The last of our tools we’ll be exploring in the first module of STEMDigital is one which is primarily a tool for publishing or ‘broadcasting’ information, but like many of the other tools we’ve looked at, also has the (underused!) potential to be more interactive. Blogs can be used for a wide variety of purposes in academia, for presenting your research and other facets of your work. There is little agreement yet on blogging’s place in the academic world, but blogs are certainly useful to share aspects of your work which otherwise wouldn’t be seen and raise your profile and are particularly useful for public engagement.
There are a number of big decisions to be thought through before starting a blog, such as your aims and intended audience, and also therefore the genre of blog which will suit your purposes best. Will you blog individually, write guest posts or join a group blog? Might an official blog be a useful way to enhance a conference, seminar or research group? To make sure you reach your intended audience, you’ll need a publicity strategy also. I’ve added the slides from the workshop I ran today – a Beginner’s Guide to Blogging, for early career researchers. Hope the materials are useful and help you to think through some of the issues and decisions!
So now at the end of this module, we’ll be returning to the first thing that we covered, which was setting up a WordPress account so you could comment on this blog. WordPress is a blogging platform, however, so this time, you can set up your own blog! You can have as many blogs as you like, associated with your WordPress account and username.
To set up your first blog with WordPress, log in, and click on the ‘My Blog’ tab at the top, where you’ll be invited to create a blog. You now need to choose an available URL, and also a title for your blog (which may be similar to or the same as the URL). You can also select the visibility of your blog – public or private? Any of these can be changed later, though. Click on ‘Create Blog’!
You can now explore the different themes available to customise your blog, but the main thing to do is to create some content. WordPress automatically creates your first post (on the ‘Home’ tab) and page (which they’ve called ‘About’, but you can change this), with some sample text which you should delete and replace. For instructions on how to post to your blog, see the information at http://learn.wordpress.com/get-published/ and the video here: http://wordpress.tv/2009/01/15/writing-and-publishing-a-post/
As for what to blog about – that’s up to you! To get an idea of what to write about or what kind of style to use, you could try reading others’ blogs. If you don’t yet habitually read blogs, find a few in an area you’re interested and have a look at them, for ideas. Technorati is a search engine specifically for blogs, which will help you find blogs of interest. You can also search using the ‘blogs’ tab in Google.
In addition to the blogposts you publish on your ‘Home’ tab, you can also create static content on other tabs, more like a traditional web page. You are given a tab called ‘About’, which you can use for information about who you are and what your blog is for, but you can add more tabs (this blog has several: FAQs, How To Join, etc).
There is also an option to use your WordPress not as a blog but as as a more traditional static website. You might use this to showcase your CV profile, or advertise your consultancy services, much as you might on LinkedIn, but in a way which you can customise far more. To do this, you need to make one of your Pages, rather than the blog feed on your ‘Home’ tab, prominent. This video explains how to do this:
There are other blog platforms you can choose, such as Blogger (owned by Google), or Tumblr, for shorter posts and ones which aren’t primarily text-focussed (such as images, sound, video or short quotations). If you want to set up a website rather than a blog, you could explore requesting a university webpage or site, or, for something longer term, try a free service such as Weebly or Google Sites. With these sites, you can also pay a fee to customise the URL and remove the name of the platform,
If you don’t think you want to set up your own blog at this time, you could explore contributing a guest post to someone else’s blog. STEMDigital would welcome posts from participant guest bloggers, if you want to try it out! I’d love to hear your experiences and reflections on the programme, or with tools or strategies you’ve tried.
Many academic bloggers blog about blogging, so there’s plenty of advice out there! Some useful links:
If you’re interested in blogging or setting up a professional website, what are you thinking of blogging about, and who for? Let us know about your blog in the comments – it would be great to set up a community of science bloggers at Cambridge!
Next up: Module Two of STEMDigital: Networking! Beginning with Ten Days of Twitter!