In case you you don’t know the humor, a few years ago Orac, one of the snarkiest skeptics on the internet, called me a scaly dinosaur. Though I was scared to do so, but I had to correct him – I am a feathery dinosaur. Of course, I don’t think Orac is a paleontologist, but you never know.
I am once again e-begging. We’ve made a massive dent in the fundraising, chopping away about $1,000. If we can get the other $2-3000, it would be great.
Writing a blog post
I think that there is a misconception about how hard it is to be a scientific skeptic blogger. I once watched a YouTube video where the content provider had to explain what he did. He had to film. Then edit. Then compress the video. Then add in titles, music, outro and intro. Then post it. A 10 minute YouTube video probably requires 5 to 6 hours of work.
The same here. I just don’t write random stuff in an extemporaneous stream of consciousness. Here’s how it works for me:
Step 1 – get an idea. I generally pick them up from scanning journal articles published recently, posts on Facebook or Twitter, my Google news feed, a suggestion from a reader, or just because I was curious about a topic. Although I have occasionally wandered into a few strange areas, I focus on vaccines, GMOs, cancer treatments, nutrition, philosophy of science, and evolution (very rarely).
Step 2 – thoroughly research the idea. I dig through PubMed, reading articles that support or refute the hypothesis in my mind. I strongly favor systematic reviews, which sit at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research. And I don’t just read the abstract – I can access all journal articles, even ones behind a paywall, to read them from cover to cover. I look at their hypotheses, methods, statistical analyses, discussions, and conclusions. I have these articles on my iPad, where I can easily highlight the key points.
Step 3 – compose an outline of the article. This is the more difficult than just writing down some headings. I have written 5-6K articles before, and they’ve been well received, but I try to write between 1-2 thousand words per article, so I don’t bore the reader. So the outline has to allow me to present my hypothesis, review the evidence, and put in a conclusion – in as few words as I can.
Step 4 – write. The hardest part of this is to convert complex information within the body of a scientific article in a way that interested people can use easily and quickly to refute an anti-vaccine argument, for example. It is tough.
Step 5 – edit. This is definitely not in my bailiwick. It’s really hard to edit what one has written, because my brain already knows what I’m trying to say. I read it out loud, and that’s why sometimes I put in really silly misspellings like “led” for “lead” or vice versa.
Step 6 – have a cup of coffee, then edit again. Yes, I try to edit twice.
Step 7 – format it for WordPress. I have several goals here. Make it readable on all browsers and devices, make sure the keywords are stressed, and make it SEO (search engine optimization) friendly.
Step 8 – hit publish. Believe it or not, this step used to cause me problems. The WordPress editor used to put “Save Draft” right next to “Publish,” and several times I hit publish, and put out a one paragraph article.
Generally, depending on the complexity of the article, it takes about 4-5 hours from the moment I sit in front of my iMac to moment I hit publish.
And this does not include all the time spent managing the website, like fixing broken links, diagnosing problems with the website, cleaning up old articles that are still popular but are badly formatted, and other housekeeping.
For example, for the past few days, there’s a popup that happens with certain Android and iPhone users that makes it impossible to view this website. I had to check several pieces of code in my website to see if some malware was injected into php files, of which there are hundreds – that took several hours. I couldn’t find the malware, until I discovered it was in a Google ad. Sometimes, Google is an annoying pain in the glutes.
Sometimes, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss provides articles to me. No, I just don’t hit publish, I have to embed links, reformat it for WordPress, edit it a couple of times, and then hit publish. Sure, it’s not a 4-5 hour process, but it does take a couple of hours. And I am deeply grateful for the content – this website is ranks very high for vaccine law articles.
The feathery dinosaur is my full time project. I’m not looking for sympathy, because I do have fun doing it. It’s always encouraging when I see an article from me or Dorit get shared thousands of times, like the recent article about Dr. Richard Pan. Coincidentally, Dorit suggested that I write the article.
Like I mentioned before, running this website is an expensive operation. It takes a lot of work from me and others to keep it running. And because of the popularity of the website, it cannot be done cheaply (although I’m always looking for alternatives).
There are two ways to contribute to this website. First, you can make use of PayPal. If you wish, you can set up PayPal to provide monthly contributions, which are just as helpful. I prefer PayPal, because it doesn’t take out a fee, so if you send $10, I get $10.
My second method is through GoFundMe. Some people are more comfortable with the anonymity and popularity of GoFundMe, and it’s a perfectly fine way to do it. However, GoFundMe does take a small portion as a fee for the service.
I will regularly revise the goal level on GoFundMe to include amounts I’ve received through PayPal. We started with a goal of $4000 and we’re already down to needing $2555 more.
Your generous donations can keep this website going for another year. Please help if you can. And like I said previously, if I can get enough donations, I can eliminate all but 2 low bandwidth ads, which will make this website work so much better.
The feathery dinosaur (not a scaly one) appreciates your generosity.