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As some of you might know, Worldbuilding Stack Exchange has a blog, which we call Universe Factory. Though less active than it was when it started up a couple of years ago, we still manage 2-3 post per month, in general. It's been a great community building strategy, and has managed to bring together users interested in disparate topics, as well as attracting non-users to the site, through reading or writing blog posts.

I've seen a lot of questions recently on Astronomy that make me think "Hey, this is cool. But what about [X, Y, Z]? I'd like to learn more about that." For example, this question about mapping the Milky way via HI regions made me wonder, among other things, about how assumptions of non-Keplerian orbits would change certain calculations. In some cases, a follow-up question would be appropriate, but in others, there's just too much information to discuss.

What would it look like?

Stack Exchange no longer hosts blogs, meaning that if a community wants to start its own, it has to go off-site (and make the blog unofficial, although SE will likely say "Yeah, it's okay to do that."). Worldbuilding and Science Fiction & Fantasy are probably the two communities which have the highest-visibility blogs. SFF's uses a WordPress site, as I understand it, while Worldbuilding uses Medium, a blogging platform that I think makes contributing to a group blog much easier. I certainly like it.

Worldbuilding has lots and lots of information on the site meta about how the blog works, but I can summarize the technical details:

  • We have our own "publication" on medium.com.
  • A small set of users have editor status, meaning they are the ones who can launch posts. At least one should be a site moderator (in the case of Worldbuilding, two of us are).
  • Anyone can write a blog post (although they okay it with the blog team first); they just need to set up an account on Medium.
  • We update a meta post and the Community Bulletin (which requires a mod) to promote the current post(s).

Essentially, it's a third-party host, and an unofficial blog, but all of the important information is open to the community on the site. We even have a chat room for coordinating and planning posts.

What could we write about?

Both sites have their own types of posts. SFF includes movie reviews, discussions of conventions and related events, editorials, etc. Worldbuilding often has posts about worldbuilding tips, as well as original short stories. For a putative Astronomy Stack Exchange blog, I'm thinking of a couple different types of possible posts:

  • Reviews of interesting papers (as I write this, I realize that Astrobites does this, aimed at an undergrad audience, although we could target broader or other niche sets of readers)
  • Discussions of specialized and maybe esoteric terminology (e.g. a post on speckle imaging, although I guess that's not so esoteric)
  • Talking about a user's own active research
  • Information about outreach and public events

The level the post is written at would be up to the author's discretion, and would likely vary based on the topic.

But why should we do it?

Well . . . I think it would be a decent method of community building and community promotion. We're not a huge site - although we're still healthy - and I've been looking for a number of ways in which we could grow and become stronger, and hopefully reach a wider audience. A blog would be an easy enough way to do this, and it could be fun.

What do people think? Should we try this out? If so, are there any changes we should make to the model I've proposed? Any other thoughts?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm open to the idea--not sure if there is sufficient interest around here, but more community involvement would be good if this is an effective way of getting there. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Nov 15 '18 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a big supporter of Should we revive the Topic of the Week? and would happily participate in that. Maybe every two weeks, or a pair of topics each month might be better. I don't know how to publicize the topics using the SE feature available in a beta site. But writing blog posts means time and effort since they tend to be longer and are expected to be more carefully prepared and edited than an SE question or answer post, so my guess is that people would hesitate to put in the effort to write something good on a peripheral site. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 20 '18 at 0:22
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    $\begingroup$ I think SE has converged to a kind of sweet spot in community building, bringing readers to a central location, voting, comments, follow-up questions, bells, whistles, etc. To enhance the community, I'd recommend doing things right here where the traffic is already maximum, rather than forking. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 20 '18 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a fun idea, and I might participate. $\endgroup$ – rob Nov 24 '18 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ Note that this question needs a followup (if the response is positive): Who commits to contributing on a regular basis?. Asking if something is a good idea is not enough ;-) $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Nov 26 '18 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ I really like this idea. If enough users participate, then it's definitely worth doing. $\endgroup$ – Pikachu the Purple Wizard Nov 28 '18 at 22:24
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I think we have a big enough positive response that it is time to secure commitments from prospective writers. As Jan mentions in the comments, perhaps another meta question would be the best way to do that. Really, we only need one or two writers to make it work as long as they can post regularly enough.

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