Ten years ago this month I wrote the first post at virology blog, entitled Are viruses living? Thanks toÂ EE GiorgiÂ for pointing out the ten year anniversary, and also for publishing an interview with me at her blog, Chimeras.
HereÂ is how this blog got started: in June 2004 the second edition of our virology textbook, Principles of Virology, had just been published. While the textbook had so far done well, its audience was limited, and I wanted to find ways to better spreadÂ information about viruses. At the time I had a hosting account that I used to publish a website for our cub scout pack, and while visiting the administration page, I noticed an option to install blogging software. The idea then came to me to start blogging about viruses, so I looked for a good domain name. All of the virology names were taken except for virology.ws, so I bought that, and set up the blog. An artist made the logo, using an image of poliovirus bound to its cellular receptor; this structure was the product of a collaboration between my lab and those of Jim Hogle and Alasdair Steven. Then IÂ wrote my first post. Discussing whether or not viruses are livingÂ seemed like a good introductory topic, and I used some ideas that had been published in our textbook.
To my surprise, after a few months theÂ post began to attract comments, and to this day it remains one of the most commented posts on virologyÂ blog. My views on whether or not viruses are living have certainly evolved; a more accurate summary of my thoughts on this subject would be The virus and the virion.
I like to think that blogging has been a pathwayÂ to all of my other efforts to communicate information about viruses. Blogging brought me into the world of social media, leading me to start accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. Four years after virology blog,Â I started my first podcast, This Week in Virology, which is approaching one million downloads each yearÂ (we now have four science shows, including This Week in Parasitism, This Week in Microbiology, and Urban Agriculture). I began teaching an undergraduate virology course at Columbia University in 2010, and I have used video recordings of my lectures to teach virology at iTunes University and Coursera. I have had wonderful opportunities to interview virologists at colleges and scientific meetings; some of these can be found at my YouTube channel. I believe thatÂ I have shown that scientists can effectively communicate their fieldÂ to the general public, and I hope I have inspired someÂ of my colleagues toÂ emulate my efforts.
For the first 20 years of my career I taught virology to roughly 200 students every year, for a total reach of four thousand people. My blogging, podcasting, and online teaching now reach millions in over 170 countries. It all started with a blog.
I have been lucky to reach so many people, in different ways, with information about viruses. But I still love blogging, and I will be writing about viruses here as long as I my brain and body permit. My sincere thanks to everyone who has visited virology blog and has been part of thisÂ engaged and excited community.