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  1. 1. Using Blogs for Academic Communication Dr Helen Webster aka Rattus Scholasticus Anglia Learning and Teaching
  2. 2. What is a blog? Definitions and characteristics please! static, broadcast web 1.0 webpage vs dynamic, interactive, conversational web 2.0 blog post And variations on a theme…
  3. 3. Who here reads blogs? • Those who do: ▫ What sort? (hobbies, professional, etc) ▫ How do you find them? ▫ How do you know what’s the latest on them? ▫ How do you read them (how long, how much etc) ▫ What makes a good blog? • Those who don’t: • Why not? • Everyone: what sort of academic blog would you like to read?
  4. 4. Reading blogs • It’s important to read blogs because: ▫ You become familiar with the medium. ▫ 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 thoughts for you to write about and link to in your own blog…
  5. 5. Does anyone here blog already?
  6. 6. So why do you want to blog? What do you want to get out of it?
  7. 7. Blogging as an Academic Pros and cons • Relationship to traditional publishing • Networking and collegiality • Professional profile and employability • Impact and outreach, knowledge exchange • Your own development
  8. 8. Blogging as an Early Career Researcher
  9. 9. What do you want to blog about? • Who is your intended audience? • Who exactly is your intended audience? • How large an audience are they? • What would they find valuable? • What have you got to offer them? • What else have you got to offer them?
  10. 10. Other than research, what could you share? Core research Profess- ional activities Teaching And Learning Adminis -trationImpact Publish -ing
  11. 11. What would be useful to your readers? Why?
  12. 12. Genres of blog • Vanessa Heggie, Guardian • Mary Beard A Don’s Life, TLS • Athene Donald: Occam’s Typewriter • LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences • Cambridge Science Festival • Cambridge Centre for Health Sciences Research • Ben Goldacre • The Periodic Table of Elements • Andy Mitchell The imature student
  13. 13. What to post about? Three minutes: • For your intended blog, jot down at least TEN ideas for posts ▫ Titles? ▫ a brief note of what each one might include? ▫ Category and Tags? • Review these: are they too large? can you break each one down into more posts or suggest other takes on them?
  14. 14. 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 ▫ Top ten list (listicle) ▫ Curation of other people’s material ▫ A series of posts on a topic
  15. 15. Blogging style • A blog is NOT an online journal article; it is a different genre with different writing conventions: ▫ Snappy title (will also be URL) ▫ Conversational, personal tone (‘your voice’) ▫ ‘Shorth’ – 300 min - 600 words (1000 MAX and RARELY depending on audience) ▫ Hypertext links instead of footnotes and references ▫ Multimedia – embed images, video, sound, slides, documents…. ▫ Scannable – no large blocks of dense text – subheadings, bullet points, short paragraphs
  16. 16. 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 and accessible? (try reading it aloud as if you were chatting to someone – if it sounds odd, the tone may be too academic!)
  17. 17. Choosing a blog platform • (lots of functionality and possibility to customise it) • Blogger (from Google – integrates with your other 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 or commenting on media you’ve found) • Twitter (microblog) • Paid options
  18. 18. Finding readers • Searching: Metadata – use tags and categories. Linking to social media and authority sites. Post regularly. • Sharing: embed ‘share’ buttons for social media, attention grabbing titles, memes, build relationships with other bloggers • Stumbling: Link from your other web presence, let others use your content, use others’ content, comment on their content • Suggesting: that your readers share, follow, comment, invite and include you, reuse
  19. 19. Start small • “projects that will only work if they grow large enough generally won’t grow large; a veritable natural law in social media is that to get to a system that is large and good, it is far better to start with a system that is small and good and work on making it bigger than to start with a system that is large and mediocre and working on making it better” Clay Shirky (2010), Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
  20. 20. Too much effort? • Consider: ▫ Writing guest posts on other people’s blogs ▫ Starting a group blog (good editing experience!) ▫ Vlogging ▫ Writing shorter posts! ▫ Posting over a set time period Or if you’re really keen, set up additional blogs!
  21. 21. Some of my favourite blogs for early career academics: • The Thesis Whisperer • The Research Whisperer • Pat Thompson • LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences • Steve Wheeler Learning with ‘e’s