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Big crystals and being original in science blogging

by Eva Amsen

Being original isn’t easy. This weekend I was thinking of new ideas for Finch and Pea posts. I made a list of ten things to write about, and one of them was Mexico’s giant crystal cave. I first found out about that cave about 7 or 8 years ago, when I was writing a feature for a science site for teens. I was asked to write about crystals, and in my research for that article I learned that the biggest crystals of the world were in a cave in Mexico.

Today I posted about the crystals in my science travel feature for The Finch and Pea, so you can read all about it there.

After I wrote the post, I looked for images to add to the text, and in that search I discovered that SciShow had also covered the crystal cave just a few months ago. I subscribe to the channel, but I was so busy those weeks that I missed the episode.

I thought I’d come up with something original, and now someone else (and bigger) had done the same. It’s an annoying feeling, because there already is so little originality online. Often, multiple blogs will cover the same topic in the same month – either because they were both inspired by the same source, or because one got the idea from the other and followed it up with a new angle.

But this was pure coincidence. I got this idea from an article I wrote myself years ago, not from SciShow. It bothered me that people would think that’s where I got it from, but then I thought: does it matter? Not everyone who reads The Finch and Pea also watches SciShow and some people might be hearing about the caves for the first time. Also, I often do get ideas directly from other sites. And I’ve done the reverse as well: I used two of my old posts from The Finch and Pea to participate in a writing exercise to write a SciShow-style script, and I’m sure some of the SciShow writers will have gone through the Wattpad tags for the exercise and come across mine. Nothing is stopping them from using them for an episode, or at least getting inspiration to cover those topics. (Frankly I couldn’t believe they hadn’t covered the ocean current bath toys yet!)

So, we can’t always worry about being original when it comes to topics. The presentation is still entirely different, and now even more people know about the giant crystal caves in Mexico!

(Image CC-BY by Alexander van Driessche, via Wikimedia)

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