The Q#1 quintet, and more

Here are the five posts on this blog that recorded the most hits between January and March 2014:

  1. Uncertain terrain: Issues and challenges facing housing associations (11th May 2013)
  2. Why is Owen Jones so annoying? (4th July 2013)
  3. My top ten blogs 2013 (29th Dec 2013)
  4. A voyage of rediscovery (4th Jan)
  5. Vince on “social housing” (30th Jan)

[Read more...]


One academic online

Blue bird sitting on ropeYesterday I took part in an event introducing social media to members of academic staff. I was asked to come along and act as one of two live case studies. I was there to share my experiences. The aim was to illustrate the possibilities and highlight some of the issues. The organizers suggested we each address the same set of questions. We offered very different perspectives.

I only had 10 minutes or so to talk and it felt a bit rushed. So I decided to elaborate on the presentation I gave on the day and turn it into something a bit more coherent. The document below is the result. I hope it is of some interest to others who are thinking of starting out. [Read more...]


The Q#4 quintet

Here are the five posts on this blog that recorded the most hits between October and December 2013:

  1. On signs you’re reading bad criticism of economics (4th Nov)
  2. Uncertain terrain: Issues and challenges facing housing associations (11th May)
  3. Would post-crash economics be a step backward? (21st Nov)
  4. The Bedroom Tax vote: sticking the knife into the Libdems (12th Nov)
  5. Why is Owen Jones so annoying? (4th July)

November was, by quite a large margin, the busiest month so far on the blog.

This has been an unusual quarter. [Read more...]


My top ten posts of 2013

TOP10This has been a good year for this blog. Although the audience remains relatively modest, traffic has nearly doubled compared with 2012. Thanks for reading.

The blog spent all year in the ebuzzing monthly politics top 100. Such rankings are not to be taken too seriously, but being there is better than not being there! I’m grateful to everyone who thought one of my posts worth retweeting, liking or linking to.

Thanks also to those who crossposted my posts to other group blogs and to all those who took the time to comment on one of my posts during the year.

Here, in reverse order, are my top ten most popular posts of 2013: [Read more...]


My top ten blogs 2013

TOP10Welcome to my third annual list of my top ten blogs.

I have continued to read all the blogs in my previous lists, although a couple of bloggers took a bit of a break this year. So I am discovering that the process of compiling a top ten gets progressively more difficult every year. The challenge is who to leave out. I again considered moving to a top twenty, but resisted the temptation.

So when I say this is a list of my “top” blogs, what do I mean?

I focus on individual bloggers rather than group blogs. And I focus on independent bloggers rather than professionals or journalists who happen also to run a blog. These categories are, though, becoming increasingly blurred. In particular, there is a steady stream of bloggers who make the transition from independence to contributing to a blogging platform such as the New Statesman, the Guardian‘s Comment is Free, or Independent Voices.

Overall, I’m not too fussy about demarcation. As long as someone is still pretty active on their own blog then I’ve considered including them. Otherwise the basis for inclusion is largely subjective. [Read more...]


Does Twitter’s future lie in broadcasting?

Blue bird tweets and sings on smartphoneGiven a relatively trouble-free IPO only a month ago and Twitter’s plans to broaden its services in future, it might perhaps seem a bit perverse to reflect on whether its time as the social media channel we know and love is passing.

But I wonder.

No technology is forever. Most will eventually be rendered obsolete. The half-life of web-based technologies would appear shorter than most.

But there are more specific reasons for reflecting on the fate of Twitter.

A few days ago Puffles’ Bestest Buddy blogged raising questions about the future of Puffles. The character of Puffles was created three years ago as an expedient – to provide anonymity in order to comment on contemporary policy and politics while still a member of the civil service. If you have been following since those days then you’ll know that a lot has happened to BB since then and the rationale for Puffles no longer exists. But in the meantime Puffles has become a bit of a Twitter celebrity. Should Puffles be retired and the cloak of anonymity dropped? In fact, the cloak of anonymity was dropped a while ago. It isn’t difficult to find out who BB is, if you are so inclined. Yet the Twitter account still speaks as Puffles. Would it be better to step out from behind the veil?

Puffles’ situation raises particular issues, but it also encapsulates challenges that most likely face many tweeters with a substantial following.

[Read more...]


On doing what academic bloggers do

Blogging is funA paper by Inger Mewburn and Pat Thomson entitled Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges has just appeared online. The paper caught my attention, and not simply because it quotes at length from a post I wrote back at the beginning of the year. I regularly reflect upon what I’m doing, or trying to do, when I’m blogging. It was interesting to see whether what I’m doing bears any resemblance to what others are doing.

I guess an initial caveat would be – as outlined the post I referred to above – that I don’t see myself so much as an academic blogger as an academic who blogs. Or a blogger who happens to be an academic. Or something.

The distinction between “academic blogging” and “an academic who blogs” has always been of some significance to me, if not to anyone else. [Read more...]


The Q#3 quintet

Here are the five posts published on this blog between July and September 2013 that recorded the most hits:

  1. Bedroom tax … and beyond (6th Aug)
  2. Why is Owen Jones so annoying? (4th July)
  3. Free to schmooze (21st July)
  4. ‘Quackademics’ under fire as critical voices targeted (22nd Aug)
  5. Britain’s property problem (15th Aug)

One thing that can be inferred from this list is that September was a relatively quiet month. Nothing quite took off.

One notable feature of this quarter is that Uncertain Terrain: issues and challenges facing housing associations, which was published on 11th May, was only a handful of hits away from making it back into the top five for Q#3. [Read more...]


Blogging and “writing”

A thought-provoking post entitled The dangers of academic blogging appeared yesterday at The Sociological Imagination. The post drew, in turn, on series of posts at Near Emmaus.

Like many such posts the implied audience is postdocs and early career researchers. The key point made in the Near Emmaus posts was that while you – we – might see the value of blogging to twenty-first century academic life, the same may not be true of all those looking to recruit staff or make promotion decisions. Such senior staff may see this blogging lark as a bit of a distraction from serious scholarship. Young researchers who build an online profile may be dismissed as insufficiently focused on what matters – real academic writing for real academic audiences.

Even if one thinks blogging is intrinsically worthwhile, when starting out it has got to be wise to factor in to your decisions the issues raised in the Near Emmaus posts. By no means all – or even the majority – of established academics have embraced the value of newer forms of online communication and social media.

But these considerations do not cease to be entirely irrelevant for those of us who are better characterised as, ahem, mid-career. [Read more...]


All sentences great and not so great

hands pushing keyboardI have shovelled something like half a million words into cyberspace since I started blogging three years ago. Some of those words were arranged in ways that were pleasing, to me at least. Some of them were arranged in ways that might best be described as decidedly clunky. What makes the difference largely eludes me. But then, when it comes to writing, I’m no kind of craftsman. It’s all a bit more agricultural.

When I started blogging I had been writing as a social scientist for more than twenty years. Social scientists have been responsible for some of the most impenetrable texts ever offered up for human consumption. Their audience, while no doubt appreciative, can be rather select. Acquiring the capacity for obscurity is, it would appear, a core part of socialization into some disciplinary communities. Yet that wasn’t so much the case for me. Writing for policy and practice audiences alongside academics has, I hope, inoculated me against some of the more virulent strains of obscurantism. [Read more...]