Thursday, 1 January 2004

My First Blog Post Finally Recovered: Why I Blog

I’ve been meaning to re-post this final popular entry from my old blog on the topic “Why I Blog”, and I’ve finally got around to recovering it completely. I’ve even updated it at this point, and I think it’s rather interesting that I’ve come to terms with my old blog through recovering and putting it to rest about the time that my dissertation is starting to be wrapped up.

In short, the main reasons that I blog are as follows:

* To archive effective research and teaching resources that I come across
* To openly share my research because it is publicly funded
* To network with other scholars from around the world with similar research interests
* To connect with potential research subjects since my research has an on-line component
* To explore this relatively new medium via formal practice and engagement with the technology and the social agents who use it
* To present alternative views on political issues and critically question events that the mainstream media often ignores

I have found that blogging has been a great asset for all of these above reasons. Overall, it has allowed me to connect with many people that I would have possibly never come into contact with before, and has enhanced all aspects of my life through honing my technology and research skills, as well as frequently providing me with academic opportunities and employment contacts. After using a blog for a few years now, I truly think people can ill afford not to use such a valuable tool in today’s networked world to communicate with people, especially if your career requires you to connect with others.

For another example of the uses of a Blog: In the Google Analytics age I’m able to even quantify some of this value in that my blog has attracted regularly between 300-400 unique visitors each month, from countries around the world, including (in order of most unique views):

1. Canada
2. United States
3. United Kingdom
4. Ireland
5. Thailand
6. India
7. Australia
8. Palestinian Territory
9. Philippines
10. Japan
11. France
12. Netherlands
13. Turkey
14. Singapore
15. Malaysia
16. South Africa
17. Sweden
18. Nicaragua
19. Guatemala
20. Germany
21. Finland
22. Russia
23. Indonesia
24. Venezuela
25. Ukraine
26. Vietnam
27. Spain
28. Slovenia
29. Poland
30. Algeria
31. Bahrain
32. Italy
33. South Korea
34. Iran
35. Jordan
36. Norway
37. Mexico
38. Brazil
39. Portugal
40. Nigeria
41. Egypt
42. Botswana
43. Ghana

I’ve only been using Google Analytics since January, so at this rate I’ll hopefully have had a visitor to my site from every country on the planet by the end of the year (hey, you gotta have goals, even if they don’t necessarily have any substance behind them). I’m confident that I’ll at least be able to get New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland, and China added to the list shortly, but really that’s just my virtual ego talking. :-)

Jokes aside, the Google Analytics tracking tools are interesting in how they present the blogosphere as a large lurking space; Bloggers tend to link and comment on one another’s work, but the predominant Internet behaviour for the average Internet user is not to interact or leave a proclaimed trace, instead voyeurism rules. In other words, without the Internet Protocol address tracking of Google Analytics, or a similar tool, I might not know how useful to others particular blog entries are, beyond word of mouth feedback, personal e-mails, blogger links and comments posted on the blog. However, even without these tools, the blog is useful for archiving and networking, of course.

The Google Analytics tools simply help a blogger, or any writer for that matter, begin to identify how to craft better stories that others might be interested in. For instance, the top blog entries that people have been reading on this blog are listed as follows:

1. Facebook Policies:

2. My Dissertation Proposal:

3. ICT Tools:

4. Comprehensive Exam Questions:

5. Getting a Job in the Public Service:

danah boyd's insight that she found any topic she wrote on Facebook would start to attract attention to her blog is quite evident in the above list. These insights into what kind of information people are looking for can only help to improve a researcher’s abilities to craft and engage with pertinent social issues that can affect others in a public space.

You don’t have to take my word for it though; here are some other bloggers thoughts on why they blog which I have found quite eloquent:

* Stefan Sinclair:
* Ismael Pina Lopez:
* Daithí Mac Síthigh has a bit of a humourous take on Blogging: “I use it as a shoebox, as a sandpit, and for various research-related purposes. My non-law interests include politics, music, baseball, radio, libraries and more - all get the occasional mention. I also post speeches, papers and presentations, where possible.”
* danah boyd's warning "Blogging isn't safe": To limit my enthusiasm for blogging though, I think boyd's warning about the potential pitfalls to blogging is a good balance here.

Thinking through boyd's arguments, I know that I am definitely constructing a particular social space in my work that focuses on the following themes: post-secondary education, ICT tools, innovation, narrative analysis, social networks and politics. Beyond those few topics, I don't let much of my personal life appear on these pages, because I hope to focus the discussion on public matters, without having too much crossover with my private life (although the two are, of course, linked intimately). Generally though, I hope that others do find this blog useful (within safe limits, of course), because I know I sure have!

Okay, from now on, I will be posting only on my dissertation research as I get to work wrapping that up over the next few months.