Kathryn Greenhill wrote an excellent post this morning about how blogging – for her – is about being a node in a conversation. It’s about more than publishing posts.
I found myself saying yes yes yes yes yes yes yes as I read this post. And I started writing a comment but it got crazy long so I’m turning it into a post.
I should confess this is very much a thinking out loud kind of post. I started it thinking I’d end up somewhere, then I finished up somewhere else, so I’m back at the beginning here, warning you this is a bit random and scatty. (Best justify why it’s not a perfectly crafted post or your might think I’m an IMPOSTOR!)
I think Kathryn and my thinking here are probably pretty similar, but I use different terms. What Kathryn talks about as ‘blogging’ is probably what I would call ‘engaging’. (Correct me if I’m wrong Kathryn!)
For me, blogging is just one part of engaging online, of engaging in conversations, engaging in a community.
And building a blog readership and establishing a community around a blog are about so much more than writing blog posts, and these things take a lot of work. But I don’t think I’ve ever really tried to do that because I see my blog (or I used to see my professional LIS-focused blog) as my home in the professional community and – as Kathryn puts it – as a node in a conversation.
So blogging was one of the ways I contributed or engaged with an online community of other LIS professionals.
My blogging (as in authoring posts) on professional topics slowed down / ground to a halt long before I stopped commenting on other people’s blogs, sharing resources, and contributing to professional conversation in other online spaces.
I was still engaging even when I wasn’t blogging. Then I stopped engaging in other ways. I stopped tweeting so much about professional topics. I stopped sharing links about professional topics. I stopped commenting on blogs related to library and information practice (but also: the flow of posts for me to comment on slowed considerably).
I got busier. It got harder to find the time. I had other things to focus on. I largely stopped engaging all together. Except on Instagram where I mainly post selfies, pictures of the kids and random bits of info about my day. There’s not a whole lot of professional going on over there, other than being connected to people I know professionally.
When I say I’m missing the extended professional discourse that happens around blogs, I mean I am missing the blog posts, but I’m also (perhaps more so?) missing the commenting and the conversation and the engaging that happens around blogs. As Kathryn shared yesterday, there was a time when lots of professionals knew each other pretty intimately without ever having met, by virtue of blogging and the engagement that happened around their blogs. I think we’ve lost that a bit. And I think we’ve lost some of the depth of conversation because (to borrow Kathryn’s term), some of the nodes (blogs) in the conversation have died, and new ones haven’t necessarily sprung up to replace them.
I just want to be clear that I don’t think a return to professional blogging in any form – me on my own, you on your own, or a group of us writing a collaborative blog – is going to result in an immediate improvement in the depth and quality and volume of professional discourse. They won’t come just because we build it.
But I feel like blogs – because they are often our homes on the web; because they lend themselves to long form posting; because of the discipline of writing, subscribing, reading, commenting – are smack bang at the heart of informal professional discourse. *Something* is missing, and I think one way to start down the path to getting it back is to blog. And read blogs. And engage around blogs.
PS. Related aside: For me, blogging isn’t always about conversation; or at least, that may not be my motivation for posting. Not on this blog anyway. Sometimes I write and share blog posts for no one other than myself. Like last night, I wrote a post about how I use tense in my thesis, mostly because it was on my mind, and knowing that it was probably pretty dull for others. But I can do that, because it’s my space. Sometimes I write and share blog posts because someone at an event asked me if I’d share some resources I mentioned so I throw up a post to do that. If these things turn into conversations, that’s awesome. If not, it doesn’t matter, because it’s not really why I wrote them in the first place.