Tag Archives: blogging

Is the historical blogosphere doomed to peter out?

A couple of years ago I took a grad course from a very tech-savvy professor.  A classmate asked him about setting up a blog for purposes of professional visibility.  The prof was dismissive.  “The whole blogging thing has pretty much run its course,” he said.  “Everything’s moving to Twitter.”

For my own part, I’ve become much, much more active on Twitter than here on the blog in the past couple of years.  We’re still chugging along here at PitP, but between a full-time gig running a museum and trying to write a dissertation, I’m doing well to crank out a post every week or ten days.  And just as I don’t have much time to write blog posts, I don’t have much time to read them, either.  I used to make a daily circuit of history blogs, checking in with my favorite writers every morning or during a lunch break, keeping up with whatever conversations were current.

On those rare occasions when I’m able to make my electronic rounds, it seems a lot of history bloggers are having the same problem I am.  Many of the sites I used to frequent have been dormant for months, especially the Civil War ones.  Civil War Memory is still going strong, but some of the old standards have apparently given up the ghost.  With so many folks blogging less frequently or ceasing to blog altogether, the sense of community across the historical blogosphere—of a conversation among like-minded folks—isn’t what it used to be.

Part of the problem is that most historians already have to do a lot of unpaid writing.  For a lot of them, blogging doesn’t even bring in the sort of professional, non-financial rewards they get from all this other uncompensated writing.  If you start something that requires time but brings in neither money nor professional cred, there’s a good chance it’ll be the first thing to fall by the wayside when you’re stretched too thin.

Personally, I’d hate to see the historical blogosphere dry up entirely.  I think there are itches that only a forum like this could scratch—discussions about the intersections between history and pop culture, informed but informal discussions about historic sites and museums, updates on preservation advocacy, and so on.  Those itches are still there, and I think it’s worthwhile for historians and history enthusiasts to address them.

By CrunchySkies [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

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Site B?

What follows might seem like several hundred words of pointless navel-gazing, but I’m in a bit of a quandary, and sometimes it does me good to think out loud.

I have this thing for dinosaurs.  Perhaps you’ve noticed.

Lately I’ve been mulling over the idea of starting a second blog on which I can expound as I please on my dinosaur obsession—my own personal Site B, if you will.  Actually, I’ve toyed with the notion for some time, but I’ve given it more and more thought over the past few months.

Sometimes I give my inner dino fanboy free reign here at PitP with my periodic Gratuitous Dinosaur Posts, but all the social media experts say that bloggers should be focused.  You get and keep an audience by talking about what you know, carving out a niche, and attracting the readership of like-minded individuals.  I’m much less particular about content curation over on my Twitter account, but the longer-form nature of a conventional blog calls for a bit more consistency.

Tossing out too many dinosaur posts alongside the usual historical discussions would give this blog a sort of messy, disjunctive nature that I want to avoid.  As Tertullian might have asked, “What hath Isla Nublar to do with King’s Mountain?”  I mean, they both have visitor centers, but other than that…

jurassicpark.wikia.com

 

tripadvisor.com

Of course, blogs are an extension of a writer’s personality.  They work best when you spice them up with your own interests and quirks, which is one reason blogging differs from many other forms of writing.  Many successful bloggers leaven their sites with opinions on politics, sports, movies, the human condition, and other topics that don’t necessarily relate to the author’s usual subject matter but are nonetheless of general interest to many readers.

For example, most of the folks who read George R.R. Martin’s blog share an interest in fantasy and science fiction (and killing off major characters), but Martin’s a football fan as well as a writer, and he uses his site to ruminate on the sport.  Here in the historical blogosphere, Brooks Simpson also posts about sports from time to time.  And there are a few Springsteen fans in the historical profession who sprinkle their blogs with material about the Boss.  Leavening a history blog with reflections on sports, politics, and pop culture makes sense, because these are things about which many folks—including history aficionados—like to argue.

When it comes to history and dinosaurs, however, we’re talking about two subjects of a more specialized, rather nerdish nature.  Those of us who are nerds will often encounter people who share one of our nerdish proclivities, but it’s rare indeed to find many people whose nerdishness overlaps with one’s own in two or more areas.  I’m sure there are other individuals out there who geek out over both early American history and paleontology as intensely as I do, but I don’t think anybody’s really clamoring for a blog aimed specifically at us.

All of this would indicate that I should keep my dinosaur geekouts to a minimum herein, and concentrate instead on matters relevant to American history, which is what most of you are probably looking for when you stop by.

Just for the heck of it, though, here’s a Kentrosaurus. By LoKiLeCh (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

But since the urge to talk about ginormous extinct reptiles is hard for me to resist, I’m increasingly tempted to give myself some space to talk about dinosaurs and fossils on a separate blog.  Indeed, there is a vibrant and active community of paleobloggers whose work I’ve been enjoying, and I’d love to connect with fellow paleophiles in the same way that I’ve been able to share my historical interests with you fine people.

Why not go ahead and take the plunge?  For one thing, a lot of the paleoblogs are run by actual paleontologists, science journalists, or other folks who have some expertise in the field.  Me?  I’m no expert.  I’m just a geek who likes talking and learning about the stuff.  A paleoblog of my own would probably consist mostly of me enthusing, “LOOK AT THIS THING HERE!  ISN’T IT AWESOME?!”  I do a lot of that on Twitter already.  Maybe whatever I’d have to say in longer form wouldn’t really be worth saying.    Some people might be interested in an amateur’s semi-informed reflections on paleo news, dinos in pop culture, dino-related nostalgia, and so forth, but I don’t have the training to weigh in on scientific controversies.

Time is another factor.  As you might’ve noticed, new posts got somewhat sparse around here over the past few months due to my school obligations.

Here’s one other thing that makes me hesitant to start a separate dino blog.  Since a blog should reflect something of the writer’s personality and proclivities, I sort of feel like this blog—which is, after all, one of the ways I present myself to the world—needs at least a little dinosaurian content.  The terrible lizards have been such an important part of my life that I wouldn’t be me without them.  Odd as it may sound, without any mention of dinosaurs, I’d feel like something was missing from this site, like I’d left a fundamental aspect of myself behind somewhere.  Likewise, doing a dinosaur blog free of history posts might feel a bit odd, since I’d be leaving out the stuff I spend most of my time thinking about.

So I don’t know.  Plenty of reasons to take the leap and start up a second Interwebs endeavor, and plenty of reasons not to.  Since you fine folks are the ones subjected to my periodic saurian indulgences, I’d welcome whatever feedback you have.

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Filed under Gratuitous Dinosaur Posts