Nick, who needs an “about” page, passes on an anecdote regarding his brother finding a valuable social link while writing his dissertation by posting to his blog. Seb Paquet hooked me up with Liz Lawley, and we collaborated on writing a (sadly unsuccessful) grant proposal.

I wonder if there are similar anecdotes. It seems to me too early to think about this systematically, but a collection of these kinds of stories might yield something valuable in terms of scholarly blogging.

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  1. Posted 9/5/2003 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Yes… yes, you’re right I need an about page. But on topic, I’m hoping we see an increase in the number of academics having experiences like my brother’s. Blogging just seems to be a natural extension to traditional academic publishing.

  2. Posted 9/6/2003 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t mind my asking (and you can certainly email me if you don’t want to post it for everyone to see) what sort of grant were you and Liz Lawley going for? I work for the University of Wisconsin and I’m always trying to push for more “blogosphere-type” work to get done. Perhaps there’s a way to continue the effort?

  3. Alex
    Posted 9/6/2003 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Background and a few documents on the grant may be found here. Liz, correct me if I’m wrong, but I have a feeling that one of the reasons it may not have been as strong as it could have been was that the focus was fairly loose: i.e., it was a grant that would establish a center for generating research. I’m now assembling materials for a grant that would more specifically hone in on ways of making the connections you bloged about–tacit connection between scholars–less tacit. It will most likely have a bibliographical element to it, as well as drawing on ways of automagically categorizing blog entries: sort of a “waypath for academics.”

  4. Posted 9/7/2003 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Neat idea guys, I didn’t realize that was the grant you were talking about. I actually followed the blogging you were doing about it at the time but lost track of what was happening after it was submitted.

  5. Posted 9/7/2003 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Well, what would it take to create an online tool to allow bloggers with similar scholarly interests to form “valuable social link[s]”? A database? Something more ambitious? Through my blog, I’ve made links with several scholars I would not otherwise know. I’d be willing to participate in the creation of some sort of resource that faciliates such links: I have some PHP and *sql skills. I play well with others. I don’t run with scissors.

  6. Posted 9/7/2003 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m not convinced these kinds of connections can ever be effectively automated. At least not until we’ve found really good ways (which don’t exist yet) of operationalizing trust and friendship values.

    It worked between me and Alex for multiple reasons, all of which would be hard to replicate. First, we both had a high level of trust in Seb. Second, the timing happened to be right for both of us to be working on such a project. Third, we were geographically close by, so it made it possible to cement things with in-person meetings. If any of those factors had been missing, it probably wouldn’t have happened.

  7. Posted 9/7/2003 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Liz, the tech won’t do it for us, of course, but I think there are some ways we can improve the chances of the “accidental” collisions. George, toolbuilding is certainly a vital component of this, I think the build & forget model may not be the most effective path. No single tool will help this to occur. I would want to do a few things:

    1. Look at some of the anecdotal ways in which these connections happen. Find out whether elements of such occurrences could be encouraged using a set of tools.

    2. Work through a participatory design that makes use of a lot of existing blogging tools to allow for freeform exchange.

    Central to this is the idea that scholars–and I mean the rather attenuated view of university researchers here–tend to work within similar bounds.

    Very important is to look at ways of extracting information related to the “traditional” literature, and doing this in such a way that it is a natural part of discourse. I would like to experiment with tools that look at what a post is about and identify what literatures and specific articles may be involved. I think this bibliographic element is the most important starting point, and the one with the most legs and background.

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