I’m thinking about blogging in Welsh / Dw i’n meddwl am blogio yn Gymraeg

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English

I’m think­ing about blog­ging in Welsh, but con­fid­ence and com­pet­ence are a prob­lem. I’d like to be able to prac­tice Welsh, but Knighton is not a Welsh-speaking town. So, if I am to prac­tice, writ­ing is best.

I need to decide what write about. I get press releases from vari­ous astro­nom­ical research bod­ies. Translating exactly is dif­fi­cult, but it’s not an exam. A rough out­line is pos­sible. It’s easier than think­ing of some­thing ori­ginal each day.

Also I don’t know where to blog. Here, with two cat­egor­ies English and Welsh? Or on a new blog at WordPress or Kinja? My biggest con­cern is I will make mis­takes. I like Gweiadur and Cysill Ar-lein, but they are not enough to over­come my ineptitude. That’s life. But it would be help­ful to have a note say­ing “Please tell me if I’ve made a mistake.”

Cymraeg

Dw i’n meddwl blogio yn Gymraeg, ond hyder a hyfedredd sydd prob­lem. Dw i’n awyddus i ymar­fer Cymraeg a dydy Tref-y-clawdd ddim yn siarad Cymraeg. Felly, os dw i’n mynd i ymar­fer, mae ysgrifennu yn gorau.

Dw i angen i bend­er­fynu beth i ysgrifennu amdano. Dw i’n cael dat­gani­adau i’r wasg o gyrff ymch­wil sery­ddol amry­wiol. Cyfieithu yn union yn anodd, ond dydy e ddim yn arho­liad. Mae amlinel­liad bras yn bos­ibl. Mae’n haws na meddwl syni­adau gwreiddiol bob dydd.

Hefyd, dw i ddim yn gwybod ble i blo­giau. Yma, gyda dau gat­egori Cymraeg a Saesneg? Nei yn blog newydd ar WordPress nei Kinja? Fy mhryder mwyaf yw bydda i’n gwneud gwal­lau. Dw i’n hoffi Gweiadur a Cysill Ar-lein ond dydyn nhw ddim yn ddi­gon i orch­fygu fy anfed­rus­r­wydd. Mae’n fywyd. Ond byddai e’n helpu cael nodyn sy’n dweud “Plîs dywed­wch i mi os wnes i wneud camgymeriad.”

I’m giving up writing at Medium

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I’ve been ser­i­ously think­ing about mov­ing to Ghost or Medium for writ­ing. Ghost uses Markdown, which I like is handy for when I write in StackEdit​.io. Medium has a very simple inter­face. It’s not cus­tom­is­able, but the flip side of that is that you don’t waste time try­ing to cus­tom­ise it.

I gave Medium a go with two short stor­ies I’d writ­ten. I was going to post some ser­i­ous and researched sci­ence art­icles, but I chose to put up the short stor­ies as I’d not be bothered if got no views. Here are the res­ults.
Continue read­ing

Busy, Busy, Busy

Busy bee
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Busy beeI hadn’t real­ised how long it had been since I’d pos­ted here. It feels like I’ve been blog­ging most days, but it’s not been here. At AoBBlog there’s a few posts most recently Love and Flowers: When ana­lo­gies break down and a photo of a Wollemi Pine, a strange and inter­est­ing tree.

At Then Dig the Distance theme has run its course, and now we’re into Tools, cur­ated by Terry Brock. I’ve blogged a fair amount there. You can see what I’ve been doing on my author page. Archaeoastronomy-wise there’s a review of African Cultural Astronomy by Jarita Holbrook.

I’m chan­ging this site (again) to a more tumb­log style. I’ll see if it works. The prob­lem is I change sites to as I work now. But the way I work changes, so often chan­ging a site simply means it’s behind the times in a dif­fer­ent way.

I’ll see how it goes.

Photo: Busy Bee by JarrkoS. BY-NC-SA licence.

Plugins for an academic group blog: Referencing & Footnotes

A plug. Photo by Pulpolux!!! CC BY-NC
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For reas­ons that will hope­fully become obvi­ous this sum­mer I’ve been think­ing what plu­gins would be use­ful for an aca­demic group blog on WordPress.

