This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with some of the world’s leading psychology and neuroscience bloggers.
Next up, Anthony Risser of BrainBlog.
How did you become a psychology/neurosci blogger?
My interest in using and promoting the use of online applications in psychology and medicine dates to 1994. Like everyone else at the time, I started playing with rudimentary HTML tagging; I loved the instant nature of the results online. Being part of several virtual communities later in the 1990s, the constructive feedback from others was reinforcing. I looked around neuropsychology to see what might emerge (not much did at the time!) and did a fair amount of freelance work dealing with management of online content. Within several years, I was trying my hand at developing and providing online courses for undergraduate and graduate programmes. Online outlets seemed ideal for psychological resources.
I opened BrainBlog in September 2004 while drinking an espresso, without having any particular plan or goal for it in mind. The ease of using blog applications was too attractive to pass up and slowly my website gave way to content on the blog. I decided to watch the blog grow and let it dictate what I would do with it, rather than trying to direct it in a specific direction.
What’s your blog’s mission?
I try to provide educational information to my readers, usually by pointing to additional online resources and recommending readings such as the papers I choose for my ‘Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day.’ Based upon the blog’s visitors, comments, and links, I have a high yield of university and graduate-programme students, so I try to give them something interesting to pursue after they click away from the blog.
I also like to post entries to point visitors to lesser-known academic and clinical centres around the world to try to get these sites some additional visitors.
My blog’s weakness is that I do not provide enough of a narrative or an analysis about what it is to be a neuropsychologist and the work that we do. Given the wide-open public nature of a blog, I’ve always struggled with what to say and what not to say.
Are you also on Twitter – if so, how do the two outlets complement each other?
Yes. BrainBlog has a Twitter voice at @neuropsychblog. I use that voice to RT [re-tweet] additional neuropsychology-related content that might not find its way into a blog posting.
How does your blogging affect your day job?
Blogging and related online activities help keep a neuropsychologist thinking about new and creative things. I wish more of us did it!
What are your weapons of choice – i.e. what blogging platform / hardware do you use and why?
I’ve used Blogger in the past (where BrainBlog resides), but I am currently impressed with Posterous. I converted my Blogger-based photo-blog to Posterous and enjoy the ease with which it accepts media files (photos, podcast files, video). Posterous has a simple and clean appearance, too. The video/livestream options like Vimeo and Ustream are pretty cool, too, for those individuals who might opt for creating a non-text-based blog presence – Google ‘Howard Rheingold’ and ‘Joi Ito’ for academic-based examples of such tools.
What advice do you have for any budding psychology bloggers out there?
Blog and Tweet, Tweet and Blog. It keeps you on your toes, it is fun, it is creative. Find your narrative voice if you can (I am still searching for mine!). More likely than not, you’ve had an online presence in other parts of your life – try one specific to your life as a psychologist or as a psychology student or as someone who just has a keen interest in understanding behaviour.
What blogs do you read (list up to five)?
color me katie [life as a photographer by katie sokoler]; londonist [life in london]; wooster collective [life as street art]; jill/txt [life online by jill walker]; cool hunting [life in the cool lane].
What books or other traditional media are you reading at the moment? (up to five)
The current fiction I am reading is Rose Tremain’s recent work, The Road Home. The current non-fiction book I am reading is The End of the Party – Andrew Rawnsley’s account of New Labour. And, daily, The Guardian.
And finally, what blog post of yours are you most proud of and why?
I am most proud of being able to lend support in BrainBlog to some participants of last year’s One & Other Trafalgar Square art project on the Fourth Plinth by Antony Gormley. A surprising number of plinthers promoted awareness of various CNS [central nervous system] conditions and support groups during their hour on the plinth. Two in particular, Laura Hickman and Gavin Cross, received a number of additional viewers from my blog entries. It pleased me to be able to provide them with some extra viewers when they were on the plinth and to provide an educational venue about the brain for some ‘One & Other’ viewers and participants who did not know much about neuroscience.