I hate blogs, bloggers and blogging

Attending the SciBlog 2008 conference last week gave me a chance to weigh up my opinion of blogs, bloggers and blogging. And I’ve decided that I hate them all.

Not the concept or the people or the activity, you understand, but the words. They stick in my throat. As I would have said when I was growing up in Northern Ireland, they make me want to boke.

I know the etymology: web-log, b-log, blog. It makes perfect sense but it’s such a silly-sounding word that it seems to demean the process. I would be embarrassed to admit that I do it, just because it has such a stupid name.

And yet the call went out from the conference for more senior people to get blogging and that struck a chord that has been twanging — a little mutedly perhaps — at the back of my mind for a few months now. Not that I regard myself as so very senior. Yes, I am a professor and I’m serious about my science; but I’m still just shy of my mid-forties and like to think of myself as a young man. However, the truth of the matter is beginning to weigh on me; I now have to lift my eye-glasses to read the date on my watch, so I guess I have to face facts.

So here goes. I won’t promise to post regularly; that way I will avoid the repetition of future apologies for failing to write. I won’t promise to be unembarrassed to admit that I am a blogger. I won’t promise to have anything terribly insightful to say.

But I will share my experiences of science — such as they are and as frankly as I can — and look forward to engaging with the community on Nature Network. Indeed, I have already enjoyed that burgeoning sense of community these past few months while lurking in the background, only stepping forward now and then to comment. One of the real joys of the conference, as Dr Rohn and Dr Kushnir (among others) have remarked, was finally meeting in the flesh some of those people (OK, OK… bloggers) whom I’d only come to know from their online persona.

And you never know, perhaps one day I’ll get comfortable with the idea of… blogging. But even then, I’ll still loathe the phrase ‘Web 2.0’.

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69 Responses to I hate blogs, bloggers and blogging

  1. Richard P. Grant says:

    haha! I’ve just completed a report on the Conference for my Dean, and had to grit my teeth every time I wrote ‘blog’. Maybe we should have a suicide pact, Stephen, and only ever use ‘weblog’?

  2. Frank Norman says:

    Stephen – I do agree re. the sound of the word. I ignored all this bloggery for a long time. It seemed a silly word and therefore the thing itself must be silly. Blogosphere – what is that??
    The other problem I realised anew at the conference was the huge range of blogging, and the difficulty of encompassing them all in one word.
    It’s a bit like the word “writer” – it covers literary writers, possibly also journalistic writers, science writers, but probably not scientist writers. “Blogger” is not enough to encompass all these varieties, I feel.

  3. Stephen Curry says:

    @Richard and Frank
    Glad to hear I’m not the only one with that particular aversion.
    Mind if I pass on the suicide pact, Richard?

  4. Kristi Vogel says:

    Web comics cartoonists Drew and Natalie often make fun of bloggers (of course, they also have a blog)-
    Married To The Sea
    Natalie Dee
    Toothpaste for Dinner

  5. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks for the links Kristi – I didn’t know any of these cartoonists. My current favorite is XKCD where blogging sometimes crops up.

  6. Richard P. Grant says:

    Yes, I do mind, Stephen. Damned crystallographers, the lot of you.

  7. Kristi Vogel says:

    I think both Natalie and Drew (Toothpaste for Dinner) work on Married to the Sea; they also have movies and animations of their two pug dogs. I use web comics and LOLCats to supplement my lectures – usually I can find relevant ones related to brains, teeth, doctors, dentists, and scientists.

  8. Heather Etchevers says:

    All alternatives seem doomed to be dismissed as simple products of a cantankerous mind. So, shrug. I do refuse to employ the whole “2.0” thing except with respect to relevant software, because it’s been bandied about for far too long to still be applicable, and everyone means something different by it, anyhow. Nothing on the internet now is particularly different from what was on there fifteen years ago, in any case. it’s just easier to find for the neophyte.

  9. Richard P. Grant says:

    hey Henry, you have a contender for the curmudgeonly crown.

  10. Brian Clegg says:

    Absolutely with you Stephen – I have always found the word irritating, so try to avoid using it as much as possible. I just think of it as writing a comment column that other people can respond to.
    (I don’t think it’s quite as bad, however, as the name of a website my agent runs, which refers to itself as a ‘writers’ colony.’ I shudder as a type it.)

  11. Mike Fowler says:

    Colony, the collective noun for a group of writers. Clearly derived from the Greek word “kolon”, cos we’re all full of…

  12. Jennifer Rohn says:

    But even then, I’ll still loathe the phrase ‘Web 2.0’.
    I’ve been noticing that the cool kids on the block only say “web two” now. So drop the “point oh” if you want to flash your mutton/lamb credentials!

