I have not done one of these in a long time, and after reading Katherine Haxton’s post I thought I would try and give my own answers to questions having to do with why I blog in the first place.
What made you start blogging?
I started reading science blogs (initially mostly this one and this one) about three years ago. I used to regard blogging as a fairly sophisticated intellectual exercise. Coming up with subjects on which to write regularly, and writing about them in a captivating, compelling way is no trivial task, and for a long time I thought I had neither the talent nor the stamina to do it.
One thing captured my imagination, though, and eventually made me want to take the plunge and start blogging myself, regardless of the many doubts as to whether I would ever be any good at it or not. It was the presence of groups, small “communities” of bloggers interacting through their posts and their comments. It seemed like a lot of fun, a way to meet interesting people and entertaining discussions for which I hardly seem to have the time or the opportunity, these days, when away from the keyboard (this could be a reflection of the sad state of my life and of that of many fellow bloggers — I am not sure). I felt that it might be worthwhile to try and be part of such a community. I initially started out just by commenting on other people’s blogs, but at some point I felt that I was ready to have one of my own. It’s been over two years now, and I am still having fun.
Is a sense of community an important part of blogging for you, or do you prefer blogging ‘solo’?
I am a bit confused by this question. If what is meant is whether one would rather be the sole author on a blog, or rather part of a blogging team, surely the second option would make it possible to update the blog more frequently and less stressfully (yes, it does get stressful at times), but to me it defeats the purpose of blogging in the first place. I really do see it as an individual enterprise.
If, on the other hand, the question is about being part of a blogging community, and interacting with it through posts and comments, I think I have already answered above. I regard that as a crucial part of the whole blogging experience. I would not bother to do this at all, if I did not enjoy reading a few blogs regularly, commenting on their posts and having the authors join the discussion on my own blog.
Are there blogs you never look at? If yes, why (be nice and don’t name names) ?
I think this means “Are there blogs which might potentially have been interesting to you but that you stopped reading ?”. Yes, of course there are, plenty. I check out new blogs weekly, and most of them I do not read more than once or twice. I have time to follow a handful of blogs at the most, and so I have to be selective like everyone else. I am not keen on anonymous blogs, for example, and I find that sooner or later I stop following those, even though I may find some of the posts interesting. I dislike “preaching” blogs, used by their authors as a soapbox for lengthy tirades — even if their interests may be close to mine.
Whom are you blogging for/whom are you talking to?
There are two separate aspects. One is the exercise of expressing in writing one’s thoughts on a particular subject , which forces one first of all to formulate them clearly in one’s mind, and then expressing them in a way that is understandable and compelling to others. In that sense, one is writing for anyone who will care to read, and this is the same identical motivation that brings some to write in any form, not just blogging. The mere act of writing can give one great personal satisfaction, and there is always the desire to confront one’s opinions with those of others, and blogging simply makes it possible to receive feedback more quickly.
Another, separate aspect of blogging, perhaps particularly relevant for a science professional, has to do with outreach. Outreach can mean a lot of things, from talking about what one does for living, hoping to interest maybe potential physics (under)graduate students out there, to discussing general issues in research, education and academia that might be of interest to the “general public” as well (at least judging from the number of questions about my job and work environment that I routinely am asked by friends and acquaintances). On a few occasions I have found it convenient to refer to a blog post of mine someone who wanted to know my opinion on, say, choice of a graduate school, or tenure.
To be perfectly honest though, I am not blogging for this reason — not mostly for this reason anyway. I am unable to assess the outreach effectiveness of a blog, based on my own experience. I have not been blogging long enough, and I simply do not have data.
Do you think you may be getting people exposed to some science through your blog who otherwise wouldn’t be ?
I suppose that might be true, but I think in terms of numbers we are talking infinitesimals, here… It is not an outreach exercise, not for me anyway.
Do you think any non-blogger cares about any of the above things ?
Are you kidding me ? Sure they do ! “Please, please, tell me why you blog, I need to know that !” is what I am asked all the time by everyone…
 I am told by my spouse and some close friends that I have the tendency to spend a lot of time talking about a few specific subjects that are particularly dear to my heart. As a result, those who have the misfortune of being associated to me on a regular basis, get to hear about these subjects more than they care for — hence the repeated, friendly suggestions that I put some of my thoughts in writing instead. As in “Oh my God, not this again ! Hey listen, why don’t you start a blog, or something, and write about this stuff there and leave me alone, will ya ?”