What I had in mind was a university-wide platform that would aggregate the output of participating faculty. This kind of branded expert channel might have a place amid the economic collapse in journalism we are currently experiencing. If Huffington Post is worth $315 million (OK, not really, just another dumb move by AOL), what might a platform showcasing 100 clever faculty from a major research university be worth? 100 bloggers (say, each posting once every 10 days or so = 10 new posts per day) out of 2000 MSU faculty doesn't sound too crazy, does it?
Hi Steve,I certainly view blogging as a means of recording and organizing my thoughts. Sometimes I get really thoughtful and insightful feedback in the comments (although sometimes not). There's also the pleasure of self-expression! As James Salter wrote
I liked reading your "Blogging Professors" post, since I've thought several times, "Should I write a blog?" But I've also thought, "Why does anyone bother to write a blog?" The reasons to write are, as you note, to propagate one's "fabulous ideas and opinions worthy of wider attention and discussion" and to create dialogs and conversations. My own reasons not to write have been (1) that it would take time, and I have too little time as it is, and (2) that I doubt I'd be likely to make even the slightest ripple in the vast pool of the internet.
Reason (1) is, I'm sure, obvious. It's hard to find "work time" between experiments, meetings, classes, seminars, journal clubs, staring at data, writing analysis code, talking to students, planning classes, teachings classes, reading papers, reading books, and probably several other things I'm forgetting. And "free time" has its own constraints, and any new activities would have to compete with things I'm very fond of, like wandering the public library with the kids, or playing games with them in random taquerias, or painting pictures myself (which, sadly, has been steadily dwindling in frequency).
Of course, I'm sure most commenters will point out that it's all a matter of incentives: I have no incentive, as a faculty member, to blog. This is true, but not very explanatory in itself. We all do plenty of things that don't have concrete incentives. This past week, I've spent about two hours reviewing a paper. Next week I'll spend at least half an hour with a postdoc (not from my lab) starting a faculty position (elsewhere) giving advice on grants. Later this term, I'll probably put a lot of work into a talk on [ geeky science topic involving microscopy; unspecified to preserve anonymity ] for a journal club I don't usually attend -- it's a fascinating topic I've gotten increasingly involved with. I certainly don't get any reward from the University (or even the department) for doing these sorts of things. So why do them? In all these cases, there's some combination of reciprocity (I publish articles in journal X, so I should review papers for journal X), or personal interactions (I like to have conversations with colleagues), or both. Is any of this the case for blogging?
I'd guess -- though I have no data on this -- that most blogs, especially new ones, have very little readership. Certainly one often stumbles on blogs with a total absence of comments. (Not that blog comments in general are often worth reading…) And even if posts are read, is there likely to be much interaction or dialog, compared to the other activities noted above?
As you note, one way out of this would be group blogs, which might expand readership and reduce writing effort. Another would be if the university actively promoted blogs. (I'm constantly amazed at how little work the university puts into describing to the public what faculty do, and how ineptly what little they do is done.)
And, of course, another solution is to simply look at blogging as a way of recording and refining one's thoughts -- regardless of whether they're read or not. I've toyed with this; maybe I'll take it up…
There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.