The editors of Sociological Images have written a paper reflecting on their experiences of blogging as public sociology (HT Deborah Lupton). It’s an important read for anyone interested in digital public sociology or academic blogging. Plus there are lots of practical insights scattered throughout the paper – the paper’s conclusion in particular is worth reading if you edit a blog regardless of whether it has any sociological content:
In our opinion, several factors are key to the success of Sociological Images. First, every day for over 4 years, readers have been able to visit Sociological Images and find at least one new post. The consistent production of new material keeps readers coming back, while the sheer number of posts raises the blog’s profile. Second, eclectic content keeps readers interested. A person who came to the blog to learn more about sociological approaches to understanding one topic might enjoy stumbling upon posts addressing dozens of others. The element of surprise is, we believe, part of what makes the blog so fun to read. Third, posts follow certain guidelines that make them enjoyable to read. Relatively free of jargon, posts are accessible to nonacademics. Authors refrain from using angry or emotional language, differentiating Sociological Images from many activist websites even when issues like discrimination are addressed. Posts offer interesting ideas, but avoid sounding like a textbook or other pedagogical tool. All posts are illustrated, making them more attractive to look at and adding concrete examples of the often abstract ideas discussed. Finally, engagement with our readership has been an essential element of our success. Much of the content comes from reader submissions, with the submitter clearly acknowledged in the post. For many readers, Sociological Images is ‘‘appointment reading,’’ something they check every single day and look forward to commenting upon. Many know one another from the comments sections and engage in ongoing conversations, including references to their comments on earlier posts. Many readers express possessive feelings about the site; if a commenter too aggressively condemns socio- logical analysis or the social sciences, for example, readers may tell them to ‘‘go away,’’ saying that Sociological Images is ‘‘our space.’’ In many ways, then, the site functions not just as a source of reading material, but as a community dedicated to a collective engagement with the sociological perspective.