Overcoming blogging anxiety

This post was inspired by a comment on the UWE DocSoc Facebook group that spoke of anxiety when it comes to writing blogs or online diaries. It’s a topic I am familiar with both as someone who writes this blog but also through my interaction with researchers on workshops about using digital tools.

I suppose a good deal of the anxiety can be associated with imposter syndrome that is common in academia or with fears that someone might steal your ideas or, that your reputation/employment might be jeopardised if you write about contentious things or that blogs will take up all your time.

Cost benefit analysis

Overall I believe that using social media tools will bring more benefit than harm to researchers who are early in their career. I think this because getting your work, your expertise and interests out there helps to establish you as a researcher known in the field. It can lead, sometimes serendipitously, to opportunities to do interesting things that might not have come around. It has certainly been this way for me – people can see what I do professionally, they can see examples of my work and this sometimes leads to mini projects that I wouldn’t have initiated myself all of which adds to the rich and varied nature of my work!

Having said that though it is also important to understand that the internet and the digital social world is not always innocuous; things said and written about online can be misconstrued and lead to unintended consequences. There are those in the academy who think that you shouldn’t make time for social media because it is perceived to be frivolous or, worse feeding our addiction to distraction and diminishing our ability to focus on cognitively difficult things.

Writing practice

I think that the main benefit of writing some kind of blog or research diary is of use to early career researchers to help with writing practice. The more you write, the more it becomes normal to do so. I am currently sitting in a writing group space specifically for late stage doctoral students in a Thesis Boot Camp who are battling away at writing their dissertations. The more you practice, the easier it becomes..

Some thoughts that helped me get going

  1. I started blogging for purely selfish reasons – I needed a space to write down my thoughts about workshops I had facilitated in terms of the context of the topic, what materials I used and where I might make it different in the future. It is a reflective space for my own work.
  2. I am able to use an informal way of writing about these things because it is “just about workshop materials”
  3. I can go back and edit spelling mistakes and clunky sentences if I want to
  4. People who ask for the resources I use can be given a hyperlink instead of a paper handout
  5. I don’t feel pressured to write to any timetable – just write up some thoughts after an event

Things that still challenge me

It’s been about 5 years since I started a blog, firstly on Posterous (now gone) and latterly on wordpress and have now written an entry on pretty much everything I have done. I do go back and edit posts to update materials, text but therein lies a challenge. Should I re-post as a new entry and have it listed at the top of the blog timeline? The downside is that this creates a new hyperlink for that post and breaks any that have been linked to elsewhere.

On a purely technical side note, wordpress.com (not wordpress.org) has some limitations on what you can embed in a blog post. I use Prezi for some of my resources and you cannot embed a prezi directly into wordpress.com because it uses iframes as the embed code so I have to think of ways to work around this (using images with hyperlinks to the resource on prezi in case you were wondering!).

I have been wanting to write reviews of things I have read around researchers, development, finding success but find myself putting it off – I’m not sure why. So I’m not immune to blogging anxiety!

What about you?  Do you have any tips/tricks for those wanting to write but feel anxious about doing so?

Social Media for Research Administrators

Today I am running a short session with UWE colleagues who support researchers who are applying for research funding. There are three main reasons why I think this should be explored:-

  1. Social media tools can really help with horizon scanning – keeping up to date with what funding calls are out there etc.
  2. The ability to keep up with a professional network outside of conferences/meetings
  3. To understand why researchers are increasingly using social media in the course of the work to better support their needs

We will be hanging around under the hashtag #druwe.

I’ve edited down a prezi that I have previously used with researchers themselves to provide the framework for today. The main points to cover are:-

  1. Social media is radically changing the way we think about publishing information/sharing knowledge in perhaps the same way as the printing press revolutionised information distribution in the past
  2. Lots of folks have concerns about putting things online w.r.t. a digital identity. Thinking about what other people can see about you is important, even to the point of being in control of your professional self online
  3. Twitter is an obvious tool for many in terms of maintaining contact with a professional network, need to have an understanding of how to make it work for you
  4. Linked to that is the idea of using filters to prevent being swamped with information – we will talk about portals and aggregators to help manage information streams
  5. I will focus on why researchers are increasingly using social media tools to help them in their research activities, important to know for those who support researchers in their endeavours
  6. Blogging. This for me is an interesting way of sharing knowledge within a network, keeping yourself engaged with the topics you’re interested in (professionally) and providing a much needed space to reflect on your work.
  7. Some advice on an etiquette for the internet? How to avoid some pitfalls.

Here’s the prezi I’m going to use.

Links to blog sites on research funding support

There are some other examples out there of research support staff who run either single author or multi author blogsites around the funding of research.

The Research Whisperer – A blog written by research support staff at RMIT, Melbourne, Australia. Full of great advice which is just as relevant in the UK

Cash For Questions: Social Science research funding, policy and development – A blog written by Adam Golberg; a research manager from Nottingham University Business School. Lots of advice as well as commentary on the wider contextual debates in UK HE

Research Fundermentals – A blog by Phil Ward, a research funding manager at the University of Kent. Well written commentary on topics relating to research funding professionals as well as the wider debates.

Bournemouth University Research Blog – A comprehensive repository of advice, links, information relating to research activity at Bournemouth University. One could say that this a complete solution to the conundrum of how do you have a joined up apporach to research support in a website.

Northumbria Research Support – Another comprehensive blog covering all aspects of research support at Northumbria University.