Once in a while a student will ask me if he or she should start a blog. Often enough this question is related to how a blog is perceived by PhD-studies programs and perhaps also colleges and seminaries where one might be hired. This is a good question and different bloggers probably will offer different (and even contradictory) advice. So take this as just my two cents. Also, my thoughts on this come on the heels of Jim West declaring the “death of biblioblogdom” – I think Jim is right about this and it has been this way for some time. But I will get to that a bit later.
Here are some quick thoughts about my own experience
(1) I came into biblioblogging in its second wave (after the Wests, the Goodacres, and the Tillings paved the way). I was still pretty early in its development and I was excited to be a part of a very small conversation that was lively and fun.
(2) I have had mostly a positive experience. It has definitely connected me to people in ways that I value deeply. I have forged some important friendships. I will admit that a few times I got myself in trouble with what I have written, but nothing that has made me loose sleep.
(3) I have made wonderful friendships with several publishers (editors and publicists).
Should I blog to help me get into a PhD program?
Ha…..no. No one I know on a serious PhD entrance application review committee is going to look up your blog and read your posts and say – woweee, we have to have this student. Focus on publishing articles and reviews. Don’t blog to be “discovered.” This is not rock ‘n’ roll.
Will I be despised because I blog?
….maybe. I know at least two senior NT scholars who absolutely hate bloggers. And I can’t blame them – many bloggers rant and dance around trying to get attention and rarely saying anything worth reading. So, you may get folks who read your application and simply don’t like bloggers. So, lesson learned, just don’t talk about it in your application material. That’s my opinion. Again, the standard is going to be good, peer-reviewed scholarship and widely-recognized academic ability from a respectable institution.
So I shouldn’t have a blog?
I think blogging is fine, but blog for you and not for others to “notice” you. A blog is not an online portfolio. I like to write because it makes me a better writer. I like to process what I am reading. I like to interact with other people. Nowadays I blog on something and nobody comments, but because my posts get updated on my Facebook account, I see discussion happen there. That is fun. That is why I do it.
Aren’t there too many blogs out there?
Yes, yes, yes! Please don’t just start yet another blog. I invited the honorable Christopher Skinner to blog with me because I think the blog-world needs to shrink and I think we complement one another’s style and interests, while still having much in common (hence the tabloids call us “Christojay”). So, consider joining an established blog. Or, if you are at an institution, start a department blog with other students.
Have a niche. I came into blogdom when a niche wasn’t necessary, so I cover a wide range, but you will notice I focus a lot on Pauline studies. Some blogs focus on a particular book, or method, or theme. A niche will ensure you have some focus and those who share your interest can find you.
Blog at least once a week. I try to write a post at least twice a week. Chris and I end up doing 2-5 a week working together.
Keep posts short – less than 600 words. Don’t write a 17-page review. Publish long things in journals. Short things can go on the blog.
Be careful what you say and about whom you say it. Don’t say anything on your blog about a person that you wouldn’t say directly to their face. Don’t shy away from being critical or incisive, but be ready to defend your thoughts carefully.
Be visual- I like how Chris does a good job coming up with funny images. Visuals go a long way in attracting others to read your post.
Titles are very important – a post title will either intrigue the reader or it will not.
Don’t, don’t, don’t use your blog purely or primarily for self-promotion. It is very annoying. If you publish a book, yes, of course talk about it. But don’t make every post about self-marketing. At the same time, its your blog so you have a right to be excited about getting something published. There is a balance to find in this.
Have fun – when it stops being fun and it feels like an obligation, it might be time to take a break. This is why co-blogging is helpful, because your co-blogger can pick up the slack for a while.
If biblioblogdom is dead or dying, why am I jumping onto a sinking ship?
Somehow, biblioblogdom needs to re-invent itself. It has become stale and super-saturated. You could help us solve this problem! Be creative! Do something unusual! Again, remember that was is needed is not more opinion-casting. Think carefully about what you can contribute to a wider conversation that is unique and useful.