Friday, January 06, 2012

Advice for academic bloggers

Chad Black links to some advice for academic historian bloggers. I've read some other similar posts elsewhere recently, and I think it's fair to say there is a steady trickle of them as new people start blogging. Collectively, they reminded me that I find myself disagreeing with the typical "list of tips for academic bloggers" that I come across. In general, I dislike blogging rules because they seem to negate the precise reason I really enjoy blogging, which is that I can do whatever I want, following only my own whims, which can and do change.

So my first piece of advice is to ignore lists of advice. Seriously. Almost every list warns you to publish often, but you can forget that. Write when the muse hits you, and don't bother yourself if it lags. People read blogs largely through RSS readers, and your post will show up even if it is not frequent (I don't actually go directly to blogs all that often, unless I am commenting or want to look at something specific--in Google Reader I have plenty of  blogs that update once a week or less, and I read them when they pop up). If I felt I was on deadline, I would hate it, and the only reason I blog is because it's fun. I get all sorts of benefits from it, particularly in terms of connecting with people I otherwise would never know, but I would stop on a dime if it ceased being fun. For me anyway, blogging rules aren't fun.

Write long posts, write short posts. Post pictures, or don't. Write book reviews, or don't bother. Give your views on controversial current events, or don't. If you want your own domain name, go for it, but you don't have to. Promote through Twitter, or don't. All the rules about such things bewilder me.

My second, and last, suggestion is to begin by copying the style of blogs you read a lot and enjoy. As you get going, you will think of your own new things to do. How do they link up to other blogs? Is the tone a little stuffy, too snarky, too dry, or just right? How do they handle comments? Be your own Goldilocks and by reading others you can decide what feels just right. Blogs should grow organically without submitting to arbitrary dictates.

Actually, I have a third point, namely that you should feel absolutely free to ignore everything I just wrote.


mabblog 9:46 AM  

I agree wholeheartedly! I would just add that whatever the post is about, back it with sources.

Anonymous,  12:56 PM  

I also use an RSS reader and I actually prefer blogs that don't post that often. When they have a new item, I notice it and am more interested ("Ah, X wrote something again!") than in those who issue 7 posts a day.

franciscome 2:23 PM  

Good advice hard to apply in a bureaucracy, but me an my colleagues try in our blog on development and impact in LAC (spanish) and (english)

Christopher Parsons 2:47 PM  

Nice post, and one that I fully agree with. I find that a lot of the advice pieces (seem to) assume that academics who are blogging want to turn into an academic version of Gizmodo, or other fast publishing blogs, and have yet to see a convincing reason why everyone should aspire to such "heights". Following/imitating what you like and avoiding the rest seems like a good strategy, as does simply doing your own thing. I can't say that (in my case) I've ever tried to mimic another blogger, academic or otherwise. I just write what I write, as I write, and it's led to consistent volumes of traffic and accolades from the public and my peers year after year.

Chad Black 4:20 PM  

Thanks for linking to me, and I would say here that I completely agree with you on all three points. I get tired of the handwringing over what blogging is or should be and whether or not academics should consider it. And, I think it's fun too.

RAJ 8:27 PM  

Agree 100%. Many of the rules assume low attention span readers (the ones that say write short posts) who are inherently uninterested in what you have to say. Not my experience.

LFC 9:36 AM  

Most sensible thing I have read about blogging, academic or otherwise, in a long time.

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