Saturday, April 6, 2013

Everybody Is Doing It?

When one spends as much time online as I do (even when I am not playing poker) tweeting and blogging, it is easy to think that most other folks are doing it.  But that is simply not the case.  The ISA reception for bloggers produced a very crowded room as you can see here -->

But that is deceptive, as most ISA attendees were not that interested in us.  But we notice the folks who do show up and not those who do not.  Likewise, on twitter, I am amazed at how many people follow me and the people I follow.  Twitter fight club, as silly as it, is very useful in expanding my networks of followers and followed.  But it provides an illusion of sorts, as most IR types seem not to be on twitter, even passively.

When I talk to folks, twitter seems to be a mystery--what can 140 characters contain?  Heaps.  I was a reluctant adopter as I was skeptical about it, but that was nearly four years ago.  Twitter is far more mainstream now, but it is not like the cell phone--people are not adopting it quite as quickly. 

Blogging--how much time does it take?  The answer is: as much time as you want to give it.   It is funny because I now get the questions that I asked Dan Drezner about four years ago.

The enduring realities are these: lots of academics are shy, nervous, busy, and/or lazy.
  • Shy?  Yes, lots are worried about how they will be construed and are not that interested in engaging the people outside academia.  Most profs are not self-promoting narcissists like me.
  • Nervous?  Yes, lots of folks put "DO NOT CITE" on their papers because they are drafts, not perfect work.  But then their work only gets cited and gets spread after publication, which may happen a year or three later or not at all. Perfecting a blogpost?  Ah, perfection is the enemy of the good enough.
  • Busy? Twitter can be a time suck.    Believe me, even when I am not twitter fighting, keeping up on the feed can take time.  Blogging?  Actually, not so much but some people cannot spit out 500 words reasonably quickly.  My posts range from taking 15 minutes to taking an hour if it is something that requires reading and rumination (rare).  But folks are busy, so why do something that adds to the workload?   
  • Lazy?  Given how lazy I tend to be, I get this.  Why do something I don't have to do?
To be clear, I do not mean to suggest that those who are not twittering/blogging are bad people or are irresponsible.  So, please add to my list.
The answers for me are pretty obvious, but I know this is not universal: that we need to engage the public.  Our grant money implies an obligation.  Our jobs also require service to the community, and disseminating our research and insights is part of that, I think.  Of course, with NSF story and all the rest, public outreach might seem more imperative today, but for me, the reality is that the technology is now there to facilitate conversations with non-professors and with professors outside my area much more easily than ever before.  So, it makes sense to take advantage of it.

1 comment:

Greg Weeks said...

I think much of it is bafflement. People cannot fathom how this seemingly frivolous medium where you see too many pictures of people's dinner can actually be useful in any professional way. Even when I explain it, many of my colleagues say "huh" and then say they don't have time.