Clive Thompson on the beauty of blogging

Clive Thompson has just bombarded a room full of science journalists about the joys of blogging and Twittering. Thompson was a Knight Science fellow, during which he became his blog, Collision Detection.

Today, at a symposium to mark the 25th anniversary of the fellowships at MIT, he evangelised about the benefits of blogging.

For Clive, he blogs to improve the way he thinks. The blog was what Cory Doctorow describes as an “outboard brain“.

This is a great reason for keeping a blog. As Clive explained, blogging is a thinking process and it shows him “I’m interested in when I don’t have any editorial dictates”. In some ways, the blog operates like a reporter’s notebook, reminding you of things you’ve been thinking about.

Collision Detection “keeps me hungry”, Clive said, even though he has never made a penny directly from it. The blog stares at him, asking for stuff and “it forces me to go on mad tear” looking for something to feed the beast. And it has made his writing better and faster.

Beyond this, the blog becomes your online personality. Clive explained how his blog enabled him to dominate Google rankings as the Internet is a vast ocean, but “incredibly shallow.”

Blogging also helps him to work through ideas. It offers a platform to access the hivemind of the net, put out ideas and see how people are responding to them.

Thompson finds that by airing ideas on the blog, it helps him “break out of a mental rut” and get perspectives from people he didn’t know existed.

Of course, writing about the story you are working on is often tough for journalists to do. As Clive pointed out, journalists tend to be secretive about what they are working on.

But he related an experiment he did while working on a story for Wired. He put a small post on his blog, and in response received 58 comments, 65 e-mails and 61 blog entries discussing his entry.

“The upshot was that I got a lot of free work done for me, a lot of free thinking”.

(And I should welcome Clive as he religiously checks out sites that link to him).