freedom.
  9. As I’ve written recently, good writing skills are a key element of being a good and successful scientist. Blogging frequently means that you will hone your writing skills, which will make your scientific papers/books/chapters more concise, easily understood and engaging. Practice makes perfect.
  10. “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about” (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 1890). A little self-indulgent, perhaps, but for many of the reasons outlined above, getting ‘known’ improves your scientific career. Use your blog to promote yourself.
  11. For the same reasons why it’s easy to debunk the argument that it’s all too difficult to find the time to keep one’s online profile up-to-date, blogging shouldn’t really add much to your daily agenda. If you’re spending more than a few hours blogging per week, you’re probably cutting into important scientific writing time. Limited like this, it’s an easier pill to swallow.

Below is the boring log of this website showing what I have z-turned.

  • Before 2013 Begin to learn how to build personal websites
  • 2013-02-02 Create my Weebly homepage
  • 2013-03-01 Create my Google homepage
  • 2013-12-10 Begin to build personal websites with custom domains
  • 2013-12-19 Buy xingfengsi.com from GoDaddy ($1.99 per year). Verification pending
  • 2013-12-20 Register free web hosting service 000webhost. Verification pending
  • 2013-12-20 GoDaddy needs sufficient payment records to verify my ID
  • 2013-12-21 Build website locally with MAMP software
  • 2013-12-25 000webhost were still verifying my request
  • 2013-12-25 Sent payment records to GoDaddy
  • 2013-12-27 GoDaddy denied my payment, suspended the domain and fully refunded
  • 2013-12-28 Apply 000webhost account again using 51VPN. Account opened immediately
  • 2013-12-28 Successfully get xingfeng.si from Netim. 22 EUR per year
  • 2013-12-28 Create xingfeng.si by WordPress hosted on 000webhost. Hello World!
  • 2013-12-28 Use the free services from sitemeter and e-zeeinternet for web anaylses
  • 2013-12-29 Complete first backup for xingfeng.si
  • 2013-12-31 Post first blog on xingfeng.si
  • 2014-01-01 Use Parabola theme, add more contents into xingfeng.si
  • 2014-01-01 xingfeng.si received first comment
  • 2014-01-14 Buy sixf.org from GoDaddy. Verification pending as I forgot the password
  • 2014-01-17 GoDaddy verified my ID and opened sixf.org
  • 2014-02-04 Backup xingfeng.si to my Mac
  • 2014-02-05 Update WordPress and Parabola theme directly. xingfeng.si crashed.
  • 2014-02-05 Error on xingfeng.si: too many redirections occur
  • 2014-02-06 Create sixf.org hosted on 000webhost
  • 2014-02-06 Gladly find free service of cloud storage Qiniu
  • 2014-02-06 Import the backup of xingfeng.si into sixf.org
  • 2014-02-08 Forwarding xingfeng.si directly to sixf.org
  • 2014-02-08 Activate the Develop menu on safari; decide to buy paid hosting services
  • 2013-02-09 Use cloud comment service DISQUS
  • 2014-02-10 Create local website with Jekyll
  • 2014-02-11 Hosted sixf.org on GitHub. Hosted xingfeng.si on 000webhost as backup
  • 2014-02-12 Use the theme of Yihui’s website for sixf.org
  • 2014-02-14 Post first English blog on sixf.org
  • 2014-03-04 Unique visitors > 100; total visits ~ 200; pageviews ~ 2000
  • 2014-04-13 Unique visitors > 1000; total visits ~ 1500; pageviews > 5500

Last updated on 2014-05-27

The Si Lab /
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