Category Archives: blogging

The blog post that dooms the universe

Warning: silly.

Got your attention, did I?

You know what got mine?  Noticing, a while ago, the apparently inexorable growth of interest in what I thought was a fairly dull* post, Friends Don’t Let Friends Use “cf.”, first published here in June 2016.  That post got a bunch of views when I first posted it, which isn’t unexpected.  Then it was largely ignored for a year or so, which isn’t unexpected either.  Then something odd happened: exponential growth.

That’s what’s shown in the graph above: month-by-month readership statistics for Friends Don’t Let Friends Use “cf.”.  It’s a lovely curve, isn’t it?  Let’s ignore the first year (which is dominated by novelty; every post gets a spike when first published).  Let’s make a semilog plot of the remainder, because that seems right for a curve like that.  And let’s fit a line to that semilog plot, because we’re scientists and we like to do that kind of thing. Continue reading

Gosh, that’s a lot of squirrels – thoughts on 5 years’ worth

Warning: navel-gazing.

Scientist Sees Squirrel is five years old today.  That’s not very old for a human, a whale, or an oak tree, but it feels like something of an accomplishment for a blog.  So, no new post this week; instead, a few reflections on the squirrels along the way.

Metaphorical squirrels, that is. Continue reading

Blogs are dying; long live blogs

Happy Boxing Day!  Which is also the Feast of Stephen, and although that’s obviously named for a much earlier Stephen, I do approve of feasts.

Anyway.

You hear a lot about how blogs are dying.  You’ve heard that for many years, actually, and to some extent it’s probably true: I gather that there are fewer “big” blogs than there were a decade ago, and the ones that are left worry about declining readership.  Among other things, some of the discourse that happened on blogs now happens, with obviously reduced quality, on Twitter* and other shorter-form social media.

You will not be surprised to hear me argue that there is still tremendous value in blogs – both in writing them and in reading them. Continue reading

Science, social media, and my fear of corporate puppetry

Image: Marionette, © Thomas Quine CC BY 2.0 via flickr.com

When we do science, we presumably want that science to have both impact and reach.  By “impact”, I mean more than citation counts: I mean that what we’ve done adds to human knowledge and changes how we think about, and interact with, our world.  By “reach”, I mean that the impact happens broadly: not just with the six other people in the world who do research on the same questions and systems I do, but with scientists more broadly, with journalists, with policymakers, and with the general public.

Do I want my science (and my science commentary here at Scientist Sees Squirrel) to have impact and reach?  Of course I do.  It would be rather peculiar to publish science, and write a blog, and hope that nobody ever heard about it or was influenced by it.  So yes, I want my science, and my commentary, to have impact and reach.  But I’m also afraid of that impact and reach.  And while that seems very strange, even to me, I think it’s not uncommon and it distorts our scientific message.  Let me explain. Continue reading

Internet trolls and integration by parts

Image: Don’t feed the trolls, © Sam Fentress CC BY-SA 3.0; plus integration by parts.

I’m usually pleased when people read my blog posts and ask questions about them.  Usually – but not when they’re trolls.

I ran into a very-likely-troll a couple of weeks ago.  I’d written a post I called Charles Darwin’s Other Mistake, about Darwin’s disdain for the use of authorities with Latin names.  It’s more interesting than it sounds – really – and it was picked up by Real Clear Science and (partly as a result) attracted quite a bit of readership.  And one reader left a question that had a distinctly suspicious odour to it. Continue reading

Happy 4th birthday, Scientist Sees Squirrel!

Photo: Squirrel in the Bergdorf Goodman Shoes window; © Katie Hinde, by permission.

Today is Scientist Sees Squirrel’s fourth birthday.  When I pounded out my first post, I had no real concept of what I was doing.  I’m a little surprised and a little bemused that after four years, I’m still pounding out posts.  (It remains true that I have no real concept of what I’m doing, but at least I’ve established that I enjoy doing it.)  Along the way, I appear to have written over 300 posts – and nobody can be more surprised by that than I am.