Referencing & Footnotes

In terms of integ­rat­ing ref­er­ences the three big pro­grams are EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero. It would be easy to get lost in an argu­ment about which of these is the best sys­tem. I don’t think that mat­ters. What is best for me is not neces­sar­ily best for you. Also two of these sys­tems are on the web, so they could be very dif­fer­ent in six months. What is best now might not be best soon. So the best solu­tion for integ­rat­ing with WordPress is to be able to handle as many sys­tems as possible.

That’s why I like Martin Fenner’s plu­gins BibTeX Importer and Link to Link. Everything out­puts Bibtex, so any selec­tion could be uploaded as Links in WordPress’s sys­tem with the importer. Then Link to Link makes it easy to pull out the links as you write. Mix in a good foot­note sys­tem and you and make good bib­li­o­graph­ies. The only draw­back is that WordPress’s sys­tem requires these links link to some­thing, like a DOI or URL. That’s not cer­tain for archae­olo­gical ref­er­ences so it’s not a per­fect solution.

Two other ways involve link­ing the bib­li­o­graphic sys­tem to WordPress. That requires that the sys­tem is online, so no EndNote. Zotpress integ­rates with Zotero and with upgrades over time it does is bet­ter and bet­ter. The latest ver­sion sits as a wid­get by the side of the edit area for insert­ing short­codes. In fact simply tag­ging the rel­ev­ant entries in Zotero with a hashtag like #blogentry20110517 gives you a single tag to look for and then you can type in one Zotpress short­code to com­pile the whole bibliography.

A sim­ilar trick can be done with the Mendeley plu­gin, though the inter­face is a little less friendly, while the short­codes are much friend­lier. It is tempt­ing to thing the choice of which plu­gin in to use is one or the other. You can’t have two identical bib­li­o­graph­ies in a post so you only use one? The blog­ger will only type one short­code in the post, but can choose which on if both plu­gins are installed. I think the plu­gins only use the pro­cessor if they’re invoked by the short­code so there’s no trouble using them both. I think with Zotero becom­ing unhooked from Firefox, the choice between Mendeley and Zotero will mInly be social. You’ll use what your per­sonal net­work uses.

An addi­tional Mendeley fea­ture is that you can also add a related research plu­gin. This works, even if the blog­ger uses Zotero for the bib­li­o­graphy in the post, if you remem­ber to add tags, so it seems like another use­ful add-on.

This leaves just a mat­ter of how to insert foot­notes. I like WP-Footnotes because it degrades grace­fully. You insert a foot­note with double brack­ets some­thing sim­ilar to but not exactly {{like this}}. When you use plain brack­ets it becomes a foot­note. ((Like this. Actually test­ing this shows that Apture will be a prob­lem if Footnotes are used. The reason is the anchor for the foot­note will be hid­den by the Apture bar with search etc. So too will the back link. It’s prob­ably a choice between foot­notes and Apture. If an aca­demic blog uses foot­notes reg­u­larly I can see Apture being a miss.)) Apart from being simple, if you deac­tiv­ate it, then all your older posts don’t auto­mat­ic­ally look unread­able. It’s lim­ited in what it does, but what it does it does extremely well. But I won­der if my reluct­ance to use short­codes in the past means I might be over­look­ing Footnotes for WordPress. One ques­tion is why do you need foot­notes on a blog?

Footnotes make sense in print by mov­ing dis­cre­tion­ary text out of the way. They make sense for ref­er­ences, though for plain text using foot­notes is often a sign you’ve writ­ten some­thing badly. Endnotes make sense on paper in that they’re easier to type­set than foot­notes. But blogs are not on paper. References could be dir­ectly hyper­linked. I think one reason this has never taken off in human­it­ies aca­demic blogs is partly the expect­a­tion of what text should look like and partly because if a source isn’t online it’s not obvi­ous what the link should link to. Even so, do we really need to scroll down for notes in elec­tronic texts? Footnotes for WordPress takes advant­age of blog­ging by includ­ing an option for hov­er­ing foot­notes. I used to think float­ing notes or tool­tips were gim­micks. If mak­ing them becomes as simple as typ­ing [ref]footnote here.[/ref] then maybe it’s time to rethink what it is you want foot­notes to do. I think there’s still a need for col­lated ref­er­ences at the end of an elec­tronic text, as it still serves a use­ful Further Reading func­tion after fin­ish­ing read­ing a text. Adding float­ing notes won’t remove that list, but it will make those same notes and ref­er­ences more accessible.

