If you're a professor and you want to change the world, what do you do? In 1993--quit and become an activist. In 2007--start a blog.
Or so it seems. PZ Myers blogging at Pharyngula is probably doing more for evolution than PZ Myers publishing papers in scientific journals. Is that true PZ?
Does that mean I blew it when I quite my job as an Assistant Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of Connecticut in 1993, and became a full-time environmental advocate? Could I have done more to save the ocean as a blogging professor?
Things were different in 1993. My Dept. Chair was fond of saying "I'm an ecologist, not an environmentalist" and directing me to follow his model. Scientists were not supposed to be advocates, and "conservation biology" was new. The pioneering AIDs activists of ACT UP had changed scientific research forever, but the changes had not spread very far. Big tobacco still reigned supreme. Nirvana was hot and Frank Zappa died. And who had heard of blogging? I was an early adopter of this strange thing called email. Who knew that regular professors with the gift of blog would be charismatic media stars?
Fast forward to 2007, and the age of democratic micro-media. Anyone can take a turn at bat, and grad students mostly outshine professors in the blogosphere. A professor with an itchy activist streak can have his/her cake and eat it too, tenure and a public soapbox. Damn, once again I got off the train before it really got started. Like when I quit my first real job after college in 1980, working for a modest tech company called Intel (no kidding). Back when a chip with 64k of RAM was a big deal.
I could look back and moan for missing the boat. But then I wouldn't have blogfish, and who knows, I might be a boring rich guy with high blood pressure and a mansion because of my Intel stock.
The best lesson from looking back is that clearly I'm a good predictor of what's about to get big. Just watch what I stop doing and go there. But it's gonna cost you, this time I'll be smart and charge for the advice. For $100 I'll tell you what I'm getting out of this year. It's my only chance of making it big.