Research Remix

March 24, 2008

Blog posts don’t need a background section

Filed under: blogging — Tags: , — Heather Piwowar @ 9:17 am

Does any one else struggle with this?

I feel the need to do a comprehensive blogosphere review of a topic prior to writing a blog post about it.   I want to cite other bloggers thinking about the same issues, read what they’ve written to make sure I’m informed (for my own benefit, and so I don’t sound dumb), and organize it all into cohesive, insightful themes.

Inconvenient, because it really raises the barrier to entry for posting.  Unnecessary, because this isn’t a journal, it is a blog.

I’ll do my best to let it go… hopefully as I get more caught up on my reading it will get a bit easier.


  1. Yes and no. I think it depends what your blog post is for. If its just a running comment then it’s fine without. But if you mean it as a definitive statement of a view (and presumably you’ve been working on it for a while) then the background is really useful. I guess the question is, who is going to use the blog post, and what for. Even if it is just yourself coming back to it some months/years later I think you will appreciate a little bit more context and background in there.

    Comment by Cameron Neylon — March 24, 2008 @ 10:17 am

  2. You can always point people to some relevant background material with a few hyperlinks.

    Comment by Neil — March 24, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  3. Couldn’t agree more. I must have a hundred posts unwritten because, rather than writing them, I bookmark the relevant page and think to myself “I’ll just hunt up that link to what Heather was saying, and add that comment Cameron made…” and so it never gets done.

    Comment by bill — March 24, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

  4. Thanks, those are both helpful points. As you say, there is a middle ground: a bunch of links that aren’t necessarily grouped or woven in to prose. Easy, and then they are there in case anyone (including me in the future, you’re right!) cares to dig in.

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — March 24, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

  5. Oh good, Bill, I’m glad I’m not the only one! :)

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — March 24, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  6. I think the phrasing you use is critical. If you say “I haven’t yet researched this thoroughly but it seems to me that…” instead of “No-one else has thought of this yet.” people will interpret your statements appropriately. In my experience, students sometimes have trouble with these distinctions when they write essays. (See how I qualified that last statement to avoid getting a reference? :)

    Comment by Jean-Claude Bradley — March 24, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  7. There is a strange tension between the feeling that ‘its much better that everything is out there than that I worry about the details’ and ‘if I don’t get this right eveyone will think I’m a twit’. Even in our utopian open world we still have our concerns about status and how others perceive us. I alsohave an embarrasing number of posts in draft form. Silly thing is they are probably the most important ones!

    Comment by Cameron Neylon — March 24, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  8. I do agree; the answer is surely somehow using language to indicate an uncertain tone. Blogging isn’t dogmatic. Blogging is part of learning. You do some background work to build an idea, you try to lay it out clearly, you add some links for context… and you hope that your readers (if you have any, and you clearly do) will help build on what you were thinking, or at least writing (which doesn’t always work out quite the same!).

    You have to let go of needing to be right!

    Comment by Chris Rusbridge — March 24, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  9. Chris, speaking for myself, it’s not about needing to be right — it’s a reluctance to send incomplete, unpolished thoughts out to fend for themselves. It’s not about how others will view the post, or whether I might look dumb; it’s for my own satisfaction that I don’t want to do a half-assed job. More like obsessive-compulsive behaviour than concerns about status etc.

    Comment by bill — March 25, 2008 @ 1:27 am

  10. Neat discussion.

    YES on “Blogging is part of learning” — thanks for this succinct statement. That’s how I’d like to approach it. I plan to remind myself of this whenever I feel a need to be unnecessarily thorough :)

    Hrm, there is a De-Lurking day, right? I wonder if there is a Post-All-of-Your-Drafts day. That would be fun. And it would get some really good stuff out there, Cameron and Bill, I agree!

    Comment by Heather Piwowar — March 25, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  11. @Bill Not to mention that someone might steal my half baked idea and get all the credit for it :) Ah the joys of trying to be internally consistent…(and I mean internally in my own head)

    Comment by Cameron Neylon — March 25, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

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