Scott Robinson is an educator, zoologist, and author of the newly released books Rainforest Critters and Predators. He created the website critter.science as a free educational resource for animal enthusiasts of all ages. Scott is also a member of GoDaddy's Technical Services team and regularly authors posts for the GoDaddy Garage, the Tech Writer team, and for other departments as well.
Read the interview with Scott Robinson
We caught up with Scott for a discussion that covers authoring, building stuff online and, of course, critters.
You've been in the zoology game for over 45 years. How did you get started?
I have always had a connection with animals. Stray dogs would follow me home from school, I’d find lost tortoises, etc. One time, while at a park with my parents, my father told me to look out for the geese, as they could be dangerous.
He turned around and I had one in my arms, with its head on my shoulder, letting me pet it.
During a mass beaching of Humbolt Squid in California, I took the opportunity to teach a few people about these fascinating creatures. In a few minute’s time, I had a crowd of over 20 people – all learning about squid. Each day, I try to learn about a new species. I have done this for years.
Congratulations on the new books Rainforest Critters and Predators. What's your process like for researching and writing?
Thank you. Self-publishing can be a bear. But it’s rewarding, all the same. I actually take a little from my firsthand experiences with critters, some information from articles I’ve previously written on my site, and then add a little more to create the books.
Most of the information I write is stored in my brain from experience and hands-on research. I will also occasionally hit up good ol’ Wikipedia, in a pinch. I pick a different critter each day and then write an article about it, Monday through Friday, then post the articles on my site. I share them on various social media platforms. I have written nearly 1,000 articles on my site, to date.
What other works have you written?
Besides the Rainforest Critters book, I just finished my second book, Predators. That book talks all about various animal predators from all over the world. It, too, is available on Amazon.com. I’m a writer for several different departments with GoDaddy: the Tech Writer department where I write Vault articles; GoDaddy Garage, where I author various how-to articles and such, the Fully Managed Server department, where I’ve written nearly 70 articles, and I’ve written scripts for the hosting department — and I have also written a series of short stories.
The Critter Science website is pretty cool (and built on Web Hosting from GoDaddy). What were some of the major considerations that went into choosing a platform and building out the functionality?
Web Hosting lets you install WordPress as a CMS, or you could opt for something like cPanel. I wanted to use WordPress to build my site, as I have a lot of experience with that platform. Cost was also a consideration, but the hosting needed to be reliable enough to handle high-traffic events.
It's been great and hasn’t let me down. I went with cPanel hosting too because I needed to be able to have an interface that assisted me in customizing critter.science and internal features of the site — for optimization purposes as well as SEO. Eventually, I’ll get myself onto a server. But, for now, Business Hosting works rather well.
So, you've got the website and writing gig, plus a full-time job with GoDaddy. And then there's also raising five kids, four of whom are adopted, with three of those from foster care. How do you find time for it all?
It all comes down to time management, really. Plus, I end up only sleeping plus or minus five hours a night. I start my day at 1 a.m. and keep going till about 8 p.m. or so each night. My family is especially important to me, so I also spend as much time with them as possible.
My kids are 23, 18, 14, 12, and 11. One girl and four boys. We hike, take trips, go to sporting events, and more. We also have a host of animals to take care of: three dogs, one cat, one hamster, one hedgehog, several fish, and two axolotls.
You've got a formal education in graphic and web design. But I noticed before that you earned a degree in Theology. How would you describe your professional journey?
As far as my journey goes, I was a semipro-level hockey goalie for 16 years and played through college. Plus, after college, I have always loved critters, so I started a business where I used to travel around and teach zoology, ecology, and environmental sustainability to people from all over the world.
I did that for several years, after retiring from hockey. I was featured on the local news several times too. That was fun.
“I was on NBC, on the morning show, and handling a pink-toed tarantula. They happen to be arboreal (spend their lives in trees) and she decided to jump onto the lapel of the meteorologist. He didn’t skip a beat. But the news anchor, standing right next to us, leaped back and shouted, “Oh hell no!” We were live on the air, mind you. The meteorologist and I both had a good laugh at that.”
Eventually, I closed the doors to my critter business, after a few years' time, and then created my website to continue teaching zoology.
I happened to know a bit about WordPress, too. So, when I stopped teaching to live audiences, I needed to come to a place where I could also express my inner nerd for websites. Hence my ultimate landing here at GoDaddy. My theology degree was obtained just out of curiosity. I’m always learning all I can about all kinds of things. There’s so many cool things in this world. Learn all you can.
Lots of people aspire to become writers but quickly give up after staring at a blank screen or discovering that nobody reads their work. What's your advice on starting to write and marketing yourself once you've produced something?
It’s been my practice that if I can’t get started writing something, I will go online and look at related topics to what I’m about to write on. That usually inspires me. I’m competitive and the challenge of writing something different, new, or better gets me going.
Marketing, for me, has been primarily word of mouth. Authoring books and selling them online has been great for getting the word out about who I am, as a writer and a teacher too.
My best advice would be to pick a topic that you’re interested in and passionate about. Don’t force yourself to write about just anything, only because you want to get your name out there as a writer. It will definitely show in your words that you don’t really care for what you’re writing about if you aren’t absolutely in love with what you’re authoring.
If you had to pick a favorite animal, what would it be and why?
I’m frequently asked this question. It’s definitely the pygmy marmoset. They are one of the world’s smallest primates. With the smallest being the Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur. I just love how cute they are, and it’s fascinating that they are so small, yet still intelligent beings. They don’t make good pets, though, as they refuse potty training. But they should be left in the wild anyway, where they belong.