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Success Criteria

I was inspired last night by the Science Blogging Talkfest (there’s also a Twitter transcript of the simultwittered parallel conversations) to blog.

One of the major discussions at the talkfest was about impact. “How do you know you’re having an impact?” and “How do you know you’re succeeding?” were both asked and answered ably by the panel.

Ed Yong actually asks his followers to tell him, which is a really good informal way of understanding what impact his writing is having.

But what is the impact of the science blogging/skeptical community? When we ask “are they successful”, what criteria are we using to measure that? Are we interested in the amount of social change generated by their writing, or the number of people who read it, or the number of comments, the number of people who argue, or the number of people who link to it, or the number of people who change their practices because of what they read or simply the satisfaction it gives the author?

Is it even appropriate *to* demand effect measurement by bloggers, scientific or otherwise? Is blogging not a social activity which is effective to the same end as popping down the pub and having a chat (and beer) with friends?

Indeed, I wonder if most blogs even have formal objectives – if (as Andy Lewis suggests) that at least some people blog to avoid EastEnders and Coronation Street (a motivation with which I can identify), I’d suggest that avoiding those shows is its own success measure!

It also strikes me that one can only judge the success of a project by its own criteria – if a blogger sets out simply to write for their own benefit, then any other “impact” is a fortunate side-effect.

Since this is the first post on the blog, perhaps I ought to mention my objectives.

My first objective is to provide me with a space to air my thoughts. I’m one of those people who think best when they’re writing, and writing for oneself isn’t the same as writing for an audience.

Second, I would like the aired thoughts to be challenged and otherwise commented upon. I’d welcome constructive feedback, both about the content, and about the writing.

Having fun has to come in there – not merely the writing, but also the interactions with a wider ecosystem of people writing about science.

It would be nice as well if this benefited my professional and academic careers too 😀

I’m not worried about converting people to the cause of rationalism/skepticism/critical thinking/science, nor am I worried about changing peoples minds. I am interested in exploring ideas, conceptual frameworks and celebrating science though.

In short, my objectives are intangible beyond asking me if I am satisfied with my output. If the answer to that is yes, then I will have achieved my goal.