Thursday, 13 September 2012

What happens when you blog?

I began this blog back in 2008 without knowing much about what I'd say or what it would become. Tech guru Alex Hardman said it would be a great idea for me to start a blog since I seemed to do a lot of visual stuff in my work. So I began blogging and decided from the start to just post what I wanted and to see where it took me. I thought I'd share a bit about my blogging experience just to demonstrate that it's not all a pointless navel-gazing exercise...

I'll start in July 2012 when I received an e-mail from legendary US-Swiss geographer Waldo Tobler saying that he noticed my map and work in the Economist (above). The June 30th edition had a special London supplement and they had asked me a little about my work on deprivation in London because they'd previously seen my work in The Guardian. I'd done a bit of work for The Guardian because Simon Rogers, the datablog editor-in-chief and all-round data journalism pioneer had seen some of my earlier work about deprivation on this blog. He'd simply contacted me to ask if I could help them get some online maps together for the release of the 2010 English Indices of Deprivation.

I started blogging about deprivation because that has been one part of my academic work for a while and there was tons of stuff (mainly maps, visuals and technical stuff) that I had produced but which would most likely never see the light of day again - and certainly not in an academic paper. Putting it on this blog means it can reach a wider audience and, more importantly, help connect me with others who have similar interests.

So, one very positive aspect of blogging (for me) has been that some of my academic-related work that would not otherwise be very widely read (i.e. it only appears in academic journals!) can reach a much wider audience. My view here is that if we're writing stuff as academics then surely we want people to read it. The blog gets somewhere in the region of 1,500-3,000 visits per month but this has taken a long time to develop. However, even when it was only getting 300 visits that meant I could still reach a much wider audience than writing academic papers alone.

The only thing that you need to do to keep the blog going is content, and that takes time so it is a bit of a commitment but I try to make my posts short and quite visual because reading from screens is just not as pleasant an experience as reading from paper. To my amazement people actually do find stuff I write and quite frequently they get in touch and we become collaborators - in a way that would not have happened had I not been blogging.

These are just a few examples of the type of things that have happened when I've been blogging. I'm sure others have had similar experiences. I'm not sure if it helps that my blog has a stupid name that I probably wish I'd never given it (!) but I try not to take myself too seriously so have not bothered changing it. At least people seem to remember it...