I’m writing some guidance for JISC projects as part of the support work Netskills are doing for a programme. However, I’d like to think this might be of broader use for other projects. I’ve summarised my initial thoughts on this here , but would welcome any that you have, so please leave a comment or get in touch.

Most JISC programmes require the projects they fund to setup a blog. However, it isn’t always clear to projects why this a good idea and how it will help them, the programme and the community. To help address this, we’re looking to produce a guide to blogging for JISC projects. I first want to address the ‘why?’ so that hopefully the ‘how?’ will become a little easier.

An informal space: for things that might not seem significant enough to put in a report, journal or to present at a conference. A place to think out loud, ask ‘what if?’ and discuss progress and difficulties as they arise. A blog can provide an outlet for such things that might otherwise never be seen, but have the potential to turn into something more.

Openness: Like working in an open kitchen, blogging can make the process of project work more transparent and encourage understanding. Saying things in public, even if you’re not sure who will read it, increases the chances that someone will and in doing so be able to help you or themselves.  Publish, then filter.

Opportunities for feedback: putting things in a public space means it’s more likely that others will offer input, help, advice as you go. That might be from other people in your project, other projects or the community. It can also help to manage expectations.

Encourages clarity: Blogging helps you to focus on the essentials of why you ‘re doing something and why it matters to other people. The act of writing can encourage consolidation, claification, reflection and metacognition.

Being part of a community: regular posts on relevant topics and engaging in discussions around them demonstrates your interest in the field, that you have ideas to contribute and the motivation to do so. Being an active part of a community can also help you establish links with a network of people who share your interests and can provide advice and support. That community could be based around the programme you are part of and/or a wider community

A project portfolio: A single place focussed on the project, self-contained with a well-defined scope and custom domain. That’s good for search, dissemination, measuring impact through analytics and closure when the project is finished – or sustainability if you have built something that has a life beyond the project. A blog is also an ideal ‘hub’ for other social media activity, so somewhere that all project-related activity can be referred  back to, aggregated, displayed, interacted with and resyndicated.

Sets your content free: Blogs are designed around syndication and subscription so help take the content to people, rather than the other way around. They can help you engage beyond the traditional boundaries of projects, programmes, organisations to reach beyond JISCworld to a greater diversity of disciplines, interests, backgrounds, experiences and opinions.

Designed for participation: Blog design is based on well-crafted themes and rich functionality designed to engage and involve your audience, not just broadcast to them. Blogs aren’t just a place to share ideas, they promote discussion too. Release early and often model of getting ideas out there where others can help make them better.

Creates a dynamic archive: blogs store and automatically organise posts, comments and other content to help you keep track of things you’ve done, as well as the things you didn’t, but might be worth persuing.

Makes reporting easier: Rather than waiting until the last minute to write your report, blog it as you go and then compile it in a few clicks. Considered use of categories and tags will make this easier. This can also help improve programme support to your project and others in the programme, as well as subsequent synthesis work intended to help JISC and the community learn lessons broader than those of the individual projects.

Project team work: Blogs can reduce the burden of internal project meetings and more formal reporting by allowing people in the team (and beyond it) to subscribe, track and discuss as you go. Helps the project team to stay informed, to remain aligned, work together and keep up momentum. It can also enable partners across different institutions to communicate and collaborate more easily. Use of public/private posts can allow the same system to perform different functions for different audiences.

Eating our own dog food: JISC projects are funded to investigate the innovative use of digital technologies. Blogs may have been around long enough not to seem innovative anymore, but their use to openly share practice around your project is.

It isn’t as hard as you might think: It gets easier. You will get better. You will get more feedback, rewards and ROI.

I'm blogging this T-shirtIt isn’t as easy as I might make out: Of course, in practice, it isn’t as straightforward as just starting a blog. It can take a good deal of time and effort to keep up with posts, especially when it can sometime feel like your talking to yourself, not a vital part of a thriving community.

This is something I’ll try to address in another post for another part of the guide on what/how should JISC projects blog?


Thanks to Mark Power and Will Allen for their comments already – and to you if you make any yourself :-)

Photo: professor from istock photo under licence to JISC Netskills. I’m Blogging This from Michael Heilemann (BY-NC-SA)

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