Now, shall I use the first person singular or plural to write this? Active or passive voice? …
It doesn’t really matter. This isn’t a formal article, and you can even use abbreviations. This group blog, like anything else during our time in Oxford, is an experiment. We will give it a few months and see what happens. If it pans out, we will have a, more or less, detailed research journal for the group. Not to mention a link with the outside world (prospective students? employers?) and proof that we can “communicate” with others. And since this is an exploratory exercise we should have freedom to explore what we want to write about.
We should have plenty of fodder. Let us face it, if we do not do some mildly interesting science every week then we are probably not having enough fun. But even if you are working on a hushed up, undercover project (e.g. the next blockbuster drug against Malaria) – there are still so many interesting bits of our D.Phil. which would otherwise never see the light of day.
For inspiration, have a look at other popular scientific blogs – the chembl one is both educational and humourous in equal measures (Post Idea #1: list of bio/cheminformatics blogs which every grad student should read). Blogs are a great way to survey literature without actually doing any reading (Post Idea #2: tricks to increase grad student productivity… what do you mean you don’t use Google Alerts to surprise your supervisor with a link to a paper published the day before?); and for a TL;DR version there is twitter (Post Idea #3: Idea #1 but for twitter instead). I only found out about the four stranded DNA in human cells by following @biomol_info.
And of course, we are mostly a computational group – so software is what we churn out on a daily basis. How much of the software we write ends up resting forever on our disks, never to be used again. The masses want splitchain! (Idea #4: post software you wrote). And there is benefit in not only giving out software, but also explaining the internals with snippets (Idea #5: a clever algorithm explained line-by-line).
And then there is the poster you hung up once (Idea: #6) or the talk you gave and prepared for hours on your disposable, use-once-only slides (Idea: #7). There is the announcement of publishing a paper – that solemn moment in academia when someone else thinks what you have done is worthy (Idea: #8 – btw well done to our own Jamie Hill for his recent MP-T work).
And if your an athelete, like Anna (Dr. Lewis) who crossed the atlantic in a rowing boat or Eleanor who used to row for the blues – what can I say, this is how we roll, or row [feeble attempt at humour] – thats a non-scientific but unique and interesting experience too (Idea #8). .
If you’ve read a paper and you think it’s interesting comment on it – people will follow your posts just because it acts like a literature filter (Idea #9). You can probably even have a rant (Idea #10); as long as its more positive and less bitter than Fred Ross’ Farewell to Bioinformatics.
Finally, this post is long and tedious for the reader. But that is ok too – like everything else here, it is a learning experience and the more I write the more I will improve. So hey, I’m also doing this to write a better thesis (i.e. to make the writing less painful).
An addendum; my initial intention was to discuss the bits which make a good blog post. You can find lots of articles about this – so it is less interesting; but here are the main points
- links, links, links; everywhere
- be informal, colourful and opinionated (this should come easy to you)
- a picture is worth a thousand words