Blogging Archaeology Week 4, Part Two: What could a group Archaeology blog look like?

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I’ve been think­ing over vari­ous prob­lems in set­ting up a group blog for archae­ology for a while. The thought pro­cess usu­ally fol­lows four steps.

  1. Hmm… here’s a tech­nical prob­lem that could need to be solved for a group blog.
  2. Aha! Here’s a solu­tion that would be nifty.
  3. Of course, you’d need someone to organ­ise people and enthuse them…
  4. That sounds far too much like hard work. I’ll leave it.

For example I think Terry Brock is right, a group archae­ology blog could be a good idea. But for reas­ons you really don’t need to know about I can’t com­mit to any­thing before mid-April at the earli­est. So my con­tri­bu­tion is lim­ited to say­ing “Great Idea!” without actu­ally doing any­thing that could be mis­taken for work. I have been in a group blog though, so I could flag some prob­lems that need to be solved.

I was a mem­ber of HNN’s Revise & Dissent. I don’t think it was a suc­cess­ful group blog. It had good blog­gers as well as me, but I think col­lect­ively the blog was less than the sum of its parts. One reason is that it wasn’t a coher­ent col­lect­ive. We had interests in dif­fer­ent peri­ods of his­tory and dif­fer­ent regions. I thought that was a good thing because it meant that we covered history’s diversity. Instead I get the impres­sion there was no com­mon thread to the blog other than ‘the past’. Terry Brock points out that archae­olo­gists aren’t that well con­nec­ted at the moment. I think he’s right, but cre­at­ing a group blog will not inher­ently make us con­nec­ted. I read Dirt. I like it, but I don’t com­ment as I don’t have any­thing of value to say there. I think if Terry and I were on the same group blog then I’d simply not com­ment on that blog instead of not com­ment­ing on Dirt.

In con­trast some­thing like Play the Past, isn’t just about his­tory. It’s about a shared approach to his­tory. Possibly you could say that archae­ology is a spe­cific approach to his­tory, but some people think archae­ology is a branch of anthro­po­logy. I’m some­times a his­tor­ian and some­times an archae­olo­gist. I’m inter­ested in human action in the past and I’m not really con­scious of delib­er­ately switch­ing between two approaches. However, I am not an anthro­po­lo­gist. Anthropology is rel­ev­ant to archae­ology, but they are not the same dis­cip­line. I don’t think archae­ology is inher­ently focussed enough for a group blog to gel.

A second prob­lem with Revise & Dissent is that we made it demand­ing. We already all had blogs that were our home. I don’t know if any of us felt at home at Revise & Dissent, which sat on HNN’s sys­tem. It meant that writ­ing posts for R&D was a con­scious effort because we wanted to put up some­thing ser­i­ous there. There was no pres­sure from HNN to do this, I was some­thing we inflic­ted on ourselves.

I think this con­trib­uted to a third prob­lem, which was when to con­trib­ute? I con­sciously held back some posts, and didn’t sub­mit oth­ers because I didn’t want the blog to be Me and Revise & Dissent. This could have been a mis­take. Cliopatria works per­fectly well with Ralph Luker doing much of the blog­ging. I don’t think we tackled this prob­lem of what to post and when. It’s not a com­plaint that oth­ers were not doing enough — I have long peri­ods I can­not blog. We simply didn’t organ­ise the work, in my case because I don’t want to try boss­ing people around when they’re doing some­thing in their free time.

xf8n An archae­o­b­log not com­ing to a screen near you any time soon.

So a suc­cess­ful group archae­ology blog should have entries from vari­ous people relat­ing to each other on a reg­u­lar basis and not feel too much like hard work.

