There was a bit of discussion last week on the internet on blogging by academics. Particularly for economists, blogging is a relatively new venture and as there is as yet little demonstrated value in the academic job market, it’s a source of debate.
When I decided to start this blog, I started from a much different place than many other economics bloggers. I was still in the midst of writing my dissertation and my advisors were fairly adamant that I not blog. One pointed me to an economics blogger who had just left her university without tenure and with plenty of speculation that her blogging had contributed to that. She also left with a book deal. Call it what you will, but they were worried that blogging would be seen as taking time from serious academic work and would hurt my own chances for tenure and promotion down the line. One even tried to give me a number. Each blog post a week over a year was equivalent to one academic paper, or something like that.
That’s such an economist way to look at things, isn’t it?
Beyond my less-than-junior status, I’ve been blogging for a really long time. Since my first stint in Venezuela in 2003, I’ve kept a personal blog that I used to keep in touch with family and friends. I started that blog to try to stay sane while working as a journalist in Caracas and to make notes for a book project on Venezuelan women. One post, that was reprinted in my former editor’s blog and the Duke economics department bulletin (Oeconophile), is here. It’s over eight years old now. As that blog became more and more personal in nature, it also began to reflect my dual need to write about economics and about my own experiences with graduate school. In my move to a real job, it seemed to make sense to separate the economics-type posts from the personal ones, to use my writing about economics to create a public persona, a space just for economics. I could use it as a tool for organizing research, planning classes, and sharing my thoughts about what was going on in the world. The old one is still active (and private), though the number of posts I write there is lower now as the total is about split between here and there.
I don’t think that blogging is for everyone. I realize that most people are not compelled to write in the way that I am. Most people don’t have the habit of sharing their daily lives and musings–regardless of the topic–with a potentially large, unknown audience. Twitter is changing that, but the format is quite different.
I fully realize that this blog might hurt my chances at tenure, if and when I come to that point. I really hope that it doesn’t, though. I hope that the tenure process expands to include digital scholarship and outreach.
Even in my limited use of this blog and Twitter, I’ve made contacts with other researchers I likely never would have found otherwise. I’m grateful for this and hope that it continues, that it expands into greater opportunities for collaboration, discussion, and more. This blog might lead to other things. It might not.
But old habits die hard, and I can’t imagine not doing it, so here I go.