  13. Stephen Curry says:

    For sure there’s no alternative, Heather, but that needn’t get in the way of a good rant. However, I think Henry’s crown is safe, Richard – I have no plans to make this into a regular diatribe. Plus he has such wonderful panache!
    Brian – the notion of a writers colony immediately conjured an image of slightly dishevelled people on a desert island, each squatting cantankerously in front of a typewriter…

  14. Stephen Curry says:

    @Jenny: …drop the “point oh” if you want to flash your mutton/lamb credentials!
    I’m afraid I don’t have any of those. Will geek credentials do?

  15. Richard P. Grant says:

    Not when you screw up the link, no.

  16. Stephen Curry says:

    Great! This means I’m probably not a geek after all! (There will be many more screw-ups as this blog continues…).

  17. Richard P. Grant says:

    You’re not a geek Stephen: you’re a nerd.

  18. Jeff Marlow says:

    Hey Stephen – glad to see you decided to take the plunge!

  19. Matt Brown says:

    Welcome to our colony, Stephen. And congratulations on using the word ‘boke’. I haven’t heard that since I was a nipper, and assumed it was Grimsby (where I grew up) slang.

  20. Maxine Clarke says:

    With a title like this one to draw the comments, you are a veteran already, Stephen!
    The blog dashboard (or as I call it, “works”) on the platform I use refers to “weblogs”, eg “publish weblog” etc. I feel it is being very polite and deferential, formal even, to me. Rather nice.
    I write as one whose column in Nature is called “From the Blogosphere” – as titles in edited publications (well, Nature certainly) are the responsibility of the editors and not the mere authors, I had no say in the matter – that’s my defence anyway 😉

  21. Maxine Clarke says:

    PS I also meant to say “welcome” – I’m very glad you have started a xxxx, as I’ve enjoyed reading your various comments around and about this place.

  22. Stephen Curry says:

    Many thanks for your words of welcome Jeff, Matt and Maxine!
    I had forgotten the word boke (slang for vomit in case it wasn’t obvious) until I heard Tom Paulin use it on a late night review show on TV. I thought it was peculiar to Northern Ireland but clearly not. I wonder how far it’s dispersed?
    @Maxine: With a title like this one to draw the comments, you are a veteran already
    Well it was a tiny moment of inspiration. If there isn’t another one, this could be a very short-lived enterprise…

  23. Heather Etchevers says:

    Actually, “colony” makes me think of puffins. And they’re sort of endearing.

  24. Kristi Vogel says:

    But even then, I’ll still loathe the phrase ‘Web 2.0’.
    Neo-Luddite that I am, I’m still not entirely clear on what “Web 2.0” means, even after reading the Wikipedia page (actually I think that made it less clear). Perhaps it consists of many entities, each of which could provide a subject for an entertaining loom smashing quill pen written curmudgeonly rant. Like Facebook … Facebook is “Web two point oh-ish”, correct?

  25. Mark Tummers says:

    I’m going to skip on Web 2.0 and wait for web 3.0

  26. Stephen Curry says:

    @Kristi: I’m still not entirely clear on what “Web 2.0” means
    Nor do I, though I think it refers to the development of tools to make it easier for ordinary folk (non-geeks, like myself) to create and share content. Hence blogs (and comments), Facebook, YouTube and the like.
    Mark, you do see the logical flaw in your comment, don’t you?

  27. Mark Tummers says:

    Logic can be overridden by any emotion.

  28. Mike Fowler says:

    @ Heather – Puffins are also a delicacy in Norway. They have even bred their dogs, the superbly named Lundehund with extremely flexible legs to help them get out of any tight nest holes they may have scurried down.

    Sunshine, moonlight, good times… oh bugger this for a laugh
    And web technologies (whatever point half) that enable more people to enjoy interacting on the net are probably a good thing. Share the love everyone! Doing so without having to learn html or other scripts removes the power from elitist geeks and nerds!

  29. Stephen Curry says:

    @Mark – Logic can be overridden by any emotion.
    Very true, alas. But you’re just digging yourself deeper into you conundrum!

  30. Pedro Beltrao says:

    Welcome then to the blo… the community of scientists writing online about science :).

  31. Maxine Clarke says:

    I’m going to be told I am wrong, I feel it in the aether, but I think of web 1.0 as “broadcast web” (you know, all those old days when everyone tried to make “the” portal by which everyone would “go” to the web, and sold advertising space on that basis); and web 2.0 as “sharing” or “interactive” web, eg NN where users can contribute content. Web 3.0, that’s when the machines do it all for us, right?

