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Ethics for Science and Health Bloggers

Our Second post in the b5media 12 Days of Christmas series is by Hsien-Hsien Lei. I’ll let her introduce herself and tell us about the topic of – a topic that might well be worth thinking through for all types of bloggers but which is particularly relevant for some in a field like Hsien-Hsien Lei.

Hi. I’m Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei and I write the Genetics and Public Health Blog. Unlike most of the other blog tips you‚ll be reading about in this series, mine will be geared towards science and health bloggers who, I think, have greater responsibilities to their readership. We’re not just blogging about the next generation of iPods or the latest celebrity to make a fool of himself. We’re blogging about life and death.

So maybe I’m being a little over-dramatic. But it’s true that science and health bloggers need to fully disclose any information that may mislead readers. For instance, I am a doctor, but I’m not that kind of doctor; I hold a PhD, not an MD. That makes a huge difference in how I understand and interpret the latest science and health news.

From the start of the Genetics and Public Health Blog, I made it clear that I wasn’t beholden to any advertisers or sponsors. While ads may appear on my blog, they do not influence my writing in any way. Everything I write is my own opinion. No one tells me what to write.

I encourage all science and health bloggers to write a post answering the following 10 questions posed by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health:

1. Who runs this site?
2. Who pays for the site?
3. What is the purpose of the site?
4. Where does the information come from?
5. What is the basis of the information?
6. How is the information selected?
7. How current is the information?
8. How does the site choose links to other sites?
9. What information about you does the site collect, and why?
10. How does the site manage interactions with visitors?

My answers are posted at the Genetics and Public Health Blog. If you choose to answer these questions too, leave me a comment!

Blogging for Money and Tax

There’s a useful post by Bill over at BaseBlogging about Accounting for Bloggers where Bill interviews an accountant, Brian Borawski from Tigerblog, about tax implications and financial structures for bloggers. It’s probably more useful for US bloggers but might give those of us from other countries a few hints at the type of questions we should be asking our financial advisers.

Blogging Rhythms – Clearing the Inbox

Every morning when I get up there is a all manner of things waiting for me in my inbox. This morning there were 251 emails (it was about 6 hours between checking them – this number doesn’t include the 200+ emails that came in telling me about deleted comment spam). The morning inbox clearing process is taking an increasing amount of time. It has this strange way of setting the agenda and tone of the day. I always approach it with a mixture of apprehension and excitement at the unknown things it might contain.

In the inbox this morning was:

  • 100 or so comments from my blogs (a few of them spam that got through the spam killer plugins that needed my attention)
  • a couple of blogging opportunities to follow up (I’m always amazed at the array of interesting projects people are working on)
  • two requests for interviews (one podcast one, another via email)
  • a load of b5 correspondence from b5 bloggers and directors
  • 80 or so news alerts and press releases on different keywords that I follow in Google News and Topix (yeah I know they do RSS, but there are a few words I like to follow via email as well)
  • one or two hate emails (unfortunately a daily thing these days)
  • a couple of encouraging emails (I try to focus more on these than the previous category of emails)
  • 15 ‘can you check out my blog/new product’ emails (emails that I find it hard to keep up with these days)
  • a number of suggestions from blog readers on how I might improve my blog or topics they’d like to see me cover
  • quite a few questions from my different blog’s readers (I get a lot of these on my digital camera blog)
  • a few suggestions of links I might like to check out.

Here’s three of the links suggested today from ProBlogger readers:

It was a pretty typical array of email to deal with. In fact it was probably a bit lighter than normal, although since daylight savings came in I find that the first couple of hours of the day tend to bring in the biggest numbers of emails each day.

Dealing with email can be a pretty overwhelming experience so I’m attempting to develop systems for dealing with it. I’ve slowed down the frequency that my email is checked, but also have a triage type system which I’m trying to use to help me deal with it. As it comes in I have three categories. [Read more...]

Ten Rules for Profitable Blog Startups

Evan Williams from Pyra Labs had an interesting post a few days back titled Ten Rules for Web Startups which has some interesting points – some of which might well by relevant to bloggers in start up mode. The bold points are Evan’s – the rest is my attempt to adapt it to blogging.

1: Be Narrow – Evan suggests focusing upon the smallest possible problem to solve – good advice for a start up blog as well as a company. I was asked in an interview today what my advice is to bloggers and one of the first things I said was to think carefully about the niche that you choose. While there are some successful blogs going around that don’t have tight niches, there are many more that choose a narrow niche and work hard at dominating it. It’s old advice that I rabbit on about a fair bit – but the adage of being a large fish in a small pond is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given in this business.

