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June 25, 2012
Lindsay Green works as an Academic Support Officer in the Library, handling enquiries, creating tutorials and investigating new ways that the Library can support the University of Warwick's academic community. She attended a recent event and blogs about it here.
Mark Carrigan ran an excellent session on Multi-Author Blogging in the Wolfson Research Exchange at the end of May. The main points I took from the session are as follows:
- No right or wrong way to blog
- Feelings of guilt – not coming up with a regular blog entry
- If not frequently updated, less likely to be viewed by others
Multi-author blog advantages
- Greater frequency of posting of blogs if multi-authored
- Range of authors leads to more ideas being blogged about – variety
- Makes the blog more dynamic
- Attracts readers → attracts writers → becomes more self-sustaining
Suggestions for successful multi-author blogging
1) Keep content back, creating a store of content to use when nobody is able to create a post. This helps encourage frequency of updates, in turn helping avoid loss of interest by readers which is likely to happen if no new content is appearing.
2) Look at purpose of blog:
- what is to be published
- what is not published
- consider what readers will gain from visiting the blog regularly
3) Consider who in the team is responsible for doing what
4) Promotion of blog:
- Consider existing channels e.g. H-netfor humanities scholars
- Make sure domain name is registered
- Set up Twitter feed, automatically tweeting new posts
- Announce to other websites, feature guest blogposts from other sites
5) Sustain the blog:
- Frequent updates, suggests 1-2 a week more constantly rather than e.g. 5 in one week then gap
- Engage with readers – tweet for more details about things you are blogging about
- Clarification – refine your purpose, evolve and change according to circumstances
- Warwick's Digital Change GPP @digital_change on Twitter
- Sociological Imagination blog
- Timely.is for maximum impact in Twitter
- MyPlace blog, an example of a multi-author blog
October 04, 2011
Here is a summary of my tips to a researcher who is just beginning to blog:
My top tip for blogging is to set up a feed from Feedburner.com from the place where you blog regularly. You can publicise this and then you’ll know who is subscribing to your feed. Also, you can use it to create a feed for people to subscribe by e-mail, which more researchers are comfortable with than for RSS feeds.
And you can use your blog as a way to tweet, if you set up a Twitter account. Just send Twitter a feed of the headings from your blog and that way you can reach an audience of twitterers!
Then link the feed up to your LinkedIn profile via Typepad.com, and get busy making contacts there so that other people can find out about your work in LinkedIn, if that’s the site they like to use. You can also put a profile onto Academia.edu and/or Mendeley.com and make connections on those sites.
There are so many profile sites and I like LinkedIn for being professional in the way people use it and for integrating your blog and other tools like Slideshare into one place. PhD students are very keen on Mendeley as being a useful place to store papers as well as to put information about themselves and it does seem pretty good at hosting stuff from other sites in a similar way to LinkedIn too. I guess that, as a researcher, you'd want to use the site where most of the people who you want to connect with are already present.
I also think that published authors should also get a ResearcherID off the Thomson Reuters page, if you have articles in Web of Science. You can put a badge from there onto your blog or any profile site, as an easy way of showing off your publications on your blog! I blogged about this a while ago: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/libresearch/entry/researcherid/
Also, when you're blogging, it's a good idea to schedule entries for publication during busy times, so that you don't feel that it is a chore to always have to write something on your blog when you have other, more pressing things to do. Recycle stuff that you're writing anyway, in correspondence or as notes for youreslf and keep your blog active and attractive: your feeds on all those other sites will be refreshed and serve to regularly remind people of your excellent work!
March 10, 2011
Writing about web page http://getdowntoearth.blogspot.com/2006/12/sun-sets-on-down-to-earth.html
I've been looking around for examples of researchers who blog. This guy sums up some very useful comments for any researchers thinking of blogging. You can also follow a trail from this blog to his latest one, (http://sciblogs.co.nz/crikey-creek/) so it seems that although he wrote about the effort required, he has not abandoned blogging altogether... but is intermittent since the latest posting on that blog is from July last year!
February 23, 2011
On Monday this week I attended an event on Blogging, led by Mark Carrigan who is a Sociology PhD student at Warwick. I was very impressed when I saw the flier advertising it so decided to attend, to get his perspective. I was certainly not the only one interested: there were at least 20 others at the session and there were plenty of questions and interactions.
Mark set up a Wordpress account live, to demonstrate how easy it is to set up a blog, and to show some of the features which make Wordpress a well suited blogging tool for researchers. Of course there are other blog hosting tools available. Like Warwick blogs which I use here, or Blogger which I used in my days as Chair of the UK Council of Research Repositories. I have never used Wordpress myself although I have heard many good things about it from those who do, and having seen it in action I do agree with Mark that it is the tool I would recommend to researchers starting a blog.
My own reason for using Warwick blogs is that I can easily restrict entries to just University of Warwick staff or to staff and students, or indeed to just Library staff or to any particular Web Group. I like this facility and some University of Warwick researchers might like the convenience of these pre-set permissions groups as well.
