The value in blogs
Earlier this week I attended some student presentations. As one particular group was speaking I found myself idly wondering about the source of their knowledge. Something just didn’t fit and I wasn’t entirely sure what the either the something or the fit was. The content seemed too casual. I flicked to the reference list – aha!
I noticed a http://www._____.wordpress.com in the reference list. I already had impressed several times on this particular class the need for formal academic references and that amateur-written non-peer-reviewed blogs are so far to the bottom of possible sources they are off the accepted list. They are at the other end of the spectrum from formal peer-reviewed academic journals.
What’s the problem? I blog and I enjoy reading other blogs. The fact that blogs don’t have the delay factor associated with peer-review (or any other review) means their publishing time is very short indeed. Comments can be posted in as much time as it takes the commenter to type them. The author can reply to comments in whatever tone and with whatever content they like. They can even change their original blog posting on the fly. In essence, immediacy and ease of editing are strong plus points.
The big questions –
- To what extent does the immediacy and ease of editing make blogs superior to peer-reviewed formally published journals?
- Should blogs be subject to a review process?
Question 1 – Content in even lower ranked academic journal articles have a considerable amount of thought and research on show. They are the product of extensive research which simply cannot be done in a hurry. Opinions and conclusions therein have to be justified with concrete proof and argumentation. A given blog posting will not have this level of research on show. Surely, the mere fact that a typical blog posting takes the author minutes to write is not a reason to prefer its content to the more formal and time-extended efforts by authors of journal article – at least not for academic writing and research pruposes.
Question 2 – In “Time to rise above the blog standard” in the Sunday Business Post of 3rd May suggests there is a need for a “professional membership body with a code of conduct”, that “could come under the remit of a watchdog for blogs that would have a role similar to an ombudsman”. This is based on the author’s suggestion that “the majority of bloggers couldn’t have cared less whether the details they’d printed were accurate or not”. The reader isn’t told who these particular bloggers are. Blogs are predominantly opinions. Opinions are neither right nor wrong in any absolute way, they are merely more or less informed. It is up to the reader to decide for themselves the value of such opinions. If self-respecting readers spot factual errors in a blog, newspaper, book, etc, they are unlikely to return to that source. An ombudsman is not needed.
Long live the blogosphere with its freedom of expression and opnion!