Thursday, September 01, 2011

Where have all the bloggers gone?

Gone to the Chronicle, every one--well, two of them anyway: Tenured Radical and now Lesboprof. The Chronicle is not what you'd call enthusiastic about casual pseudonymous passers-by leaving comments (you need a Chronicle identity), so I won't be able to wish Lesboprof well in her new digs as I'd wanted to.

Inktopia? Gone to Scientopia (at least for a guest post).

Dr. Isis? Gone to her own domain: http://isisthescientist.com/.

Comradde PhysioProffe? Gone to a group blog: http://freethoughtblogs.com/physioprof/.

I know there've always been group blogs, and this is only a few instances, but I'm wondering if we're seeing some kind of consolidation wave taking place. This is good in one way because the Chronicle and other sites are recognizing the power of blogs, but on the other hand, the integration of blogs/Twitter/Facebook that sites are aiming for makes that cloak of pseudonymity even thinner than before.

Maybe the "thin pseudonym" people like Historiann and the moms at Roxie's Place have the right idea. Yet when I tried blogging a little bit under my own name, I hedged so much about everything that the posts were worthless (and I took the blog down almost immediately).

For better or worse, this feels like a real voice in ways that my real voice did not. How's that for a conundrum?

24 comments:

Clarissa said...

I stopped reading the bloggers who moved to the Chronicle. It somehow feels less genuine, like they have been institutionalized or something.

The good thing is that new great academic bloggers are appearing on the scene, so I can follow them. Until they go over to the Chronicle.

I know that I, for one, will never be tempted by any collective blogging endeavor. I need to have complete control over my blogging space. Maybe that's unhealthy but hey, it works for me. :-)

New Kid on the Hallway said...

FWIW, the Chronicle has no editorial control over the content on their blogging network, where Tenured Radical and LesboProf are blogging (the actual Chronicle-sponsored blogs by Mark Bauerlein et al. may be different). The content remains entirely up to the individual bloggers.

(You get somewhat less control over comments, in that individual bloggers don't have the ability to delete comments.)

I mean, I totally get that moving over there might change someone's writing, or just plain make it feel different to read than in a different context. But the bloggers do retain complete control over what they write.

(You also don't have to have a Chronicle identity per se - just a DISQUS one, and that can be totally pseudonymous - for instance, the comments on Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog are DISQUS comments. So the Chronicle doesn't need to know anything about you if you comment over there. That said, I don't comment at the Chronicle because managing yet another login etc is a pain in the neck and some Chronicle commenters are equally a pain in the neck. But it's possible to do.)

I ponder taking the "thin pseudonym" route (more officially than now, I mean, given that at least 75% of my readers must know my legal identity). But I'm not sure if I could pull it off, either.

Lesboprof said...

Undine, I know what you mean about the Chronicle identity issue. I actually am a Chronicle subscriber, so I had to go back in, take out my real name, and put in my pseudonym, so that it shows up when I comment rather than my real name. It is a bit of a bummer, but not a big deal. And the Chronicle staff know my identity anyway, as I have written for them a couple times.

I decided to go to the Chronicle Blog Network to get more readers and also have a chance to do some group commenting on topics, when that made sense. And I might get the occasional hot tip from the Chronicle staff about an issue or upcoming story of interest.

But converse to what Clarissa said, I don't think there is anything "institutionalized" about my blog as part of the Chronicle Blog Network. The only thing that changed was the location. I still intend to keep the pseudonym, the tone, and so on. They have no control over the content at all.

Arbitrista said...

For some of us anonymity is absolutely essential. If I didn't feel that my identity was at least marginally protected, I couldn't blog or comment at all. Leaving aside the free speech/liberty issues, I think it's sad that the great democratic potential of the internet has been utterly wasted. Everybody who gets a following reveals their identity so they can do it full-time and garner a paycheck. It was always the madcap amateurism of blogging that appealed to me. Now it's developing into just another establishment medium.

Earnest English said...

I too feel like I can be more myself and discuss the tensions in my life much more honestly than if I blogged under my own name. And since the tensions in my life are about what pulls me away from academia, I'm sure that I wouldn't feel as free to focus on my whole life if I were at the Chronicle. I admit I've stopped reading the people who've gone over to the Chronicle, just because it does feel like a more institutionalized space. What I like about blogging is that it's a conversation _outside_ of the conventional outlets.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Um, I thought I commented over here? Did I have a complete brain fart?

I was just going to say what LesboProf said - that there's no editorial control at all over content on the Chronicle Blog Network - and also, you don't have to have a Chronicle ID to post; you just need a DISQUS account, which can be as anonymous as you'd like it to be.

