I generally hate blog posts about blogging, so I guess I’ll hate this one. Mainly, I just want to share this terrific article from American Scientist. The main point of the article is that researchers learn their craft better by writing about it, specifically, by explaining their work to people that don’t work in their field. One of my old managers was almost entirely full of crap, but one thing that he repeatedly said was that if you can’t explain your work to someone that doesn’t know anything about it, then you don’t understand it yourself. There are a couple of fields that might be exceptions to this, but in the main I think this is true. So I think that’s one good reason for academics (or anyone!) to write a blog – it makes you better at communicating your ideas, and it makes it easier for these ideas to spread.
The second good reason is that writing is thinking. A lot of the time we don’t really know what we think about an idea until we write it out. Blogging is a great way to do this. Lilia Efimova has just finished a PhD looking at this, and her conclusion is that blogs are useful as ‘personal thinking space’. In my personal experience, this is very true, and another good reason to write more consistently, for either a general audience or for your peers. I’ve tried out a lot of ideas here first that I’ve ended up using as examples in lectures, and also a couple that will end up in papers at some point.
The last good reason to write all the time (and accessably) is that it helps avoid the syndrome where academics show ‘a fondness for collecting a salary and getting away with as little intellectual intercourse as possible‘. It’s a great way to engage, and I think we should all be looking for more of these.
So what are you waiting for? Start a blog now!