Occasions like this sometimes get celebrated with greatest-hits lists, but that would be boring.  It’s tempting to do a greatest-duds list instead (starting with this one), but why would I inflict that on you? So, for some middle ground:  five posts that I think were actually pretty good – but that you probably didn’t read, because almost nobody did.  I’ve written about my most undercited paper; I guess these are some of my most underread blog posts.  Perhaps you’ll enjoy making the acquaintance of a piece you missed the first time around. Continue reading

Wow – a “People’s Choice Award” for Scientist Sees Squirrel!

I was awfully pleased to learn, late last week, that Scientist Sees Squirrel has won the 2018 People’s Choice Award for Canada’s Favourite Science Blog*.  What an honour!  The award competition is run yearly by the blogging network ScienceBorealis in collaboration with the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada.  There were 9 nominees this year, and readers were invited to vote for three favourites.  If you voted for Scientist Sees Squirrel, thank you!  And if you voted for three other blogs (as I did), thank you also, because the full slate of nominees is much more interesting than any single winner could have been.  I’ll explain. Continue reading

“Scientist Sees Squirrel” is nominated for a People’s Choice Award!

Image: Squirrel (of course), Sorbyphoto CC0.

I’m happy to be able to tell you that Scientist Sees Squirrel is a 2018 nominee for “Canada’s Favourite Science Blog” – a People’s Choice Award.  This is an annual award, jointly sponsored by the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada and the blogging network Science Borealis.  It’s lovely to get this kind of recognition, along with some other excellent nominees.

If you’re a regular visitor here, and if you like what I have for you to read, then perhaps you’ll want to head over to the nominees’ page and vote for Scientist Sees Squirrel.  (Voting will be open until September 29.)  Or, even better, you could head over to that same page and check out some of the other nominees.  You may find some new reading, and if you feel like voting for one of those other blogs, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. (After all, that’s what I plan to do just did.)

If you’re new to Scientist Sees Squirrel – perhaps you’re checking out all the nominees – then, welcome!  Have a look around.  You’ll find all sorts of things here; in fact, Scientist Sees Squirrel is named in celebration of – or, equally, as an admission of – my wandering attention span.  A lot of it reflects my interests as a university academic, in the fields of ecology and evolution, but that ends up spinning out in a lot of ways.  You can go to the home page and scroll down to see my most recent posts, or you can dig into the archives.  You might find, for example:

There’s a lot more here, of course, so explore a bit.  If you like what you find, you can be alerted to future posts by following the blog (link at upper right), or by following me on Twitter or Facebook (a friend request will automatically make you a follower).  And when you’re done with Scientist Sees Squirrel, please head to the voting page, from where you’ll be able to visit the other nominees too.  Thanks for dropping by!

© Stephen Heard  September 16, 2018

 

How to find a squirrel

Image: Mexican red-bellied squirrel, Sciurus aureogaster: Dick Culbert CC BY 2.0 via wikimedia.org

 

Inspired by similar exercises from Small Pond Science and The Lab and Field, I present once more a few of the more interesting search terms by which Scientist Sees Squirrel has been found.  These are all real, I swear – and they’re only the tip of the iceberg.  About 95% of searches are encrypted, so I don’t see them.  Imagine what gems are buried in the encrypted searches!

 

do wizards need to know calculus Continue reading

Making people angry

Image: Rage, Deiby Chico via flickr.com CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I’ve been posting here at Scientist Sees Squirrel for three years and change, and in that time I’ve learned a few things.  I’ve learned that some posts are wildly popular, while others sink like very quiet stones.  I’ve learned that writing a post is a good way to find out what I think about something, and that leaving the comments open is a great way to find out what I’m missing in my thinking.  And I’ve learned that some topics make people very, very angry. Continue reading