Reflections On Blogging
Editorâ€™s Note: ACRLog is hosting a team of ALA Emerging Leaders. Each month one of our Emerging Leaders will contribute a guest post, and each will focus on some aspect of gearing up for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. This month the series takes on a slightly different topic than the Annual Conference. Miriam Rigby, Assistant Professor, Social Sciences Librarian for Anthropology, Sociology, Ethnic Studies,Geography & Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, shares some thoughts about blogging.
One of the questions posed to our Emerging Leaders team when we took on this project to write posts for ACRLog and ACRL Insider, was whether blogs were still relevant. Based on my habits, which include subscribing to over 60 blogs through Google Reader, my initial gut reaction was “of course!” But then I started wondering, “are blogs the new Second Life?” No offense to people who find Second Life useful or entertaining, but outside of the realms of librarianship and advertising, very few people I know think it is relevant; some are surprised to hear it still exists or is used at all. And these people are visibly shocked when I tell them of ACRL conference presentations in which Second Life is used, or even discussed. Anecdotes, to be sure – from a small pool of people no less – but noteworthy, I think.
Blogs seem different though. The New York Times has dozens of blogs. There are mega-blogs run along the lines of traditional news sources, with multiple, regular columnists and editors; take Boing Boing or Gizmodo for instance. There are even peer-edited blogs such as In the Library With the Lead Pipe. And if, for a minute we can conflate the ideas of blogs and rss feeds, even the Anthropology Department that I am a subject-specialist for at the University of Oregon has a â€œblogâ€ to which I can subscribe to keep up to date with all of the awards and accomplishments the department achieves.
As an aside, subscriptions like these, through my Google Reader, are crucial to my blog reading habits; this rss aggregator compiles all of the blogs I follow in one place, and I am notified when there is a new post. This saves me hours of bouncing around the web, trying to find out if anyone has posted something new.
Blogging is not just a hobby or a personal journal option, but also a career for many. It seems to me, that some people who are anti-blog are that way because they have an outdated view of what blogs are. Blogging is a format that has grown up and developed itself in terms of content over the past decade or so. And as it is a fairly versatile format, I don’t think that it will disappear too quickly. What I mean by all this, is that when anti-blog people think of blogs, their negativity may stem from an outdated idea of teenagersâ€™ LiveJournal or GeoCities pages from the â€˜90s; they expect the rants of an individual, rather than interesting news and links to more information. Blogs certainly still can be this (not to suggest that this particular one isnâ€™t great, it is), but they can also be well crafted, cited, authoritative sources of cutting edge science like the Public Library of Science’s (PLoS) Medical Blog. Blogs don’t have many constraints; if you can imagine it, you can probably make it and call it a blog. And as that lovely Wikipedia entry states, you can embed pretty much any content you like.
Of course, I couldn’t write a post on information sharing on the web, without mentioning social networks like Facebook and Twitter – places that are somewhat blog-like in the way that people write posts (no matter how short) and share information with each other. Perhaps these will kill the Blog?
Perhaps, but on the other hand, where is this information that is being shared via links coming from? Online newspapers… and blogs! In response to this, and Facebook’s ongoing privacy issues, some people are leaving Facebook for other sites like Tumblr, a socially networked blogging platform, while others are coming up with their own new concept for online networking and information sharing, as with Diaspora.
Notre Dame recently hosted a science and mathematics career conference for 11-14 year old girls, Expanding Your Horizons. Data Librarian, Michelle Hudson, had the pleasure of talking to some of these young women about careers in library science and information architecture, and in the process, discussed blogging with them. Apparently, none of them â€œblog,â€ but they do use Facebook. (Michelle notes that it wasn’t clear if they recognized features like “notes” on Facebook are blog-like, and their reading habits were not explored.) So, maybe there are generational differences, maybe blogging is for people over 30. Or maybe it’s a semantic issue; many things look like blogs to me, which may not be called blogs, or be understood to be blogs by their users.
But what kind of a librarian would I be if I just told you my thoughts and didn’t invoke some Web 2.0 participation via blog comments? So, you obviously read some blogs – you are here reading this. But how many blogs do you tend to read? What are your favorites? And do you go directly to the blogs’ webpages, or do you import them via RSS to a reader? And do you think blogs are relevant, or do you know of some newer, cutting edge method of keeping up to date with news and internet memes?