Friday, November 13, 2015

Rules for Blogging, Academically?

Someone linked to someone on my effbee feed an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education about three rules for blogging.  (Easy enough for you to find, should you choose to do so.)

The writer's first rule has to do with platform.  F platform.  If that's what you're all hot and bothered about, really, don't even bother.  There are a couple of easy platforms.  Choose one and start.

What he should have started with is "branding" or "marketing," since that's what he seems to think blogging's about. If you're blogging to market yourself as an academic, you better be damned good, because I don't see it working for many people that way.  (But maybe we aren't marketing ourselves properly?)

So, in contrast, here are my rules for blogging.

1.  Blogging is either a private journal or about community.  If it's a private journal, that's all well and good.  Enjoy.  But if it's about community, then make sure you join the community.  Put up a blog roll and include people you read, even if you don't always agree with them.  It's not that hard to do.  And comment on the blogs of people you read.  Encourage others, recognize their work, their good ideas, their contributions.  Learn from others.

--Don't be like the occasional creative writing student I've talked to who doesn't read anyone else's work, and isn't interested in anyone else's ideas, style, work.  But they think someone should read their work and laud it.

It's no accident, I think, that the blogging community that I see as most interesting is largely comprised of women, some of whom blog, some of whom comment but don't blog.  (If you have an urge to say "what about the menz!?!?!" right now, you should calm down.  I didn't say that no men ever were good community members.)

2.  Enjoy.  Life is too short to do something without a good reason; enjoyment is a good enough reason to blog.  If you don't enjoy it, find something else that you do enjoy. 

Thus endeth the rules of academic blogging.


  1. Hm, I think our only rulez for academic blogging are:
    1. Don't say anything that could get you fired or cause a sh*itstorm if your identity gets connected to you.
    2. Don't let the blog take time away from paid work unless it will somehow contribute to paid work. That includes emotional time (which links to our rulz for blogging on our actual about page-- never veer too much towards the negative).

    Everything else: Whatevs, it's a hobby, you do you.

  2. Wonderful response and advice!

  3. Ugh, I just had a whole, long comment get eaten because of the stupid way Blogger's commenting system works. See, platform *is* important to the reader's experience and to community! (It's why I switched from Blogger to WordPress.)

    Anyway, the shorter version of my comment is that you misread that piece. Read more about the author and read more of his work and you'll see that he's an advocate for getting academics to write in public fora and issues where they have expertise. He's really successful at it himself and gives *great* and *effective* workshops on how to do it. We hosted one last month and already one of my colleagues has been published in The Guardian following the advice. Anyway, in short, he's talking about a different kind of blogging than you are. He's also saying that the kind of community you've built isn't how it works if you're getting into blogging *now* -- you (and I) have that because we started 10+ years ago and the social media world has changed. He's right about that.

    Anyway, read more of his stuff -- he's one of the good'uns, and so are you, so really, you should be following each other! :)

    1. Hi Dr. V! Great to hear from you. Miss your blog.

      I live in an area where lots of us academics contribute to public fora in all sorts of ways, speaking publicly, writing op-eds, and so on. I'm willing to admit that I misinterpreted his rules. But I did look at his blog, and he doesn't seem to be involved (through a blog roll, for example, or by talking about other peoples' work) in the disability blogging community, though that's what his recent posts seem to be about.

      He's a good writer. And I think, by looking at something he wrote about, that we're about five degrees of separation through personal friends. Funny, that!

    2. I hope you don't mind if I chime in here. For my generation of blogger, twitter and, to some extent, facebook have replaced the blogroll. I spend a lot of my online time in correspondence with a diverse array of writers, it's just not formalized by having a list.

      I thought about making a list, but felt it would be too exclusionary, when there are hundreds of writers whose work I read, but not by daily checking their posts. Instead, they come to me on Twitter, or I go to them, and we RT each other's work. It's very different than in my old livejournal days, or in the golden age of academic blogging (when I was just a reader, but would click through other people's blog rolls to find new things to read).

      And yet, thanks to Twitter, the types of people I read now are infinitely more diverse than those older days, so I am grateful.


    3. Bardiac -- I miss my blog, too! I've just been too busy to keep up with it. *BUT*, I'm thinking of turning back to it in the New Year. I *think* I'll have time for it once again.

