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October 14, 2011

Single author vs. multi author blogs

In the video below Mark Carrigan talks about this week's theme, Publishing on the Web, and his experience of blogging. He also touches on the theme of this post, single vs. multi author blogging:

In our contemporary ‘publish or perish’ culture, postgraduate researchers find themselves under pressure to gain publication before they complete their thesis. In an increasingly inhospitable job market, it has become extremely difficult to find academic work post-PhD without one or more peer-reviewed academic papers. Then there’s the pressure to gain teaching experience, as well as the mundane though often challenging business of supporting yourself financially in an environment where postgraduate funding is becoming ever more difficult to obtain. In these conditions surely academic blogging is a distraction from more pressing concerns? Even if you see the multiplicity of benefits it can offer to postgraduate researchers, it might still seem as if it simply takes up too much time.

This is where multi-author academic blogs (MABs) come in. In an article for Networked Researcher, itself a good example of the format, Chris Gilson and Patrick Dunleavy write about their experience of editing the British Politics and Policy @ LSE blog:

The vast majority of popular political blogs are now multi-author blogs (MABs); that is, themed and coherent blogs run by a proper editorial team and calling on the services of multiple authors to ensure that the blog remains topical, can accumulate a great deal of content and can ensure a good ‘churn’ of high quality posts. We believe that MABs are a very important development, and they can be an assured way for an academic institution to become more effective in the context of the web.

The rapid success of the British Politics and Policy @ LSE blog is a case in point. Set up originally as a temporary experiment to cover the 2010 General Election, we have now posted over 800 blogs from over 250 different authors.The blog has become a means by which LSE seeks to reach out to people from other institutions and universities in the UK and abroad. Our contributors include politicians and journalists as well as members of think tanks, NGOs and the wider academic community.

On a purely pragmatic level, MABs are much easier to sustain than single author blogs. They also tend to be more successful. With a diverse range of contributors, a successful editorial policy and a clear sense of purpose, the ensuing blog will be accessible and engaging. Likewise with an associated Twitter account and Facebook page, updating followers when new content is published, readership communities can emerge around MABs. Maintaining such a blog can be a very different process to having a single-author blog (see the ‘collaborative online’ case studies from the Knowledge Centre for some practical examples of this) but it can also be more rewarding both personally and professionally. It’s something all postgraduate researchers should consider, particularly if you already know a few people with similar interests who are exploring academic blogging.

Further Information

October 10, 2011

Thing 1: Creating a blog and writing your first post

Follow this post to find out how to register!

So how do you go about becoming an academic blogger? Firstly you need to decide what kind of blogger you are. What do you want to achieve through blogging? In answering this question it can help to get a sense of other people at Warwick who blog and what they get out of it.

  • Do you want a place to publish your work online?
  • Do you want to raise your profile?
  • Do you want to practice your writing?
  • Do you want an online presence for a project you’re involved in?
  • Do you want to disseminate your research?
  • Do you want to setup a collaborative writing/publishing project?
  • Do you want to connect with other researchers?
  • Do you want to gain a wider perspective on your field?

These are just some of the things that motivate postgraduate researchers to get started. It’s not necessary to know exactly why you want to start blogging. Most people find that their interest in it changes (and grows!) over time. Nonetheless it’s a good idea to think about what you might like to achieve as a postgraduate researcher through starting a blog. This also shapes how you blog: what service you use and the style you adopt in your writing e.g. if you’re writing to connect with other researchers in your area then technical terminology is more acceptable than if you’re writing for a broad audience.

Now what about the practical side to getting started? Firstly you need to decide what platform you want to use. Below is a table with some pros and cons for the most well known blogging services, as well as links to step-by-step guides to using each of them. There are also other services such as Typepad and Posterous which are worth considering if you’re particularly keen to explore the range of options before you begin. However what counts as a ‘pro’ and as a ‘con’ depends on what you want to use your blog for, as well as how experienced and confident you are at using online tools. Here are some rules of thumb about what service might be right for you:

  • If you just want an online scrapbook to post thoughts, ideas, quotes and multimedia then use Tumblr. It also suits if your blog is going to be more personal than professional - though it’s worth pointing out that for postgraduate researchers in particular, as well as bloggers in general, the two categories can sometimes get blurred.
  • If you want a place to practice your writing, connect with other researchers at Warwick or act as an online presence for a Warwick based projects then use Warwick Blogs. The fact it’s branded and shows up prominently in search engines makes it very useful for these purposes. It’s also good if you’re not feeling particularly confident about the process.
  • If you want to disseminate your research, connect with researchers internationally or raise your profile then use Wordpress or Blogger.
  • If you want to setup a collaborative writing project then use Wordpress. Though the amount of functionality can be confusing at first, it has very powerful tools to facilitate multi-author projects and extending the functionality by moving it to a private hosting service.
  Warwick Blogs Wordpress Blogger Tumblr
Pros • Having a Warwick domain name means search engines will find your blog easily
• Easy to setup and use
• Good for projects largely based within Warwick
• Easy to register a domain name for your blog
• Extremely powerful and flexible
• Supported by large and active community
• Easy to setup with multiple users
• Owned by Google and convenient if you already use other google products
• It’s easier to use than Wordpress
• It’s possible to build your own templates
• Visually attractive
• Easy to use
• Social networking functionality built into the platform
• Great smart phone functionality
• Excellent for multimedia
Cons • It can be difficult to make your Warwick blog stand out
• Being prominently branded by Warwick can undermine the independent identity of your blog
• Degree of flexibility can be confusing for first time users
• Themes tend to be less attractive then Tumblr
• Many people think Blogger sites look less professional than other services
• Sites hosted by Blogger are sometimes slow to load
• Limited customization
• Designed for ‘micro-blogging’ and less suited to larger pieces of writing
• Generally more effective for multimedia then writing
Step by step instructions

Signing up


How to blog using Wordpress How to set up your Blogger account Beginners guide to Tumblr

To complete thing 1 create a blog using one of the platforms listed above. This blog will be used to track your progress on the programme. Each week we will ask you to write a post about each thing you have been asked to complete. For your first post write about your experience setting up the blog and tell us a little about what you are hoping to learn from the 23 Things for the Digital Professional programme.

Once you have created your blog you can register online to take part in the programme.

Further information

Publishing on the Web for Postgraduate Researchers

The author of the blog posts for this week’s theme is Mark Carrigan. Mark is a postgraduate researcher in the Sociology department. He is a prolific blogger and can be found on a number of social networking sites online.

What does the word ‘blog’ mean to you? For many people it has connotations which are far from glamorous. Witness BBC journalist Andrew Marr's dismissal of bloggers at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last year: "A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting."

However in conversations about blogging, the product is often confused with the platform. While many people do use blogs for the sort of sole authored ranting that Marr suggests, this is simply one use of the underlying technology. The platform itself is immensely powerful: zero cost, immediate, easy to use, customizable, collaborative online publishing.

Blogs are starting to have a big impact in academic life. In fact our own Vice Chancellor recently drew attention to ‘the power of blogs in forming new fields of international study’. Blogs can be particularly invaluable for postgraduate researchers. They allow us to engage in a whole range of academic activities (communication, networking, collaboration, dissemination, public engagement) much more easily and quickly than was previously possible. The academic ‘blogosphere’ is growing rapidly and it offers a wide range of opportunities for postgraduate researchers. Here are some examples of how blogging can be used by PhD students:

The next post will introduce you to thing 1 and your first activity - 'Creating a blog and writing your first post'.

Further information

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