This post is the somewhat delayed sequel to my writing games post, but it's also about five years of blogging.
Before in my writing games post, I stated that different forms of writing - blogging, journalism, academic writing - each have their place in the world, serving different functions and attracting different types of people. Now I want to say why for me, I choose blogging.
When I write, I want my words to be findable. Not just for me, not just for my professional peers, but for anyone who for whatever random or serendipitous reason might be interested.
There was a very interesting exchange the other week between Lorcan Dempsey and Walt Crawford over Walt's description of blogs as "grey literature" in Cites & Insights 7:9. I don't want to misquote Walt, while he also described blogs as grey literature, he also said that grey literature represented the most compelling and worthwhile literature in the library field today. For the person who doesn't have the information retrieval resources or skills of a librarian, it is the professional library literature which is closer to what is usually known as grey literature - that which is difficult to impossible to find in full-text, and when it is available, prohibitively expensive.
It is a valid point that because blogs are not indexed and systematically archived, they may be very difficult to find in the future, even more difficult to find than a peer reviewed article published in an obscure library journal. I think it's likely that as the blog medium develops and matures, more blogs will be indexed and archived in some form, if only on a selective basis (thus requiring the involvement of some sort of gatekeeper). This has already happened with projects like the Internet Archive and projects like PANDORA in Australia. My other response to this, is to trust that if a blog post had any impact, it may have been noticed by someone else - and that even if the blog disappears, some of the traces which the blog left on the blogosphere during its time may remain. That answer might not be be satisfying to a researcher, but as a writer, it suffices for me. It's not quite the same as producing a physical item, such as a book or a printed journal article, and knowing that the physical item will be around long after I'm gone. But there's more to posterity than physical objects - what is the point of being published if it means that you are less likely to be read in the present and short-term future than if your words were available online right now? Which reminds me that I don't care much for posterity - I care more about what I'm writing now than what has happened to what I wrote five years ago.
I'd rather my words be scattered in the gigantic haystack where most people are playing than held in a closed stack where only the elite are allowed in.
There are other reasons why I choose blogging - I'm not going into them all here, but the medium of academic writing increasingly seems broken in the twenty-first century. Rising serial costs are making these sources even more inaccessible and obscure. There's also the problem of the unacceptable delays between submission and publication (even up to five years!). It's a game which has zero appeal to me, which is ok, because I probably wouldn't play it very well anyway. And so I finish where I began, each to her or his own.
Stephanie Willen Brown, Blog- or Print Publishing?, CogSci Librarian
Mark Lindner, Keeping up, why is it always forward-thinking?, Off the Mark
Dani Rodrik, Why publish in a journal if you can disseminate online?, Dani Rodrik's weblog