Scitable has a piece on the place of new science bloggers in the blogosphere that’s really rubbing me up the wrong way. First, the bits I agree with: people who are good should do well regardless of whether they are veterans or newbies; and this is not always the case. This is why I do my weekly missing links and monthly tip-jar. Here’s where it loses me: the argument is that the stable size of science blogging networks is depriving new bloggers of “chances” and that “not only is this unfair but it's also unmeritocratic.”

First, anytime I read the word “unfair” in an opinion piece,I cringe a little.

Second, this has always been the way it works. Back when ScienceBlogs was the only big name in town, it was harder for people who weren’t part of the obvious go-to behemoth. That did not stop good indie bloggers from having an impact (Mind Hacks, anyone?) or from growing in size to eventually join a network. In fact, I would urge you to think of a time when it was easy for newcomers in a field to make a big impact. Or a field, for that matter.

Third, every single suggestion that is subsequently put forward to rectify this situation is about giving new bloggers opportunities rather than them creating those opportunities for themselves. That smacks of entitlement to me, especially in an ecosystem that I’d wager is more meritocratic than it has ever been. Here are some alternative suggestions:

1) Pull your finger out and work really f**king hard. Stay up late. Practice. Sacrifice your social time. Churn out a crazy amount of output. Practice. Enter competitions. Practice.

2) Give people a reason to read you. There are plenty of competent writers and not enough time to read them. Maybe you are the go-to person for a topic. Maybe you write like an angel. If you want to stand out, stand out.

3) Tell people about yourself. Promote your work. If you want to be recognised, then it’s not enough to be good and shout into the ether. And I don’t mean in a narcissistic, self-aggrandising way. You don’t even have to directly point to your work. Just let people know you exist. Socialise and interact with them. Do it on Twitter, in comments, on Facebook, whatever. Twitter in particular is a massive meritocracy. The editor-in-chief of Scientific American will promote someone’s first post if it’s good! Look at the number of new blogs that have made instant names for themselves in this way (see: anything Ivan Oransky does).

4) If you are lucky enough to be given an opportunity, grasp it as quickly as possible because the momentum fades. If you haven’t been given opportunities, maybe you should try to create some. If you’re not part of a network (and want to be; loads don’t), are you sitting around waiting to be invited or did you cold-call and ask for feedback?

5) If it’s been several years and you’re not getting anywhere... that’s about right. Building a reputation takes time. It is demotivating and miserable in the meantime. Suck it up. Do what you do because it makes you personally fulfilled. Don’t expect a windfall; that will come after a lot of work.

6) Go to 1.
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