One way to cre­ate rela­tion­ships between blog­gers is to get them talk­ing about the same thing. This is what Colleen has done with her Blogging Archaeology car­ni­val. So a group blog could adopt a theme each month e.g. Origins, Power, Food, Religion… and release a series of posts by dif­fer­ent blog­gers through­out that month. Bloggers would be dis­cuss­ing the regions and peri­ods they were inter­ested in, but by talk­ing about some com­mon human exper­i­ence you get to com­pare and con­trast actions in dif­fer­ent times and places. You get to see what’s spe­cial about what you’re work­ing on by see­ing what other people are doing elsewhere.

That sounds good, but as Mick Morrisson can tell you get­ting people to respond to a theme isn’t so easy. For example I could see that some people could pro­pose Slavery as a topic. That’s some­thing rel­ev­ant to the ancient world, but it’s not some­thing I spend much time look­ing at. So do I ignore it when it comes round, or to I grind out some­thing to con­trib­ute in the hope that when I put for­ward some­thing I’d like to see oth­ers will do the same? As pos­sible solu­tion is that people pro­pose and pre­pare drafts on a theme in a back chan­nel. So I could write a gender piece and announce it on the back chan­nel. Someone else could pre­pare some­thing on Travel and I might see that and draft a post as well. When it comes round to choos­ing the next month’s topic instead of assign­ing the topic, you could see which topic has the most drafts ready to go and that becomes the next theme on the blog. Four or five posts mean that you’d have a top­ical post once a week. To get those four or five posts though you’ll need more than four or five blog­gers because people get busy and run into gluts of work. It’ll take some social wrangling.

A purely ‘theme of the month’ based group blog is rather nar­row in focus. There are some other things where a col­lect­ive blog could add value. One is blogged reviews. Michael E. Smith at Publishing Archaeology has lamen­ted the lack of a good out­let for reviews. I agree with him on this and on the fact that BMCR does an excel­lent job of pub­lish­ing reviews. I some­times get offered things for review, and it’s likely that a group blog would also get offers. Initially you’d need to prove that the concept works by blog­gers review­ing things they’ve read in their own research, but a review stream would be a valu­able addi­tion to archae­ology that doesn’t seem to be act­ive elsewhere.

An assump­tion above is that blog­gers con­trib­ut­ing to both of these strands would get links back to their own blog. They would, but what about people who have some­thing to say, but don’t want to start a whole blog when they’d only have some­thing per­haps once every three or four months? A third cat­egory News & Comment could offer this. I don’t think this would work just as a col­la­tion of head­lines. David Meadows already does that, and bet­ter, with the Explorator. If there was com­ment­ary on a story, for example why beer and wine mat­ter like SciAm does here then you have some­thing more worth­while. You could also throw in com­ment­ary from occa­sional blog­gers. If you get a large audi­ence it would also make sense to add requests for help, like look­ing for people to answer ques­tion­naires on out­reach, here. Hopefully the con­trast with the themed blog posts would make it less of a strain to blog inform­ally in this category.

The final cat­egory I’d sug­gest is just per­sonal axe-grinding. Photography. Partly because Colleen Morgan pro­duces some great pho­tos and there’s plenty of inter­est­ing images appear­ing on Flickr. Also it’s some­thing that formal pub­lic­a­tion doesn’t do so much. In some cases some dire pho­tos are pub­lished. Photo of the Day would be hard work, but a Photo Phriday would be pos­sible with sub­mis­sions or CC-licenced images from Flickr.

I’ve been think­ing about this for a while and there are prob­lems that need to be tackled. The big one is social. You need a core who are will­ing to slog for six months blog­ging on your monthly themes. Also one post a week is not going to build up an audi­ence rap­idly, so you’d need that core to each be com­mit­ted to one post a week on aver­age. It doesn’t sound a lot, but keep­ing that up for a long period is a ser­i­ous commitment.

You also need people who can encour­age people out­side the core to con­trib­ute and also keep an eye on qual­ity con­trol. That’s going to need tact. You won’t want rub­bish on the site. At the same time you don’t want to block people simply because you don’t agree with them. It’s likely to be some very good mater­ial that isn’t a suit­able fit for the site. You need someone who can turn that down without giv­ing the impres­sion that it’s rub­bish. I’d find set­ting up a site and telling people to take part, then say­ing ‘No thanks’ to some stressful.

