Blogging Is Dead?
In June last year Brian Clarke described on the Copyblogger blog how “Blogging is Dead (Again)“. The apparent demise of blogs was also discussed in a blog post (!) published on the Technovia blog in December: “2009 was the year tech blogging died“.
The truth is somewhat different than those headlines suggest; indeed the posts themselves suggest that we might be seeing an embedding of the benefits which blogging can provide, with a distancing from some of the blogging rhetoric. The post on the Copyrighter blog, for example, urged its readers to “forget blogging as a movement, if you’d like. But keep the content marketing rolling“. And the Technovia article was a critique of large professional blogging networks, such as TechCrunch. The article concluded “most of the best tech writing at the moment comes from people who don’t actually do it for a living“.
There is a danger, though, that the ‘blogging is dead’ meme might put off people in higher education and other public sector bodies from making use of blogs. I am convinced of the benefits blogs can provide, a view which is supported by today’s news that there have now been 250,000 views of posts on this blog since it was launched just over 3 years ago with a steady increase in the numbers of visits every year since the launch.
For me a blog provides a very effective way of carrying out my professional activities – engaging with my user communities; avoiding the delays associated with other communications channels; allowing the content to be easily viewed on mobile devices (a theme is used which is well-suited for readers using an iPhone or iPod Touch); ensuring that my content is easily found via Google and that it is not restricted to niche communities and to allow people to comment on my posts and challenge my opinions.
Before November 2006 I was forced to make use of much more limited communications channels, including publishing in ejournals and peer-reviewed publications, use of mailing lists (typically to a niche community where the content couldn’t easily be found by others) and at events. Although I still make use of these communications channels, the blog now provides a much more effective channel, and, indeed, helps to ensure that materials published in peer-reviewed publications has been exposed for comments and feedback at an early stage.
Blogging Isn’t Dead!
So I would disagree with the view that blogging is dead – or that, as some people suggest, Twitter has replaced conventional blogs. However I do feel that many blogs have been set up which have failed to be sustainable and this may have resulted in a feeling of disillusionment by those involved in creating such blogs and those who have encouraged such activities. Meanwhile the sceptics may be feeling justified that their views that “blogging is just a fad” have proved correct.
What is needed, I feel, is a more realistic approach to blogging. So although for many popular blogs the authors may have discovered best practices for themselves, there will be a need for advice for those who are uncertain how to proceed or who have found blogging difficult to sustain previously.
Issues which should be considered include the blog’s purpose(s), its target audience and who will write the blog (i.e. a team or an individual). The technical issues (why blog platform to use and whether it should be installed in-house or not) are no longer major issues, I feel (WordPress.com, which is used to host this blog, is a good safe choice, I feel). More importantly are likely to be the softer issues; there may be personal characteristics which typify those who enjoy blogging, so forcing someone to blog may not be a sensible approach. It may be wise to begin blogging with a blog which has a clearly defined life span, such as a blog to support a project or an event. At UKOLN short-term project blogs were used to support the JISC-funded SIS Landscape Study on use of Web 2.0 in HE and Good APIs report and, last year, a blog was used to support the annual IWMW 2009 event.
Support For Bloggers and Potential Bloggers
UKOLN has published a series of briefing documents on best practices for blogging which, although developed primarily for the cultural heritage sector, may be useful for other audiences. These documents have been used in a number of workshops we have delivered, again primarily for the cultural heritage sector.
These documents cover An Introduction to Blogs, Use of Blogs in Libraries, Use of Blogs in Museums, Developing Blog Policies, Planning Processes for Your Blog, Quality Processes for Your Blog, Launching Your Blog, Building A Blogging Community, Evaluating Your Blog, Technical Issues For Your Blogging Service and Addressing Barriers to Blogging. Are there other areas which people think may be useful? And is there demand for further workshops, such as the ones we ran at ILI 2008, ILI 2009 and for the Scottish cultural heritage sector?