Blogs are still where it’s at

After the pins, tweets, status updates, vlogs and life journals, it seems that blogs are still the place to be. Harvard Business Review Blog argues that many blogs have as much credibility as their print counterparts, citing a blog authored by a New York Times journalist, and The World Bank, where researchers can use some staff time to blog.

On the face of it, these examples argue in favour of a resurgence in blogging, but they need a bit of unpacking. Blogs authored by professional journalists and researchers are different from those not. Blogs merely provide a convenient container for reading and subscription since little else makes it easy to differentiate between ‘blog’, ‘article’ or webpage these days.

For me, there are two emerging observations: blogging is becoming more accepted in research, and blogging as a bridge to emerging publishing practices.

Some 15 years after the first blogs emerged, blogging is becoming part of professional practice for many reseachers and practitioners. I’ve been blogging for 13 years, though it’s always been for professional practice, and never part of my job. This conflict plays out in other fields, too. Academics are increasingly under pressure from Research Excellence schemes in a number of countries to more widely disseminate the results of their research, though the act of dissemination itself doesn’t count towards the schemes. This despite several research projects including one from the Research Information Network pointing towards the role of blogs and other tools. LSE has also been contemplating how blogs can bridge gaps between researchers and practitioners. The UK Library Research Coalition’s Rilies project in 2012 studied research takeup into practice in LIS, and like RIN found that social media, blogs, and conferences are important to raise the profile of research. Surely blogging in research is aided by the growth of Open Access over the past decade, enabling researchers to link to their own work rather than merely describe it.

Blogs are also becoming bridges to emerging publishing practices. The days of the problogger, ad-filled SEO optimised blog with accompanying junky e-book seem to be mostly over, save for a few long-established high-profile blogs. Some independent blogs which have started more recently have in some cases flipped to a micro-publishing model, supplementing blogs with small, subscription-based newsletters or small books, fuelled by the huge change in attitude to what only half a decade ago we still called vanity publishing.

What implications do these changes have for us as library professionals? The question for me is not, “to blog or not to blog?” but, what do we discuss, and how? How should we disseminate research and ideas (either of our own, or by others) within and beyond LIS?

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