Debbie Knight

Happy Birthday! Biologyze is officially one year old today!

In observation on January 10, 2012 at 9:00 am

January 10th

My first blog post and the birth of Biologyze happened exactly one year ago today. It hardly seems like a year. Time has passed quickly (a lot like my past 20 years in research).

I began this blog as an “experiment” … of sorts. And, yes, you were all proverbial guinea pigs. But hopefully you’ve learned some interesting, behind-the-scenes stuff about life in a research lab and issues that affect that life.

The “experiment” is ongoing. But I think it is going well.

I should admit a major reason I started this blog was simply to practice communicating science to a lay audience.

And let me tell you, it’s not easy!

I didn’t realize that I was so immersed in the scientific culture (that I’ve lived in my “ivory tower” for so long) that I speak a completely different language: science-speak. Sure it sounds a little like English (some of the time), but it’s loaded with scientific terms and lab jargon that most people (including my family) can’t understand. I’m still wondering when this happened? But however I got here, I do speak science-speak and I’m trying to overcome it.

A better Biologyze

I want to make the blog better. Communicate science better. Generate stimulating discussions.

And I’ll need your help to do that.

You need to tell me when I use terms you don’t understand or when my posts are too technical. Of course, I have to assume a few biology basics: like everyone knows what a “protein” or “DNA” is.

So, what would you like to see in this blog?

What topics are you interested in regarding an academic biological research lab?

How can I improve this blog to communicate science better?

How can I generate more conversation, more discussion? Sure I’m broadcasting, but I’ve little idea if you are listening (well, except you, Tom and Renaldo).

Is what I’m writing relevant and timely? I certainly hope so.

I will note a couple of features I will add this year:

  • Guests. There will be a few posts by some scientists I know who can offer their unique perspectives about life in scientific research.
  • More posts. There will be more posts per week. Presently, I try to put up a new post at least once a week. I hope to increase this frequency. One way I’ll do this is by adding a “Photo of the Week” where I post a photo of what’s going on in the lab (with a little text for context).

In the future, as readership grows, I hope to include some interviews.

What I’ve learned

As I said earlier, this blog has been an “experiment” … of sorts.

So what have I learned so far? Most of what I’ve learned has been from trial and error.

Most viewed post?
Which Biologyze post got the most views in 2011? “A day in the life: June 9 -10, 2011” This was a post where I demystified the Western blot by giving a step-by-step photo record of that process. I honestly didn’t think this post would get any attention because it was a lab procedure.

Imagine my surprise.
Of course, now I’m thinking I should include more coverage on lab techniques. Maybe it would help someone out there.

The search.
People can stumble upon blogs by searching for scientific images. I’ve done it myself (and, yes, I’m guilty of “borrowing” a few of those images). I assume that any original images that I’ve posted on this blog whether it be photographs or drawings are open access and susceptible to “borrowing.”

And I hope that a few of those borrowers peeked at what I wrote and left with more than an image – perhaps they left with a little nugget of scientific knowledge.

What’s in a name?
Provocative titles can entice readers to visit a blog. I’ve fallen for that myself on Twitter feeds and I’m glad I did – I often learned something interesting in what I found.

Naming blog posts better is something I intend to work on this year.
One of my most popular posts “Like riding a bike – with flat tires” had an unintentional outcome. It was posted on February 4th. But in March I started getting an unusually high number of “hits” as people dragged their bicycles out of moth balls only to find they had flat tires. I can’t tell you how many times WordPress told me that someone used the search engine term “bike with flat tire” or “bicycle flat tyre.” But it was obvious these browsers stumbled upon my blog only to find something completely unrelated to bicycles. Sorry about that.

I had similar experiences with other posts that included the words “white glove test,” “gorilla suit,” the letter “n” and “guinea pig.” These views came from image searches.

I think my first post “Hello, World” (a title suggested by WordPress) got a few inadvertent views because of the Lady Antebellum song of the same title.

Content and search engines.
Search engines really do crawl across the words in a blog post. WordPress tells its bloggers  just what search terms were used to arrive at their blogs. It’s been interesting seeing some of those terms. Some make me laugh while others leave me shaking my head.

Here are a few search terms so far in 2012:

 “she has flattened my bike”
                  (Yikes! Is this a bad breakup or what?)
“if we add antibody before blocking what can happen”
                  (Oops! This person clearly needed some information and fast! Nothing like a slight procedural mistake to send you frantically searching on the Internet.
The answer? You’ll get a lot of non-specific binding of the antibody to your Western blots – it ain’t pretty! How do I know? Let’s just say I’ve heard about these things
and leave it at that, okay?)
“pathology lab waiting and reception”
                    (there is actually such a thing? Well, there isn’t one in my pathology department (not even in the morgue) but maybe there should be)
 “thawing cells protocol”
                      (My blog was no help here, but maybe I should consider adding more protocol explanations – especially since the Western blot post was so popular. Clearly people are looking for help with their procedures.)
“transilluminator tuberculosis”
                  (Huh?!)
“radiation shrimp”
                   (What?! Do I really want to know why someone is looking up this term?)

Just for fun, I will add a few “popular” terms here to see what happens. Like it’s “news” that President Barack Obama’s ears stick out a little, especially more than, say, Mitt Romney’s. Or I can’t believe the video for the song Kolaveri Di has gone viral (within 8 weeks, it’s had over 32 million views). I will admit the song is kind of catchy. And I really like the rhythm – it kind of feels like you’re riding on the back of an elephant.

Okay those were cheap shots, but I’m a scientist and it’s in the name of “research” (of sorts). I’ll let you know how it went.

————————————–

So that’s it. The first year of my blog.

Hopefully 2012 will be a great year for Biologyze.

And please, join in the conversation!

_____________________

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  1. First of all, happy birthday! Good work. You deserve a little celebration, blogging is not easy.
    2nd, Feedback:
    Can you talk more about your experiences with the process of searching & shopping for products. And negotiating & building relationships with sales reps?

    Wanna be guests on each other’s blogs?

    I’ve been posting more frequently. What has helped with that is shorter posts, like a picture or youtube video and less writing. I love your picture idea! I do it as well. Can you show a picture of the inside of your freezer? Curious to see how organize/unorganized it is. Anyways, keep it short, and it saves you time, and the reader.

    What you write about is absolutely relevant and timely. You provide great insight into an industry that is under attack; it shouldn’t be.

    Last, thank you for the shoutout. 🙂

    Tom.

  2. Very nice blog!

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