There are tech­nical issues. Some are trivial. You won’t get a theme that every­one will like, so it’ll just have some­thing that people can live with that does the job. Some are more dif­fi­cult. A big­ger blog is going to be more of a tar­get for hack­ers. I’m using VaultPress with AoBBlog, and some­thing sim­ilar would make sense for a ser­i­ous group blog. There are plu­gins to man­age (Zotpress, Mendeley or both?) and they can clash in unfore­seen ways. New fea­tures in WordPress can break themes in unex­pec­ted ways and the big­ger the site the more vis­ible a fault is. Ideally the tech­nical side should be done so that people who aren’t inter­ested in the nut ‘n’ bolts don’t notice what’s going on.

There’s also the mat­ter of fund­ing. I’d be will­ing to con­trib­ute, but I couldn’t guar­an­tee fund­ing in per­petu­ity and there’s very few people who could. It would make sense to try to make the site self-funding. I’m against Google Ads. I don’t think they’re suit­able for a site dis­cuss­ing arte­facts as it’s impossible to pre­vent ads for illi­cit antiquit­ies appear­ing on site. If you’re not inter­ested in mak­ing a profit then fund­ing by other means might be a sol­uble prob­lem, but it’s hard to raise exactly the right amount of money and no more. So what do you do with a sur­plus? One answer would be to donate it an archae­olo­gical fund, but it’ll make life so much easier if this you can clearly demon­strate it hap­pen­ing. This is even more import­ant when if the sur­plus is tiny or non-existent so you rarely see dona­tions being made. It’s nat­ural to ask where the money is going.

The above is just one model of what an archae­olo­gical group blog could look like. Digital Archaeology might be enough of a niche that a group blog could work. There’s a few archae­ode­bunk sites, they too might work as group blog. A group blog does bring bene­fits, but I can see it being a long slog to keep it run­ning. If one was set up now it wouldn’t be live till May, when exam mark­ing starts in the UK so it’s a tough time to launch. June brings more mark­ing and towards the end it fades into field­work sea­son, which will also make July and August dif­fi­cult months. September and October will be bad because terms start… and so on.

It can be done, but would enough people want to?

Blogging Archaeology 4: What next? Part One

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For our last ques­tion, I would like to ask you to con­sider the act of pub­lic­a­tion for this blog car­ni­val. How could we best cap­ture the inter­play, the mul­ti­me­dia exper­i­ence of blog­ging as a more form­al­ized pub­lic­a­tion? What would be the best out­come for this col­lec­tion of insights from archae­olo­gical bloggers?

This week’s ques­tion is two ques­tions which makes it harder to answer. I’m not sure a form­al­ised pub­lic­a­tion is the best out­come. It’s not a bad idea though, so I’ll tackle that in this post.

My first reac­tion was like Shawn Graham, a Kindle Single — but that’s because a Kindle is my new toy. A Kindle single could work, I liked this art­icle on hydro­frack­ing, which was free to down­load when I got it. It has some per­man­ence and it would col­late the vari­ous entries. The reason it might not be the best solu­tion is that first it helps to know why you’re col­lat­ing the entries.

If you want to give blog­ging a degree of cred­ib­il­ity among people who don’t value elec­tronic media then an elec­tronic out­put is a per­fect way to be ignored. You could try and self-publish via some­thing like Lulu. I’d be against try­ing to cover up the self-published nature of the book by adding a spuri­ous imprint — unless the pub­lic­a­tion were part of a long-term pro­ject involving sev­eral books. Still, I’m not sure to what extent this is a good idea. I can’t see a tech­no­phobe buy a book about archae­olo­gical blog­ging. This is why I think Colleen Morgan’s approach is clever. She’s put­ting the ses­sion into a main­stream con­fer­ence. Both John and Matthew Law raise the pos­sib­il­ity of pub­lic­a­tion via an SAA related pub­lic­a­tion. If that’s pos­sible then this is a sens­ible out­reach com­pon­ent of pub­lic­a­tion. Additionally then, a Kindle Single would be the elec­tron­ic­ally per­man­ent ver­sion — the advant­age of the Kindle Single being that you can embed links in them. Add a CC licence and drop a big hint to Amazon that you’re mak­ing avail­able free on the web and Amazon could make it avail­able free on their site, like Hydrofracked was.

