Thursday, June 10

The Cost

I had planned to tell a monkey story today, but I'm having a devil of a time finding an audio clip of a female baboon copulating. Without that, the post is a little difficult to digest. We'll push back to Friday, and hope I can come up with something by then.

In lieu of that tale, I decided to offer my thoughts on an interesting post I came across the other day, entitled Ten Reasons Why Grad Students Should Blog.
"As I thought longer about the vacant state of grad student blogging I wondered if it could be explained as a “they don’t know what they don’t know” situation. Perhaps by standing from the outside looking in, my fellow grad students simply do not know all of the benefits that can come from participating in an online discourse."
I believe that the author is correct in almost all respects, but I feel that the post glazes over and omits several important issues.

I blogged during graduate school, but without commitment, and not about anything related to the work I was doing in grad school. This was largely because I didn't possess the combined time and drive. It is misleading to make a sizable list about why you should blog, without giving any mention of the things you shouldn't blog about.

Prime example: you shouldn't blog about the results of anyone's ongoing research because getting scooped sucks, and opening up a colleague to be scooped can be just as bad. Unless there's some form of misconduct involved, you ought not to talk about the details of someone else's research. Even if there is foul play, you should probably be telling someone who is specifically in a position to do something about it, not just shouting it at the whole internet.

Otherwise, sure, blogging is great. You can write critically about the published research of others, perhaps draw your own conclusions, forge connections with those in your field, and improved your writing. Getting an audience does take concerted effort; another optimistic omission of the original post.
"The things I write about . . . are exactly the same kinds of things I say in seminar and write for term papers."
Ultimately, the author is right on with that statement. If you're confident of your ability to maintain that kind of control over your writing, then blog away. Nevertheless, keeping your boundaries clear is not always an easy task, and many of the pitfalls illustrated in my previous post hold true for this case. You ought to keep a constant eye on yourself because the cost of error can be staggeringly high. In the world of research, its never just your ass alone on the line.

I realize that the author's purpose was to be positive and encouraging, since he clearly wants more grad students to blog. I too would like to see more intelligent bloggers providing open discussion of complex topics for the entire internet to consume and enjoy, but there are concerns which perspective grad student bloggers should be completely aware of before they jump in. If we're asking intelligent people to blog because they're intelligent, then we also ought to respect them enough to give them both sides of the story.

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