All entries for Thursday 18 October 2007

Three years on

Warwick Blogs has been running for a little bit more than three years now; we had a pilot period between about May and September 2004, then we went live in October 2004, offering a blog to every student and staff member who wanted one.  That means that Warwick Blogs has now run for three consecutive academic years, so it seems as though this might be an interesting time to look at some statistics for those three years.  Here they are:-

Blogs Authors Posts Comments Commenters Photos
04/5 2,362 2,242 35,983 88,231 8,602 48,709
05/6 988 1,721 32,411 70,261 7,344 45,954
06/7 800 1,396 24,254 31,829 6,340 16,111

Essentially, usage is declining.  Can we hazard any guesses as to why?  I can think of three reasons, though I'm sure there may be others:-

  1. In the first year, we marketed the existence of blogs very heavily, with posters, fridge magnets, beer mats and anything else we could think of.  We went to some time and trouble to get these promotional materials dstributed widely; into academic departments, University House and the residences.  We had an enormous banner made and put it up in University House so that students who were queuing to register might see it and remember it.  Then in the second year, we did a little bit of the same sort of stuff - but nothing like as much.  And in the third year we did no marketing at all (and we haven't done anything in this, the fourth year, either).

  2. This is just a theory, but I think there was a moment when we were first getting started when blogging was, relatively speaking, a new, shiny, interesting thing, (and our own system was itself new and shiny), and I wonder if we benefited from that timing.  But nothing can stay new forever, and there are now many more alternatives to having a Warwick Blog; you can have a blog in any number of good and interesting systems, like Vox or Typepad.  Or you can Twitter instead of blogging.  Or...

  3. ... you could have a Facebook account, and I suspect that this swamps number 1 or 2.  For social networking within the academic community, Facebook is all-conquering, and we observe a startling number of students who have a Facebook account before they arrive or get one soon after they start. And if you already have a Facebook account then it's not immediately obvious that you need another place to write about what you're doing, or another place to share your photos (hence the precipitous drop in the number of photos uploaded; they've all gone into Facebook instead).
One interesting trend that we observe as this academic year got started, though: the proportion of blog entries which are essentially academic in nature seems to have risen sharply.  It's too soon to say yet whether this year will continue the overall downwards trend from last year, but it's very noticeable when looking at the recent entries for the last week or so that (a) most of them have some degree of permissions set on them (mostly "Staff only", presumably because they're entries written at the behest of a tutor), and (b) they're almost all course or study related.  Perhaps this is also a consequence of the Facebook explosion; institutional systems such as ours end up settling into a different niche (ironically, the one we had thought we were originally building for), the area of study and personal development-related blogging.  Time will tell.


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