Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 08:50 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 08:50 | SYDNEY

How academics should blog


Sam Roggeveen


29 February 2012 10:55

Further to our 'Why academics should blog' discussion, here are some excellent tips from a couple of experienced and successful LSE bloggers about how its done (thanks to Roger for the link):

  • Make sure your titles tell a story, and your findings are communicated early on. Academics normally like to build up their arguments slowly, and then only tell you their findings with a final flourish at the end. Don't do this 'Dance of the Seven Veils' in which layers of irrelevance are progressively stripped aside for the final kernel of value-added knowledge to be revealed. Instead, make sure that all the information readers need to understand what you're saying is up front – you'll make a much stronger impression that way.
  • Remember the Web is a network, not a single-track railway line – and not everyone uses the web in the same way. So once you have a blog post, do everything you can to get the key content out to diverse readerships who want to see it. Post your links to Twitter (several times, at different times of the day) and Facebook. Let people subscribe by RSS or email.
  • Talk to your readers. Encourage people to comment (but only post their comments after moderation) and respond to comments and to Tweets. Talk to people on Twitter and Facebook when they discuss your work. And be reciprocal, open-minded and fair in sharing your content with others and linking to their work – improving the public understanding of social science is a huge collective good for all social scientists. We can all flourish together in the new paradigm for academic work.

I always encourage Interpreter contributors to make their key judgment 'above the fold' or to at least come up with an arresting anecdote to encourage readers to click the 'read more' button. It's a journalistic convention and you see it in news stories (where the important facts all have to be in the lead paragraph) and op-eds as well.

We publish a lot of op-ed style writing, but I encourage contributors to go beyond that style and voice, because it does not exploit the full capabilities of the blog. For instance, there's this irritating tendency for newspaper op-ed writers to be vague about the critics they are addressing ('some have argued...'). Blogging, for good and sometimes ill, allows for much greater intimacy, giving writers the chance to address critics directly by name and through links. That's the real strength of our debate threads.

I think that kind of directness can scare off some people, as very few of us are used to such close-quarters debate. The key, for me, is to lower the intellectual stakes by reminding myself that my opinions are open to constant revision and do not form the core of my personal identity. When you make that mental distinction, being wrong hurts far less*. That was the point of posting this video last week:

* BTW, I'm not immune from hubris and arrogance, and I constantly fall short of this standard.