2011 on Expression Patterns

I didn’t blog much last year, but 8% of my posts were either selected for Open Lab or reached the front page of reddit, so there.
Here are some highlights (and basically a list of every other post of 2011)
Beer chemistry (as seen on reddit)
Make History, not vitamin C (as will be seen in Open Lab)
Talks vs posters – the question, the results
SciBarCamb – and the etymology of that strange abbreviation. (No, not THAT kind of bar!)
Career advice from a plumber
Now, close your laptop, and go offline.

Advent Calendars

I always wait until after December 1st to get an advent calendar, but the ones that were left in the store were all terrible, so for the same amount of money as the discounted calendars I bought a box of After Eight mints and made my own advent calendar. (Starts at December 5th. I ate number 1-4 already.)
This wasn’t the first advent calendar I made this season. The other one is digital, and I thought I had a really good idea, until I found out there were about a million other science advent calendars. Although, about ten years ago, in a late night chat conversation with a friend, we did decide that ideas are either good or original…
My science advent calendar runs on Twitter, where it will update every day at 1PM (UK time) with a Christmas-related science tweet. Here are the ones that have been up so far (I’ll update this as the month goes along).

Other science advent calendars (some of which you may already have seen) are:
YuleTubeCalendar – open the doors for a music video and a clue about a scientific news item from 2011
Physmas – daily images related to physiology research
The Advent Calendar of Physics – a physics equation per day (with explanation)
Advent Calendar on Backreaction – daily anecdotes from the lives of physicists.
Know of any others? My tiny calendar will happily retweet things as it has already admitted defeat. It will still post things – it’s all scheduled to go for the rest of the month – but I was a lot more excited about it before I discovered all the others. I guess I was sort of hoping that people would really like mine, and then at the end of the month I’d fess up that it was me and everyone would be so impressed and I’d be popular and have Christmas named after me or something. I don’t know. It didn’t quite turn out how I was hoping, even though I’m not sure what I thought that would be. I also considered not laying claim to it at all if it failed, but it’s already failing now (with only about 30 followers), and I think I would eventually have brought it up anyway so now at least you know who completely sucks at timing and fun. You can follow it if you want, but YuleTubeCalendar is MUCH better and way more fun. It even has functioning doors and everything!
I’ll just enjoy my After Eight calendar, which I’m a lot happier with. Much more chocolate, and as far as I know it’s also more original.

Waiting around as transferable skill

What was most annoying about labwork was that sometimes there were 14-hour workdays of which only about an hour was actual work, and the rest was just waiting. Waiting for gels to set, waiting for gels to run, waiting for machines to finish, blots to incubate, paint slides to dry.
Sound familiar?
Well, guess what: this may just be a transferable skill.
“The logs reveal a job which involves long periods of waiting around but which at any moment could require concentration when something finally happens.”
Writes BBC news, in an article about a job opening at MI5. The Security Service is hiring new “mobile surveillance officers”, and the required skills include both patience and observance.
So if you want to leave science, you can always be a spy!
Like a scientific career, it might not be as glamorous as it sounds, though. The salary starts at £26,250, which is on the low end of the average UK postdoc salary. As the BBC points out, you’re better off applying for another job opening at MI5: they’re also hiring carpenters who get paid a thousand pounds more per year than the new spies.
But if that doesn’t put you off (and why would it? you didn’t go into science for the cash either) here’s the info, with an interactive game to test your skill. I have no idea what the game is like, because it took several minutes to load, and I didn’t want to wait any longer so I closed the window.
I see what just happened.

No one cares about your blog (part 1)

I did a survey last week. You may have clicked it, and if you did, you’re probably a member of Nature Network, because out of the 52 people who replied seriously, 30 answered that they read this blog because they read multiple NN blogs. In the graph below, it says 28, but I corrected that for a number of written-in responses that indicated that they read NN blogs, but couldn’t keep up (see three of these reponses below the graph. One had ticked the boxes, so I did it for the others as well before analyzing.)

Now I know I actually have more readers than the 50ish who answered the poll, because 10 people said they follow me in RSS, but Google Reader shows that 24 people subscribe to the blog through that method alone. Accounting for some people never reading feeds, and others using other feed readers, I guess I might have about twice as many somewhat regular readers.
But now, the reason I did the poll.
I promise it’s purely hypothetical at this point, but I was wondering: if I ever left Nature Network, would people follow me? It’s a valid question, because to be very honest, I have lost track of all the blogs that moved in the recent science blog network dance. Oh, I know where they all are, and I could find them if I wanted to, but I just haven’t had the need.
I’ve moved blogs before. Or rather, I had two blogs for a long time, and gradually stopped updating one. I sort of assumed that people who read easternblot.net would also find me at Nature Network, but from talking to people I realized that many people didn’t even know I had this blog here. Just like many people here don’t realize I have a much cooler blog elsewhere, that only gets about 5-10 hits per day, even though people absolutely love it when I show it to them. I posted a link to the latest interview on Twitter, and three people clicked it (including myself). But when I post Tweets that just say “hey, can you do me a favour and click this poll” it gets 12 hits. Why’s that then? Do my 600 Twitter followers prefer mindless clicking over cool interviews with music? Why do I have 600 followers anyway?
But to get back to the poll data, I asked who had previously been reading easternblot.net – which was the blog that got me invited to Nature Network in the first place, and that has landed me a couple of freelance jobs, some friends, and a handful of interviews. To me personally, that blog has had a much bigger influence on my life than Expression Patterns has had.
Look at this. Just look at it:

Only 2 of the 10 former easternblot.net readers are actually looking at other NN blogs as well. Me moving my blog here has not brought a new audience to NN altogether. But more strikingly, only 2 of the 30 people who are regulars at NN were even familiar with my former blog. That was the part that made me seriously question myself. That, combined with the low proportion of my friends reading (as visualized by the people coming in through Facebook) and the absolutely ridiculously low traction of my science/music project blog means that, roughly speaking, most of you don’t care about my blog.
Most of you are here because you’re here anyway, because you look at lots of Nature Network blogs. If I were to move this blog, you would not follow it. Don’t bother telling me that you would. I’m not fishing for compliments. I can see the numbers, and I know the majority of you would not follow me if I moved my blog. I won’t move it, because it clearly attracts an audience consisting mostly of people who read it because it’s here so don’t worry about that. But I also won’t move it because I have no idea what to write in here anymore. None whatsoever. I don’t have a theme like I had on easternblot or like I have on scientists and musicians. I write about science on my work blog, and am pretty low on ideas for here. And now I see that most of you are only here because you were around anyway. You’re definitely not here to read about blogging – aren’t we all so bored with talking about that ?
So this is why you’re here, and why you don’t care about my blog in particular. More interesting is part 2, where I’ll try to explain why none of us should care at all about anyone’s blogs altogether, and in which you’ll read the full embarrassing story about a T-shirt that I’ve only worn twice in my life but that has received almost as much media attention as Lady Gaga’s meat dress.