Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

On Blogging Frequency

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Just a quick post in response to a question at my recent workshop regarding increasing blogging productivity. We can challenge the view that we need to blog frequently and regularly, but I appreciate how this expectation is based on a cultural norm that concerns new academic bloggers particularly.

I see three interrelated contextual factors that underpin an attempt to blog more frequently:

  • The capacity to share ideas, thoughts, work in progress etc.
  • The scope or range of blog post topics and themes
  • The flexibility of the style or genre of blog posts

These constitute personal choices and circumstances that are fundamental to the aims and purposes of developing a blogging practice, and point to broader themes I’ve discussed previously on this blog and elsewhere. But with these in mind, here are a few common practices that academic bloggers regularly employ, which can help increase blogging frequency:

Serial posting
You can break up long texts into several posts. These may have to be published consecutively and within a relatively short timeframe to ensure currency or maintain interest, though ‘occasional’ posts in a series around a common theme are also optional. Either way, these should be appropriately linked, within the posts and/or with a unique tag.

Repurposing comments into posts
Commenting on other blogs is a useful way to interact with other bloggers. It supports the participatory nature of the social web and connectivity within the blogosphere. However, in some cases, it may be desirable to repurpose an intended comment into a new post on your own blog (such as I did here), especially if it represents a substantive enough argument to warrant an entire post, or if you wish to shift the context. Whilst it is expected you provide a link to the original post, a brief summary within your text can be useful. Trackbacks often ensure a link to your post is provided on the other blog, though a brief comment with the link may be required.

Reproducing / annotating other blog posts
You can choose to reproduce significant excerpts from another blog post (or indeed, any text), annotated with summary text and/or your own arguments or thoughts. In reproducing other blog post texts (which quite a lot of bloggers do), you should ensure that they are appropriately attributed with a link to the original source (which not all bloggers do). And whilst many academics blog under a site-wide Creative Commons license, it is worth checking before reproducing any content.

Updating old posts
With their reverse chronological structure emphasising latest posts, blogs often get overlooked as key resources for ongoing documentation and reflexivity. Updating significant old posts (particularly in response to new ideas or opportunities) can revitalise key content and underline the role of the blog as a platform for professional development.

Posting quick and informal short ‘texts’ (such as quotations, event notifications, and Slideshare embeds) can help ‘fill-in’ between more substantial and time-intensive posts. Whilst these will add variation to your blog, some may consider them trivial or inappropriate.

Guest blogging
If you don’t have time to blog, invite someone else. You can promote guest blogging by a call for posts or by approaching potential authors directly. And whilst we might associate guest blogging with high profile or group blogs (see below), inviting academic colleagues to contribute can add to the diversity of your blog and provide them with an opportunity to blog – perhaps for the first time – without the necessity to establish their own sites. Guest posts are sometimes themed and can be combined as serial posts. Whilst the content of posts can be informally negotiated during the publication process, it may be advisable to clarify any editorial constraints or changes you might impose with the guest blogger from the outset.

Group blogging
Group blogs are highly effective at sharing the responsibility for blog productivity across multiple authors and, as above, they can provide bloggers with an opportunity to contribute without the commitment to regular posting. Some academic bloggers republish posts from personal blogs on group blogs (often to reach larger non-specialist audiences), though this may require making changes to the texts.

Blog drafts and reserve posts
This final tip is more to do with maintaining regularity than increasing frequency. Many bloggers it seems, tend to have multiple drafts under development at any one time (which I discussed here), and having several blog posts ‘in reserve’ enables you to continue blogging during those busy periods when you can’t find the time.

Thesis Talking

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

I’m just back from visiting the NUI Galway at the invitation of Kelly Coate, where I participated in a workshop for PhD researchers from the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies (CASSCS) interested in developing and contributing to the ThesisTalk blog. You can read more about the project here.

It was a friendly and enthusiastic group, and to be honest they had already begun to collectively process many of the key issues and ideas that I raised. Hopefully – if nothing else – I helped articulate these and contributed to formalising them into action points to develop the blog.

For me, the project as a student-led initiative is as exciting as its social media context, and the mix of enthusiasm and critical thought in evidence during the workshop should ensure the blog will evolve into a dynamic interdisciplinary and collaborative space, that will also be of interest to the wider doctoral community.

Some of the discussion focussed on particular needs within the group, such as how best to facilitate the specific cultural concerns associated with developing a bilingual blog. But I think many of the issues that emerged are characteristic of group blogs generally – particularly in balancing the needs for diversity and individual subjectivities within a coherent site-wide agenda and identity.

