Behind the Scenes of Medical Blogs: Eye on DNA

hsien.jpgThis month, I’m going to present famous medical bloggers to you. My aim is to get my readers closer to these quality blogs and the bloggers as well. I’d like to convince more and more health professionals/people interested in medicine to create their own blogs by providing interesting “behind-the-scenes” interviews. The fourth blogger in this series is Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei, definitely the most famous genetic blogger, the writer of Eye on DNA.

  • How do you find information for your blog? Do you read other blogs, journals or you use RSS reader? How many blogs do you track?

I use a number of sources for Eye on DNA depending on the topic I’m developing. For news, I have Google Alerts set-up and also have a custom search term in Google News that scans for everything related to genetics and DNA. I subscribe to RSS feeds for PLoS journals and Medical News Today. I also read a number of magazines that often mention genetics, such as Scientific American, New Scientist, and The Atlantic. Books are a great resource as well and as expected, I have a growing collection related to genetics.

As for blogs, I always scan through The DNA Network and ScienceBlogs. I’m currently subscribed to over 300 RSS feeds in Google Reader but that’s a mix of everything, not just science.

  • How do you find time to write such detailed posts and to host the most respected carnivals?

Blogging is a priority for me. It’s the way I stay motivated to continue learning more and processing my opinions on genetics and related topics. It’s also the way I build my personal brand, which is particularly important because I’m a self-employed biotech consultant. Also important, blogging makes it possible for me to have a conversation with likeminded people. Because I work from home, blogging is a key part of staying connected.

  • Are you a semi-professional blogger?

I used to work for a blog network as a paid writer and editor, but I no longer consider myself a professional blogger. If ever I decide to put all my eggs in the blogging basket again, I’ll call myself a problogger but as of now, I’m trying to be what Chris Garret calls an “authority blogger.”

  • Does blogging help your career?

Absolutely, writing a genetics blog has put me in touch with many of the movers and shakers in genetics and genomics. It’s how I met the people at DNA Direct and later joined them as a consultant. Through blogging, I can demonstrate my expertise and writing skills to a wider audience.

  • You have a professional design and layout. You organize competitions. Do you work on it alone or you have a computer geek in the family?

I AM the computer geek in the family! I’m not so keen on the hardware and software aspects but I spend an unhealthy amount of time online so I know the Web pretty well. I also read TechCrunch and other tech blogs regularly to stay on top of the latest. I learned about website design and maintenance when I was working at b5media and continue to challenge myself as much as I can.

As for the competitions, it’s a way to thank my readers for taking the time to visit and leave comments. If there were an easier way to draw winners without there having to be tangible participation like commenting, I would do it. As it stands, comments are the only way I can keep a record of who has entered.

  • You work as a consultant for DNA Direct. Does it cause any change in your topics?

Yes, working for DNA Direct means that I’m more careful about the topics I write about. It’s not because they’re censoring me, quite the contrary. I’m careful because I don’t want to present any conflict of interest. In any post touching on medical genetic testing or a potential competitor of DNA Direct, I always state clearly that I am currently a consultant for DNA Direct. Be forewarned that not all bloggers are so upfront with their affiliations.

  • At last, what are your future plans with your blog?

I haven’t had much time lately to plan out the future of beyond a week or two. I can say, however, that I intend to stay at my own domain and avoid being assimilated into a network (unless the offer were mighty sweet). I’ve had that experience already and prefer staying independent.

In addition to writing more in-depth posts at Eye on DNA, I want to try writing beyond the blog. Maybe you’ll see my name in a magazine or book one of these days if I can push myself out of my comfort zone!

Behind-the Scenes interviews so far: