Academic blogging: why still bother?

One of my colleague who started a blog, and then shut it down, is putting into question blogging as a useful activity. While he won’t deny that blogging can be fun, he is arguing that it is simply not very useful in a career. He is also making a comparison with real life meetings and how so much more useful the live meetings are.

Naturally, live meetings are tremendously useful because they are high bandwidth meetings where you are fully communicating with your body, face, voice, and so on. Blogging is very low bandwidth akin to email, so no comparison is possible. But it is also much more expensive for me to schedule a public talk than to blog!

For now, I still think that blogging is good for an academic career and a career in general, but I must say that I’m wavering. Many people tried blogging and backed out. Even famous academic bloggers like Sébastien Paquet and Stephen Downes have stopped or significantly reduced their blogging.

Let’s see what are some of the most tangible benefits.

  • Bloggers are easier to find on the web: there is no question that I get more people to read what I write thanks to my blog, but the problem is that I don’t necessarily effectively promote my research, so it is not clear whether it really helps my research. Are bloggers more often cited in scientific publications? I don’t know.
  • Blogging generates some networking: I know several smart people that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. This is a very tangible benefit, but almost any intellectual activity brings in some networking benefit. Also, I cannot point to an example in my life where this small amount of networking was beneficial.
  • Blogging is good for knowledge management: I still search through my blog to find old ideas or old pointers. This alone might be worth blogging.

Daniel Lemire, "Academic blogging: why still bother?," in Daniel Lemire's blog, April 6, 2006.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

2 thoughts on “Academic blogging: why still bother?”

  1. I really think that blogging for KM is the long-term, consistent benefit of blogging. Unless you’re an A-lister, there are few other benefits other than meeting some interesting people. Both Seb & Stephen could be considered to be A listers, but even that was obviously not enough. Perhaps it’s an easier justification for me as a freelancer – who else would I talk to?

  2. Like with anything else, do it only if you enjoy it regardless of the consequences. I find that it is easier for me to blog when I am not worried about the impact of what I am saying, whether someone will care about it, whether the quality of my blogging compares to some other bloggers, etc.

    I think that those who try it and then cut back feel that they don’t enjoy it as much: the potential benefits that you list are only an epsilon in the grand scheme of things.

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