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Blogging in academia

Part 1 of the 'Becoming a Networked Researcher' suite of workshops

Ned Potter

on 22 October 2013

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Transcript of Blogging in academia

Becoming a Networked Researcher
part 1
Ned Potter, Academic Liaison Librarian
Blogs are
regularly updated webpages
, consisting of posts (articles) on one or many themes.

They can exist on their own or as part of a larger (static) site.

Blogs are classed as social media - in other words
they're interactive and participatory
. Readers can (usually) comment on the posts, engage in dialogue with the author, and easily share links to the blog via Twitter and other networks
People can either read blogs online like any other website, or subscribe to the blog to receive regular and automatic updates, wherever they see this symbol:
There can be individual blogs, group blogs, departmental blogs, project blogs.

They're written using (normally) free online software, the most popular of which are:
Shortest answer:
It is likely that
a larger (and possibly more varied) audience
will see your research if you or others blog about it.

There's no official University (or IT) policy on which you should use,
it's up to you,

Wordpress is easier to use and a bit nicer, but as Blogger is a Google product you already have an account for it, and unlike Wordpress you'll never get any ads unless you put them in yourself
A York blog (on Blogger):
As seen from the author's point of view:
Links to our main websites
Options to subscribe
Contextual information
Embedded video
The blog post itself
Basic word processor
Tags to aid discoverability
Description for Google
1. Go to http://www.blogger.com and sign in with your University email address and password.

2. Click 'New blog'

3. Put in any title for now - you can edit or delete this blog later.

4. For address, the only thing you need to worry about for now is finding one that isn't already taken. You can change this later.

5. Any template will do. Follow the guide in the handout.
Blogging is most effective when you're part of an online academic community, so it's important to consume as well as create. For which you need RSS >>
It stands for
: Really Simple Syndication. Although the proper explanation is really anything but...

Relevant definition
: A way to keep up to date by making the content come to you: blogs, news feeds, anything regularly updated online.
Wherever you see this symbol:

... there's a feed you can subscribe to.
Subscribing to feeds via RSS funnels all the things you're interested in (but might otherwise miss)
into one place.

You can
sub-divide them into folders
(Must-reads, Research, Technology, Policy, or whatever).

Even once useful articles have disappeared off the front page of the sites you value, they're still waiting for you in your feed-reader.
You can also
set up alerts for ego-searches
, e.g. mentions of your name, your major theories / articles, or links to your blog / website.
You usually subscribe to feeds in a 'feed-reader' - two I'd recommend are Feedly, and The Old Reader.
Old Reader
Two blogs to try it out with...
Aim of the session
: discuss why blogs are potentially useful, see some academic examples, actually set one up, and finally talk about blogging well.
"...the content of a blog becomes available far faster than that of a journal article, and is accessible to a wider audience."
Jenny Davis, Texas A&M University
"Academic blogs are proven to increase dissemination of economic research and improve impact."
World Bank Senior Economists, David McKenzie and Berk Özler
6 tips for busy academics:

•Doing an interesting lecture? Put your lecture notes in a blog post.
•Writing a detailed email reply? "Reply to public" with a blog post.
•Answering the same question a second time? Put it in a blog post.
•Writing interesting code? Comment a snippet into a post.
•Doing something geeky at home? Blog about what you learned

Blogging communicates ideas and builds reputation. "Doctor Cleveland" has a nice analogy:
What blogging never does is substitute for other academic writing. It doesn't get counted as scholarship.

Blogging functions for today's academics much the way that poetry functioned for poets like Chaucer or Spenser, which is to say that you can't actually make a living at it but it can help you make connections for other jobs. Chaucer's poetry only served him economically or professionally by building his reputation at court while he looked for various civil-service gigs.

If you are an academic blogger, the same is true of your blog. You write it for personal satisfaction and to express various interests and for the pure joy of making something. The exposure it brings might also help your career.
Blogging allows you to
greet the Googlers
with your professional ideas, views and outputs.
Blogging allows you to instigate collaboration, stimulate discussion, share information with your peers, engage a non-academic community
Blogging allows you to
with your readership.
Add yourself, as an author, to your own blog, under a non-work email address. Should you ever move institutions, you don;'t want to lose access to what you've written.
Or find blogs via:
A York example
(on Blogger)
A York blog (within a personal website)
A hugely popular example
A typical (but well-done) example
A Guardian Live-chat featuring lots of blogging academics:
A science and opinions example
Blogging itself
Further perspectives
Decisions to make early on
Are you blogging as you, as a potentially identifiable pseudonym, or completely anonymously?

Are you blogging alone, with a partner, or as part of a departmental ./ project team?

Is blogging going to be a major activity or a minor activity?
Multi-author blogs are more sustainable, and have a higher post-rate. The more posts you have, the more Google searches you show up in, and so the more views you get..

* blogs (or blogs with a useful element) tend to get more interest - I smuggle in thoughtful posts among the useful posts, to a bigger audience...

Blogging works best when you write about what you care about
Writing for the web
Promoting your posts
It's easy to blog into a vacuum if you don't tell anyone you're blogging. Do this via Twitter, LinedIn, your email signature, putting your blog URL on your business cards, your conference slides, etc.

Comment on other blog posts.

Write guest posts for other blogs.

Use titles which reveal the content, not obscure it.

Linking to other blogs is the new referencing...
From the authors of the successful British Poltics and Policy blog:

Academics normally like to build up their arguments slowly, and then only tell you their findings with a final flourish at the end. Don’t do this ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ in which layers of irrelevance are progressively stripped aside for the final kernel of value-added knowledge to be revealed. Instead, make sure that all the information readers need to understand what you’re saying is up front – you’ll make a much stronger impression that way.
In other words, invert the pyramid.
Plus, try and avoid text-only posts.
Some things to keep in mind
And encourage interaction. Allow comments, ask questions, converse.
"How many times have you read a post, or a newspaper article, which you have disagreed with in part because you have better expertise or knowledge? Why keep that to yourself?"
Above all:
Make it as easy as possible for people to share posts and subscribe to your blog.
Thank you
for coming.

(you can write about whatever you want)
A non-academic example - my own blog
After nearly four years:
I'm blogging less but there's more for Google to find so the views are going up:
Evolved over time
- a wiki (!)
- library issues
- new profs
- marketing
- tech guides
- academia
- everything
(a proper dialogue)
1500 - 2000 subscribers
(more reach than many journals)
350-400 views each day
(unless I blog)
Two-and-a-half year timeframe
The way my blog works today:
I aim the content at 12-months-ago-me.
First question
: does anyone blog already?
Full transcript