Thursday, August 01, 2013

Academic blogging: When and Why?

Now that my ridiculous pre-amble is written, here is the first of my answers to Joshua Mann's questions, with thanks for his interest, and apologies, in advance, if my answers are a bit rubbish. Question one and answer follows:

1. When and why did you start blogging?  

"When" is easier than "why".  If only it were this easy with dating the Gospels!  For the Gospels, I'm inclined to think there that the "why" is easier than the "when".  We know only roughly when the Gospels were written (sometime after 70, I argue), but it's fairly obvious why they were written (to tell the "good news" about Jesus Christ in narrative fashion to as many as far as possible).

But yes, it's about ten years since I started blogging.  I started blogging because I thought it would be fun.  Jim Davila was already doing it on Paleojudaica and he was brilliant at it.  He still is.  Somehow, Jim just has an instinct for how to do it well, and to this day I don't think there is anyone who has such a natural, instinctive feel for medium as Jim has.  Somehow, he is able to get exactly the right balance between between reporting the latest in the area and providing compelling, accurate and lucid comment, and without the sort of self-indulgence that is all to common elsewhere.

Actually, since I've started on this, let me rant a little longer.  What I like about Paleojudaica, and the reason that it is still the blog that provides the template, is that it understands what academic blogging is about.  It is about critical engagement with what else is out there on the net pertaining to the area in question.  Sometimes -- more often than not -- Jim can see that all that you need is a link and a description. Let the punters know what is out there -- quick link, quick description, quick bit of background,with links, if necessary.

But sometimes, Jim knows that a bit more is needed.  Because of the trust he gains by means of the sober, newsy items, he is able to add a little more comment when it is required. And he gains the reader's trust by giving us a whole list of background links.  "For background, see here", etc.  The reader is calmly assured that there is a history to to whatever the item is, and you will be able to follow it up in the blog.

I sometimes wonder if one of the reasons for the continued strength of Paleojudaica is that he has resisted adding a facility for comments.  I recently distinguished between what I call the "horizontal" blogs and the "vertical" blogs.  Vertical bloggers thrive on the interaction with their own commenters and generally resist the "horizontal" interaction with fellow bloggers.  Jim is the opposite.  With no comments at all, he can interact with other blogs where necessary, and with the focus on the news, he can avoid the self-indulgence that is too easy for those whose blogs largely focus on their own ideas and enthusiasms.  Moreover, he does pick up and engage with email commenters and my guess is that this too enhances the quality of the product.

But yes, it was because of Paleojudaica that I began blogging.  There was another major issue which was unique to me, however, which was that I was running a website called The New Testament Gateway that was giving me some grief.  Long before I had heard about blogging, I used to have a "log book" on the site which I used to record every update to the site.  I also used to have a "Featured Links" section.  A decade ago, it occurred to me that I could combine the idea of blogging, following Jim, with some of the peripherals from my NT Gateway, like the log book and the featured links section.  And this worked well for several years until I leased off the NT Gateway from the blog, and the NT Gateway blog became the NT Blog, as it is now.  So that's all to say that my blog was never quite the same as the purer biblioblogs.  It used to be an integral part of the NT Gateway, and you can see that if you look back through the archives, but now it is its own strange, malformed beast.

One last thing.  I love the fact that there are a million other blogs in the area and to a large extent, this has helped me to post less.  In the early days of the biblioblogs, when it was just me, Jim Davila, Jim West, AKMA, Stephen Carlson, Rubén Gómez, Tim Buckley and co, there were few reporting and commenting on the key news stories.  But now, you can guarantee that someone has got to it before you, and that enables you to be much more selective.


2 comments:

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.............. said...

As someone given to self-indulgence, I learned a great deal about myself in this post.

-anthony