7

I have completed my Masters, and will soon be beginning a PhD in my field of research. Recently I had an idea that I could start a blog that would explain some papers or concepts I found interesting in a more pedagogical way as compared to peer-reviewed papers or literature reviews. I do understand that a blog in no way can be a replacement for actual peer-reviewed research. However, the reason I would like to blog is so that I feel motivated to learn new topics that I find interesting. In the past, I have found that I learn best when I can 'apply' the knowledge I have learned, and a blog in my mind could be considered an 'application'.

The worry I have is that I do not know how academics perceive such informal scientific endeavors. Is the level of informality in blogs considered too unscientific and frowned upon? Or could this ruin my chances of employment in academia after a PhD in case a supervisor considered this a 'waste of time'? (or although I imagine it to be improbable, can such a blog cast a favorable impression on a supervisor?) Then there is also the issue of whether a blog is worth maintaining since it would take up significant portions of time that could have been spent on other things.

What are your opinions (and your understanding of general academic opinion) on such blogs?

1

4 Answers 4

14

It depends on the quality of the material on the blog, of course. I know of two that are of the "finest kind". One I read every morning though the author doesn't post every day. They are, however, written by people with a lot of experience in the field; CS in this case.

If you post good stuff, don't argue with people, avoid crankery and such, there shouldn't be a problem. However, they won't count for much in things like graduate admissions. That, however, is partly due to the fact that admissions systems rely on a relatively small set of criteria. Some people will look favorably on "extras" and others will ignore them.

Post PhD, however, there are unlikely to be negative issues as long as your output is useful and of good quality. Being useful to students might even be a plus.

3
  • 7
    The challenge may be "post good stuff". At this stage in your career you probably lack the insight and knowledge required to say much that is novel about a topic. Meanwhile there is plenty of opportunity to expose your own naivety or misunderstandings.
    – avid
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 9:08
  • 1
    @avid, the opportunities to "expose your own naivety of misunderstandings" is also a great reason to do this! You might get some readers who know more than you who will probably have the unstoppable urge to correct you (as people on the internet usually have) and you will learn a lot that way. (And you can incorporate that new knowledge in your blog points by editing it with the proper acknowledgements).
    – Kvothe
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 14:53
  • @Kvothe, Pretty much just like this site, actually.
    – Buffy
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 15:08
9

Sorry for writing this, but ... meh.

There are so many blogs of this kind already, and almost all of them have miserable readership. Writing is highly time-consuming - people underestimate how much effort it is to write polished text on a regular schedule - so the key reasons to write yet another blog would be 1) for your own benefit, e.g. if it helps you understand the material better, and 2) because you enjoy it. If you can genuinely say these benefits apply to you, then sure, go ahead. But it would be kind of embarrassing if after an initial burst of articles, the blog dries up. At least you can take the blog down if that happens.

5
  • 3
    It is fine to try things that won't always work out. I think this is unnecessarily discouraging. Sure there are good and bad examples. In my field there are few good such blogs but the few that are there are relatively well known and I think they are helping the author's profiles. I think these blogs can be a very useful and I wish there were more such (good) blogs.
    – Kvothe
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 14:16
  • @Kvothe it does become better if your work is widely read. Blogging becomes a social activity, which is much more interesting. But to make your blog widely read is a very challenging endeavour, involving lots of promotions, social media use, etc. For example you could actively use LinkedIn/Twitter to reach other researchers in the field, then tag them each time you publish something. It's a very time-consuming process.
    – Allure
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 14:27
  • 1
    Which doesn't mean you shouldn't try if it's something that appeals to you. It's just that the barrier to success is very high (especially since there are so many competitors), so it's a good idea to go in with open eyes.
    – Allure
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 14:29
  • 11
    @Allure I do not think a blog that dries up should be taken down. The initial posts normally keep being valuable to some degree - here even a high degree. Commented May 29, 2023 at 14:59
  • The internet never forgets, anything ... so why take down the few good things, like the initial blog posts of a motivated person trying to popularize some papers/ideas/concepts? A dried up blog is not a problem, on the contrary, it can still be at least a valuable wikipedia reference ...
    – EarlGrey
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 20:28
1

Regardless of the quality of the blog, which is a different issue the others have mentioned, there's a lack of permanence and a lack of archiving in the scientific databases that would discourage busy researchers to seek it out.

In addition, while a stellar blog may enhance your reputation, a poorly maintained blog will hurt it.

5
  • well, if you last updated your blog 6 months ago and in your CV you write "actively blogging to popularize science" it would be someohow detrimental ... but in general a poorly mantained blog will not hurt (nor will be noticed).
    – EarlGrey
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 9:58
  • @EarlGrey if you are using your real name (presumably OP would) and someone Googles you, it's conceivable they'll land on your blog even if you don't advertise it.
    – Allure
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 10:55
  • yes, so I can land on their instagram, or on their grinder account, or on their page at adamsmith forum or other crap ... so what? with a PhD student you need a closer relationship than with your average employee, but still way less personal than with your partner ...
    – EarlGrey
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 11:56
  • @EarlGrey there are plenty of ways to have a bad blog beyond poorly maintaining it. Commented May 30, 2023 at 12:11
  • @ScottSeidman sure, but here we are discussing the poorly mantained one. And again, a bad blog on which level? ethical? there are people that live in strange parallel universes ... do you want to cut them off completely?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 12:19
1

I would find it hard to believe that a blog is going to affect your career-- academic or otherwise-- unless it's one of the definitionally rare blogs that's three sigma off the mean in quality (in either direction.)

The right way to look at this, in my opinion, is as a career-related hobby: If you enjoy it, if you think you derive personal benefit from it, go ahead and do it. Just be mindful that you're unlikely to be in that three-sigma category, because you're competing with a lot of more experienced hobbyists who have already sunk a lot of time and practice into it.

For the record, I do think there is some personal benefit to be gained by this: One of the hardest things about academia is learning to translate research-grade thoughts into polished (much less accessible) text. Hobbies that promote that can be useful-- primarily to yourself, and if you're even one sigma on the positive side, useful to at least a few others. And in this case, translating someone else's research quality thought into accessible text gives you more material to practice with.

Whether those benefits outweigh the disadvantage of time spent... well, that's mostly up to you to determine. If a prospective advisor told me I was going to have to give up all of my hobbies-- all of them!-- as "wastes of time" that would be a big enough red flag that I wouldn't work with them. They get to judge the quality and quantity of my academic output, not my hobbies or jobs on the side. They're advisors, not parents. And the vast majority know this.

Consider that pseudonymous blogs (and Substacks, and Medium articles, and all that stuff) are options, too.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .