Angus Ferraro

A tiny soapbox for a climate researcher.


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A year of throwing stuff into the Internet and seeing what bounces back

It’s just over a year since I published my very first blog post, and set up my Twitter account.

When I started blogging I was excited by the novelty of it all and posted about once a week. Sometimes my posts were good, sometimes they weren’t. I wasn’t too bothered. Then I started to slow down. Partly this was the novelty wearing off, but partly it was the realisation that people might just read this stuff. Of course, that’s what we hope, but as I learned more about blogging the more I realised that it was possible to say some rather silly which don’t do one’s reputation much good. This is more likely to happen if you have a big readership (which I don’t), but the beauty of the Internet is even obscure content can be shot to prominence through nothing more than a few re-tweets. As a result I’ve become a bit more cautious about what I say.

Sometimes, though, it’s better to post something rough than not post at all. It’s good to get comments on things, and the only way to do that is to post. Sometimes I do throw stuff out there that’s not particularly good. Sometimes it’s little more than some stream-of-thought opinions given the once-over for spelling and grammar. I hope I make it clear when I’m in this mode – perhaps I should put some sort of disclaimer on these posts!

Twitter has been a very positive experience for me. Yes, it can be a time-sink. Yes, it can be inane. But those aren’t problems associated with Twitter itself, but how you use it. It’s my fault I waste so much time on Twitter. I’m getting better at managing it though. And the inanity can be guarded against by careful choice of who you follow. But the overall conclusions is that there are people (and things) I know now that I wouldn’t have known had I not been on Twitter. Interactions on Twitter can be incredibly useful. I found the EGU 2013 General Assembly to be a revelation. There was this undercurrent of voices on the Internet which enhanced the whole experience for me. I could dip into this current to hear highlights from other sessions, interesting opinions, news I would otherwise have missed, and learn the names of the people doing really awesome science.

I’m going to end with a few of my favourite posts, a couple of my least-favourite (self-criticism is always good) and some goals for the future.

Best

  1. Storms are like cake – this was fun to write. It’s a mixture of quotes from other people are some commentary of my own on the classic analogies used for the difference between weather and climate.
  2. The working day of a PhD student – I took the scientific approach to my work by recording, for one month, what I was doing when I was at work. There was nothing too surprising there, but it was really fun to put together. I suppose the headline conclusion is that you don’t need to be working much more than 9 to 5 to get a PhD!
  3. Tuning the climate of a global model – my first post, so it’s a little significant. I thought it would be a good idea to write occasional layman’s summaries of important or interesting papers. I should do more of this type of post!

Worst

I’m only doing one here – I don’t want to whip myself up into some kind of frenzy of self-hate. In ‘Clandestine geoengineering is real’ I tried to pretend I was a proper science news commentator. I don’t think it worked. I mainly have an issue with the title, which is a bit too sensationalistic about an issue which requires more subtlety.

Oh go on then, I’ll have another. Climate policy is a question of values as much as it is a question of science was basically a ‘what I think about…’ post. I gave it quite a bit of thought and stand by most of the stuff I said, but now I cringe a little when I think about this post. I think it’s because I’m conscious of the fact anyone can (and does) spout their opinions on the Internet. I want to offer something a bit more thoughtful and useful than the standard stream-of-consciousness stuff, but I don’t always succeed.

Future plans

  1. Paper reviews. They’re useful for me to write and might be useful for others. A no-brainer really!
  2. Stuff about academic life. This was supposed to be a big theme of this blog but I have trouble writing a post about it that isn’t completely banal. Perhaps that tells you all you need to know.
  3. Original science. I want to share some interesting results using this blog. A few things have discouraged me from doing this so far: concern about whether the work is good enough if it’s a casual note, and issues with subsequently publishing the work in a paper if it’s a major piece of science.
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