Ryter Incoming: Watch out Blogosphere!

I suppose I am rather like a returning visitor to the writing side of the Blogosphere. My first visit was in my junior year of college when I blogged intermittently for a writing class; I have not been back since. Throughout college, I was very involved with the UMass Amherst campus environmental sustainability initiative, and I used this blog as a forum to discuss current projects, initiatives, and progress made on sustainability issues affecting the campus community. This blog was also an outlet for me to bring up concerns and express frustration with some ongoing sustainability efforts; for example, that year, the campus made a significant financial investment in compostable cups, plates, straws, and napkins but did not make compost bins available to the community, thereby “shooting themselves in the foot,” so to speak. While my blog post did not result in the immediate appearance of compost bins, it did start a dialogue on the topic, at least among my readers.

Although writing intermittent blog posts in one undergraduate class is about the extent of my blogging experience, I have more experience following other people’s blogs. I follow technical writing blogs for my job- to keep me up to date on current trends in the field and help me learn best practices. I also follow a blog started by a few of my college friends to publicize feminist perspectives and women’s issues. My favorite blog to follow, though, is my friend Claire’s travel blog. She lived in Paris, France for a year, traveled all over Europe, has visited Cuba and Peru, and is currently working in Japan. Claire blogs about the experience of being an American abroad. She is a student of foreign cultures, and she poses a lot of questions about her identity as an American, and what that means, that challenge me to ask the same questions of myself. Through reading Claire’s blog, I almost feel as though I am experiencing what she is experiencing in her travels, which is hopefully a compliment to a travel blogger. Feel free to check out Claire’s blog for yourself: http://www.internationaleclaire.com/.

Generally, I enjoy reading other people’s blog posts more than I enjoy writing my own- probably because blogging does not come easy for me. Andrea Doucet’s article, “Scholarly Reflections on Blogging: Once a Tortoise, Never a Hare,” really resonated with me as I identify with her in that it is also difficult for me to step away from the comfort of the formal, impersonal, analytical, and thoroughly researched and reviewed writing in which I was trained in favor of a first person, less formal writing style in which I am allowed (even encouraged) to write about my thoughts and opinions- imagine that!

I hope that as I blog more frequently, it will begin to feel more natural to me. I found many of the tips offered in Belle Beth Cooper’s “16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners” very insightful (especially keeping it short, writing for myself, and valuing existing readers), and I will definitely revisit these tips and incorporate them throughout the semester. Embedded in Tip 4, “Build your email list,” is the suggestion to experiment with different language in a call to action. The example cited is “subscribe by email” versus “get jobs by email.” As someone who always chooses words carefully, with painstaking attention to exactly what they mean, I find the replacement phrase rather misleading; subscribing to an email list of job postings does not mean the same thing as “getting jobs.” While I understand why that phrasing would generate more email subscriptions, I don’t think I would feel comfortable using it in my own blog.

I think the example I mentioned above offers a lesson relevant to blog reading: there is a huge amount of information and advice out there, and not all of it is applicable to or right for everyone. While we should absolutely read blogs, we should also remember to think critically about them. Blogs offer an opportunity for authors to freely put any thoughts and opinions out there for the world to read, but they are not necessarily factually correct, unbiased, or an authoritative source of information on a topic.

Happy blogging everyone!

Posted on September 15, 2013, in Metablogging, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. You give good advice in reminding us to think critically about blogs that we read. I think it is easy to forget, especially with blogs that look very professional. However, I do think that even things we find from generally trustworthy sources can (although perhaps less easily) contain biases or incorrect information. I think it is especially important in reading blogs that have no formal review process to be careful to not give too much credence to the authors, because without oversight it is very easy to mislead an audience. I do think though, that the comment section can serve as a sort of check against blatant problems, because in my experience people are not shy about pointing out the problems within people’s posts.

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