  32. Henry Gee says:

    Curmudgeonly? Moi?
    I don’t mind blog, blogosphere, blogging or Web2.0. There are plenty of other words and phrases I do mind, however. If you’ll allow me, I shall list just a few. Actually, I’ll list them even if you do mind. Just try and stop me. Remember – I have an iPhone. I know where you live.

    synergy (-ize);
    capacity building;
    thinking outside the box;
    rolling out (applied to anything except pastry or icing);
    sacrifice (when what is meant is ‘kill in the name of science’);
    abrogate (when what is meant is … er … abrogate);
    core competencies;
    running [ideas] up the flagpole;
    at the end of the day;
    speaking for myself personally;
    game plan;
    strategic fit;
    best practice;
    low-hanging fruit;
    google juice;
    ramp up;
    wow factor;
    in a nutshell;
    flying a kite (except when flying a real kite);
    service-oriented, and

    releasing calcium from intracellular stores.

    This last example leads me into a particular pet hate beloved of decerebrated jellyfish marketing droids: the sentence or phrase that begins with a present participle, left dangling as indelicately and as prominently as a donkey’s testicles. You know the kind of thing:

    Gruntfuttock’s: Delivering The Promise

    I see this particularly vacuous example every day. It is on the decal inside the back window of my Volvo, advertising the dealer whence it came. I can’t think of any more at the moment as my memory has obligingly blotted them all out as being too horrible to recall.

  33. Kristi Vogel says:

    and web 2.0 as “sharing” or “interactive” web, eg NN where users can contribute content
    So, then, Web 2.0 = “Someone’s networkin’, my Lord, Kumbayah … Someone’s textin’, my Lord, Kumbayah”
    Web 3.0 = “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

  34. Maxine Clarke says:

    Something like that, Kristi. In Web 3.0, nobody can hear you scream the web will do your experiments for you.

  35. Henry Gee says:

    and in web4.0, the machines will reject the mss that result from the experiments performed by web3.0 machines. In web5.0,humans will be hunted down and killed.the final words of the last human will be “we thought it was a good idea at the time”.

  36. Martin Fenner says:

    Blogs, bloggers and blogging sound even stranger in a text written in German. We don’t have German words for most of these new Web 2.0 things. And when we try, it can go terribly wrong. Nobody knows why cell phones are called handy in Germany. Another piece of technical equipment known under this name only in Germany is the beamer.

  37. Maxine Clarke says:

    Hmm, let me try it Martin.
    “I say, Trueman, that was a handy beamer that bowled Bradman out for a duck.
    I can see that it does not quite translate, somehow.

  38. Brian Derby says:

    @Martin – Beamers appear to be the local term in the nethherlands too.
    @Maxine – As the Netherlands is one of the few countries ouside the Commonwealth that also plays cricket, there could be problems there.

  39. Stephen Curry says:

    @Henry – you are welcome to call at the house anytime, especially if you will let me touch your iPhone…
    @Martin – I thought a beamer was a BMW! I knew the mobile phone was known as a handy in Germany thanks to the knowledgeable and ever-entertaining Mr Fry.

  40. Kristi Vogel says:

    dog –> blog
    The blog days of summer.
    It’s been raining cats and blogs.
    With bloggéd persistence, she continued to write.
    That blog won’t hunt.
    How much is that bloggie in the window?
    You ain’t nothin’ but a hound blog.
    “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little blog too!”

  41. steffi suhr says:

    Adding to Henry’s list:

    [something] on the radar
    let’s get on the same page
    long story short
    [someone] didn’t do their homework


  42. Stephen Curry says:

    Kristi – thanks for that but I’m afraid I’m stuggling to see where you’re coming from. And a little fearful of where you might be headed….
    I don’t have such a problem with your list Steffi (apart from the last one of course) – aren’t they valid metaphors?
    And Henry, what’s so wrong with abrogate? It’s as fine a verb as I did ever meet and occurs at least once in each of my publications!

  43. steffi suhr says:

    Stephen, I guess it’s the way these expressions are (over)used – usage seems to come and go in waves (although the homework one doesn’t seem to ever go away completely..)

  44. Stephen Curry says:

    although the homework one doesn’t seem to ever go away completely…
    Couldn’t agree more – I keep telling my kids: school-life is the easy bit!

  45. Matt Brown says:

    Well, Stephen’s straight in at number 2 in the ‘most commented’ charts with his very first post. Well done, sir!

