Let's get the obvious out of the way; very few people are going to read this. I was listening to a podcast a while back, featuring a fairly prolific blogger. This blogger recently deigned to post to a mainstream website, abandoning the blogosphere that they called home for over a decade. When asked why, they had this to say:
Site-based discovery is basically dead. If you want people to read your stuff, you have to glob onto a bigger website now.
This is the state of the web in 2020. If it's not on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, you better hope people are talking about it on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
So, here I am, starting a blog about 15 years too late, in defiance of wisdom from a veteran of this craft.
First and foremost, I'm writing this for myself. With many years of academia and many more years of technical communication ahead, keeping my fingers on the keyboard isn't such a bad idea. A tortured undergraduate course in technical writing cured me of cranial thesaurusitis—a cruel disease that forces "gifted" students to use big big word too much. But, I still have a great deal of room for improvement.
More importantly though, I have three goals listed on my homepage right now. If I had to rate myself on how I'm pursuing them, this would be my breakdown:
- Explore organisms & machines from a unified computational-biological perspective
I give myself a 6/10 on this. I'm applying for graduate programs with these interests in mind and playing HEK293 cells seven days a week.
- Leverage the power of biology to solve real world problems
9/10. Hell yeah, I'm an Octonaut! We're using the power of next generation sequencing, advances in synthetic biology/cell engineering to change the way Big Pharma approaches drug discovery.
- Encourage more public engagement with science, mathematics, & philosophy
0/10. Oops. I can't think of anything that I've done in past 6 months towards this goal. And that, is the primary reason why I want to create this blog. Even if most of my posts aren't read, if just one or two can help some people, I will consider this project a success.
So, having said all that, what will I write about?
Synthetic biology / biological engineering: I'm fortunate not only because I enjoy daily exchanges with a lot of talented scientists, but I also get to put synthetic biology to use as part of my job. I think non-biologists, especially younger people, are fascinated by the direction this field is heading in, but this field is missing something like a Grant Sanderson or a Matt O'Dowd. Those educators both set a high bar, but I have a few years ahead to work towards it.
Computer Science / Programming: This field has the opposite problem to synthetic biology. It feels like there's infinitely many low-quality programming tutorials out there. I've written a decent bit of software of my own and I've led workshops on things like Linux, Rust, Python, git, etc., often aimed at biologists and first time programmers. As I said, this niche is saturated, but I still feel the urge to cover smaller topics, or perhaps write to a more specific audience.
Fiction: I have a few short stories written on the back of some old scrap paper, stories that I deliberately dragged across the country from Florida to California. I may just have to drop them off.
Whatever else: There are no rules here. I plan to write about personal experiences, share little other academic tidbits, any maybe drop an opinion on current events from time to time. Unfortunately, there hasn't been anything interesting in the news to talk about, so I'll have to stay on the lookout.
So, I have some lofty expectations for this blog, with education / outreach being a main focus, but I already noted that few people will read this blog. (When was the last time that you read someone else's blog, Will?)
This blog may be the beginning of my science communication career, but it is not the end. The more technical blog posts will require hours of research, fervent note taking, and meticulous note-taking. Once I have a blog post finished, the hard work is done. I can easily condense it into a Twitter thread, share it on a forum, or adapt it into a YouTube video.
So, think of this blog as the nucleus of my Internet presence. The core of my thoughts are here, but I still keep some tendrils in the more populated parts of the web.
On that note, I'll end things here. I've written an 800 word blog post just to explain why I want to blog. Bare with me, I'm promise the next posts will be more interesting.
Thanks for reading!