Every week I post a quick Q&A with one of our bloggers on the network, so you can get to know them better. This week, I chat with John Platt of the Extinction Countdown blog.
Hello! Let's start with first things first. What is the name of your blog and why did you choose that name - what does it mean?
It's called Extinction Countdown, and it's about endangered species around the world.
Why the name? Too many of the species on our planet are on their way out the door, and their time is short. We're on a deadline to save them, so...
Anyway, let's hope we don't count down to zero too quickly.
I actually started this blog on my own more than seven years ago under a slightly simpler name: Extinction Blog. It was picked up by Plenty Magazine in 2006, who published it until they went out of business at the end of 2008. That's when Scientific American stepped up, we renamed it Extinction Countdown, and I moved over here.
I have written nearly 1,400 articles about endangered species since starting the blog, and I've barely scratched the surface!
Where does the artwork for your banner come from, and what are you trying to convey with it?
Oh, it's pretty simple: an hour glass, ticking down. (Do hour glasses tick? Never mind.) Like I said, we're on a deadline to save many of these species before they disappear for good. I've already written about several actual extinctions have happened in the last few years. I don't look forward to writing about more of them, although I know that I will.
Tell us more about yourself - where are you from, how did you get into science?
I'm a writer, and it's always been my job to convey information to people in a way that helps them take action in one form or another, either to benefit themselves or their world (which could mean their industries, their careers, or the planet). I have always been interested in science, and although I don't have any science degrees, I have worked closely with scientists and technology professionals my entire life.
I'm originally from Connecticut, got my journalism degree in DC, spent a lot of years in New Jersey, and currently live in a little fishing village on the coast of Maine.
How did you get into science blogging and science writing? What were the early influences on you regarding your blogging style and topics?
When I started the original Extinction Blog, I was writing and editing a series of newsletters for technology professionals, covering all kinds of new research about computing, communications, power engineering, and related subjects. In the process of digging up story ideas for those newsletters, I also kept coming across new research about endangered species that wasn't getting any real media coverage. I didn't think it was fair for that news to stay buried, so I started blogging about the stories I saw.
My earliest stories were barely stories: a headline and a line or two, with a link to the real news. As the weeks turned into months, the blog posts got longer and longer, quickly becoming in-depth articles. Now I also often interview the top experts on many of these species to get their perspective and help the reader to understand what's really going on.
I like an underdog, so you'll often see me standing up for the little guy. I also like to use humor, when I can, to help illuminate the issues. It's a bit harder to be funny than it used to be -- writing about endangered species for seven-plus years wears on your soul -- but I don't think there's anything so serious in the world you can't laugh at it from time to time.
Who is your target audience, and why do you think people should read your blog?
Obviously, anyone who's interested in the environment or wildlife should be reading Extinction Countdown. If you want to leave the world a better place than it was when you found it, it's important to know the impact of your actions and how the actions of other people and companies and governments affect you. I try to cover all of that.
Anything else interesting about you, perhaps cool hobbies?
My life is an ever-changing string of interesting activities. I have published around 100 short stories, and my 2002 book of humorous horror fiction, Die Laughing, is available again for the Kindle. I'm a cartoonist, with my own (currently neglected) webcomic. I also do a lot of writing about comic books, and I'm the contributing editor covering comics for the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. I just finished my term as president of my local Lions Club, which was a great experience that I'd recommend to anyone who wants to give back to their local communities. I'm also a board member of Fearless Nation PTSD Support, founded by my partner Colleen Crary, which uses virtual reality to help people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. And as might expect, I like getting outdoors as often as possible.
In other words, I keep myself pretty busy!
Previously in this series: