Writing blog posts takes too much time, they say…

I give you my quintessence of the last 2 papers of the Weblogs conference –

In a short, but intense paper, Hubertus Kohle presents a series of theses. The first one being that blogging and a peer review is a contradiction in terms. The quality of a blog post, says Kohle, depends on its quick access, on its making a good and clear point, on it being short – all qualities that get lost if you want to fit in the criteria of traditional scholarly peer-reviewing. He also states: the posts that are most commented  are the shortest and most personal ones (if I may ask: what is short? what is personal?). He pleads for the definition of criteria for blogs as a singular type of publications, combining quantitative and qualitative aspects.

Peter Haber explores legitimation mechanisms, comparing analog and digital media. Books (monographs especially as the ‘golden’ standard for scholarly publishing) have long established reception mechanisms. Haber then explains how papers have become more and more important and with them peer-reviewing, before he comes to blogs. Blogs tend to contribute more and more to increasing scholarly reputation (especially in the US and in the domain of DH). In his view, blogs should be better embedded in all the other publication mechanisms.

His last point concerns  the flood of digital information scholars potentially have to deal with. He presents the portal “Global Perspectives on Digital History”  that should soon offer a compendium of rss-feeds. Filtering is the key! – I can only agree after all the tweets I had to deal with today…


Blog-ray exposure (Weblogs in Munich Part 3)

The first afternoon session presents existing blogs. Maybe I will finally understand what makes a good blog. So far, my conclusion was that the traffic on a blog defines its official success. But on the other hand, a scholarly blog with 15 visitors that are “the right ones” is also considered successful. All in all, I still don’t understand what success looks like for a scholarly blog. The number of visits combined with the number of quotations or links? The number of commentaries? The number of tweets? Or maybe nothing that could be summarized in numbers? Let’s see…

Eva Pfanzelter talks about “Blogging the holocaust” and, among others, the controversial blogs you can find on that topic. She demonstrates that it is not the scholarly institutions that are key influences in the holocaust blogging. She does not speak about censorship (I would tend to go that direction, but I am not a historian… which also explains why I did not even tweet in this session: I had the feeling I did not really know all the underlying debates). She refuses to open the page of the holocaustdeniers blog though. Should we refuse to click on them by principle, because it increases their ranking as a blog? It is just not possible to get control over such blogs. So , should scholarly blogging have primarily pedagogical virtues in order to fight off this kind of  “sucessful” blogs?

Klaus Graf presents “Archivalia“. Considering the amount of posts he is responsible for, it is only natural he might adress the question whether a scholar who does not blog has to be considered a bad scholar. He evokes a thesis we already heard a couple of time: Scholarly blogging is more blogging about scholarship than blogging on scholarly contents (which would be some kind of pre-print function). Klaus Graf gives examples where blogging on Archivalia actually brought science one step further: unidentified manuscripts available on wikicommons, could be identified by experts from everywhere around the world (on the other hand: what guarantee do you have that a commentary on a blog post is serious – back to the review / peer-review theme.

Georgios Chatzoudis presents L.I.S.A., das Wissenschaftsportal der Gerda-Henkel-Stiftung. He opens on the question whether the degree of interactivity is only to be measured by the amount of commentaries you get to a blog post. According to him, consulting a blog post has to be considered like interaction (meaning that the main question is the one of traffic). Another way of implementing interactivity on the portal is the organization of live chats, facebook interviews, tweeten auf Tagungen, skype-interviews, instant messaging, and a lot more. How do they keep track? I find twitting and blogging are demanding enough if you want to still have some time to actually do research…


Blogportale hier und da (a tribute to Mareike König)

Ein Thema, das alle Beiträge der Weblog-Konferenz soweit durchzieht, ist wohl die Frage nach der Qualitätssicherung. Wissenschaftliche Standards wie peer-review lassen sich bei Blogs wohl nicht realisieren und ich glaube, genau insofern ist es wichtig, die Funktion der wissenschaftlichen Blogportale zu definieren.

Marc Scheloske unterstreicht die Rolle der  Blogportale für den Wissenschaftler, um an das Publikum heranzukommen, sich zu vernetzen. Er liefert das Rezept, gibt die statistische Menge an Blogposts an, die nötig ist, um erfolgreich zu sein (mindestens einmal die Woche, 2/3 Mal ist besser). Das Einzige, was mir offensichtlich noch fehlt, um mit meinem Blog erfolgreich zu sein, ist die Dialogbereitschaft. Na gut. Was kann ich dafür, dass es keine Kommentare zu meinen Einträgen gibt? Soll ich welche selber schreiben? Soll ich selbst dann posten, wenn ich nichts Interessantes zu schreiben habe, um an Florian Freistetters 11 wöchentliche Posts zu kommen?

