As part of our academic surgery social media project in the Department of Surgery in Edinburgh I decided to start a blog. If starting to tweet was nerve racking then starting to blog was even worse. I was filled with concern about whether anyone would be remotely interested in what I wrote, whether it would have any use or impact and what I would do if someone came back and said ‘actually you are completely wrong’. Finally because of my job, I was mindful of the need to maintain professional boundaries and make sure that I did not breach any practice regulations or professional confidences in my writing.
Blogging is a relatively new phenomenon- particularly to me. My better half @lynneahpd (not her real name obviously!) describes it as an online reflective diary. I decided to stick to my plan and only write about things that I really feel I know about and understand. That in itself gave me some confidence that I would be on the right track and not writing complete garbage. My wife and I have developed a kind of blogging interdependency, sense checking and proof reading each others work and I think this is a really good recommendation for anyone venturing into this new territory whether it be with a friend, colleague or partner. One of the joys of blogging is that most people seem quite kind and some of the comments I have received have been very favourable.
So now it is time to take stock of what I have done and how its all going. I have been using WordPress which is great. Very easy to use, easy to customise the appearance and has a nice clean presentation format. I am really pleased with this platform and the fact that it is free is the icing on the cake! I also really love the analytics that it produces some of which I will refer to below.
I have now written 13 posts (this is the 14th) in around 6 weeks. I have been trying to do 2 per week and posting mostly on tuesday and thursday. Not much science in this except I don’t think a lot of professional people use twitter as much at the weekend and this is how I publicise my blogs. All but 2 of these posts have been on subjects around postgraduate research for medics. One post was a general statement on the Essential Unit of Medical Practice. I also wrote a blog which has attracted a lot of attention around Why I supported the alcohol minimum pricing bill in Scotland, a little venture on my part into health politics. My most recent blog on “probity and conduct in medical research” completely crashed and burned with only 2 views and I suppose there are some things that just aren’t that interesting.
In the 6 weeks that I have been going my blogs have been viewed around 750 times which is small numbers I am sure compared to many others but exciting for me. What I am really excited about however is the international appeal of what I have been writing. WordPress tells you where your blog was read and mine has now been viewed in 26 countries! (now 27 someone from Turkey just took a look). It even charts your progress around the world on a map.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised about the internationality of my audience because education does have global appeal. I have read that one of the difficult things about blogging is keeping going. The analytics that are provided are I think quite a big help to keep you going and I enjoy as much getting a new reader from for example Fiji or Tanzania as I do getting multiple hits from my own country the UK.
Any tips, well not really I am not very experienced yet. I think you can find your own way relatively easily from a technical perspective. I would recommend taking the time to “tag” your blogs and I have noticed more and more that people have been reaching my blogs through internet search engines using key words that I have used as tags. Another little tip is to check your links work. I put a duff link into a post which someone kindly picked me up on, but it is worth double checking that they work before you hit the publish button. To get broader exposure you can always ask friends and colleagues to re-tweet or publicise your blog through their own network and this saves you feeling that you are bothering everyone by re-tweeting yourself.
I still don’t know if what I am writing is having an impact or providing a useful resource and will consider how I can find this out (on a day when I am feeling particularly strong). I am also quite interested in trying to engage with some of my key audience who are junior doctors about what they want to know about and am thinking about inviting colleagues from UK and abroad to contribute short guest blogs. I will probably re-evaluate in another few months, but so far this has been a positive experience , at least for me…….
© 2012 SJ Wigmore