A Beginner’s Guide to Bloggingfor researchersDr Helen WebsterResearcher Development
Online Resources• This session is associated with STEMDigital, ablended learning programme. The programmeblog is at http://stemdigital.wordpress.com/• The slides are online athttp://www.slideshare.net/drhelenwebster/• If you‟re on Twitter, please livetweet!#STEMDigital
What is a blog?Definitions and characteristics please!It may be obvious, “common knowledge” now, butforgetting the difference between a static, broadcastweb 1.0 webpage and a dynamic, interactive,conversational web 2.0 blog post is what makes for abad blog…
Reading Blogs• Who here reads blogs?▫ What sort? (hobbies, professional, etc)▫ How do you find them?▫ How do you know what‟s posted on them?▫ How do you read them (how long, how much etc)▫ What makes a good blog?• Everyone: what sort of blog would you like toread? How would you read it?
Consuming blogs• It‟s important to read blogs because:▫ You get to know what works (and doesn‟t)▫ You get to know typical reader behaviour▫ You get to know other bloggers – at its best,blogging is a reciprocal conversation▫ They‟re interesting! And might provoke thoughtsfor you to write about and link to in your ownblog…
Analysing blogs• Vanessa Heggie, Guardian• Athene Donald• LSE‟s Impact of Social Sciences• Cambridge Science Festival• Cambridge Centre for Health Sciences Research• Ben Goldacre• Ten essential qualities of science bloggers• The Periodic Table of Elements
Analysing blogs• Pick a blog:▫ What is the type of blog – purpose andaudience?▫ What features and widgets does it have?▫ What style is it written in?▫ Do you find it engaging? (or: might itsintended audience find it engaging?)
Planning a blog• Refine your audience: “academics” or “the generalpublic” isn‟t specific enough!• How big a readership do you want?• Why would it be useful for your intended readers?• What type of blog will it be?• What exactly would it focus on? List as many„categories‟* of blog post as you can for that topic• Time: How long will it last? And how frequently willyou post?• How will you publicise it?• What style guidelines will you set yourself?
Types of academic blog*Audience Genre PurposeAcademic-Peers-Project Closed Community Communication skillsAcademic-Peers-Field Academic-Research Disseminate to CommunityAcademic-Students Academic-Process/experience Feedback on WorkAcademic-General Academic-Service Creating communities/contactsGeneral interested public Educative Increases employabilityGeneral disinterested public Aggregator or Digest Stepping stone to new jobPotential Employers &GooglersPractical Providing a serviceMisc Creative Disseminate beyond CommunityInstitutional-Misc Funding body requiredInstitutional-Calendar Personally useful exercisePolitical*Source: Vanessa Heggie, Blogging workshop, HPSCambridge
What to post about?• For your intended blog, jot down at least TENideas for posts:▫ Titles▫ a brief note of what each one might include▫ Category and Tags• Review these: are they too large? can you breakeach one down into more posts or suggest othertakes on them?
Types of post• You could vary between:▫ Instructional tips and how-to▫ Explanation and information▫ Reflection▫ Advice and problem-solving▫ Editorial commentary on a news story▫ Account of an event e.g. conference▫ Some ideas in draft for discussion▫ A review of an article or book▫ A discussion prompt▫ Top ten list▫ Curation of other people‟s material▫ A series of posts on a topic
Blogging style• A blog is NOT an online journal article; it is adifferent genre with different writingconventions:▫ Snappy title (will also be URL)▫ Conversational, personal tone▫ „Shorth‟ – 600 words (1000 MAX and RARELY)▫ Hypertext links instead of footnotes andreferences▫ Multimedia – embed images, video, sound, slides,documents….▫ Scannable – no large blocks of dense text
Practising your style• Take one of your ten ideas for a blog post• Write ca. 300 words in a suitable style and tone• See what others think – is it engaging andaccessible? (try reading it aloud as if you werechatting to someone – if it sounds odd, the tonemay be too academic!)
Choosing a blog platform• Wordpress.com (lots of functionality andpossibility to customise it)• Blogger (from Google – integrates with yourother Google tools. Easy to use)• Livejournal (often associated with fandom)• Tumblr (in between a blog and a microblog –good for getting used to posting short things orcommenting on media you‟ve found)
Embedding media• You can link to other media, but it‟s better to embedit in your blog:• Images• Video• Slides and slidecasts (Slideshare)• Audioclips and podcasts• Documents (Scribd)These might be „grey literature‟ offcuts, things you‟veproduced specially, or material by other people.
Publicising your blog• Win a „Following‟:▫ Blogs are a kind of social network. „Follow‟ otherblogs, comment on them, reblog or retweet them,etc. Add a „blogroll‟ to your blog.▫ Make sure you have a „Follow‟ button on your blogso people can subscribe!▫ Embed it in your social networks. Update on othersocial networks that you‟ve written a new post(Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)▫ Invite and reply to comments. Invite guest posts.Blog as part of a community▫ Write for a small, concrete, known audience inthe first instance. On that point…
Start small• “projects that will only work if they grow large enoughgenerally won‟t grow large; a veritable natural law insocial media is that to get to a system that is large andgood, it is far better to start with a system that is smalland good and work on making it bigger than to start witha system that is large and mediocre and working onmaking it better”Clay Shirky (2010), Cognitive Surplus: Creativity andGenerosity in a Connected Age
Publicising your blog:• Serendipity, searchability and shareability▫ People may only stumble across a post by accident(and may only read one post – that‟s ok!)▫ Think carefully about your metadata – the title of yourposts, but more so CATEGORIES TAGS▫ Add links to other sites, especially other social mediasites (and blogs) and „authority‟ sites▫ Add „share‟ buttons to your blog if not already there▫ Post regularly to stay high in Google‟s rankings
Measuring success• Use the built-in analytics• Embed Google Analytics• Track others who‟ve linked to or commented onyour blog posts• …but what does success mean to you? Asuccessful one needn‟t mean thousands ofreaders!
Blogging concerns and pitfallsWhat are your reservations about blogging as an earlycareer researcher?• IP: People „stealing your ideas‟• Blogging as a bar or distraction to publishing• Legal: libel, breaking copyright• Getting into disputes• Trolling, Flaming, Spamming• Time management• Not being taken seriously by senior academicsIt’s a issue of risk management: how likely arethese things to happen? And can you take sensiblesteps to prevent them?
Too much effort?• Consider:▫ Writing guest posts on other people‟sblogs▫ Starting a group blog (good editingexperience!)▫ Vlogging▫ Writing shorter posts!
Other types of blogLimited audiences:• Reflective blogs (may be private)• Drafting blogs (often private)• Update and news blogs for a project (forfunders/stakeholders)Static blogs• Professional profile (more flexible thanLinkedIn, may still have a blog element)
What next?• STEMDigital post on blogging – comment, tellus about your blog and your experiences!• How to build a network: look out for Module 2 ofSTEMDigital, including Ten Days of Twitter,starting soon!• Build a community of science bloggers atCambridgewww.STEMDigital.wordpress.com