Aurélien Berra stellt dann das französische Portal hypotheses.org vor. Er geht auf die Blogkategorien ein, die dort untergebracht werden, und macht nicht zuletzt damit anschaulich, warum der Schritt zur Umbenennung von “Blog” zu “carnet de recherche” (“wissenschaftliches Notizbuch”, “Forschungsjournal” wird auch per tweet vorgeschlagen) Sinn macht. Sein Argument ist, dass das Portal ausgerechnet aufgrund der offenen Struktur (open access, open edition) funktionieren kann. Bei der Gelegenheit lerne ich, dass ich eine von der allerwenigsten bin, die auf Englisch bloggen (muss mir noch sagen lassen, wie viele das sind). Eigentlich ist es nach wie vor eine gute Frage. Der Grund, warum ich auf Englisch schreibe, ist doch, um ein weiteres Publikum zu erreichen. Insofern würde es auch naheliegen, dass selbst eine misshandelte Form des Englischen (wie bei mir!) öfter benutzt wird.

Mareike König eröffnet dann feierlich das deutsche hypotheses-Portal. Der Hinweis auf die Auswahl der Beiträge, die auf der Startseite angezeigt werden, durch die Redaktion von hypotheses.de, gibt sofort Anlass zu Getwitter darüber, was dabei die Auswahlkriterien sind.  There’s no review like peer review! – again –

Dennoch bleibt das Motto: Offenheit und Vernetzung für die Digital Humanities  – und in diesem Sinne: der nächste Post ist wieder auf Englisch 🙂


Scholarly blogging on scholarly blogging Part One

When I finally managed to get off the hypnotic fixation on the twitterwall, I realised that Cornelius Puschmann was trying to sort out the writing process of scholarly blogs. There are, of course, ways of putting up objective functions of scholarly writing. I find the three main functions he lists (taking notes, publishing results, doing PR-work) make sense. But on the other hand you seldom write for one reason, one adressee. You always somehow write for yourself and for yourself to be read.

The question of the relationship between blogger and readers is at the heart of the next paper. Melissa Terras first insists on the role of her blog as a pre-publication place. She explains the role twitter played and the way it came to change the way she writes on her blog. The numbers on the traffic on her blog are amazing. I have been of course following the traffic on my own blog, but it really is interesting to see the statistics in big numbers as it is the case of someone as well known in the blogosphere as Melissa Terras is.

The blog is an archive, a place to protest, etc., sums up Aurelien Berra in a tweet. I think her point is more to emphasize the analytic function of the blog. This is in fact the point where you have to  define for yourself what kind of blog author you are (can be?). As for any authorship, it is something that gets constructed by the interaction with the readers but also by their absence, by the lack of their reaction. It is defined by a censorship you have to find out by yourself, not safeguarded by the traditional scholarly barriers…

Beyond Virtual and Real

So it is raining in Munich, day before the big bloggers’ meeting.  My feelings are mixed. What I thought would be a relatively confidential conference turns out to be an event with over hundred participants – all likely to be listening to the talks and blogging and twitting at the same time; this will be one of the loudest silences ever. On the other hand, I am granting myself a break from a daily work that has gone beyond humanity, so I should really be, mainly, enjoying this. And I am, too. To begin with, I had a Sencha Tea with Christof Schöch this afternoon, and we discussed (among other things) our upcoming common paper at the biography conference in Wuppertal in the fall.

Subject of the conference are “Legitimation mechanisms in biography. Contexts, actors, techniques, limits”. When I saw the call for paper, I thought it would be a good occasion for Christof and me to take our discussion on wikipedia to the next level. What we proposed to do is a complex analysis of legitimation mechanisms in wikipedia biographies and how they compare to traditional biographies in terms of authority. In order to make this, as my husband would put it, “abstract nonsense” somehow digestible, we decided to give concrete examples of wikipedia biographies we wrote ourselves and their evolution. Will they be censored if we give manuscript sources instead of printed sources, for instance? I will start the first experiments next week. Since I had to deal with 200 persons to index in the 21 letters I encoded so far (yes, 21 is not much, and yes, 200 is a lot), I have a lot of candidates to experiment on: French, German, female, male, well known, not known at all, with strange names you can’t forget, with stupid names that mean something (winter, garlic, whatever…) so that googling them won’t bring you anywhere,… this should be fun!