Why do we keep a Sounds Good blog? Because we have to, that’s the simple answer. For projects in JISC’s Users and Innovation (U&I) programme, maintaining a ‘reflective blog’ is part of the deal. Would Sounds Good do it if it weren’t expected? I’m not sure.
The U&I programme manager hasn’t been prescriptive about project blogs, thank goodness. So there have been no diktats about the frequency, length or nature of postings. I’ve felt our project team has had the freedom to post (or not) what it wanted, provided it put something into the public domain now and again. Fine, but from my vantage point as project manager, the main problem has been what to publish. Do I encourage the team each to upload a daily bare-your-soul, ‘Dear diary’ stream of consciousness? Hmm, complete frankness might cause a few difficulties! Much easier, and safer, would be an occasional, short, highly-sanitised communiqué. But what a yawn that would be.
Not wanting to make enemies, create hostages to fortune, or send readers to sleep, I’ve gone for an approach somewhere between the extremes. I arrogated the role of editor and encouraged all 17 members of the Sounds Good team to add to the blog, via me. My intention with others’ contributions has been to be ‘light touch’. With my own, I’ve tried to publish something every couple of weeks on average. Not just anything, mind. The aim has been to make the postings worth reading, with a discernible element of reflection, not a whitewash but not warts-and-all either.
What’s happened? The bald facts are that, in the five months it has been running, the blog has 19 postings, not including this one. I have written 16 of them. These items have prompted 10 comments, two of which have been from me. The blog is also syndicated to the JISC ‘Emerge’ community at http://elgg.jiscemerge.org.uk/leedsmetbob/weblog, where it has produced 11 further comments, including two from me. Most of my blog postings on the Sounds Good site have a parallel existence as podcasts. None of these has prompted any comments.
So it’s fair to say that most of the input has been from me. As for the response, there hasn’t been much, has there? I have no way of knowing how many people have been reading the blog or listening to the podcasts. I do know that the counter on the Sounds Good home page is showing 1043 hits at the time of writing but, if memory serves, 987 of them are down to me and my mother. [Joke] All in all, I’m very much the main contributor and there isn’t much evidence that we/I have been engaging with the public.
So is it worth it? Speaking personally and (for once) completely frankly, I’ve been quite enjoying writing, for several reasons. First, it has allowed me to do a bit of self-indulgent vanity publishing, something for which I criticise other bloggers but, hey, I’m a hypocrite! Second, the requirement to be reflective has made me think about various aspects of the project, which is no bad thing. Third, as it has turned out, I haven’t had to trouble my conscience by using buckets of whitewash to tell a positive story; the project really has been going pretty well.
On the other hand, who cares? Part of me suspects the readership is about the same as that of a typical academic paper: a dozen people and a dog or two. And what if the project hadn’t gone well? In particular, what if the ‘blogger-conscript’ truly had been a conscript, with all that usually implies – sullen, foot-dragging, minimal compliance with a bullying sergeant-major? What if the project had been struggling, or worse? What would have appeared in the blogosphere then?
JISC asked for a reflective blog. Why? What did they expect? Would they do it again? I think we should be told.
(Posted by Bob Rotheram, Project Manager, Sounds Good)