When I started this research blog over one year ago (with this non-triumphal post), I began my own personal experiment in how I do research. And 189 entries later, I am quite happy with the results and looking forward to doing it as long as it keeps working.
Most importantly for me, this blog serves me as a hyperlinked and searchable database of my work, and papers that I have read. (My lab books, which total about 400 pages from the past 3 years, are not so searchable.) I frequently return to my posts when I am writing a paper, programming experiments, writing a colleague, or creating a new post. I can quickly search my database to remind myself about the particulars of other work. Sometimes too, I need to retrieve code that I posted. My blog serves almost, but not quite, exactly unlike a subversion system.
I could keep it all private; but why not let others use it as a tool as well? Through this blog, I have come in contact with several people across the globe. Our conversations have inspired me to look in new directions, and revisit old ones. It is like teh Internets has assumed the place of my PhD supervisor of old. My research network has grown as a result. Of course, there is the danger of someone lurking and “stealing” the ideas and results in the things I post; but I don’t really care since I play an optimist on TV: 1) I don’t own knowledge in a way that it can be stolen; 2) advancing a problem brings new problems; and 3) I have more ideas and results. I also post publicly because I have some mental condition where if I know others could be reading, I am motivated to post. (I also do my best when I have too much to do. What is that disorder called?)
Of course it takes a lot of time to write and post; but for me that is when I begin to formalize my ideas more, and take a more critical look at my results, and those of others. When I have to summarize work as an annotation it can appear more clear; and many questions will begin to arise. Since I don’t have that much free time, I try not to be too polished in what I post. So, in this research blog I try to present engineering in the raw, and usually without correction of my mistakes. (See, for instance, when I made this silly mistake.) My students have an impression (and so did I) that since the papers they read are clean and direct, the work it took to get there must also have been clean and direct. What is not visible are the dead ends, bugs in the code, musings, etc. The things I would normally put in my private lab book, I now post to my research blog.
I definitely encourage others to try this approach to their research if they think it might be useful. Several of the blogs in our blog roll are good examples. I think doing this is better than a usenet forum or email listserv, quicker than a signal processing letter, more thoughtful than an email, and ultimately, more useful to the maintenance of sanity and order in my research.