Thursday, November 20, 2008

Starting a Prof Blog

A friend in the academy recently admitted that he was interested in getting into blogging. Assuming that this is a good idea (which I think it is; assume that there will be no employment-related repercussions from such), what advice would you have for a new blogger? My thoughts:

- If something is to be more than stodgy institutional mouthpiece, it needs to convey that it's being written by a person. People have interests, emotions, likes, and dislikes. If you want your audience to feel like they are reading a blog by you, not by the John Q. Richguy Professor of Something-Or-Other, you need to humanize yourself. Maybe it's the occasional post about wine, maybe it's subtle nods to an interest in comic books, maybe it's pet pictures or anecdotes. Just be relatable.

- Minimize political bloviation. You will be on solid ground if you stick to things within your field or your personal experience. Many a blog has run aground because the author(s) feel compelled to shoehorn their political positions into otherwise interesting and enjoyable conversations. *coughcoughVolokhConspiracycough*

- Tone is important. If you want reader participation in the form of comments, you'll be more likely to get it if you put up open-ended musings, not essay-format posts with definitive conclusions that shut off further debate. Be conversational, but thoughtful.

- Disagree! The easiest way to get readers is to disagree with other bloggers. This also provides a valuable quality control service. (Actually, this is not true. The easiest way to get readers is to blog about prurient things, but unless you're a First Amendment scholar specializing in obscenity law or a gender studies maven who collects examples of sexist products, that's going to look a little weird.)

- Engage with your commenters. Active participation of the author in comments threads enhances the readers' sense of connection and also keeps things from degenerating into a cesspool.

More hints, anyone?
blog comments powered by Disqus