In terms of how the con­tent of the book could look, a good model that comes to mind is Philosophy and Archaeological Practice. Perspectives for the 21st Century by Cornelius Holtorf and Håkan Karlsson. Each paper in the book comes with at least one response by another author. A com­mon obser­va­tion is that the com­ments have added value to the car­ni­val. I think Kandinsky adds some­thing to my post here, and I’m hop­ing this adds value to the pre­vi­ous posts I’ve linked back to. Jonathan Jarrett is leav­ing some excel­lent com­ments in vari­ous places. I think adding these to the pub­lic­a­tion demon­strates that blog­ging can be part of a reflect­ive pro­cess and need not be a static out­put, even if by pin­ning it into a pub­lic­a­tion the posts become static on paper.

I think col­lat­ing the blog posts in some way is bet­ter than not col­lat­ing them, so I don’t want to run down the idea. I do won­der if it’s going to be ter­minal. Freezing the posts marks an end. It could be pos­sible to start a new pro­ject in a few months, but it would be start­ing from scratch again. Colleen has put in a huge amount of work get­ting the SAA ses­sion to work. She’s been e-mailing people for sev­eral months organ­ising this, and the vis­ible part is really just a frac­tion of the effort. It would be a shame if someone else look­ing to start a group pro­ject had to rep­lic­ate all that work again. Terry Brock has raised the pos­sib­il­ity of using this as a spur to some­thing more ongo­ing, like a group blog. Mick Morrisson has also been ask­ing what people think about the future of Four Stone Hearth, an anthro­po­lo­gical car­ni­val with a large archae­olo­gical com­pon­ent — with little suc­cess by the looks of it.

An ongo­ing event is not exclus­ive to also form­al­ising this cur­rent car­ni­val, but it is a dif­fer­ent prob­lem, so I’ll tackle that in another post. For now my response for Colleen is “form­al­ise the car­ni­val how­ever you like”, but in a cheery and enthu­si­astic tone of voice.

Blogging Archaeology Week 3: If I were after more comments here’s what I’d do.

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And now Blogging Archaeology Week 3.

A final down­side to the short form is the appear­ance of dia­log. Noting this vir­tual round table and other blogs (like MS) as excep­tions, most archae­olo­gical blogs that I read have very little in the way of dia­log through com­ments. Often on this blog, I feel like I am talk­ing to myself, which in a way is cath­arsis, but if an archae­ology blog­ger writes and no one reacts, are we really chan­ging opin­ions or mov­ing the field for­ward?” I would add to this, how do you attract read­er­ship? Without too much in the way of SEO chat­ter, who is your audi­ence and how to you inter­act with this audi­ence? What do you want out of inter­activ­ity by means of blog­ging about archaeology?

I’m not sure if I’m the right per­son to answer this for archae­olo­gists. For a while I set up a sep­ar­ate site and barred Google from it, so I could blog thoughts without large num­bers of people vis­it­ing. I’m not hos­tile to read­ers, but the read­ers I want are the one who come here any­way, not simply a large num­ber count. It’s partly down to why you blog.

At the same time I can say this worked depress­ingly well in terms of view­ers. I also changed the name of the site to “The Britney Spears Site of, like, Really Old Stuff” and changed the theme to a Britney theme (it was 2005). But I don’t know if it changed anything.

I think I can come up with three reas­ons why com­ments might not happen.

  1. Subject Matter.
    If your blog repeats the news, then I won’t com­ment. It’ll be some­thing that I’ve already seen before or else will see repeated sev­eral times over. What about the oppos­ite? Add ori­ginal com­ment­ary and that will encour­age com­ments yes? I’m not sure it will. There’s plenty of people writ­ing good ori­ginal posts. I won’t always com­ment though because these will be inter­est­ing art­icles out­side my imme­di­ate field. What I need to do is read round the sub­ject before I can add any­thing more than “Nice one”. That takes time. It’s some­thing you don’t get on some sci­ence blogs, because a lot of sci­ence is the same round the world, but archae­ology is very localised.

