Live-blogging: Thesis Whisperer, Academic blogging, and social media

Our next speaker is Inger Mewburn, author of the popular Thesis Whisperer blog.

Echoing Mark Carrigan’s earlier point today, it’s ok to take a less-than-straightforward path to finding a blog approach that works for you personally. In fact, perhaps the key to a successful academic blog includes half-starts and do-overs? After all, different approaches and blog experiments can give you valuable information about what works, and what does not. For Inger, this meant experimenting with seven different blog iterations before settling on The Thesis Whisperer.

The Thesis Whisperer shares her 3 Basic Rules of Blogging: 

  1. Write something that you want to read (and that other people will want to read).
  2. Write something that instructs, informs, and entertains: be useful.
  3. Be regular.

To that last point, Inger posts every Wednesday. Of course, everyone will have to determine what kind of blogging schedule can work for them. Inger experimented with posting twice a week, but keep in mind that such a schedule can be hard and time intensive when you’re spending a good amount of time on each post that you write.

It’s also important to know your audience. Why do some blog posts do better than others? Where do the ebbs and flows in blog traffic come from? Sometimes you might just know that a post will do well, but the traffic turns out a bit underwhelming. Understanding your audience behavior can be important to find when your readers are engaging with you. For example, Facebook data can provide useful, granular data about your blog audiences. Some platforms might work better than others, depending on your content and your audiences — so try multiple channels to see where your audience is coming from.

What motivates blog posts? For Inger, some of the best posts seem to be inspired from times when she might be sad, or angry. And such emotions can be productive, and cathartic — a good deal of creative energy can come from a negative place that can in turn be channeled into a positive outcome through blogging. Another powerful motivation can stem from a feeling to want to help others through sharing and exploring such experiences that we encounter in academia in our day to day lives.

Along similar lines to patter’s thoughts earlier today on the function of a blog — the Thesis Whisperer blog can function as a scrapbook, as a gateway to other things, and as a shared bookmarks resource for herself and for others.

The Thesis Whisperer is full of wonderfully helpful blog posts and topics. To that end, a blog can also be used as a teaching resource, for current students and classes (see for example the Learn From The Whisperer sidebar on the right).

Another helpful practice for those of us prone to typos — consider running everything through Grammarly before posting. I just did it on this post and caught two small ones!

If you are committed to doing your own academic blogging, put some thought into your content strategy. Inger, for example, alternates between her own self-authored posts and guests posts (tip: the waitlist to post with Thesis Whisperer can be long!). To post regularly on your blog, be sure to have content or at least ideas for content lined up — for example, Inger has about one year of blog post content ready for posting.

Omnifocus, the task management app extraordinaire, can be useful for managing your workflow in many ways — including for blog posts. (Be sure to check out the great Thesis Whisperer post on this: Super charged academic productivity?)

How much time can be devoted to your blog? The Thesis Whisperer shares the exact data, for those of us that are interested:

77 hours, 32 minutes* on the blog this year as of 11:30am this morning, which works out to 1.48 hours per week.

Note: keep in mind that she is a very fast writer. But that speed has taken years of practice — whereas a blog post might have taken four hours while she was starting out, that same process takes her an hour now.

*For anyone interested in learning about your own amount of time spent online, check out the Mac app, Timing and be sure to check out Thesis Whisperer post: The Academic FitBit