By Bethany Halford & Amanda Yarnell
If you're reading this blog, chances are you didn't get here from C&EN's website. No, you probably got here from Dylan Stiles's Tenderbutton blog (assuming Stiles was kind enough to link to us after we bought him lunch on Tuesday). That's okay. We're not afraid to acknowledge Stiles's superior blogging skills.
C&EN staffers who know their way around the blogosphere will tell you that reading Tenderbutton is one of the best ways to procrastinate and still look like you're working.
Stiles, a fifth-year graduate student in Barry M. Trost's group at Stanford University, started the blog last December. But don't go there looking for gossip on Trost or the inside scoop on the group's unpublished work. That's not his style. Rather, Stiles created Tenderbutton to be an ubertechnical online outpost for synthetic organic chemists.
But it's not just the synthesis geeks reading Tenderbutton. We recently suggested a fledgling science writer start her own blog as a way to get experience as a citizen journalist. Her response: "You mean like Dylan Stiles? That guy is famous."
It's hard to tell from Stiles's supercasual demeanor if he's handling this fame exceptionally well or if he just doesn't know how famous he is. He will concede to a certain cult status. Tenderbutton, he told us, gets about 3,000 hits every day.
We think the secret to Tenderbutton's success is the combination of Stiles's wicked sense of humor and his genuine fascination with chemistry's complexities. Who else would spend a Saturday night analyzing his own ear wax and then tell the whole world about it?
Stiles recently gave his blog a more professional face-lift after a distinguished chemist sent him an unsolicited e-mail complimenting his handiwork but suggesting he keep the profanity to a minimum. He also knows what makes for a good a photograph, as evidenced by the rock-star pose he readily struck when we pulled out our camera. (Photo by Amanda Yarnell)
At this point we feel compelled to confess that we were a little nervous about meeting Stiles. Funny writers aren't always funny in person. We also worried he might have the stereotypical synthetic organic chemist's ego. Our fears were baseless. In person Stiles is both modest and hilarious. We're still laughing hours later.