Time Flies: Blogging Changes Over Ten Plus Years

Reader asks:

Your posts from previous years have led me to some questions: How do you think your writing (on academia) has changed from when you started blogging? I’m sure changes in academia have affected your writing style and content, but are there any major differences you’ve noticed in your blogging, things like tone, length of posts, narrative, etc.?

This is a good question. The short answer is yes. Both have changed. 

I hadn’t looked at the old Academic Jungle posts in a long time, and when I stopped by to rummage through the archives there  (after having spent an embarrassingly long time trying to remember which gmail address that blog was associated with — I officially have way too many), I was struck by how strange the writing seemed. The topics, the tone. There were more earnestly goofy posts as well as more earnestly preachy posts. Like I really thought I was informing people of something important. This makes me feel both wistful (ah, the days of bright-eyed blogging) and condescending (ah, you stupid, misguided, naive child) toward my younger blogging self. But the tone is definitely different, in a way I could probably analyze in detail, but it’s November, and who’s got the time? 

Some of it is probably (or at least was) by design. I distinctly remember having started blogging in 2010 because I wanted to share hard-won wisdom with junior faculty. (I remember telling my husband I was thinking of starting blogging and him asking,  genuinely confused, “Who’s going to read that?”) Over time, as I got more senior as a faculty member, I both felt that those issues from early career moved further from my mind and that I’d already said what I had to say on most early-career topics. However, over the course of a long blogging career (10+ years — can you believe it?) readers come and go; most who read today didn’t back while I was still on Academic Jungle and would probably benefit from many of those topics being revisited. (Shameless plug: The best of my blogging 2010-2016 has been compiled into Academaze. Check it out!)

I do rant here on xykademiqz as I did on Academic Jungle, but the rants, too, have changed, or at least I think they have. I did get into a few kerfuffles early in my blogging career, which has affected my writing. Mostly I stay out of trouble these days, in part because I censor myself more, and in part because the academic blogosphere has all but vanished (actually, largely moved to Twitter, near as I can tell). As there aren’t many academic blogs anymore, this is now more of a private blogging space, with personal and academic topics. I think what I post these days are more opinion pieces than lectures. Hopefully I come across as less sanctimonious than before? But I definitely shy away from some topics I wouldn’t have avoided before. I often start writing and say ‘nah, I don’t have it in me right now to do this in a way that it needs to be done, so I don’t inadvertently step in some shit’. It’s easier to stick to more innocuous topics or just more personal ones. 

As for academia, maybe ten years isn’t long enough to note significant systemic changes, but maybe it is. We definitely have less admin support at the department level than when I just started out. I have a mountain of service, which has definitely ballooned over the past decade and not just because I had become more senior. We have service-happy dean and department chair, and it’s a serious drag on faculty time. Students are the same, adorable and wonderful and energizing for the most part. I’ve been steadily adding to the roster of different courses I teach, which keeps things interesting, if busy. Funding rates have progressively gotten worse and worse for single PIs and small teams, and chasing grants is the aspect of my job that fills me with utmost despair. 

What do you think, blogosphere? Those of you who’ve read my work awhile, do you think it’s changed (and not just in posting frequency)? Do you think academia has changed? Are there academic topics you wish I’d discuss but haven’t, or haven’t recently? 

 

5 comments

  1. Our sanctimonious stuff still gets the most hits… We had a real peak back in 2011 in terms of posts that retain their popularity. Maybe the blogosphere still rewards black and white thinking even though we’re writing less of it.

    I have a controversial Wednesday post that I just keep kicking down the road because I’m concerned people will stay away from the general point and get into the individual personality. Eventually if enough time passes nobody will know who is being subtweeted. I just don’t have time for the drama. :/ I blame politics. Too much real obvious stuff (anti-vaxxers, people who harm immigrants or take away women’s rights or advocate for violence against minority groups) to really care at all about unimportant mommy war controversies. Maybe a snide comment here or there, but that’s mostly saved for TERFs and homophobes and so on these days.

    I don’t think you sounded sanctimonious before though. And if I’m being honest, I don’t think we did either. But there’s definitely been a move away from this way of thinking is correct in the writing and towards more softening language. For me, my sentences have become a lot longer and with more clauses as my style and it sadly has spilled over into my formal writing so my editing stage with real writing is taking longer!

  2. Adding on: I still believe most of the stuff I was hardcore on (and I assume #2 feels the same way about her posts), but I just no longer care that much.

    I was at a work baby shower the other day and got asked about early potty training and potty training more generally and I still can go on and on about that for like an hour, but if I hadn’t been asked I wouldn’t have brought it up. (One of my slightly junior colleagues who was on the receiving end of my proselytizing back in the day suggested the pregnant colleague ask me about it! Slightly junior colleague was highly pro.)

  3. I’ve been reading the xy blog for a couple years and have also read the book and shared both with junior colleagues … you are our STEM superhero! I would say your writing, like academia, is evolving and the writing (new and old) continues to be a valuable resource. I still can’t wrap my head around the move to Twitter threads, away from blogging. Tweets are so fleeting and forgotten about in a matter of days (or hours). Blogs have online archival presence. Please keep blogging, X, for as long as you see the value!

  4. I’ve been reading your blog since the Academic Jungle days. You seem to be the same person, though a bit older (more likely to be tired by the nonsense, rather than angry at it). Of course, I’ve changed also, so my perceptions may be colored by that.

    I have not gone to Twitter—I don’t like either the short form or the ephemeral nature of tweets. The most viewed posts on my blog in the past year have ranged from 2010 to 2020—search engines find the posts. Now that I’ve retired, my posts have become more personal (walks around town, for example) though I do plan to include some more technical ones, when I get around to it.

  5. I’ve been reading since the AJ days! I was a graduate student then, and I’m a second year TT assistant professor now. There were times as a student that I thought you were too harsh or angry about things, but I’ve always appreciated your no-BS approach, and as I’ve moved up, I have started to see things differently as a PD and now as a professor who has non-stop petty complaints about her own lab members! 😛

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