There is a difference between what you get from Wordpress for free and what you can get if you pay for an account, and this might influence a blogger's choice: if you have money, you can also pay for your own domain name for your blog. Mark showed what could be done for free, and one feature that I like was the assignment of blog entries to categories. I try to do the same thing with this blog in the careful allocation of tags, but I am yet to explore properly how to display the content under those tags on this blog, or elsewhere with RSS feeds.
What categories do so simply in Wordpress is they allow you to present collections of blog postings under set headings/links, so that readers can find not only your most recently created postings, but also past ones of interest to them. Many Wordpress blogs don't appear to the reader like blogs at all, but as websites where each "category" is a page under which there is content. I have blogged here before that there is potential for researchers to use blogging technology to build a simple collaborative website for their project, and this is how it can be done.
Mark spoke about the importance of allocating appropriate tags to Wordpress blog postings as well: these tags appear in the metadata for the entries and will help Google to index your content appropriately. It's handy to separate out tags and categories in the way Wordpress supports because you might allocate a lot more tags than categories.
Mark and researchers in the audience discussed the possibility of sharing contribution permissions and blogging as a collaborative activity. There are many ways a blog could be used by researchers: to engage with the public, to stay in touch with colleagues, or, with contributions from the community you are studying, as your actual source material. We looked at examples of research blogs already out there: I found the Sociological Cinemavery interesting as it offers video clips for sociology tutors to use, and a blog called Inequalities seemed to me to be very close to a postgraduates' journal, with guidelines on how to write "articles/posts".
August 12, 2010
I've been blogging about how researchers might use a blog as a project website, but there are plenty of other aspects to blogs! The RIN report at: http://www.rin.ac.uk/our-work/communicating-and-disseminating-research/use-and-relevance-web-20-researchersindicates that 12% of their survey's respondents write blogs at least occasionally, and 21% comment on blogs.
If researchers are blogging and engaging with each other on blogs then there is material of potential value out there for other researchers to find and use. What advice should librarians offer to researchers about how to use blogs?
FINDING BLOGS OF INTEREST/VALUE
- An ordinary Google search will sometimes turn up blog entries in the results.
- You can search for blogs on Google Blogs: see their advanced search form for ways of specifying blogs of interest to you. Technorati is another popular blog search engine: http://technorati.com/, and Bloglines works as both a blog search engine and a feed reader: it will make recommendations of similar blogs to those you've already chosen (see below for information about handling blogs and feed readers).
- If you've put together a targetted Google search, you can also set up a Google Alert so that you get regular e-mails of new material meeting your search criteria.
- Once you've found one blog of interest, look on that blog for links to other blogs that they have found (sometimes called a "blogroll").
- If you blog yourself and people comment there, you may find that they also have blogs.
FOLLOWING AND READING BLOGS
If you only want to follow one or two blogs, look out for the option to subscribe via your e-mail address, so that you can read their content amongst your e-mail. If the blog you are interested in doesn't offer this, you could always leave a comment asking whether they could set it up for you. Many blog authors love to hear from their readers.
As you find more blogs of interest to you, you may need a way of collecting at least some of them so that you can read their entries when and how it suits you, rather than having them pop up amongst an already busy e-mail account. An efficient way to do this is to use an RSS feed reader, which is a tool that will aggregate the entries from the blogs you've found (amongst other types of content) and present them to you in a customisable way.
RSS feeds are a mechanism by which content is pushed into another environment than that in which it was originally published. Any blog that uses blogging software will have an RSS feed. Note that your RSS feed reader can also be useful for keeping up to date with other kinds of published content such as podcasts and journal or search alerts, and not only blogs: some will even work with e-mail accounts, so that you can choose to view your e-mail in your RSS feed reader!
When you collect RSS feeds, you might feel that you're giving yourself more work to do. Following all these blogs could be a whole lot of work, but you don't need to treat it that way. Just because you know a new posting has been made to a blog of interest to you, you don't have to read it... after all, you don't read every page of a journal.
The two feed readers I hear about most often are Google Reader and Bloglines but there are plenty of others. When choosing a feed reader, look out for features that help you to organise the feeds in ways that suit your needs. You can try one feed reader out and then export the feeds to import into a new feed reader, if you want to explore more.
We have a video describing more about RSS feeds at: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/main/help/training/rss/
TIME-SAVING TIPS FOR FOLLOWING RESEARCH BLOGS
If there is a blog of crucial relevance to your work and you check your e-mail regularly but you're never going to check your feed reader more than once a month then combining a subscription to the crucial blog in your e-mail whilst watching other sources in your feed reader would be a good approach.
Quickly unsubscribe to any feed that appears less relevant than you thought or produces more content than you could ever follow. Consider adding the URL of the blog to your favourites, and you could go and search that blog for content on a specific topic when you need to know about their work.
You can install a "notifier" on your desktop, so that your feed reader can tell you when there is new content waiting for you to read.