That's not to say that reading someone at a Chronicle space doesn't feel different from reading them outside the Chronicle space, of course. But I did want to throw out that info.

I've considered the "thin pseudonym" myself, but haven't tried it yet - even though most readers probably know my legal identity! - and am not sure how satisfying I would find it.

(But I'm curious - how is a blogger getting her own domain analogous to a blogger going to the Chronicle/a group blog?)

Spanish prof said...

I don't mind bloggers going to the Chronicle per se, but one thing I've noticed is some of them engage less with the readers. I don't have the feeling of having a conversation anymore, with some of the bloggers, you just write your opinion and that's it. Unless what you are saying is something very controversial, the blogger will not bother to acknowledge you. And that does turn me off, since I know see their writing as something they give to the Chronicle and move on to something else. As if it were a job. It's their right, but not something I am interested in following.

undine said...

Clarissa, I think there are two kinds of blogs, as New Kid says, but there is something a little institutional about the Chronicle banner.

New Kid--the first comment got flagged as spam! I don't know why. I haven't tried DISQUS but will maybe give it a try. Getting your own domain name really isn't the same as joining a collective; I was somehow thinking that Dr. Isis had joined a group blog--sorry.

Lesboprof--thanks for stopping by--and now I can say congrats on your new place! Does being at the Chronicle make you more concerned about pseudonymity since you'll have so many more readers?

Arbitrista, Earnest English, SpanishProf--I can't figure out why reading blogs at the Chronicle feels different, but it does. Maybe it's less like a conversation, as SpanishProf says.

How about this: Here in blogworld we're sitting around the kitchen chatting, but the Chronicle is more like a lecture platform--would that be it? I'll still read the bloggers there, if Leechblock will let me, but it doesn't feel the same.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I too feel that reading blogs via the Chron just isn't the same. Partly it's the wider audience and different commenters; partly it's my irritation with some Chron opinion pieces that unfairly leaches into how I think about their blogs.

Personally I don't want a wider audience (I have no idea how many readers I even have; I deliberately never installed a site meter, because I don't want to know). I started blogging because I wanted to make some return on the pleasure I got from reading other people's blogs (don't know if that's working, but I'm trying, OK?). I like feeling that I'm with my friends in our little corner of the blogosphere, even if there are other people listening in. The Chron is such a huge platform.

Contingent Cassandra said...

It's a silly little thing, but I find the chronicle blogs harder to get to than those with their own domain names (as used to be the case with TR). The redirect, if there is one (and some of them, such as profhacker, seem recently to have lost their redirects), takes longer, and if there isn't one, you either have to be on a browser that helps you remember the address (which I have on my own computer, but I've set my browser at work to clear the history each time I close it, and don't really want to change that), or remember it, or go to the overall chronicle "blogs" page, and navigate from there. Obviously, the solution is RSS or google reader, but I sort of like hopping around.

Ink said...

Great post, Undine! Lots to ponder.

I'm just guest blogging for two weeks.

But I have often wondered if any of the lit types might want to do a group blog type thing because it sounds fun and interesting and because for some reason blogging on my own site doesn't seem as easy as it once did. (Partly for what you mentioned, the identity thing...now that I've peeked out from behind my pseudonym here and there, I don't feel like I can say some of the things that I want to say anymore.)

Ink said...

Wait, it sounds like I drifted into another topic halfway through that sentence.

What I meant was:

A group blog sounds fun.

Identity stuff makes my own blogging more complicated.

Tell me if you feel, too, that blogging doesn't feel quite the same anymore? I don't seem to be able to get to it as much. Maybe just a tough semester schedule. But I do feel frustrated that I am not able to engage as immediately as I used to, reading other people's blogs and things, and then I miss whole conversations when I do finally get around to catch up reading!

undine said...

New Kid--P.S. I'm one of the 25% who have no idea who you really are. I don't know who any of you are in real life (and am hoping you can say the same). I like this place being a separate world, and that's part of why I've never tried to figure out any identities.

Dame Eleanor--I like to read your blog, so yes, you're definitely holding up your end of the blogworld for the rest of us as far as I'm concerned! Your not wanting to know how many readers is kind of like not wanting to know identities, I think. It helps to preserve the space.

Contingent Cassandra--I agree. If it's not on the front page of the Chronicle, I usually can't find it (even using the search function). From reading the comments here and over at Historiann's, it sounds as though it's just plain more work to read things over there, even if there weren't the other barriers that people have mentioned. Like you, I'd rather hop around than read via a feed reader.

