Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Blogging professors

When I first started blogging in 2004, I thought it would be only a matter of a few years before a significant fraction -- say 10-30% -- of all professors would have their own blogs. Surely, I thought, many brilliant professors would have no shortage of (and no shortage of interest in expressing) fabulous ideas and opinions worthy of wider attention and discussion.

But I was wrong. My rough estimate is that, currently, typical research universities (with, say, 1000 or so professors!) have no more than a handful of active faculty bloggers (for some reasonable definition of active, which might include a minimum traffic or readership level).

However, it's not too late. With the continuing collapse of the economic model for traditional journalism, there is significant demand for expert opinion and new ideas. How should a university encourage faculty blogging?

Set up branded group blogs for faculty, using a common template, perhaps organized by themes: health science, engineering and technology, basic science, politics and economics, psychology and cognition, etc. These don't even need to be hosted by the university -- they could be on Wordpress or Blogger.

Group blogs can regularly produce fresh content, even if each contributor posts infrequently.

Hire a grad student to do some light editing, manage comments, and occasionally stimulate the faculty if the rate of posting falls off. Make posting really easy for the professors -- allow them just to shoot off an email with the post content, and have the student clean it up and upload it to the site.

Advertise the blogs in alumni communications, campus news, and other university publications.

Will it work? Ultimately it depends on the faculty...


Dan Gonzalez said...

Well Steve, I guess professors don't blog because ther's no remuneration/incentive for it, unlike a journal article which can be used for resume padding, a blog post will (most of the time) just get a few angry commenters trying to argue with the author. Get a few incentives right and professors will start blogging immediately. .

Yan Heng said...

Brilliant idea. I have read lots of interesting blogs here. Thanks for that. Dr. Hsu. I live in 桂林, btw, a city not too far from BGI, lol

greefea said...

The Berkeley blog (http://blogs.berkeley.edu/) is doing exactly what you are describing.

Jason Collins said...

I like your model, and I'd love to see more academics blogging (particularly those who work in areas that I'm interested in), but most of us will focus on a small subset of winners. I imagine that 80% of the blogs I am subscribed to get thousands of eyeballs a day. Many of us are saturated in our blog intake (I'm near the limit I can keep up with and I often cull blogs when I add new ones), so additional blogs will add value but will mainly divert attention from other blogs. Of those who don't win the war for eyeballs, will they keep it up? What rewards can faculty offer for a blog that simply isn't read?

5371 said...

Being an interesting person yourself, you seem not to understand just how uninteresting most people are, including those on university faculties.

David Stern said...

We have this over here in Aus: http://theconversation.com/au

Titus Brown said...

I blog 'cause it's fun. It also turns out to be a career plus, as evidenced by comments from program managers, grant reviewers, and paper reviewers. But mostly I blog to find out what I think. ivory.idyll.org/blog/why-i-blog-2013-version.html

Titus Brown said...

In the case of MSU, you can simply put an entry for it on Form D. Guarantee you'd get plenty of blog entries then, at least from the untenured!

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