Blog Posts – Those Unpublished Drafts

Peter Rawsthorne’s list of ‘half-finished’ blog posts reminds me that I have several texts at various stages of development myself. Some of the participants in my PhD research described similar blogging practices when it came to generating unpublished drafts.

Having multiple texts (or at least ideas for texts) ‘on the go’ at any one time is not exclusive to academics who blog. As curious and engaged researchers, we create numerous short-form and informal texts in our everyday academic actives; to make notes, record events and projects, conceptualise and synthesise ideas, and construct arguments. However, in deciding to share some of these in the public domain, the academic blogger encounters additional motivations and considerations as to when (s)he decides to publish them, and in what state. Many bloggers it seems, may have a number of blog posts in draft form, at various stages of completion, at any one time. But there is little discussion around how they determine if and when a blog post is considered ‘finished’ and ready for public view.

Attitudes to how ‘well-written,’ substantive or formalised a blog post should be may differ considerably. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know I have a flexible attitude to what constitutes a blog post – and have argued previously for the blogging space as a site for experimentation (in format, style, content and subjectivity), free of many of the constraints associated with formal academic outputs.

Topicality can be a factor here too. Bloggers may feel it necessary to draft a blog post quickly if it is in response to another blog post (such as this one), or if it is related to a breaking event or a new publication. However, some posts may remain dormant and incomplete for some time if there is little impetuous to finish and publish them.

The strategy of stockpiling completed drafts may also be a common practice. Though I think the pressure to blog regularly is often over-emphasised, having a number of posts ‘in reserve’ can be seen as being useful, particularly for busy periods when blogging is a low priority. In addition, some posts may be temporarily withheld if they compromise formal publication opportunities, or simply kept for a time when they will have the most impact.


8 Responses to “Blog Posts – Those Unpublished Drafts”

  1. Jon Hickman Says:

    Nice to know I’m not alone in this. My wordpress drafts folder is full of half posts (full of half truths), my to do list has the titles of posts even further back in the drafting process (for when does the post get started? Not just on WordPress), and I have notepads full of things I should have transferred to digital (my last post was a long overdue one of those:

    The one I most need to to finish is a counter is a companion piece to this: – it’s a discussion on how I need to reserve the right to be stupid and ask dumb things, to play slightly dumb in my blog and in person, to actually find out interesting stuff (like the ways in which people talk about hyperlocal media practice).

  2. Andy Coverdale Says:

    Thanks for your thoughts and links Jon.

    I wonder how much of an advantage transferring texts to the blogging platform is regarding documentation and reflection. Are they more contextualised, and if so, how? Is it more likely we ‘return’ to texts if they are blogged (and tagged) than those notes and scribblings that remain less organised and coherent?

  3. Jon Hickman Says:

    I’m a bad bad bad lazy lazy lazy blogger. I often joke that I’ll just wait for one of my pals to write the post and more often than not they do – that tends to be when the post is a matter of creating record. The tragedy of the commons scenario seldom happens as for whatever reason other people will document most of the stuff, so I’m allowed to get away with being lazy.

    Other than that, the main reason I don’t go back and finish something is because I’ve probably already got to the end of the thought process on my own terms and I can’t see much value in articulating it to and for other people. So this is when I’m using blogging as a tool for reflection – I don’t always need to get to the final utterance of it as a blog post to finish synthesising what I need from the activity. Or something like that 😉

    I do probably need to write the post about being allowed to sound dumb because I need an alibi to explain why I’m asking really banal questions of people, but I got away with the last one so I guess I’m waiting for the next time I have to do a public performance of stupidity to incentivise me.

  4. Andy Coverdale Says:

    Some good points here. Insights like this reinforce my general distrust of ‘best practices’ around blogging and use of social media generally. We often prioritise output over process, and overlook the relationship with other genres of academic work. Thanks again Jon.

  5. Virginia Yonkers Says:

    One thing that has helped me in the last month or so actually get blog posts up is Blogger’s new format that allows you to write drafts and then the date of publishing (rather than the date you started it) is used. Before, I would start a post and perhaps finish it a year later (coming back to the topic). The date on the blog would be one year later! As a result, I’d start drafts and never come back (just write a whole new post if it interested me). Now that I am finished with writing my dissertation, and have time to think about the ideas I didn’t have time to write about before, I have gone back to the posts I had started a while ago (thus the increase in my blog postings over the last two weeks).

  6. Andy Coverdale Says:

    I didn’t realise that about Blogger. WordPress has had those draft / publishing options at least since I’ve been using it. I tend to develop drafts offline (in TextEdit or Word) and don’t bother transferring till they’re ready to publish. Looking forward to more blog posts from you then!

  7. Ailsa Haxell (@ai1sa) Says:

    The unpublished isn’t just whats unfinished…I have unpublished blogs where my angst is written out but where what is written is released to a limited audience for a moment in time, and then hidden again as I self censor.
    As my blogging is usually in response to particularly challenging events orit tends to be sporadic. There are also the serendipitous moments where something catches my eye, captures my thinking, makes connections that amuse me or that i think might amuse others, and so i blog. Not quite utterly undisciplined, there is a genre and a theoretical model i follow that tends to provide the undercurrrent of what and how i blog.

  8. Andy Coverdale Says:

    Thanks for your comment Ailsa, and sorry for the late response. One of the participants in my PhD research used the term ‘silences’ to describe the texts she wrote within the blogging platform but decided (for a number of reasons, some not dissimilar to those you mention) not to publish. Indeed, most of my participants (all doctoral students) described complex interactions between blogging and the writing of other ‘short-form’ texts. These may or may not consciously contribute to thesis development, but result in interesting (and often conflicting) relationships between writing practice (as a skill or discipline), writing as thinking (synthesising ideas etc.) and writing for an ‘audience’ (deciding to publish).

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