Ink--great questions! I don't always post as much as I could because, really, how many times do you all want to see me with craziness in my eyes and my hair on fire yet again about libraries getting rid of books?

About the group blog: what does everyone else think? I don't know. I don't know if I'd be comfortable posting silliness like classroom airplanes or English Departments of the Future or open letters castigating Bill Gates on a blog where I was responsible for upholding part of a larger whole, but I'd hate to give that up because it entertains me.

Dr. Koshary said...

Very interesting observations, all. I understand Lesboprof's thoughts on the matter, and I gather that Tenured Radical feels substantially the same way. (Isn't it amazing that we still all call her that, when her real-life name is a matter of universal common knowledge? I mean, in the context of a discussion of pseudonymous blogging, anyway.)

At the same time, I have an almost defensive gut reaction that aligns with Clarissa's comment. I blog in my own space, damn it. I call the shots. I welcome diverse opinions that disagree with mine, but I want to maintain the right to delete comments made out of sheer hostility or malice. (Or, as the case may be, pure spam.) And I want that little pie-da-internet to follow my rules and my judgments of acceptable commentary. I don't think I could handle blogging in a group forum, even with blogging colleagues whom I liked and respected. And I would probably feel like that even if I weren't a very vulnerable non-tenure-track professor.

As for TR's blog, I still read it. It shows up just fine in my blogroll, so I stay up to date. But the petty annoyances of the format, as well as my fears of being overwhelmed by an apparent tsunami of vitriol and crass ignorance (at the freaking Chronicle of Higher Education!), have demoted me to permanent lurker status there, after being an occasional commenter on her 2.0 blog. Somehow I feel like I'm looking at TR through a pane of glass, instead of being in the virtual room with her.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Undine, thanks for rescuing the first comment - sorry now for the repetition between the two! (I'm amused that Blogger thinks I'm a spammer!)

I don't think I'd manage to read anything if I didn't use a feed reader. But I follow a ridiculous number of feeds now (I have 389 in my reader!) and so hopping is no longer practical.

Comment sections are interesting. Most of the really large sites I read that allow anyone to comment under any moniker (like newspapers online, that kind of thing) have ABYSMAL comments. I NEVER read comments on any kind of public news site, including the Chronicle and IHE (unless I want to raise my blood pressure). The glowing exception is Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic, who has a public commenting system (DISQUS), and has put a TON of work into moderating comments and creating an incredibly erudite, practical, respectful, interesting community in the comments despite the volume the site must get. (The community itself is somewhat self-policing, I think, which helps.) It's seriously one of the best communities I've seen on the internet.

Although I know bloggers at the Chronicle network can't go in and delete comments themselves, I'm not sure if there's a way for them to *get* comments deleted (and would imagine there has to be some mechanism, if only to get rid of spam that sneaks through filters). It does seem to me, though, that managing comments is key to creating community within those huge audiences, and not alienating reasonable people (like all of you commenting here). I think it can be a process, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out for TR and LesboProf.

All that said - despite all the things I've said, I still find it a hassle to comment over at the Chronicle, too, and don't really bother! (But I didn't comment very much at TR's old site, since she frequently had commenters I didn't feel like getting into conversations with. I don't know what I'd do if someone I commented at a lot went over there.)

undine said...

Dr. Koshary: Reading through a pane of glass--yes! And commenting is awkward enough that instead of a quick remark, as we might write on each other's blogs, I feel as though I ought to say something more momentous. You know what I mean: nobody's going to just write "great post!" on a serious Chronicle blog.

New Kid--I read TaNihisi Coates but not the comments, usually, but that is a good way to go about it. There's a self-policing function to this small corner of the blogosphere when we all comment on each other's blogs, but in a public sphere, creating that community takes the kind of work you're describing.

profacero said...

By now everyone who wants to, knows who I am but I always had the pseudonym for the sake of speaking in my at home voice. My blog is my extracurricular art project, not a professional blog, and that is final.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I blog in my own space, damn it. I call the shots. I welcome diverse opinions that disagree with mine, but I want to maintain the right to delete comments made out of sheer hostility or malice. (Or, as the case may be, pure spam.) And I want that little pie-da-internet to follow my rules and my judgments of acceptable commentary. I don't think I could handle blogging in a group forum, even with blogging colleagues whom I liked and respected.

Free Thought Blogges gives complete control of blogge content and comment policy to its individual bloggers, so none of that is an issue there.

And thanks for the fucken linke!!

Lesboprof said...

