This week, we’re talking with Greg Laden, whose blog is a popular member of the Nature Blog Network. Greg is a biological anthropologist with a background in both biology and archaeology. He has a PhD from Harvard, though he hardly ever mentions it, and is an independent scholar and adviser at the University of Minnesota as well as a blogger. Greg also has a Facebook page that he uses to interact in a different way with readers and to promote the blog.
Why do you blog?
I blog because I have a desire to write but other media are not as interesting or effective for me. I still write in other media, but blogging fits my style remarkably well, partly because blogging itself is so flexible.
There are a couple of different types of nature bloggers: those that are blogging because they like writing but really are not trying to develop an audience; those who have careers in nature-related fields, and happen to blog; and those who are trying to do something, perhaps related to education or nature conservation, with their blogs. I’m probably in the second and third categories.
What’s the best thing about blogging?
I feel like I connect with a group of readers–well, may be a few different groups of readers–who mostly don’t hate me and are interested in some of the stuff I write about. That part of blogging is very similar to certain aspects of teaching. For me, there is a big overlap between teaching and blogging in what I get out of it and what I think other people get from me.
How did you pick the name of your blog?
I didn’t! My blog doesn’t have a name. People think it’s “Greg Laden’s Blog” but really, that’s what it is. I’m Greg Laden. This is my blog. I call it “blog.”
Seriously, I started out with the rather clumsy name: “Evolution … Not just a theory anymore.” When Scienceblogs asked me to join up with them, that would not do because there were already a number of blogs that were “evolution this” or “evolution that.” For a few weeks, my wife, Amanda, and I worked on the name. Eventually we narrowed down to the idea of something African sounding, derived from one of the languages in a place I’ve worked. We settled on a South African word that means “If you want a glass of water, I’ll give you a glass of water.” The word is “Ubuntu.” Then we realized that one was already being used, and Katherine Sharpe, then the blogger herder for Seed Media Group, suggested that I call it “Greg Laden’s Blog” because she felt I already had a brand. So it’s Greg Laden’s Blog.
What’s unique or different about your blog?
One thing that is a little different is that I have an African component for both nature stuff and anthropology/archaeology. The Africa/Minnesota blend is a bit unusual.
Yours is among the most read blogs on NBN, and frequently ranked #1. To what do you attribute your popularity?
Maybe I’m like, and thus my blog is a good fit for, many of the NBN readers. Aren’t we all a bunch of bird watchers and tree huggers? Maybe it’s because about half of my blogging during the summer, regardless of the topic, is done while watching loons swim around in the nearby lake. My blog is loon-inoculated. Loonoculated.
If you had it to do over, would you start a blog?
I don’t like the “start over” way of thinking about hypotheticals, but yes, I’m very happy with what I’m doing.
Blogging has not changed much about how I think about nature, but I do hope that all of us blogging about things such as global warming and endangered species, as well as about specific experiences or regions or conservation issues, has had an impact on people’s knowledge and appreciation for these important issues.
Any comments on being part of the nature blog community?
The main benefit of NBN for me has been to find good blogs to read, and hopefully, a few people have found my blog that otherwise may not have. I like the statement on the NBN about social networking, that nature bloggers should utilize these technologies more effectively. NBN itself is, of course, one of the technologies.
I think the best way to encourage nature bloggers to use social networking technologies more, and at the same time to make these technologies more effective, would be for somebody to explain how the heck they work. What is a technorati ranking???? How does google rank blogs and search among them? When is an activity designed to promote a blog interpreted by the ranking services and social networking sites as gaming the system rather than simply being part of a community? Perhaps the NBN could have a tutorial page!
Thank you, Greg. We think a lot alike about the power of networking to influence change. You’ll be happy to hear that here at NBN we are thinking about various tutorials and guides that would encourage our community to do just what you suggest.
You can visit Greg Laden’s blog at http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/. A few of my favorite posts are: