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Reputation, academia and blogging July 8, 2008

Posted by Raul in blogosphere, personal life, random thoughts.
Tags: , , ,

Recently, I’ve been having discussions on the topic of reputation with friends of mine both who blog or who have online presences (the social media folks, developers, even non tech people who just enjoy blogging). Moreover, recent conversations with my friends who have offline lives (and don’t have blogs/or work in tech) have led me to re-think my approach to blogging. I write the things I do, the restaurants I go to, the events I attend, I sometimes write about environmental issues, sometimes about public policy issues, and other times, simply about… not much, really. Just questions I have in my mind, sometimes geeky questions indeed.

I have been recently told about the positive reputation that my blog has been building (thanks for the positive feedback, by the way – I am glad that whomever reads my blog find it appealing), and I’m grateful for that. I like having people recognize that I have worked very hard to bring my blog to where it is and bring my tech expertise up (a goal I have not achieved all on my own, but with the help of many good friends – you know who you are, since we’ve talked about this at length).

But there is a part of me that sometimes thinks I should write more enviro-focused stuff, because that’s the industry within which I would like to be immersed. I am part of the Vancouver environmental community as I do have connections with environmental non-government organizations, consulting firms, some of my friends work for the BC and Canadian governments, etc.

However, I am also part of the social media/tech community, whether I admit it or not. I’ve been immersing so much in the technical and social aspects of Web 2.0 that it will be hard to extricate myself (and even then, I don’t WANT to extricate myself – I’ve met too many wonderful people to say now “oh sorry you’re not an enviro-geek, we can’t be friends anymore” – they never said “hey you’re not a social media/tech geek, so get out of our hair”, right?).

Nevertheless, I think I will need to go back to writing more environmental focus, more posts where my actual knowledge of the subject matter is perceived, and thus build a different sort of reputation. However, I am somewhat afraid that, by virtue of doing that, it would somehow preclude me from learning more about stuff that I find exciting, and also, would basically throw away everything I have achieved so far in social media.

*sigh* And then there’s the personal side of my blog. I wonder if that would affect any potential employers. Because, let’s face it, it probably would sound a bit self-absorbed to tell employers (potential) “hey i have a blog, and it’s basically my random thoughts“. Moreover, since I am planning to work in academia (if I can get a job as a professor, otherwise I’m happy to go to consulting), there’s also the conflict – “do I let my students read my personal blog?” (some of my former students actually do, and they have told me that they love it because it gives them a refreshing perspective on their professor).

So the thing is – I kind of want my cake and eat it. I want the professional (environmental expert, academic) reputation AND I want the social media (which can also be a career in-and-of-itself) reputation too. I want people to know that the Raul they read here is the Raul they’ve become friends with or the Raul who has given dozens of academic talks and published tonnes of academic papers. That, as Boris Mann put it very elegantly, I am the whole package. This blog, in many ways is the full me. And I want it to reflect also my academic side and my enviro-geek side.

There are several angles to examine this issue through. One is – what exactly does Raul want to do (since I didn’t undertake a PhD just to throw it away – I kind of want to use my training!). That’s a discussion for later. But one thing is for sure – if given the chance, I’d become an instructor/professor at a local university. No doubt.

The next issue that would need to be examined is – How would being an academic/professor/instructor affect my blogging? Good question. Haven’t thought about the answer yet. But some people over at the Chronicle of Higher Education have. And I have local friends who are academics and who have thought about the implications of their blogging for their academic careers.

I guess it comes down to yet again, a future that (while it looks promising) may be a challenge. But I have faith in my broad skills and portfolio. I think I can do a lot with what I have done. The mere blogging and learning more about social media will help me with enhancing my tools to disseminate the scholarly knowledge I develop. Of course, there’s the other side – if I go to consulting, I think I can apply my social media skills into developing new business and attracting new contracts given that I now have some sort of idea of how to put myself out there (the whole SEO, Google Page Rankand Technorati talks have crystalized, haven’t they! :))

My scholarship is fairly decently recognized, I think. I have lots of research colleagues around the globe that I am sure enjoy the kind of research I do, and have some degree of faith in my ability to complete research projects and publish the results. However, I am also aware of the limited possibilities for academic jobs within the Metro Vancouver area (I would move to Victoria, but it would be SO hard… my life here is so good, and I’m 100% in love with my life as is here!).