    I think for most archae­o­b­log­gers one way to more com­ments is to dumb down massively, or go over the top and aim for a purely aca­demic audi­ence. In the lat­ter case I think you’d still need the social con­nec­tions to pull com­ments in. To get com­ments you will need people read­ing who feel happy talk­ing about the sub­ject of your posts. Which takes us to…

  2. Audience Size.
    Of your audi­ence only a small frac­tion will par­ti­cip­ate by com­ment­ing. This is gen­er­ally known as the 90–9-1 rule. For blogs Neilsen, writ­ing in 2006, said that the ratios were skewed fur­ther to 95–5-0.1. These num­bers describe how people inter­act with your site. The first num­ber are pass­ive con­sumers. The second are occa­sional con­trib­ut­ors. The final num­ber is the heavy con­trib­ut­ors. Using these fig­ures if you have 1000 people read­ing your posts you can expect around five or six com­ments, with one from a reg­u­lar reader. Most archae­o­b­logs aren’t get­ting that kind of read­er­ship. There are ways to lower the bar to com­ment­ing, but even so it’s not likely many blogs will get the read­er­ship levels to get reg­u­lar com­ments. Because of their size though, they’ll be much more vis­ible and you’ll have a skewed idea of how suc­cess­ful you blog is or isn’t.

  3. People don’t com­ment on blogs.
    This is from AJ Cann, who does have com­ments on his blogs. He also runs MicrobiologyBytes. Compare the num­ber of com­ments on the blog with the num­ber of com­ments on Facebook. On the blog there are acres of No com­ments, while the Facebook page picks up com­ments and likes.* This is part of a shift in where we com­ment on blogs. For the last post within a quarter of an hour I saw this tweet from the light­ning fast Åsa M Larsson. Commenting has moved from blogs to Twitter and Facebook. Often the com­ment is purely asso­ci­at­ive, as a like or retweet. Comments on blogs aren’t dead, but usage has changed. It isn’t 2006 anymore.

So what do you do? One is to pull the com­munity to you. Ning built their busi­ness on this and every so often I’ll get someone telling me I should sign up to their Ning site. I’ll do it for work, but not if I don’t have to. The oppos­ite way is the answer. If you want to use a blog as out­reach and com­munity engage­ment then you go where the com­munity is. There are plenty of good reas­ons to be Facebookphobic, but that’s where the audi­ence is. If I had an out­reach blog then I would have to have a Facebook page for the blog, and AoB Blog does. If you ‘like’ it for a few days you’ll see there’s a con­stant drip drip of botan­ical good­ness into your Facebook stream. The reason AoB Blog does this is that we wanted to put the blog where the audi­ence was, and in a place where they’re already com­ment­ing on stuff.

That’s not enough for most archae­o­b­log­gers. A small audi­ence on your blog is still going to be a small audi­ence on Facebook. I think what Facebook could offer blog­gers is easy net­work­ing to increase the poten­tial audi­ence. A col­lect­ive could set up a Facebook page and choose a few admins. The next thing you add is RSS Graffiti. This takes an RSS feed and adds a post to a Facebook page wall for each RSS entry. It’s what we’re using for the Annals of Botany page. The clever thing is that RSS Graffiti can poll mul­tiple RSS feeds. So mul­tiple blog­gers could auto-post to the same page with RSS Graffiti. For any­one who’s post­ing less once a day, the tick­ing over of posts from other blog­gers helps keep the site act­ive so that when your post appears it’s in front of the col­lect­ive audi­ence of all par­ti­cip­at­ing blogs and not just your own. The Facebook wid­get also acts as a way to advert­ise your posts other blogs in the col­lect­ive (word​press​.com users might need a spe­cific RSS feed). And because it’s Facebook you still keep you blog on your own site with your own design, etc. Blogger users aren’t com­pelled to move to WordPress and vice-versa.

It sounds simple but there is a prob­lem. Some blogs you like some you don’t, so who do you include and who do you exclude? Can you exclude people in an inclus­ive way that doesn’t erect a big “Sod off” sign to read­ers? That’s a head­ache that I wouldn’t want, but it does emphas­ise that the answers to social media prob­lems are social.

*Though the inverse is true for Civil War Memory blog and Facebook page, so it’s not a hard and fast rule.