Get your RSS feeds on your phone or on an iGoogle page or in any other environment that you like to use already.
If you maintain your own blog, you can look for functions in your feed reader to to publish your blogroll from there.
See a librarian about ways to optimise your alert notifications and RSS feed subscriptions to suit your own working style!
August 11, 2010
It seems that Wordpress is a particularly recommended tool for project blogs that are intended to work as websites because it supports a publishing workflow where you can have multiple authors of pages and one editor who publishes. It has been described as a website tool that is also good at blogging rather than a blogging tool that can do websites, which sounds much more suitable for research projects in my opinion. It supports the creation of a static home page, which seems to me to be a requirement.
An example of this is at: https://kastanet.kingston-college.ac.uk/
More examples of research and project blogs are being gathered on a diigo account at: http://www.diigo.com/user/lis_research_sup
August 10, 2010
With thanks to the Librarians of jiscmail lis-research-support list, for their advice and contributions - blogs aren't the only way to collaborate!
The starting point for the advice below is that a researcher is already considering using a blog of their own (I haven't covered guest postings on others' blogs, for instance). I have heard that some researchers are considering using a blog in place of a website as a way of meeting funders' requirements to set up a web presence for a project and I think that there's quite a lot to consider in such a circumstance. Note that I have yet to find any examples of researchers from outside the library and information sector and that the examples I have found have ended up being maintained as blogs rather than looking like static websites.
I'm aware that there are many researchers who don't want anything to do with blogs, but I'm not writing to or about them in this particular posting. This is more for those ready to take a tentative step or two.
REASONS TO BLOG
- A blog can be contributed to by collaborative partners across multiple institutions. You aren't tied to one institution's software and authentication system for creating the website and its content.
- It's a very quick way to get content up on the web, and you can add to it from wherever you are in the world.
- A blog can contain/link to many features besides the postings themselves. Links can be provided published & repository articles, to project documents and powerpoint slides from conferences, if they are posted on other Web 2.0 sites. You can also share data, databases of references and bookmarks for websites through Web 2.0/social networking softwares, and link these into your blog. Video footage and slideshows of presentations, etc can be embedded into your blog. A multi-media site is quite easy to create.
- It's a great way to keep track of stuff and reflect on your findings for yourself/your team. Depending on the blogging software you use and your blog's purpose, you can create private entries for just you or for a defined network of people.
- When you share with others through a blog you can get comments and feedback. It's a valuable networking tool and potential way to engage with/impact on the research community but also beyond them, eg to those in industry, policy makers and the public. (Although you might need to define your intended audience and target them.)
- Blog postings and headings can easily be re-purposed in order to reach your intended audience. Eg use Feedburner to turn your blog into an e-mail bulletin or you can put it on a web page, push headings through Twitter or push Twitter comments through a LinkedIn profile. Blog content can be pushed out to your audience in multiple ways rather than just being on web pages for them to stumble upon it.
- A website is expected to be static but a blog is expected to be dynamic. If you're not frequently adding to your blog then it might not appear very attractive to your readership - or to search engines. You might also find that the potentials of blogging will draw you (or your colleagues) into a different method of web publishing than you anticipated, and although you can be experimental and opportunistic or focused and disciplined about this, you may need to agree your approach with project partners from the beginning. What time and effort will you commit to maintaining the blog? How should it appear to readers? Who are your intended readers?
- If you blog regularly then you're likely to pick up a "following" of readers. Setting up a blog and then shutting it down for each project might not be the wisest course: consider whether you could/should continue the blog beyond the life of the project. If you might continue to blog beyond the project's life, who will do this? Whoever does will get to carry all your followers' attention for subsequent work: how will you handle this with your project partners? Consider that if you work on many projects during your career, you might end up contributing to many blogs too. Which might be a great way of reaching different audiences and building partnerships, but it's a perspective you might not have realised when embarking on blogging.
- Two experienced project bloggers (in response to my enquiry on a jiscmail list) have said that the best model is a blog alongside a website, with the latter setting the scene and providing official documentation, and the blog for daily research management. You could consider changing the name and purpose of a project blog whilst retaining the same URL but you might like to consider whether your funder and partners would be comfortable with such a re-purposing at the end of the project.
- You won't necessarily get engagement or networking or comments on your blog without quite a lot of investment and activity on your part. Which is absolutely fine if all you want is the effect of a static website anyway.
POPULAR BLOGGING SOFTWARE
(There are plenty of other blogging softwares out there!)
Whatever blog software you use, I recommend also using Feedburner. It's great for tracking statistics of visitors to your blog and it will offer you all sorts of other functions based on your RSS feed from your blog, including making an e-mail bulletin that people can subscribe to so they don't have to visit your blog regularly or learn how to use an RSS feed reader in order to follow your work.
NB I'm sure that there will be lots more tips for researchers who blog appearing on this blog in the future: try searching the entries, or look for entries tagged "blogs".