At any rate, I recognize that this is quite a personal reflection, but also one that I don’t think I mind sharing with the blogosphere. Of course, feedback, comments and other reflections are most welcome.



1. Cecily - July 8, 2008

Raul: I fought this a while back and fought it so much that I actually stopped blogging. Your blog is your brand, and your brand is you. I think you should feel free to write about whatever you want in a unified space without worrying about spreading your identities so thin across dispersed virtual spaces. If people aren’t interested in your enviro posts, they don’t have to read them. Those who aren’t interested in your social media posts can avoid those as well.

While I’m not in academia, I am in a profession where writing in any format is looked upon fondly. Of course, I run the risk of potential employers not agreeing with a position I might take on my blog, but as long as I’m building a good reputation for myself, and can translate that reputation into some sort of added value for the institution where I work, I the benefits far outweigh the risks.

2. Mel - July 8, 2008

I’ve thought about this some, which is why my public blog is limited to the photographs that I take and what I choose to write about them. I have a couple of personal blogs that I update, but they’re locked, and I only allow friends to read them. I don’t have my full name on those.

Anyway…of course, you can choose to do whatever you wish. I enjoy reading about all kinds of things, even things that I don’t necessarily understand, so I would keep reading, regardless of your topics.

3. Trevor - July 8, 2008

Glad you brought this stuff up. I personally find it difficult to just throw it all out there for the world to see. It would certainly feel a lot better to let loose but you never know whose watching. Kinda shitty, really – to feel ‘under the gun’, which is why I have so much respect for people who just write and do whatever they want.

Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.

4. Tyler Ingram - July 8, 2008

Hey Raul if you’re worried about mixing your posts up and having people judge you based on your personal perspective towards things you could always branch off your environmental posts to another blog? There are a lot of bloggers who blog multiple sites; granted it may be harder and more time consuming (or not…)

Then you would have your personal blog where you could do whatever without worrying about ruining your environmental aspect and then you could have your newly branded environmental blog etc.

Take my blog as an example: it is a lot more personal than most blogs out there. I talk about what I want to talk about in the way I want to. It may interest people, it may not but I continue to do it nonetheless. Someone was telling me that because of my personal nature on my blog, more people find my words to be true and listen… or something lol…

I thought to myself if I continued to do more product reviews (aside from my doing work for Futurelooks.com) I would create a separate blog site to keep the two aspect separate. Not sure if I am saying all this right but hopefully the idea is there 🙂

5. Beth - July 9, 2008

I think you should blog what you want to blog. As Cecily says, not everyone is going to read every post and that’s fine. Some might skip over the enviro ones, others might skip over the personal ones. You might even consider having separate blog feeds for different categories (e.g., all blog postings, only those in the “Environ” category, only those in the “Restaurant Review” category, only those in the “Personal” category).

And I don’t think that having a personal blog means you can’t have both an academic reputation AND a social media one. As you know, my blog is almost exclusively a personal one (I very, very rarely touch on my areas of academic expertise) and it hasn’t hurt my academic reputation.

As for the question: ““do I let my students read my personal blog?” the answer is “you can’t stop them if you want to have a public blog.”

On a somewhat unrelated note: I think you should turn off “Snapshots” on your blog – it’s so annoying! Do people actually find that function valuable?

6. Being an academic and a blogger - two models, one mind « Random Thoughts of a Student of the Environment - July 26, 2008

[…] things that I have found most challenging with the blogging I have done is keeping some degree of a reputation in the academic realm, and translating social media for the hard-core academics. Surely, some of my former professors […]

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