The Value of Blogging

If the evidence at Judge Business School is anything to go by, blogging is categorically not dead. Yes it may have had its original zenith back in 2004, but my current feeling is that this may just turn out to be its new golden age.

Earlier this week I hosted a blogging forum entitled ‘The Value of Blogging’ at which a diverse cross-section of bloggers – myself and Meg Westbury of Information & Library Services, the director of the Master of Finance programme, a PhD student and the school’s Facilities Manager – gave presentations to an audience of over 30 support staff, students and faculty about their reasons for blogging. I was keen that the event incorporated bloggers from a good cross-section of the business school community with a view to exploration of different motivations and drivers.

I kicked off the event with a prezi which introduced the five presenters and the format of the session (each presenter had 8 minutes to present and 2-3 minutes Q&A time), before explaining why I started to blog back in May 2009. Essentially because:

  • I was receiving information but due to time and volume constraints was not processing it
  • I was keen to speak out, comment upon and better explore professional issues
  • I saw it as a opportunity to make connections and take up new opportunities

I also let the audience have a glimpse inside my Very Small Brain with a very unacademic diagram detaling my personal blogging process, before going on to examine what makes a good blogpost.  I argued that it wasn’t neccesarily about hits (as fun as my Jedi Librarian post is, at the end of the day its fluff), or comments (my most commented upon post: Explore, Dream, Discover, was a rushed effort that I probably should have refined more before posting), but instead posts which:

  • recorded and shared valuable learning
  • said something that needed to be said, or which
  • helped me to work out where I stood on an issue

I went on to state that for me blogging is a profoundly personal process that helps me to organise my thoughts and explore ideas, applications and, occasionally, controversies. I concluded by saying that I’d found blogging to be more about the journey than the destination.

My presentation is reproduced below:

Dr Simon Taylor, the Director of the Master of Finance programme, was the next speaker. He elected to give us a tour of his blog ‘Behind Blue Eyes‘ (referencing The Who song not the Limp Bizkit one!) explaining its financial focus and how it had evolved from a more corporate blog. Simon’s blogposts are often triggered by other blogs he has read and he deliberately keeps his entries short and therefore digestible. A good example being ‘Love, China and Ikea‘. He went on to reveal that he spends more time reading blogs than books before showing us a few  more representative posts ‘Rogue trading 1931-style‘ and ‘The economics of Scotch whisky‘ – an industry which involves a discounted cash flow model apparently, something he was happy to admit probably fascinated him more than it would the audience.

3rd year PhD student Aoife Brophy Haney was next up. She presented us with her blog Researchology which is is dedicated to the craft of research and seeks to answer questions like:

  • What does it mean to be a researcher?
  • How is research creative and how can that creativity be sustained?
  • What do researchers do all day long?

Aoife admitted she was pretty early on in her blog journey but was positive about the medium as a means of clarifying her ideas and thinking about her voice, but also as a way of helping her family to understand what it is she does. She explained that she was quite happy with her small readership and with just letting her blog evolve over time  and that she hoped it might help her to identify people to work with in the future. She admitted that she had trouble integrating blogging into her research life and also that she had some reservations about the content she put up given that ideas are crucial to an academic’s livelihood. I find the blog a great read and recommend her post on Academic Storytelling.

Joanne Black provided a change of tone, offering the audience exactly what I knew she would: light relief. Not that the session had been dull up to this point, but Joanne has a, er, unique take on the world. Interestingly she began to blog as she felt that there just weren’t enough characters for her on Twitter. She spoke about her two blogs (thereby immediately beating us all hands down!) the first, Not Just About Shoes, which she freely admits is about random stuff. Her hilarious post  ‘Strictly Done Dancing‘ exemplifies why I’ve become an avid reader of her output. I wish she had more time to write this blog so she might become a female Charlie Brooker, but as she said in her presentation if she did she’d have to do without frivolous activities like sleeping.

Her second blog, ‘a house, a job, a TV licence‘, which grew out of the first is all about the hit BBC Three supernatural TV series Being Human of which she is THE global expert (I kid you not – she’s written a book and everything). Interestingly she revealed that this second blog has in a way become a ‘professional’ blog as she is selling the book and her writing through it, but this isn’t to say she doesn’t get personal enjoyment out of writing posts there. I particularly liked, and could identify with, her concluding explanation as to why she blogs: “it keeps the voices quiet in my head”.

Meg Westbury gave the final presentation and chose to examine why it had taken her 6 years to get around to starting a blog, Library Pie, and the difference between doing things because you ‘should’ or because you ‘want’ to. She felt that there was a stronger blogging culture in the UK than in the US, certainly among librarians anyway. She has found that the blog has helped to get her ideas ‘out there’  and has enjoyed the luxury of reflection that the process brings. She also mentioned the phenomenon of writing authoritatively on a subject and as a result being perceived as an expert. Her presentation is below:

Questions were taken after each presentation, but there was also time for a brief plenary at the end. The main questions asked were as follows:

  • How much time blogging takes up? (Answer: Most presenters started out with ridiculous intentions and then pared down to a more manageable posting schedule)
  • How do you grow your readership? (Answer: Twitter, connecting with other bloggers)
  • How formal or informal should you be? (Answer: more informal than formal, good blogging is about voice and character)
  • Should keep your identity secret? (Answer: entirely up to you, but would again depend on blog content)
  • Was there any cost involved? (Answer: only time)
  • What about the quality of the information you are offering? (Answer: quality and value is highly personal, but today critical evaluation of what you read is more important than ever)
  • Should images be copyright cleared? (Answer: Use Flickr Creative Commons for licensed images).

Overall I think the audience and the presenters found this opportunity to share and discuss very welcome and I am already planning a similar format session on another topic for next term.  Many, many thanks to my fellow bloggers for their engaging presentations. Keep blogging!

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