Academic Blogging

by Brian on September 14, 2005

I agree entirely with Henry that blogging can be extremely useful for an young academic career, although perhaps not for exactly the same reasons.

It is certainly true that blogging increases name recognition, and that name recognition is important in all sorts of ways in a job search. Obviously only people who are recognised can be the targets of a targetted search, and a person with a recognised name might stand out of the hundreds of applications in an open search. But I don’t think that’s the most striking way a blog can help. (In philosophy the place the blog could be most useful for that reason is at the immediate post-tenure level, where departments do targetted searches but not everyone knows everyone.)

I’ve never got a job on the basis of blogging, in the sense that I think there’s no offer I got that the blog was the deciding factor in giving me the blog. But having a blog means you get invited to more conferences, invited to give more talks and invited to contribute more papers to collections, and all of these do count towards getting jobs. They count both in that they look good on a CV, and they really start to raise your profile in the profession. So you establish correspondences with prominent figures, something that is also a side-effect of a good blog. (Or at least I’d hope it is. Of course many prominent bloggers already established acquaintances with leading figures in their field at graduate school, but for those of us who studied on the far side of the world, a good blog can go a long way to make up for not establishing a large network in grad school.)

Now regularly corresponding with prominent figures leads to having better letters of recommendation and, if all is going well, better papers. And now we’re talking things that seriously count towards getting a job, and my experience has been that these factors have (I think) made a difference in my career.

Having said all that, this all depends on having the right kind of blog. A blog that is just a record of your sex life is probably not that useful. Or a blog that has too many drunken entries. (My impression was that Ivan Tribble was most concerned with these kinds of blogs to start with.) Even on a purely academic blog, there is some possibility that recording not-worked-out thoughts will lead to a negative impression, especially if the not-worked-out thoughts don’t work out. (Or, again, if the blogger is drunk.) But these cases seem to be in the minority.

And in the long run, there are some things that you should be writing on a blog. I don’t know how much this extends to other disciplines, but a lot of philosophy publication is taken up with papers about why X’s proposal about topic Y is wrong. Now “Philosopher makes mistake” is hardly a headline, so a lot of these papers aren’t surprising. The world would be better off if the journals could be cleared of a lot of them. Of course the good of the world need not be the primary concern of the young academic. (It certainly wasn’t my concern when I was younger, or now for that matter.) Still, there comes a time when it starts to look unfortunate to have all of one’s CV taken up with these little critical notes. (I’ve had to make separate listings on my CV for positive and negative papers just to remove the impression that I do nothing but snip at heels of the more intellectually ambitious.) And at that time you might prefer that those sharp critical comments you’d made had been confined to a well-kept first-rate blog rather than slotted into a second-or-third-rate journal. Certainly the academic world would be better if a lot of these papers were confined to web-self-publication, and after a while their writers will also be better off.

[UPDATE 15/9/05, 2130GMT: Bad typo fixed – thanks for the corrections!]

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Blog de Viajes » Blogs academicos, mas aportes
09.15.05 at 10:23 am

{ 16 comments }

1

lago 09.14.05 at 9:55 pm

I agree entirely with Henry that blogging can be extremely for an young academic career, although perhaps not for exactly the same reasons.

Extremely what? I mean, I know you study vagueness, but this is ridiculous.

2

lemuel pitkin 09.14.05 at 10:32 pm

Henry studies vagueness? Huh. Didn’t by any chance do his degree at UIC, did he?

3

Rebecca 09.14.05 at 10:41 pm

4

Matt 09.14.05 at 10:48 pm

Brian,
I don’t think you need a blog to get name recognition when you have students posting remarks about you like this:
” very cool class. weatherson is adorably australian and very approachable, helpful, and seems really really smart. get him while he’s young, fresh and still giggly during lecture. i’ll definitly take another course of his.”
see:
http://www.ratemyprofessor.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=478914

5

fjm 09.15.05 at 1:05 am

I use mine as a research diary. Mostly it’s there to keep me plugging away at what is actually the next research project, not the current one.

6

dp 09.15.05 at 3:12 am

an young academic career’? SInce when does young have a silent y?

7

Kevin Donoghue 09.15.05 at 7:16 am

… I think there’s no offer I got that the blog was the deciding factor in giving me the blog.

This post is a philosopher’s joke, I take it? Will there be an annotated version for the lay reader?

8

paul lawson 09.15.05 at 9:05 am

Academic blogging? It certainly fits the Giddens/Thompson/Slevin notion of “cultural transmission” on a timely, rather than Reed/Kluwer ‘arms dealer’ basis.

Who would know, if lively minds did not explore and contend? In near real time.

Risk and reward.

Dunno how it works in the ‘meat market’, but in a wider world, it is a joy, and a source for further conjecture.

(And hat tip to matt for http://www.ratemyprofessor.com
coming to some in this part of the antipodes, real soon now, and do they deserve it.)

9

Kimmitt 09.15.05 at 9:07 am

“blogging can be extremely for an young academic career”

you’re surely not from an academic background, are you?

10

dipnut 09.15.05 at 1:27 pm

Sorry to see everybody already jumped on the copyediting. I was going to mention that blogging too has been very for a engineering livelihood, as well.

11

Another Damned Medievalist 09.15.05 at 10:16 pm

I can definitely say that it helps with networking. So far, two conference invitations (one with people I’d lost track of, the other with other bloggers), some great advice on work, and a non-paid editorial position that gets my real name out there. Not to mention the chance to read a chapter by a C-Timberite before the book came out!

12

Marcus Stanley 09.15.05 at 10:48 pm

When my brother and I did a blog guest spot once, Jason asked Brian for advice on blogging. Brian apparently told him the single most important thing to know is “don’t blog drunk”. This made me curious to hear the experiences that led Brian to this advice, but Jason did not know them. Now in this post we again see multiple admonitions to avoid blogging drunk. I am even more curious now :-)

13

Richard Zach 09.15.05 at 10:57 pm

And in the long run, there are some things that you should be writing on a blog.

Surely this is true, but probably you meant to note that there are also things you should not be writing on a blog.

I was wondering about the practice of “targetted searches”–I thought that they happened mostly at the senior level. They happen more at the immediate post-tenure level, you say? I’ll expect the unsolicited job offers to roll in this year, then.

14

meik roemer 09.17.05 at 5:39 am

Academic blogging is still in its infancy here in Germany, but as far as I understand, there is a difference between a dooce-like journal and an academic blog. Academia mostly IS about publishing your “ideas”, so what is the difference in the long run between blogging your ideas or get them published in a magazine? You will always make some friends with your research and there will always be some catfighting….

http://www.zeichenkoerper.de

15

Kenny Easwaran 09.17.05 at 10:44 pm

Richard – Doesn’t immediately post-tenure fall under “senior level” in terms of hiring? I would imagine the targetted searches are more likely at some point farther on, but by that point name recognition should probably be established independent of a blog. I would imagine.

16

Richard Zach 09.17.05 at 11:15 pm

Yes, I mean really senior.

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