I visited with World Campus Instructional Design staff earlier this week, and shared in a great discussion on the rewards and challenges of blogging professionally. This group launched a pilot project centered on blogging---each staff member created a Penn State blog, and was encouraged to use the blog on a regular basis to record reflections, archive work-related artifacts, record work achievements, and more.
I spoke with some members of this group over two years ago as they were just getting started with the idea, and it was very interesting to come back and see how their project evolved over time. Our discussion this week centered on online identity, and how we can each set comfortable parameters for what we reflect on publicly.
I stressed to the group that for me, blogging is an entirely selfish act. I blog here to record information for myself, to flesh out less than fully-formed thoughts in my head, to begin germinating research ideas. My most successful posts (and the ones that generate the most traffic on my blog) have been essentially technical writing---recording how to do something (almost always written so that I myself won't forget it later, and can just look it up again.)
I stressed to the group that these selfish posts can serve a secondary purpose, connecting with a larger community of other people interested in / pursuing similar interests. After our session, I thought of a post I wrote a few years ago, titled, Why I blog. My ideas on this topic haven't changed, and can essentially be distilled down to the following points:
- My blog is a notetaking mechanism and idea farm for my research.
- My blog is an outlet for publicizing new projects, publications and presentations (and, I would add, for archiving artifacts relevant to those new initiatives).
- My blog can function as a space for community discussion.
- My blog encourages me to write on a regular basis.
- My blog helps me pull together multiple, disparate views on a specific issue, for later use.
- My blog is a forum for reflections on teaching, research and service.
As this blog has aged, my purposes for it have gotten more and more self-centered. It has become a conduit to my portfolio. Artifacts often rest here before they are more formally linked in my portfolio. I showed the group Chris Long's post on scholarly curation from the Day of Digital Humanities blog, and encouraged them to think broadly about the artifacts that they can and should aggressively collect and archive for future use. Chris's acts of intentional documentation and curation seemed to truly resonate with the group.
As the act of blogging itself matures, perhaps the best advice I could share with the group is to simply use it for their own needs. Adhere to your comfort zone. Be selfish, write often, and create a vibrant record of your work that suits you and communicates your many professional contributions.