      As for the blogroll thing...yeah, as David himself points out, where a lot of people do the kind of networking that blogrolls used to do is on Twitter. I think there's an online generational difference here. It's a whole different blogging world out there now, especially for people who started more recently. And it seems to me David's "lessons" (as he says below, his original language -- writers never get to write their own headlines!) are pitched at people just starting out. I don't think they were meant for you or me or NandM or Janice or any of the rest of us old timers! :)

      And I think you're probably only about 1 degree of separation through friends (well, at least online ones)!

    4. Thanks for visiting, David. I understand that Twitter is a great way to network and to build community, and if you'd talked about building community with Twitter, or in whatever other ways, I wouldn't have thought you'd missed the building community part. But I think, especially for people starting out, recognizing that there's a community and that they're partly responsible for building it, is vitally important for whatever social media they're participating in.

      Dr. V, I hope you will blog more! And yes, through you, maybe closer degrees of separation, for sure. Thanks for your comments.

    5. Yup, through me, through Historiann, through a lot of others. David's been building the community you're taking about, but through other methods, other channels. I think I first became aware of him and his work via Facebook. I'm only back here because of a link on FB, which is how you learned about David's piece.

      He did talk about connecting with others on social media in that piece, btw. He just didn't use the word community. It's in the third section.

    6. That last comment was still from Dr. V. Forgot I was signed in to this account.

      Anyway, if I have time, I'll get back to blogging and reading blogs -- other than when people link them -- in January! See you around !

  4. That one came up in my "suggested articles" as I was checking the Chronicle site for updates on Mizzou, Yale, et al., and I, too, was puzzled. The platform thing was just weird; I barely blog myself, but it doesn't take much exploration of the blog universe to suggest that most-used platforms are blogger and wordpress, and that there are probably good reasons for that. I've seen Wix used for (mostly pretty annoying) conference sites, but that's about it.

    I've been contemplating whether to begin an individual blog (real-name or pseudonymous), and let's just say that your post, and the comments above, are far more useful additions to that contemplation than the chronicle piece. The latter parts of point #1 strike me as particularly apposite; it doesn't work if everyone is trying to shout over the others, and/or sulking in corners because no one is paying attention to them.

  5. I don't know why everyone is obsessing about point #1, when he has two other points and the other two are ones people here would likely agree with: write what you want and write for the sake of writing. That's 2/3 in agreement with or at least overlapping with Bardiac's advice.

    But again, if you are totally new to blogging here in 2015 -- and that's who the Chron piece was geared towards -- you might want the fancy site and think things like Wix are the way to go (because Wix actually has a higher profile in advertising and on social media right now, btw). Blogger and WordPress are old school, blogging 1.0, that *we're* familiar with because we started a lifetime (in social media years) ago. But also, form matters. It's not just a vessel for the content -- it can shape content and its meaning. (Ex: to have nested comments or not? That can shape how commenters respond to each other and understand each other.) It's like genre and form in literature.

  6. I see what Dr. Virago means, but I would emphasize that blogging is not one size fits all, whether in the past or today. Some people see blogging more as a launch pad or one more in a way to share with the broader world. Others see blogging more in terms of connecting to smaller communities and networks.

    I like n&m's primary rule (Prime Directive?) to not say anything that'll get you fired or cause a commotion. That's caused me to change how and where I blog as I realized how thin my pseudonym had worn and, even now, my very public blog face is a fairly sanitized blog face because of those concerns. It's not a horrible thing, but it's had an impact.

    I think it's harder for academics, especially those who feel as if we work on the margins, *cough* women *cough*, to bond, advise and regroup given how our blogs become a feeder for punditry and front line news at unexpected times. The grumpies remains one of the few sites. Historiann, as well.

  7. As a note - I don't like the "rules" title. Editors write titles, alas, with an eye towards luring in readers. I used the word "lessons," as in - I've learned some lessons, I get these questions a lot, and I'm sharing my thoughts. I make no claim to rules.


  8. My blog is a private journal by default rather than choice since in over 10 years I have yet to get more than half a dozen regular readers. At this point I am finding that the blog gets a lot less traffic than my FB page and groups or even my page. I suppose for career purposes the latter is more important thant the blog. The url is below if anybody is interested.