A while back I read an article at called ‘Top Five Science Blogs’ about the five most popular science blogs on the Internet (Technorati rated them by counting their links to other sites). It had interviews with the blogs’ creators giving their opinions on why some of their sites are even more popular than some contemporary News sites. However, it seems that if you now go to the above link you have to pay money to read the story. Fortunately, I saved it for prosperity and will now share a few of the quotes that stuck out for me as being important for new bloggers.

‘Weblogs written by scientists are relatively rare, but some of them are proving popular. Out of 46.7 million blogs indexed by the Technorati blog search engine, five scientists’ sites make it into the top 3,500.’

1. (Ranked 179): ‘. “Sometimes, I just summarise some basic concepts as I would in the classroom.” But you are certain to fail if you write as if for a peer-reviewed journal. “It doesn’t work on the web,” says Pete Myers. “A blog’s more like the conversation you’d have at the bar after a scientific meeting.”

I like the sound of that, ‘A blog is like a conversation.’ Rather than writing a book, a magazine article, or even a traditional journal or diary-style text, people are literally (no pun intended) having intelligent conversation via this new medium.

2. (Ranked 1,647): ‘Being a group blog is key’, says contributor Jack Krebs, president of Kansas Citizens for Science. ‘The nature of the topic helps too’, he adds. ‘There is an interest, a hunger even, for thoughtful analysis of the issues related to evolution and creationism.’

Having a group blog can be a great advantage because you can have multiple contributors who specialise in different areas. It should also be noted that if one person is busy or has momentary ‘writer’s block’, there are others there to keep things rolling along. Always having new and fresh content seems to be an imperative for getting readers to return on a regular basis. If your subject is contentious and regularly debated upon that’s all the better! Definitely put effort into honing in on a topic that grabs people’s interest in the public domain.

3. (Ranked 1,884): ‘Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist who blogs at RealClimate, puts its success down to the hot topic and expert contributors. It helps to have “a passion for explaining things as clearly as possible, and a hell of a lot of patience to deal with all those comments rolling in”.

There’s a lot to learn in just this small statement. If you do want to become a popular blogger hopefully it’s for altruistic reasons like making real relationships with others, as opposed to simply wanting to become powerful and famous. That raises the strange question: Are any bloggers actually powerful?

Having expert contributors may be a problem for some (How do you find them?), so the next best thing would be to try your best to become an expert yourself. Read, read, read, and find out as much as you can about your subject of choice. If you can then establish yourself, you may then be able to make some connections with others in your field (through comments, trackbacks etc.) who will add more knowledge as well as credibility to your site.

Passion for explaining things clearly is the key to good communication and transferral of ideas, while having the patience to reply to all of your comments will show your visitors that you see them as equals and are interested in interrelating, giving them the feeling that they aren’t just writing for nothing. On the contrary, as things develop further their commenting becomes an integral part of the group learning process.

‘Gavin Schmidt, at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, says the blog fills “a hunger for raw but accessible information” that goes deeper than newspaper articles, but is more easily understood than the scientific literature. “Magazines fill a void, but they can’t react or interact as effectively as blogs.”’

4. (Ranked 2,174)

‘Frequent posting of original content is crucial to building an audience, says Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance, which is produced by five physicists. But taking “stances that are provocative and make people think” also helps. One needs to become the place to go for a subject, he says. Citing other blogs is a sure-fire way to get their notice and maybe a citation in return, he adds. But he cautions that citation counts and rankings can be a distraction. “It would be a shame if people worried about traffic and not about having a good blog.”’

5.  (Ranked 3,429)

‘Nick Anthis, who only began blogging in January, knows the reason for his site’s swift rise to fame. During a political censorship row at NASA in February, Anthis was the first to reveal that a key official had lied about graduating from Texas A&M University. “Before I knew it, it had exploded into a major national News story and he resigned.” After an initial spike in traffic, many stayed on as regular readers.’

So, this last lesson is to try and be the first to find out about something that really gets people excited/interested, not the easiest task to undertake…unless you’re on the front lines. Are you a relative fountain of knowledge standing at the front of a battlefield of important knowledge and information? Get blogging!

Jesse S. Somer once had work experience in a Genetics department. Don’t ask him what the pigs know, there are some secrets that are best left unsaid.