Well, I am honestly taken aback by the comments here. It never occurred to me that moving my blog to the Chronicle Blog Network would make it seem "institutional" or "serious." And the idea of reading my blog through a pane of glass is sad to me. My hope was to make it more accessible, rather than less.

Yes, Undine, I did worry about maintaining my anonymity, such as it is. I don't know who knows who I am, and I am not sure I really want to know. I considered outing myself in the new blog, since none of the other bloggers are truly pseudonymous, but I wasn't sure how I could talk on the blog about my new administrative learning if I was open about my identity. That said, I am always careful not to get too specific about my day-to-day academic life. I have considered telling my new boss, just so if someone tracked me down, there would be no surprise on her part. But I ultimately decided not to go that route. I am following in the footsteps of my good friend, Dean Dad, who took his blog to IHE and kept his anonymity.

I hope those of you who have read my blog will consider following me over to the Chronicle. And if you would create a Disquis ID, you could stop by and comment, even just to say, "Good post."

I am going to talk to the Chronicle people about the commenting issues and the ability to ask them to remove troll comments.

Jonathan Jarrett said...

I think the move to group blogs (as distinct from the CHE, which is really a separate thing and I suppose, about exposure) may be one way of dealing with the lack of time; though a group blog that's going to work requires everyone to throw in their piece every now and then, it's at least not a continuous responsibility and others are helping. I suspect there may come a point when the responsibility to the audience is outweighing the enjoyment sufficiently that this comes to seem like a solution. (I very occasionally contribute to Cliopatria, which is where my perspective is coming from. They also run Disqus comments there--which work, but suck over a slow link or old computer--and there I can use an OpenID identity; will that not work at the CHE?)

As for pseudonymity and anonymity, I am on record saying I don't think it can ever be maintained, but I would have to admit that undine has done a pretty good job. Nonetheless, there are plenty of cautionary tales out there.

Lastly, I wanted to respond to these points from Dr Koshary:

Isn't it amazing that we still all call her that, when her real-life name is a matter of universal common knowledge?

She has said here and there that Tenured Radical has a different `voice' to her real-life persona, and I think that comes through strongly enough that people respond to TR direct, not her host body. Er, as it were. Also:

I blog in my own space, damn it.

Well, up to a point. I mean, you have editorial control up till the point where you break US federal law, but at another level you blog for Google just as I do for Wordpress. Our choice of platforms is background advertising for companies, and if we did cross that legal line those companies would shut us down.

Dr. Koshary said...

Jonathan, point well taken. My understanding of "my own space" is actually inflected with corporate capitalism in that way, and it's perfectly true that anything illegal would cross all sorts of red lines for people. It has never occurred to me to violate federal law via my blog, so I wasn't even referring to that. My blog is not sovereign territory beyond the reach of law. :)

I am occasionally reminded by one thing or another that I am ultimately a tenant on Blogger, and not a freeholder. Obviously, this hasn't bothered me enough to do anything about it, but I sometimes wonder if I would/should ever purchase my own domain name and set up a blog as an independent web site. Subject to law, of course, but not to Google or Wordpress or other hosting sites. Dunno what would push me to do that, for something that should only get a limited amount of my attention in a day.

undine said...

profacero: "art project"--I like it.

Lesboprof said...

Well, I am honestly taken aback by the comments here. It never occurred to me that moving my blog to the Chronicle Blog Network would make it seem "institutional" or "serious." And the idea of reading my blog through a pane of glass is sad to me. My hope was to make it more accessible, rather than less.

Yes, Undine, I did worry about maintaining my anonymity, such as it is. I don't know who knows who I am, and I am not sure I really want to know. I considered outing myself in the new blog, since none of the other bloggers are truly pseudonymous, but I wasn't sure how I could talk on the blog about my new administrative learning if I was open about my identity. That said, I am always careful not to get too specific about my day-to-day academic life. I have considered telling my new boss, just so if someone tracked me down, there would be no surprise on her part. But I ultimately decided not to go that route. I am following in the footsteps of my good friend, Dean Dad, who took his blog to IHE and kept his anonymity.

I hope those of you who have read my blog will consider following me over to the Chronicle. And if you would create a Disquis ID, you could stop by and comment, even just to say, "Good post."

I am going to talk to the Chronicle people about the commenting issues and the ability to ask them to remove troll comments.

undine said...

CPP--thanks for the clarification and for stopping by!

Jonathan, I did not know that about the slowness of Disqus but now have a Disqus identity thanks to what you all have said.

Lesboprof--thanks for checking back and posting. I think it'll be valuable for everyone to see what you have to say about your new administrative post (and will try to comment over there).