Blogging—should students and pre-tenure faculty do it? In my opinion, no.

I try to keep my posts on the topic of Hebrew, and occasionally NWS, grammar. But, no doubt to my co-blogger’s chagrin, I have also been motivated to diverge from our grammatical focus a few times, such as with my thoughts on book reviews, journal submission evaluations (parts 1 and 2), and now … student blogging.

This issue has recently been raised here by Brian LePort, who is preparing a conference paper proposal on the topic. I couldn’t help commenting on one of the posts; subsequently, he asked me to pull my thoughts together in a more coherent fashion. Ouch — coherence, that’s a tall order.

In a nutshell, I think the potential pitfalls of student (and pre-tenure professors) blogging considerably outweigh the advantages. I agree with Brian’s cons much more than I agree with the pros. 

Yes, there is the rare student blog that I think understands the value of the exercise (I recommend this one as a model—the blogger used posts to work through a PhD reading list, like writing a précis for each article or book and, importantly, avoided sharply critical comments and any personal or private narrative). And yes, there is the rare blogger who makes connections through his blog (for example, I would not have met the interesting Charles Halton if not through his blog). But for each of these, there are ten stories of foot-in-the-mouth disease, thus making the successes the exceptions that prove what I consider the rule: don’t blog until you have tenure!

My position was formed in the forge of real life (happily for me, it was mostly someone else’s failure). First, I learned early on in the blogging phenomenon that I had difficulty coming across well in my comments. I suspect I came across more often than not as a jack-ass. (Wait—I am a jack-ass! I think some ideas are just stupid and don’t mind saying so. Ok, so my example isn’t the best.) Second, I was indirectly involved in an incident a few years ago which strangely mirrors the 19th-century exchange I recently “discovered” (inserted below). I recommend it strongly. Enjoy the brief tragicomedy.

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11 Responses to “Blogging—should students and pre-tenure faculty do it? In my opinion, no.”

  1. Kash Says:

    I would agree. I previously blogged and enjoyed the practice at writing, but inevitably I am not happy with a lot of what I wrote, a lot of which remains online indefinitely. If one blogs they truly must try to avoid making any claims and remain as neutral as possible when writing—this goes for both the academic and theological writer. One’s scholarship and/or theology evolve so much while a student that it is inevitable to be embarrassed or penalized for something you wrote earlier in your studies.

    With that said, I have reemerged to blog with a different approach in which I post on my current research projects, most of my posts simply summarizing recent views and scholarship on an issue. And then of course posts here and there on resources related to my blog topic. Any way, I’m glad you wrote this and in the least I hope those thinking about blogging take into consideration the potential pitfalls and either abstain from blogging or at least take them into consideration for how to approach blogging as a student/pre-tenured professor.

    • robertholmstedt Says:

      Thank you for the affirmation on this. And aside from the rare divergence (like this post), John and I try to keep our posts focused, just as you describe your newer approach.
      If it weren’t for those darned comment-exchanges, I’d be squeaky clean!

  2. A student? A pre-tenure educator? Don’t blog. | Near Emmaus Says:

    [...] Holmstedt has written a blog post on the topic which includes a witty retelling of the aforementioned example in the form of a 19th century correspondence via hand-written letters: see “Blogging–should pre-tenure faculty and students do it? In my opinion, ‘no.’… [...]

  3. Brian LePort Says:

    Thanks for weighing in Robert. I have linked to your post on my blog. Hopefully this will be part of a healthy discussion about this topic that will allow students and pre-tenured faculty to make informed decisions about whether or not to blog.

  4. abramkj Says:

    This and Kash’s comments are great–thanks for the time to write it.

    It sounds like you’re more opposed to a student blog which shows evidence of foot-in-mouth disease than to student blogging itself, right? I guess I would have taken it as a given that a student in a PhD program wouldn’t blog negatively (however veiled) about their profs and program.

    • robertholmstedt Says:

      I’m not opposed to wisely done blogging. I’ve just not seen many examples of it and so generally discourage the practice all-together for young scholars in vulnerable stages. A good part of wisdom is timing.

  5. James Tucker Says:

    Overall, I agree with you, Professor Holmstedt — evidenced by a blank page at my previous site.

    I was a benefactor of several significant things through my blog, but in the long run I saw the negative consequences severe enough to shut it down. As I prepare for PhD studies and look at programs, what will get me an interview with the university of my choosing is my research skills, languages mastered, and academic writing skills (presenting papers at conferences and peer reviewed processes)—not a blog! If the student has free time, he or she should be in the Hebrew text reading, mastering German, Modern Hebrew, French and/or mastering secondary literature.

    • robertholmstedt Says:

      James,
      As I’m sure you know, I agree completely on the use of time. Moreover, one can always get the writing practice by .. simply writing précis and not publishing them for the world to see.

      • James Tucker Says:

        Indeed! I write every morning in my Thesis Journal, and throughout the day I come back to this material and flush it out. In the evening, I decided to set apart about 20 minutes to write a journal to my son (a Proverbs 2 of my own, if you will).

        If I get extra time, I would rather write a Hebrew Grammar iOS app! However, I am still looking for such time (in terms of time and wisdom).

  6. More about Student Blogging Says:

    [...] Robert Holmstedt posted on his own blog his opinion that students should not blog. It includes a bit of “discovered” correspondence related to 19th-century blogging [...]

  7. Да блогвам или не? | Из чаршията Says:

    [...] си в полза на блогването и срещу него. Робърт Холмстед се присъединява на страната на критиците, Коментарите под [...]


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