As part of Oxford’s engage series, I gave a lunch-time talk a few weeks ago at IT services on my experience of blogging and tweeting for academia. The slides are here for those that are interested. The audio file is here. (Other podcasts in the series are here).
My talk was unlike the fully-scripted research presentations I usually give, because I wasn’t talking about my professional research. Instead, it was just the anecdotal reflections of an amateur about trying to use social media for professional purposes.
Overall I’ve found the experience of blogging and tweeting very rewarding and it’s always nice to know there are people out these who are interested in the things you have to say, especially when these things relate to a relatively obscure part of a relatively small academic discipline…
I got a few good questions from the audience, which I recap here.
1. Should PhD students blog?
2. Should bloggers reveal that they are not just academics?
3. Should you ask permission to live-tweet conference papers?
Here are my replies.
1. I understand that I have the privilege of being able to say what I like online, because I’ve got a permanent job and already have a developed professional profile. I recognize that graduates might have legitimate fears about being too open with their work before it’s fully ready. Each person will need to take their own decision about whether to blog and when to start, and this might depend on the nature of the research. I certainly know of grad students who are blogging and it’s possible to treat the blogpost as a way of presenting material rather different from the thesis itself, or just expressed rather differently. My other suggestion was to blog in a group — perhaps a research group all working with a single supervisor — and/or use a blog to aggregate other blogposts, online articles, etc. that pertain to one’s own particular area of interest. In short, I try to encourage my own graduates to blog or at least to interact online with the blogs of others, but I don’t force them!
2. First, it’s possible to have multiple blogs, so a professional blog (and twitter account) can be kept fairly separate from one’s other online lives. Of course, a potential employer or current supervisor might stumble upon the connection between the two sides of a given individual, but I know of lots of academics who have a life and it doesn’t necessarily make them unemployable! My general view was that unless one’s online presence was linked to an area that was illegal or immoral, it was probably OK.
3. The question here reported disquiet at some conferences because the speaker was revealing research findings that were designed only for the ears of the people in the room. My reaction to this is that unless they are held in camera or with Chatham House rules, a conference is at least in principle an open event. No one stops you taking a handout and your notes on the talk and distributing it through verbal means in teaching and conversation, so I don’t see why Twitter is different. Like a conference it’s technically ‘open’, but in reality your tweet will tend to be seen by only some of your followers, and, if retweeted, only some of your followers followers. And like the conference itself, the tweet would identify the new piece of factual information from the conference paper as ‘belonging’ to the presenter of the paper. There’s a slightly alternative view here, but I’m sticking to my more hard-line open access reaction for the moment.