The world according to Sven-S. Porst
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Lilia Efimova wonders Why weblogs are rarely used to document research. This question came to my attention recently as well and my best guesses were:
- Nobody wants to read it: Research work tends to be too specific and technical to document it to the public. I guess it wouldn't appeal to the average reader - rather scare them away.
- Writing things down properly takes a lot of effort and time. This somehow contradicts that I'm blogging mostly to relax and in my spare time
- I don't (yet) understand many of the things I'm looking at well enough to write about them as clearly as I would like to.
I like the idea of having research weblogs:
- Pro: It would be a way to document what you're doing and enable you to go over things again after having erased them from the blackboard.
- Contra: Writing things down would be quite a large overhead.
- Pro: It's easier to stay in touch with what your friends/colleagues/tutors/students are doing.
- Contra: It's not quite as easy as walking over to their office and seeing them face-to-face.
- Pro: It would enable you to have better contact to people in the same research area living elsewhere in the world.
- Contra: Actually turning this into something useful requires technology to be present for everyone and everyone being willing and able to put in the extra work.
Thus, I think the benefits from having research weblogs could be great. In fact they are as is apparent for anyone who ever bumped into John Baez's This Week's Findings in Mathematical Physics. It can be helpful for the reader looking something up, the reader following his work and probably himself for having to clarify everything to himself before writing it up.
Some of the Contras can probably resolved, e.g. providing your students and employees with easy access to weblogging tools (how much does it add to the IT budget?). And while at that the topic of what happens to your blog once you leave your university should be addressed as well. Others, like the fact that writing things down may be a lot of effort, could be harder to overcome. Also, the feasibility of blogging your research probably depends on the area you're in.
April 16, 2003, 19:02