The eternal return of blogging

Mar 26, 2018 00:00 · 698 words · 4 minute read

Blogging requires exercise. This much I have learned after years of diminishing posts, culminating in a hosting provider move and a malware attack that went spectacularly wrong. I’ve written before about how blogging is taking off in research, and yet found it difficult to keep on writing, preferring instead to post to social media. But for me, this must change.

I agree with Dan Cohen that the ease of sites that we as consumers do not own or manage has played a big part in the decline of blogs. Why pay for hosting or take the time to learn how to set up a blog if you can just use Twitter, Facebook or a hosted site like Medium? After my website imploded due to longstanding neglect on my part and opportunism by hackers, it felt hard to start over. I moved hosting providers, but figuring out stuff like DNS and domain management no longer came easily. I also decided to move away from Wordpress, but found later versions of Jekyll’s theming unnecessarily complicated. So have moved again, this time to Hugo. I was getting annoyed by the amount of time it was all taking. And yet. For an open web to continue to be viable, we must find ways to use and extend that open web. And that may sometimes take some extra effort on my part.

Blogging has some currency. It remains a good way to promote recent research or communicate ideas within scholarly communities, depending on the field. I’ve been in sector-level jobs for the past decade, and although I blogged occasionally while I worked at IFLA, I was churning out so much policy writing, news for other sites, and reporting that I didn’t have the energy to write more, or about other areas of librarianship. My time at Research Libraries UK has gone by virtually unmarked on this blog, as I’ve been blogging elsewhere in a more official capacity.

Dan’s post comes at a good moment for me: I’m just about to make a lot of life changes at once. Meredith’s recent post on mid-career inertia struck a chord with me. It’s not quite Eat, Pray, Love, but in a month I’m moving to Australia, taking on a part-time PhD, and seeking other opportunities. Over the last decade I have been living in the Netherlands and the UK, working extensively with library communities worldwide. The move gives me a chance to reflect on what I’ve seen in the field. My posts back in 2012 shared some of these experiences. And, the PhD will focus on a topic I’ve worked on for years, but deliberately outside of a LIS department because I want my assumptions to be critiqued from different perspectives. So, I should not be short of things to write about.

Cambridge Analytica is the last straw. I’ve spoken about ‘fake news’ and contributed to seminars on privacy, and although the topic of how some information has the potential to undermine democracy is good fodder for my thesis, like many others I’m rethinking how I use social media. I did delete my Flickr account some time ago after repeated Yahoo security breaches, and Instagram has never really replaced that platform for me. Reports of Facebook tracking Android call and messaging data are disturbing, and the company’s response to the Cambridge Analytica revelations was weak at best. I’m unlikely to delete Facebook, because there are many colleagues and family there that would be much more difficult to contact otherwise. The phenomenon of Facebook being ‘the internet’ is alive and well for many colleagues who have more access to mobile data than a desktop, or face restrictions outside the platform. But, I intend to visit, comment, and post less often. Twitter remains important for sourcing all sorts of views and links, but like Dan and Meredith I find the tone of conversation more and more challenging.

I started blogging in 2000, and was apparently (because people kept telling me) the first Australian library blogger. Although there have been many long breaks, it has been part of my entire career. As I move into a new phase it’s time to revisit a few old habits and get fit.

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