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Geriatric Cats

Blog Nerves

In response to my JMLA editorial on blogging, a colleague sent an email message asking if I'd seen the Chronicle article from a few weeks ago, Bloggers Need Not Apply.   The article (written pseudonymously) describes the author's experience on a faculty search committee in which the blogs of several candidates ended up working against them in a job search.  The specific examples in the article provide an appropriate note of caution, but the implicit conclusion (particularly the impression given by the title) overreaches.   It isn't the fact of keeping a blog that should be of concern -- it's what one does with it.

The Gypsy Librarian comments on my editorial as well.  In response to my line about people "shooting from the hip," he says, "I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing; it is the nature of the blogosphere to be conversational, and [in] 'real' conversations, very often speakers will shoot from the hip." 

I like the conversationality of the blogosphere, but in fact it isn't a conversation.  Not unless you visualize your barroom disquisitions as being transcribed word for word while anyone in the world might be listening at your shoulder.  Back in the early days of email I first heard the phrase, "Don't put anything in an email message that you're not willing to see printed on the front page of the New York Times."  I always try to follow that rule in email, and it is even more true with the blog.  The tone may be conversation-like, but it is very public conversation.  I know that some of my colleagues at Lister Hill read my blog.  While I doubt that my president or provost read it or are even aware of it, I'm not sure about that, and there's every reason to believe that they might end up seeing a posting or an excerpt from one.   My mother reads my blog, for heaven's sake.

I think (hope) the blog is a pretty accurate reflection of who I am.  I try to be as honest as I can be.  Someone reading this will get a pretty good picture of my day-to-day life, my politics, my interests, my likes and dislikes, my opinions on some of the issues of the day.  If I were in a job interview situation, somebody looking at the blog would see pretty much the same guy that they saw during the interview.  If they don't want to hire that guy because of who he is, then it wouldn't be a good place for me to work anyway.

The message that someone should take from the Chronicle article is not that one shouldn't keep a blog -- it's that in the wired world, we're living in glass houses.   When I put words out into the blogosphere, I want to be sure that I can stand behind each and every one of them, no matter who's watching.



It's cozy to think of a blog as just a journal...only more public. But that's not accurate--A true handwritten journal can be as honest as you want it to be. The only things you're wrestling with are your inner thoughts and sense of yourself. Those are big challenges, of course, but the point is that you handle them on your own.

Unlike a journal, the blogosphere presents the additional obligation to manage your public appearance. It's like most of life.


Thank you for the link. I still hold to the notion of the conversation, mostly because of blogging's ability to do little things like this, leave comments here and there. I think I like your term better, "conversationality." Maybe we should start using it, see where it leads? I do hope indeed in the bar, no one is transcribing what I say. I do agree with that notion of not writing anything you would not want in the NYT front page (or any other front page). I did read the Chronicle piece, found some concern with it, but also I found myself nodding that it boils down to what you do in the blog, something you point out in your piece. Best.

Yes I do, sweetie, Mum


I know that most of the readers on this blog are science librarians, therefore I am a bit surprised by the tone of the responses (and Scott’s original piece - for that matter) on this issue. Everyone seems to be writing as if blogging is a new phenomenon. Shame on you librarians, where were you during your history lessons?

In my view, blogging is just an electronic version of an old communication technique. Have you forgotten Martin Luther tacking his treatise on the door of the cathedral at Worms? Maybe it is time to remind people about our revolutionary period.

A blog, as far as I can tell, is just the modern manifestation of the old American tradition of pamphleteering. Go back to your American History classes, men such as Adams, Franklin, Jay, Hamilton, and Jefferson fought their intellectual and political battles in the streets by producing copious pamphlets on every issue imaginable. It was an age of great discourse, high and low. Any person with an idea, with an ability to read and write, could and did produce pamphlets on every issue of the day.

Blogging is not a new phenomenon, it is a return to an old American tradition. That probably explains why it is more popular here then it is in other parts of the world. Blogs resonate with us because of our historical context.

No, blogging is not a clever new idea, it is just a new format of a tradition as old as the Republic itself.

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