As part of my visit, I also had the opportunity to present my PhD research at the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). It seemed to be well received and generated some interesting and useful discussion around academic practice, social media and research methodologies. It was a nice opportunity to make some new acquaintances and see again some familiar faces.

Thinking about durability…

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

It’s easy to fall into the trap of equating different publishing genres or formats with one-dimensional perspectives of what constitutes academic ‘quality.’ Further still, we often make assumptions about their durability.

Academics have the right (and the inclination) to question their ideas, change perspectives, and even – especially in the formative years of their training – challenge fundamental epistemologies. Yet I’ve found early-stage PhD researchers in particular have a tendency to assume they will never come to question anything they have or will formally publish. Conversely, they suggest there is every chance of them regretting virtually anything they might blog.

Of course, the not inconsiderable process of writing and articulation required in getting formally published (not forgetting the accompanying peer review) cannot be overlooked. This indicates that such texts have been well considered and argued. However, the perceived reliability of the format does not guarantee the durability of the relevance or inclination of key arguments contained within them over any given time. Whilst it is equally possible that some blog posts – however informal and unstructured they may be – will continue to resonate and influence.

Blog Posts – Those Unpublished Drafts

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

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.

Further Thoughts on Blogging Profs.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Following my previous post on Professor Pat Thomson’s new blog, a few things have been nagging at me in terms of the wider context of professorial blogging and the nature of influence in social media practices across academic hierarchies.

It is reasonable to assume that professors who choose to blog play a role in inspiring early researchers within their disciplines to do the same, but does this necessarily lead to adoption? If I see a professor presenting at a research conference, I might be inspired, but I may not be eager to jump up there and do the same.

In my experience, some of the most crucial barriers to postgraduates starting to blog centre on perceptions of academic quality, reputation and audience – something along the lines of:

  • “I don’t have much to say / contribute (at this stage in my studies)”
  • “Nobody is interested in what I have to say”
  • “I don’t have the confidence to share my thoughts on a public platform”
  • “I may regret putting my ideas online that will appear academically naive in the future.”

We might reasonably assume that senior academic bloggers are highly knowledgeable, confident and articulate, with a rich portfolio of research and experience to draw on, and an ability to attract a critical mass of fellow academics. However, whilst they may inform and inspire, might the apparent maturity, assuredness and gravitas of their blogging practices actually deter early researchers from blogging themselves?

Of course, we should not necessarily assume that senior academics have the experiences and competencies of using blogging platforms. They may be new adopters to social media generally, and cautious of the potential implications to their own professional identities and reputations.

But we cannot realistically expect these busy academics to spend any amount of time on informal online dissemination without good reason. I’ve written before on the multiple purposes of blogging (that are often interrelated in complex ways), and there is no reason why a professor should be any different. For some it may be no more than a minor box-ticking exercise in demonstrating research impact, an online platform for self-promotion, or a resources dump. Others may seek to develop more dynamic, discursive and reflective blogging environments, which invite debate, engage with their current practice and research, and demonstrate a willingness to share ideas and expose their own inconsistencies, doubts and challenges.

Which of these are the most likely to influence and affect social media practice in their field?


Monday, July 11th, 2011

Pat Thomson, Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, has just launched a new blog with a batch of interesting posts.

Having attended a number of her tough but highly effective sessions on academic writing in the School of Education, I am particularly familiar with her post on Swales and Feak’s exercises in skeleton writing. Her book with Barbara Kamler, Helping Doctoral Students Write: Pedagogies for Supervision, has rightly become recognised as a key text (don’t be misled by the title – it’s just as useful for PhD students). The recently published Routledge Doctoral Companions (for students and supervisors), which she co-edited with colleague Melanie Walker, have also been indispensible in my own research.

Of course, these represent only part of Pat’s research interests and experiences, so it will be interesting to see how she decides to develop the blog. As @PatParslow suggested in a subsequent Twitter discussion, professorial blogging is all too rare. Yet in my experience of talking with other PhD students, professors who do blog can be enormously influential (probably far more than they realise) in legitimising blogs as platforms for research dissemination, particularly in under-represented disciplines.

The Imagined Audience

Friday, June 10th, 2011

I briefly mentioned the notion of an ‘imagined audience’ in my recent post on PhD blogging for The Thesis Whisperer. In his thesis, David Brake (2009) uses a symbolic interactionist approach to examine imagined audiences in relation to personal blogging in the UK. He suggests blogging practices incorporate a range of ‘envisaged audience relationships’ where a blogger’s “construction of the meaning of their practice can be based as much on an imagined and desired social context as it is on an informed and reflexive understanding of the communicative situation” (p.3). Drawing on Andrew Feenberg’s critical theory of technology, Brake explains how the marginal role of blog audiences is partly encoded in the socio-technical characteristics of the blogging platforms themselves.