2: Be Different – In this point Evan talks a little about competition (something there is plenty of in blogging these days!). There is loads of useful advice here that’s totally relevant for blog start ups. Yes there is competition – deal with it. Don’t let it get you down because competition can actually be good for your blog. There is always a way to differentiate yourself from the ‘competition’. Find the gaps around the niche that others are missing, be creative, be outrageous, be extravagant – do whatever it takes to stick out of the crowd. [Read more...]

New Perspectives inspire Fresh Content

Shawn emailed me to tell me about a post he’s written Bloggers Block where he simply moves his desk and finds that it gives him a fresh perspective.

Preparing your Blog for the Silly Season

Duncan has a good post unpacking the Blogging silly season a little. The ‘silly season’ traditionally starts the day of US Thanksgiving and extends into the first few weeks of January. It’s silly because traffic levels can vary incredibly. Every blog has it’s own pattern (depending largely upon it’s topic – ie product blogs tend to explode for the next month and die in January) but it’s a good idea to expect the unexpected.

If you’re an Adsense or YPN publisher you can expect variations not only in your impressions over the coming weeks but also in the CPC (cost per click). Advertisers are often willing to pay a bit more in the lead up to Christmas and in some industries in the first weeks of January (to capitalize on new year sales). Some are predicting that it really gets going this coming Monday – which apparently is becoming known as ‘Cyber Monday‘. If this is the case I can’t see what happens on Monday because yesterday was my biggest day ever in terms of earnings.

As Duncan says – in some ways there isn’t much you can do except let the roller-coaster run it’s course although if you have a product related blog I would recommend that this is the time to think about some of the following (in fact a lot of it you should already have been doing for the past month or so):

[Read more...]

How to Start a Blog

I quite often get asked by new readers for advice on starting a new blog. Now I’ll point them to the series that Duncan is writing on the topic of Starting a Blog. Part 1 is on ‘What to Blog About‘ – (choosing a topic).

Duncan’s series is for all kinds of bloggers but if you’re working through how to start a blog with an income earning potential you might also be interested in readying Principles of Choosing a Profitable Blog Topic after you’ve read Duncan’s post.

What to Do when Your Google Traffic Disappears

I’ve had emails from a number of ProBlogger readers in the past week who have each told me that at some point in the last month they’ve seen drastic falls in their Google SERPs and as a result their referral traffic from Google. In each case their page rank has remained at the same level but they’ve plummeted from ranking in the top 10 for their keywords to almost disappearing (or being the 320th ranked site). In each email there is a little panic, desperation and the question ‘what do I do?’ This post is an attempt to give some advice on this topic.

What’s going on?

Without getting into all the technicalities (something I’m not really capable of anyway) Google have just completed (or are getting close to finishing) the 3rd phase of their latest series of updates. This latest round of updates was informally called ‘Jagger’ by SEO experts.

Google employee, Matt Cutts, has been writing about Jagger on his blog (you can see them in his Google/SEO category).

Much of how Google determines who ranks how in their index is kept secret by Google but periodically they do an update like this that gives some sites a real shake up – for some it brings drastic improvements in where they rank and for others it unfortunately sees them seemingly fall out of the rankings completely.

This is what happened to me a week out from Christmas last year when I lost two thirds of my sites traffic (and daily income) to my digital camera blog in the period of an hour or two. Ouch.

What should you do when you lose your Google ranking?

The following advice is not official Google advice – it’s my advice which I gleaned from more experienced online entrepreneurs when it happened to me last year and I went into panic mode and started emailing people. Don’t take it as gospel – I’m not pretending to understand Google or how it works (people who I know work there say they don’t even understand it) – rather this is simply what I did and learned.

[Read more...]

Weddings, Blogging, Intentionality and one Whopping Big Tangent

Warning: Tangent Ahead

I have a secret life.

Actually it’s not really a ‘secret’ because I’ve not hidden the fact and I have spoken of it a few times at ProBlogger – maybe I should refer to it as my ‘other life’.

It might surprise a few newer readers but for the ten years before I went full time as a blogger I was a paid Minister of Religion (Pastor).

In fact while today I’m not paid as a Minister I still perform the tasks of one in a little church that I run in a voluntary capacity called LivingRoom (which is what my LivingRoom blog is about – among other things). It’s a roll that I am passionate about and enjoy thoroughly.

As part of that job I’m a marriage celebrant. Every now and again someone form LivingRoom (or one of their friends) gives me a call and asks me to marry them – something that I love to do (although it can be a bit nerve wracking).

Weddings tend to happen over our summer – and this year I have six weddings to perform (including taking part in my little sister’s) between now and March. It’s going to be a busy season. Tomorrow is wedding number 1.

Over the past few days I’ve been putting a bit of time into the preparation of tomorrow’s ceremony – getting all the forms together, working on the order of service and preparing a short talk – my ‘words of encouragement’ for the bride and groom – something I include in all my weddings.

Tomorrow in my words of encouragement I’ve decided to talk about ‘intentionality’.

[Read more...]