Blog Pile

Flipping the Question:”Why DON’T Academics Blog?”

Liz Lawly recently shared a great collection of edublogger’s explanations for why they blog:

I keep getting asked this question by colleagues here at RIT and elsewhere, and I find myself sending them the same links over and over again. So here’s what I give people who ask me this, in an attempt to clarify the value of blogging to those of us in academia. It’s not all about personal confessionals. Really.

These are great, useful, but in a way, like asking devout Apple users “Why they use a Mac?” I am curious about the flip side, why academics do NOT blog, what keeps them from it, what are the barriers, perceived or real?

I’ve been musing on this for a while, as I have created blogs for teachers and techies in our system that have various life spans from weeks to months. It is also curious in light of interests in our system in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), sprouting from the Carnegie Foundation’s movement— where a central tenet is being “public with our work as scholarly teachers” — what could be more than public than a blog?

And while the buzz is high among edu-techies for electronic portfolios, the prospect of an easy to use, comprehensive, portable, enterprise life long tool is on the 8 to never year horizon (don’t bark back about the ones in existence, I know about them, I know about the successful systems in place, but they are not near mainstream). So you can sit back and wait for the perfect tool or do something NOW which can catalog your accomplishments, projects, reflections, artifacts — a blog.

Following is mostly my own conjecture and speculation on why the blog updatke is slow, and is part of a later to be summary of how our faculty leaders are doing with using the blogs+wikis+discussion boards to document our Ocotillo project.

Lack of Time No one has too much of it, save the independently wealthy or royalty.

I have yet found anyone internally to challenge my statement that writing to a blog takes no more time and technical prowess than composing an email- you type text in a box, maybe add a URL, select file to attach, and click a button. From the long-winded emails that fly around our system there is plenty of time and ability to write, click, and send.

Email is the Sole/Primary Attention Channel We have a culture that sees e-mail is the prime channel for electronic attention. If it does not come in email, well you have to go somewhere else to find it. And that is not a regular practice. And then we complain about all the email we get. And we spend time emailing our complaints about how much email we get.

In our system, e-mail is the expected mode of communication, and is almost the way “learning objects” are shared- by pushing at en masses as attachments (documents, event announcements, etc).

E-mail has no permanence, no search-ability, and sending media via email is an in-efficient pushing of multiple content files across the networks.

Bad Spam Experience Spammers discover new blogs before the social network of interested persons. On a new blog, not known to others, the bulk of comments coming in are pitches for Porn, Pills, and Casinos. Who would see a value in blogging, if that is your feedback?

Not Experienced in the Social Network Phenomena Some of the blog is before the horse, as without having an experience of someone you do not know offering a valuable suggestion, or getting a Trackback or finding reference to your work on another blog, the new blogger has yet to experience the value of the social network.

Without experiencing this, the blog experience ends up more like shouting in the wind, or writing reports that no one will hear. Without constructive, human feedback, the blogging experience can not be seen more than a waste of time. Wihout getting “something back”, what is the incentive to keep posting?

So it has been part of my campaign (Blogging is a Social Process) that blogging is much more than writing your own stuff (if that was the case, it is just publishing), but also participating in other blogs, linking to them, commenting in them. It is very much particpatory, reading, thinking, communicating, and writing.

It’s Still New I’ve been immersed in blgos for 2.5 years, and many have been at it much longer, and it is easy to forget how new and strange it is to many others. There is definitely a innovation diffusion principle in process, and hopefully an acceleration by the usefulness of RSS, easy blog publishing, and other social network phenomena that have a payoff.

Well, these are just some shot in the dark broad guesses, but the question looms larger, “Why are you NOT blogging?”

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I think all of these get at part of it. On top of any conventional notion of there existing a real ‘digital divide’ there’s also I think the very real case that even those people on the ‘online’ side of the ‘divide’ are not all online in the same way. Some of us (many of whom comprise a lot of the current academic bloggers) are online 8 hours a day, 7 days a week (you get the idea – we *live* there). We get the value of establishing online identity, voice, knowledge base and all the other motivations for blogging, in part becuase we’ve been doing it long enough to recognize the need and the paucity of past alternatives.

    But for many, many others, the internet is still defined by one or two very thin slices of what you can do (send email, create a website, post in a forum…) and for any one of these ‘thin’ slices the usefulness of blogs seems questionable. That’s one of the hardest things to get non-bloggers to understand about the value of blogging (and why I emphasize ‘blogging’ as a verb and not ‘blogs’ as a noun) is that it’s valueable precisely because it (potentially) addresses so MANY aspects of one’s life online, and until you appreciate all the things your life online can be and all the challenges that using standalone, solitary, non-web-based, non-XML-based tools present to trying to achieve this, it’s hard to understand why we bloggers are so damned enthusiastic about it.

    But that too will change, as will blogging and its tools, until at some point we evolve a well matched and adopted suite of tools that manifest all the good aspects of blogging and bring them together with many more aspects of ‘life online’ than just reading/writing. Wow, too much coffee!

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