The Professional is Personal

A recent episode of typical concern trolling of a science blog blipped up over at White Coat Underground, where PalMD has been rocking the daddy blogging of late.
Commenter Bill Williams expressed the following thoughts:

... I read science blogs to enhance my understanding of nature and scientific methods. ...Obviously this is your blog and you can do whatever you like. I'm sure I speak for others when I say that too much fluff with lower your readership, i.e., I am likely to unsubscribe. Thanks for the great work (when it really is work).

Pretty standard nonsense around ScienceBlogs, wherein the commenter kindly notifies one of us that our blogging content is not what s/he would like to see. To which the response is usually a jawdropping disbelief that anyone thinks that we blog to satisfy their personal view of what the blog "should be about". Don't let the door hit ya where the good FSM split ya, is the preferred response.
Nevertheless, I see something a bit more interesting in the specific reason for this person's objection to PalMD's blogging.


The full comment over at WCU was objecting to the parent-blogging .

As a parent I can relate to the pride and joy you must feel. As a consumer of science blogs, I am annoyed by personal posts like this. I don't mean to be rude, but I don't know you and I have no interest in your personal life. ... Pictures of your children and posts about parenting are noise and clutter.
Perhaps you would like to receive emails from me on an ongoing basis with photos and stories about my daughter? Probably not. Hence, my point.

The reasons why we bloggers who are scientists and doctors (and other professionals) should be more overt about our parent-hood and the life of balancing obligations has been eloquently expressed by many bloggers before. I don't want to re-tread that ground. What I am struck by in this situation is that someone like Bill is precisely the audience that should be smacked in the face with parent blogging.
He doesn't want to see that stuff in this particular venue. Well, he should. As should others of his ilk. It's great to preach to the choir and all, but change also requires a little bit of unexpected fronting of those who are not in the choir. A bit of discussion of the delight of a parent in his child -- in a venue where it is not expected -- is highly salient. This salience represents an opportunity for growth and a teaching moment for those who think that the blog shouldn't feature such content.
Because it is overwhelmingly likely that those who think science blogs should be free of parental sentiment also think that the professional life should be similarly sanitized.
It should not. Part of the process of improving professional job sectors to be more inclusive of women and of dual-career couples is the recognition that dealing with family is part of the deal. The more we can normalize this, the better.
I should acknowledge at this point that I have been very remiss in my parent-blogging and commit myself to finding ways to do it that get across the essential messages without further erosion of the pseud. I'll try.

14 responses so far

  • Coturnix says:

    Amen, brother!

  • Elf Eye says:

    I like this comment: "Perhaps you would like to receive emails from me on an ongoing basis with photos and stories about my daughter? Probably not. Hence, my point." No, that's not to the point. Emails are something that may arrive in one's box unsolicited. A blog, however, you have to choose to visit. Moreover, you have to choose to click on a link to a particular post. So if this reader doesn't want to read certain types of posts, why is s/he clicking on them? I know I am always reasonably sure of what a post will be about, and I just don't click on the ones that don't interest me.

  • PalMD says:

    Thanks, bro!

    Because it is overwhelmingly likely that those who think science blogs should be free of parental sentiment also think that the professional life should be similarly sanitized.

    Very true. Luckily, as a doc, most of my patients like to see me humanized and ask about the PalKid all the time. Of course, docs tend to attract patients who are a good match.

  • I should acknowledge at this point that I have been very remiss in my parent-blogging and commit myself to finding ways to do it that get across the essential messages without further erosion of the pseud. I'll try.

    Dude, if you start blogging about that parent shit, I'm quitting.

  • anon says:

    You wait CPP. Don't you realise comments like that mean you are going to end up with a brood of 15 kids? I have seen in my crystal ball!

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Dude, if you start blogging about that parent shit, I'm quitting.

    Witnessed!

  • Dave says:

    Bring on the kid stories! I also would like DM to post naked photos of himself, and tell us what his secret sexual fantasies are.

  • Because it is overwhelmingly likely that those who think science blogs should be free of parental sentiment also think that the professional life should be similarly sanitized.

    Say no more.

  • Agreed....with the exception that more people should also recognize the distinction between "my science blog where I can post whatever I want" and "my formal seminar." Kids' pictures fine in one place, seriously obnoxious in the other.
    Although I am a bit on the sensitive side.

  • Abby N says:

    Hm, I work in human cognition and perception, and lots of folks use pics of their kids as "random example of a stimulus to be perceived" in their seminars etc. I've never thought it was out of place, and usually find it kinda reassuring to know that these people *do* have families etc.
    I can see other contexts where it might be less relevant, but I wanted to stand up for this one.

  • Went to a seminar recently in which a famous prof put up a picture of her child, describing the child as "Her favorite biomaterial". There was no further point to the picture, so I wasn't sure what I thought about the picture, other than that I was glad that she felt comfortable in her motherhood and sciencehood. Not many women do that in my field.

  • Heather says:

    Way to go. Another reason why science blogs and science journalism fulfill different needs. Some posts can be classic journalism, some can be personal. There is no obligation in a blog to cover a particular topic aside from your own interest. The readers are not the editors, actually. And for every reader like Bill who might drift away (and probably drift back if he appreciates the rest that much), new ones will come.

  • Rob says:

    @Heather, could not agree more. I'm one of you all, PhD, blogger. If i'm not getting paid for my work, the audience is not relevant (I refrain from using less-charitable expresions). Non-paid blogs are personal by definition. So, yeah, PalMD, go ahead and tell us all about your kids. It's not like anyone is holding a gun to your head and demand you read the blog posts.

  • george.w says:

    Wait, scientists are human and have children and stuff? Woah. I mean; no, wait, just woah...
    I need a minute, here.
    OK I'm back. Wow, Mister BillWill got really testy. On the odd chance that he stops by here (since he "unsubscribed" from PalMD), I'll share a really easy trick with him that I've learned over six years of blogging: "If something is not interesting to you, don't read it. It's a great big interweb, read something else."
    Oh, and because he unsubscribed, he'll miss the latest post Journeys, which was wonderfully touching and thought-provoking. All because he didn't learn about hitting the spacebar to page down.

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