I’ve been blogging for exactly a year now, and it’s been an interesting and useful experience. I mainly started doing this for public engagement, to share the hot topics in and around higher education in a way that anyone can read. I’ve certainly made some progress there, with something approaching a thousand hits a month, on average. More on that in a minute. I’ve made all sorts of connections and found some really good blogs with great people behind them. I have regular exchanges with some of them on Twitter, some I’ve met at events, and I’ve also been approached about a journal article on the basis of some of my work on here.
One of the keys to blogging is supposed to be keeping it going – blog regularly. My wife has been writing on some Japanese sites since 2009, and now gets hundreds of hits every day. My ‘best day’ ever – 350 views – was a flash in the pan: I usually get less than 200 a week! When I first started out, I had a handful of topics that I really wanted to talk about, mostly around tuition fees, widening participation, and things like rankings. I’ve added more on the PhD/Early Career Researcher experience as opportunities have arisen. That one’s a very hot topic at the moment, as there are all sorts of problems with the way doctorates are funded and what the post-doc employment situation looks like. There will no doubt be more coming on this as my career unfolds. I’m not running out of things to say any time soon!
Nearly 12,000 hits… As with all reported numbers, it’s worth looking behind them, and in my own stats I can see that my very first blog has been the most popular. This is perhaps not surprising because it’s been up there longer than the others, and also transfers well to all subject areas, rather than being more specific to the social sciences/education. But that blog has provided nearly three quarters of nearly all of the traffic…and I’ve written just under thirty of them! I got lucky not long after I wrote it because The Guardian was asking for advice for PhD vivas on Twitter and I posted the URL in response. They got in touch with me a few days later and interviewed me for an article that also featured a link to my blog entry. Having that kind of coverage also means that other pages have linked to it, and it snowballed from there. That taught me a useful lesson about strategic placement. Don’t be afraid to splash your work around a bit; I’ve noticed that the online newspapers I follow post their articles several times a day for a few days. Nothing else has taken off like my first one, but every little helps.
What else have I learnt? The thing that stands out is that writing for blogs for me is a refreshing, loose way of putting words down. It’s very different from any of the other writing I do, which is either for academic articles or internal reports.
In a way with blogs you can just string thoughts together off the cuff, although you still have to have something to say and a structure to stick it together with. Most of what I’ve written has been drawn from a lot prior reading and then distilled down. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve interacted with people and I’m slowly finding other work out there. There’s some really good stuff about. Three of my favourites are this one, this one, and this one – the first two for content, the last one for both content and appearance – it looks fantastic. Finally, my mum is the best editor – nearly every time I publish, I get an email from her pointing out where the typos are. Aren’t Mums brilliant?!
So, we’re a year in, and it’s all motoring along nicely. Watch this space…