  46. Maxine Clarke says:

    I do smile at the “I hate blogs, bloggers and blogging” on the various NN front pages – talk about mixed messages. (‘mixed message’ being another overused phrase?)

  47. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks, but as I said to Dr Rohn at last night’s Fiction Lab at the RI, I now face the difficult problem of the second album blog…

  48. Henry Gee says:

    dog—> blog
    Beware. The activity known as ‘dogging’ might not be known by that particular word outside the United Kingdom.

  49. steffi suhr says:

    Here’s another:

    needless to say..

    @Henry and Kristi:
    I am writing on my dog again
    Have you seen his dog recently?
    I have been spending a lot of time on my dog
    My dog helps me organize my thoughts
    What a great post on this dog

  50. Kristi Vogel says:

    thanks for that but I’m afraid I’m struggling to see where you’re coming from. And a little fearful of where you might be headed….
    Stephen, I’m flattered that you thought I might have had a coherent plan with the dog–>blog trope, but really, I was just performing a random download of the cotton fluff candy floss daff Chihuahua brain that inhabits my skull. I’m also awaiting the arrival of Ike, so you can think of it as gale-lows humor. Maybe a bit of poking fun at the silly word “blog”, too, so on topic!
    Every blog has its day.
    Done up like the blog’s dinner.
    Oops, I’m in the bloghouse.
    @Steffi- Don’t forget the dogosphere!

  51. Henry Gee says:

    Famous cartoon from the New Yorker.

  52. Stephen Curry says:

    Nice one Henry!
    Kristi – well done for keeping on topic! In the spirit of your invention, here’s my effort (designed to get a rise out of Henry…):
    ablograte – to post a blog with the intention of getting on everyone’s nerves.

  53. Kristi Vogel says:

    Hmmm … “ablograte” might apply to one of the comparative blogging issues that Richard just wrote about.

  54. Duncan Hull says:

    Hello Stephen, great to see another major scientist with a blog welcome to the party!

  55. Stephen Curry says:

    Duncan – you have made my day! All flattery is gratefully accepted on this blog, however undeserved. (Unless of course there was a heavy dose of sarcasm in your comment that I didn’t detect…!)

  56. Duncan Hull says:

    …wasn’t being sarcastic. For me “Professor” roughly equates to “Major scientist” (at least in Europe where we don’t have this Assistant / Associate Professor nonsense!)
    I’m excluding media studies of course 🙂

  57. Richard Wintle says:

    Can we add “podcast” to the hit list? Please?
    Why we can’t just call these “audio files” or “recordings of me wittering on at some conference that I thought would be interesting for some of you lot to listen to at great length”, I have no idea.

  58. Richard Wintle says:

    Oh, and on the topic of BMWs, I think the term is “beemer” (note spelling), or in some places, “bimmer”.
    This is possibly not important.
    *mumbles about Ferraris

  59. Stephen Curry says:

    I don’t object to podcast, Richard, since it has a meaning beyond ‘audio file’. Doesn’t it usually refer to a regular emission (cast) in a format that can be put on a portable mp3 player? I have heard of Mac-phobes objecting to the term (Ibut I’ll bet many of them hoover the house with the vacuum cleaner…
    Thanks for the correction on the spelling of beemer – my ignorance stems from lack of possession.

  60. Henry Gee says:

    ablograte – to post a blog with the intention of getting on everyone’s nerves.

  61. Kristi Vogel says:

    ablograte – to post a blog with the intention of getting on everyone’s nerves.
    Who would do a thing like that, anyway? I just can’t imagine a rational person wasting time with attention whoring stirring up poo poking nests of cyberhornets deliberately irritating others with blog posts.

  62. James stern says:

    you could always put a positive edge to it and call yours a ‘Journal’ instead!

  63. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks for the positive angle but I think I’ll have to go with the flow and hope that the grinding doesn’t damage my teeth too much…!

  64. Robert Talamantez says:

    this is a silly article. are you into substance or fashion? this article points to the latter.

  65. Stephen Curry says:

    I’m into substance and fashion (though I prefer the word ‘style’)! Oh, and a bit of humour. I’m into that too — but I appreciate that can mean different things for different people 😉

  66. Maxine Clarke says:

    Beamer? That’s how fast bowlers spell it.

  67. Stephen Curry says:

    Sorry, that went right over my head (but then I’m not very tall…)

  68. Richard P. Grant says:

    bq. this is a silly article. are you into substance or fashion? this article points to the latter.
    And that was a silly comment.

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