Pardon my introspection
November 24, 2008 6 Comments
In addition to this blog, I maintain a second, older blog called Bikes, Bugs, and Bones. That snarkier, decidedly less erudite site was my first venture into the world of blogging, initiated some two and a half years ago not due to any particular vision on my part, but more as a reaction to other blogs that were popping up by people I knew in the St. Louis cycling scene. At that time, I was deeply immersed in the world of amateur bike racing, and a blog seemed to be a natural outlet for reporting my take on the races in which I participated. The title – Bikes, Bugs, and Bones – was a reflection of my propensity to be interested in too many things (with not enough time). In reality, however, my surging interest in cycling had by then pushed my longer held entomological and natural history interests to the back burner, and my posts on that blog – then and now – dealt almost exclusively with bicycles and racing. For several reasons racing was something I needed to do, and I had a good run – winning 14 races in seven years (including three state championships) and crowing it all with a highly respectable finish in the 2007 Etape du Tour (an amateur race held on the “Queen stage” route of the Tour de France). My interest in entomology and natural history never waivered during this time, but the demands of training relegated any meaningful field work to short windows before the racing season began and after it ended each year. Eventually, the entomologist in me could be suppressed no longer, and at the end of last year I decided that I needed to get back to doing what I loved – bug collecting! I made a commitment to return entomology field work to its rightful place as my first priority (after family and work, of course) and race bicycles as time permitted. (I have since completely retired from racing, although I still ride and maintain Bikes, Bugs, and Bones as an outlet for discussing all things cycling.) As an expression of that renewed commitment, I started a new blog – this blog – and after much frustration finding that every blog name I thought of had already been thought of by someone else (and generally abandoned after only a few posts) settled on the name Beetles In The Bush. One year ago today – November 24, 2007 – I posted my first entry to this new blog (a subsequent entry, a list of my publications, was backdated to November 23).
Beetles In The Bush started with a simple mission – to document my entomological and other natural history experiences and provide an outlet for the photographs that I was beginning to take. Late fall is not the best time to begin an insect blog, especially with no insect photos on hand to serve as starter material. As a result, my initial posts appeared rather infrequently – primarily whenever I had the opportunity to do a winter hike. It was those first few hikes, however, and my efforts to write something interesting about the natural history represented in the photographs that I took, that called attention to what I realized was a glaring gap in my overall knowledge of natural history. I was a competent entomologist, to be sure, but that competency did not extend to general botany (other than the mostly woody plants with which the insects I studied were associated), or to the natural communities in which those plants and insects occurred, or to the geology of the landforms that contained those natural communities, or to the manner in which these fields intersect, an understanding of which I would have to have before I could consider myself a competent natural historian. More than just an outlet for posting pictures and stories about my adventures, Beetles In The Bush also quickly became a tool to help me learn more about botany, ecology, geology, and related fields. I have read more non-entomology literature in the past year than I have since earning my degrees, and since knowledge and passion are intimately linked in a positive feedback loop, I’ve found myself becoming even more passionate about entomology, too. I still have much to learn – I am a work in progress, far from complete. But in this case, it is the journey that is also the reward.
Like all bloggers, I’d like to think that I have a large, regular following, and that over time more and more people will find my writings interesting and worthy of their time. The numbers don’t support this – as of this one-year anniversary, Beetles In The Bush has received 6,987 hits – not triffling but by no means extraordinary. While the graph below shows steady growth during the first year of existence, the numbers don’t come within a rifle’s shot of some of the really popular natural history and science blogs. I surmise the main reason for this involves a relatively lower posting frequency – a little more than once per week on average instead of the daily or near daily frequency seen with many blogs. I suppose also my relatively specialized subject matter and tendency to ramble on are contributing factors. I have thought about writing smaller, more frequent posts and expanding my subject matter to create greater interest; however, in doing this I realized that what I enjoy most is writing stories about the things that interest me – stories that teach, stories that impart a sense of the passion that I feel, stories that allow me to reflect on what I’ve learned and what I still don’t know. If that makes a broad, daily readership less likely, so be it – I understand now that I’m doing this as much for me as anyone else. So, I mark this first anniversary with a resolution to wean myself from the lure of trying to increase traffic and refocusing my efforts on doing what I enjoy most – writing silly little stories about the things I stumble upon on my journey to become a better natural historian. For the readership that I do have, I am grateful. More importantly, I am thankful for the goodly number of “friendships” that have resulted from these writings. Thank you for your interest, and I sincerely hope that some day I have the chance to meet many of you in person.