I began this blog a few years ago when teaching Journalism students how to use WordPress to create their own blogs. As I introduced how to embed images, video and audio; I realised that it would be more authentic if I started to write posts of my own. Colleagues new to social media often asked questions about what certain tools were and how to use them. These became the focus of my posts.
Reading articles about blogging, I was encouraged to blog on a regular basis. However writing does not always flow easily. Juggling other commitments the ‘I don’t have time’ is a big issue. However I learnt that taking a gem of an idea I could write a few bullet points and save the idea as a draft post. Very often with a clearer mind I would go back to the draft and complete it. Other times I have discarded the draft, but gone on to write something else in its place.
“You go diving for pearls every night but sometimes you end up with clams.” ~ Jerry Garcia
Blogging has given me a voice and granted whilst it may not be heard by many, the craft of blogging has helped me develop a new confidence in writing. The act of blogging and tagging allows me to catalogue and curate short posts about social media which have been fascinating to research and learn from along the way. The feedback I have had via comments or tweets has been encouraging.
I came across the following Ten Top Tips for Blogging in the The Guardian Higher Education Network (Credit to @DrTomCrick and @alan_winfield) which I have shared below. I hope you will find them as useful as I did.
1) Write about yourself and your life. People are just as interested in researchers (and their activities) as their research; also write about what goes wrong as well as right – the human story of failed experiments is interesting but rarely gets told.
2) Find your blogging voice. Don’t worry if it takes a year or more. Your blog will evolve as you discover your style, which might be short topical pieces or long-form reflective essays (or a combination of the two). Read other academic blogs and you’ll quickly see the range of voices people use.
3) Be clear what your blog is for. Are you writing to share your musings on life, the universe and everything, or a specific theme or topic? Again let the scope evolve; it can be difficult to start blogging with a mission statement, but it is useful to start out by thinking what you would like to achieve with your blog.
4) Blog as yourself. While there are circumstances in which blogging anonymously is necessary, in general it is better to be clear and open about yourself and your academic position. It’s also important to make clear whether you are writing on behalf of your university.
5) Think about how controversial you want to be. Calibrate the degree of controversy according to risk (especially for an early career researcher compared to a tenured professor); in general, only be prepared to put something on a blog that you’d be prepared to say to someone’s face (or shout out in a crowded room). Courting controversy can be fine if you are a senior academic, but be mindful that your position lends a level of authority to what you write – so make sure you’re happy for your words to be quoted.
6) Remember: a blogpost is a publication. If you are writing about ongoing research which is not yet published or patented, then be mindful of the dangers of prematurely revealing details of potential inventions or intellectual property.
7) Let your university know about your blog. Have a chat with your line manager about your intention to start an academic blog. You might not need their permission, but it’s best if your blog doesn’t come as a surprise to your manager or institution at an inopportune time.
8) Think about how often you want to blog. If your blog acquires a following then your readers will look forward to your next post, so don’t put yourself under pressure by creating expectations of, say, a blogpost every few days when you know you can’t keep it up in the longer term.
9) Use social media to promote your posts. Twitter is an easy way to tell the world that you’ve just posted a new piece on your blog, opening up wider interaction and engagement.
10) Blog because you want to. Don’t blog because you have to – it should be fun, not a chore! There are already plenty of onerous tasks for an academic; this should not become one of them.
Whether you are blogging as an academic, about your own business or a hobby you may have, it is important to engage with your readers. Blogs provide the opportunity for them to leave comments and ask questions, so be sure to respond as appropriate. I personally choose to screen comments and then publish with my response. This helps you to eliminate the ‘rogue spammers’ which sadly come along now and again.
One other point is that you can choose to blog privately, by adjusting the security settings. I personally also have a reflective blog that I choose not to share. This is a useful space to gather and develop ideas. By tagging your posts, you can then go back to search for related topics. You’d be surprised at how many ideas you can capture! I also keep another blog which is about my own personal learning journey: http://www.suebeckingham.com/.
You can read more about blogging and how to get started here.