Interestingly, the notion of ‘audience’ assumes a broadcast metaphor. How does this compare with the idea of a blogging community, and the participative web generally? How do we perceive audiences in the social media we use? How are these perceptions formed? And how do they differ across different platforms? Do we transfer audience identities from one platform to another?

Viewing indicators (visitor statistics etc.) are limited in what they tell us, whilst acts of participation and reciprocity (comments, retweets etc.) are often fewer in number than we’d like. Even when a network is largely identifiable – such as followers on Twitter – we have little or no idea of their actual viewing behaviours. I purposely keep the number of people I follow on Twitter to a manageable figure (I’d like to follow more) to be able to most efficiently view my twitter feed on a regular basis. I assume users who follow several thousands of people don’t do this, but rather engage in more inconsistent viewing habits, do more skimming, or employ some sort of filtering.

A number of participants in my PhD study have expressed concerns over the ambiguity of social media audiences, particularly around blogging. As I have discussed previously, doctoral practices can require negotiating a number of different contexts, which, even within my small cohort of participants, can include conflicting academic, entrepreneurial and activist activities. By choosing to use social media, they are committed to engaging in more public, distributed and persistent dialogues. The way they blog, tweet and create other digital artefacts across interrelated platforms and audiences incurs potential inconsistencies and tensions. When those audiences are ambiguous, practice and identity agendas are further compromised.


Brake, D. R. (2009). As if nobody’s reading’?: the imagined audience and socio-technical biases in personal blogging practice in the UK. PhD thesis, London School of Economics.

Thesis Whispering

Friday, May 27th, 2011

The Thesis Whisperer is a terrific website ‘dedicated to the topic of doing a thesis’ that seems to be well-liked and respected amongst the online postgraduate community. I was kindly invited by the site’s creator and editor, Dr Inger Mewburn, to contribute a guest post on PhD blogging to launch a series exploring professional digital identity. For my part, I tried to establish a balance between presenting a personal and subjective view of my own blogging experiences, and providing an enthusiastic and critical overview of the multipurpose of academic blogging within doctoral practices. I hope it’s useful.

Those were the days…

Friday, May 7th, 2010

I get the feeling a lot of people who were actively involved in early online communities and blogging miss the relative simplicity that the smaller number of participants provided. As I commented recently on Virginia Yonker’s blog, the key is in how these were small enough to be easily identifiable and manageable. Being a relatively late adopter, I can appreciate how the affordances of current social media has enabled mass use, yet with this comes a radically different dynamic of social engagement, which is not necessarily more distributed but infinitely more populated and complex.

Many see the answer in developing Personal Learning Environments / Networks (PLE/N) and employing technology-enabled methods such as subscription and aggregation to keep up with it all. Yet does the adoption of a learner-centric network logic require us to develop aggressive, neo-liberal marketing strategies with an emphasis on self-promotion and immediacy to get noticed? Is this at the expense of the richer communication and identity formation associated with traditional modes of participation and interaction? There remains a natural human inclination to want to engage in, and become identified as a member of, communities, but how can this be cultivated in a more network-based culture?

Does this equate to a trade-off, where we embrace the advantages of an expansive engagement with wider networks and multifarious communities, or do we restrict ourselves to fewer, or even singular, localised groups?

Blog Action Day

Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 in an attempt to unite the world’s bloggers in posting about an issue of global importance on the same day. This year’s issue is climate change and falls on the day as it was revealed that the Arctic Ocean will be almost entirely free from ice within a decade.
The Catlin Arctic Survey, completed earlier this year by a team led by explorer Pen Hadow, represents the most current research into the condition of Arctic ice. Peter Wadhams of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, who analysed the data said: “The summer ice cover in the Arctic will completely vanish in 20 to 30 years time. There won’t be any sea ice there at all.”


Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 in an attempt to unite the world’s bloggers in posting about an issue of global importance on the same day. This year’s issue is climate change, and it falls on the day as it was revealed that the Arctic Ocean will be almost entirely free from ice within a decade.

The Catlin Arctic Survey, completed earlier this year by a team led by explorer Pen Hadow, represents the most current research into the condition of Arctic ice. Peter Wadhams of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, who analysed the data added “the summer ice cover in the Arctic will completely vanish in 20 to 30 years time. There won’t be any sea ice there at all.”