In my vision of the future, blogging is as much a part of the academic world as peer-reviewed journal articles.
But at the same time, I notice a lot of reluctance when it comes to blogging. Two years ago at the PhD Event, the Online Networking and Social Media workshop ended up in a long list of complaints and reasons why to stay away from the Big Scary Interwebz. This year, the workshop I intended to give at the Network Day of Utrecht University had 0 interested persons.
So, scholars 2.0 should acknowledge the fears and doubts of their less-internet-oriented peers and address these fears more specifically.
I’m giving you my 2 cents here, hoping that I can spark some interest in doubting academics:
Online identity protection and concerns with regard to privacy are a major concern. However, if you are active online, you really have more control over your online identity than when you try to fully stray away. In a way, if you try to avoid to have anything about you or your work online, you fully depend on others who might still distribute content that contains your name.
If privacy, or not publishing of your contact information, is your main concern, then you can think deeply in advance on how much of your data you want to provide when you write something. The key here is to always think twice when you fill out a form online and check if your data will not be shared with others.
2. Fear for writing something “stupid”
A fear I can fully relate to… In the past, I’ve deleted complete blogs (like the blog I kept on my MySpace), because I didn’t like the contents anymore. I’ve also wondered if it can happen that I write something about my research, which then would venture out into the interwebz and lead a life of its own, grow teeth and come and bite my in the ankles.
However, if it turns out I wrote something that turns out to be discredited by other research, I’d be more than willing to discuss it here. Sharing knowledge leads to advancing the entire body of knowledge, and I prefer to write, and fail if necessary, than to keep my thoughts to myself.
3. Lack of time
We’re all more than busy: research, education, administrative tasks, preparing a trip for a conference and some more activities all keep our schedules more than full. However, when you consider starting to write online as a blogger, you should reflect before you start. If you don’t have the time to keep a blog alive, having your own website or blog might not be the way to go for you.
But that doesn’t mean blogging wouldn’t be suitable for you! There are many ways in which you can still contribute online, even though you don’t have the time for your own page: you can guest blog, or your faculty or research group might start a blog in which all involved researchers can take turns and provide content when their schedule allows them.
4. Lack of ideas
Another commonly-heard grumble is “I don’t have good ideas to write a post”. You don’t really need to sit with a coffee and cook up a Great Idea. There are many ways in which you can share your knowledge online. In this post, you can find a few ideas on which contents you can quickly turn into a post. I’d add to that, writing a post to discuss a conference you visited, to share a presentation you gave (slides and a brief summary), write an entry when you have a new publication and -specifically for PhD students- giving an update of your work every now and then.
How would you convince a fellow academician to take the plunge and write online?