Last Friday, I have organized a workshop on scholarly blogging at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin (hashtag: #hypobln). It was a great occasion to enjoy having valued colleagues at a discussion table, to address a new, interested, mixed audience (younger and older participants, surprisingly more women than men), to learn about the differences between de.hypotheses and fr.hypotheses (there are some) and to collect tricks on how to make one’s blog look not only o.k., but really good. It is under that very title that Community Manager Sascha Foerster, who supervised the 4-hour afternoon training, published his report on the workshop.
Let it be said once and for all: a good-looking blog is not one with cute kitty pictures. Through the various papers and discussions, it appeared clearly that the epitome of the non-scholarly blogging consists in such posting. So, if a blog does not rely on cute kittens, what has it got to give? Seriously?
There is an aesthetics of blogging (Sabine Scherz made digital aesthetics part of her blog, thematically as well as visually), which does by far not only have to do with visual emotions.
To me, a good-looking blog is first of all a well-structured blog. The first good or bad impression I get from a blog has little to do with there being a cute picture to illustrate it. The beauty of a scholarly blog, I think, emanates mainly from its ability to offer orientation. Are the categories and tags informative? What are the columns telling me about where I am? Do I find quickly and precisely the information about who is behind the text?1 These questions of architecture – and it is just the same for an edition or any other type of publication that requires to present a given information in a non random-order – are not easy to answer as long as you have little content, and they are even harder to answer once you have content. At the time being, I am horrified by the categories column on this blog. These categories help me out when I look for an older post, but I don’t think they can provide any kind of orientation, they are just a big mess. I should reduce the meta-categories to 5 or 6, structure the subcategories (and maybe even sub-subcategories) and, actually, it might even be useful to introduce tags at this point. In fact, I also should through the I-don’t-know-how-many (and don’t want to know how many…) blog-posts I have written so far and re-adjust the categorizing and the tagging. We are talking about a full day of work there, if not two.
Do I have this kind of time? Of course not. Because blogging is not writing a book, not everything has to be perfect. Blogging is spontaneous, like a scrapbook, it has typos, mistakes, things that could have been better formulated, but it is part of the style… I think that this is a common misunderstanding as well as a mistake on the literary value of good blogging. A good blog post is carefully written. Wording matters, as do paragraphs. A good blogpost is just as round a thing as any good text. The beauty of a blog post lies its capacity to take the readers to the beach on a summer night, open up the horizon in one arm wave, show a sunset, and allow them to feel like they are going back home, on this summer night, filled with something they did not have before.
The paradox is that I, for instance, will take hours to write a single blog post if needed, but never take the time to improve the overall looks of my blog, although it would take (comparatively) little time. The urge of blogging is always an urge to have the one thing online that is burning your fingers and while writing it, you almost forget what it looks like for real in the end. Writing in the WordPress back-end somehow makes you forget that your readers don’t read in the back-end, and that there is a front-end to take care of. And blogging has its front-end aesthetics, as well as its back-end’s.
- Yes, I WILL take care of my impressum.