I sent out a heartfelt and somewhat random tweet the other day, about loving how people use the #tabit tag.
No doubt, there were those of you who thought, ‘What the heck is #tabit? What’s she on about? Why am I following this person?”
#tabit is a hashtag that stands for “there’s a blogpost in that”. This phrase is dropped regularly into face-to-face and online conversations among various #circleofniceness buddies, including myself and Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer).
In the discussion that followed my tweet, Francis Woodhouse (@fwoodhouse) suggested #tametabit: ‘there’s a meta blogpost in writing about using #tabit to flag good material’.
And, as is so often the case though we wish it were otherwise, Francis was correct.
When managing a blog, and speaking with others who do, a constant issue that’s brought up is the difficulty of maintaining the flow of content. It’s the key issue for whether blogs survive or fail in their first year. New bloggers may go nuts with posts for the first few months, then settle into a pattern of slightly sparser postings. As long as these postings stay constant and valuable, that’s not a problem.
It’s when they start getting further apart, with months of no activity, that problems set in. This is how blogs start to die.
Planning posts and ensuring that they roll out regularly is a big (and not very glamorous) part of successful blogging.
During the #tabit conversation, Donna Weeks (@psephy) mentioned that she had “four posts sitting in draft, oodles waiting in [her] mind”. I read that and sighed. I didn’t. I was feeling uninspired and trying in vain to have a good idea. Not some good ideas. Just ONE good idea.
This happens sometimes. I run out of things to say (no, it’s true).
It made me start thinking about the way that I approach the topics I write about on the Research Whisperer. More than just ‘where do I get my ideas from?’, but why I think they might be interesting to anyone other than me.
When I was a grant developer, I had more straightforward ways of deciding what I wanted to blog about. It ran a bit like this: What’s annoyed me lately in the world of researcher and grant development ? What do I wish people in my research network knew about so that we could have more impact? How can I help early career researchers navigate the politics of situations where everyone assumes they need to learn from ‘experience’? What are issues that people seem to want an insider’s view about?
As Jonathan wrote in one of our presentations about the origins and rationale for the Research Whisperer, we occasionally write in a ‘white-hot fury’ about certain topics, which is why reviewing each others’ posts is so important.
The topics I end up choosing often seem brilliant to me when I’m writing at 10pm on a work night. Re-reading them the next day, they may end up in the trash or split into a couple of more cohesive sections. The posts sometimes hit the mark, and other times not so much. I find myself a fairly bad judge of whether a post will garner good engagement.
That said, I do recognise that my urge to convert everyone to reading grant guidelines may be a doomed (though worthy – it’s really, really worthy) task.
The power of #tabit, and face-to-face versions of it, is that it carries me over those moments where I feel I’m wanting to jump from one solid mountain-top of a post to the next… only to find an abyss.
You may not know how often it has saved my blogging skin, but rest assured that it’s a phenomenon I count on!
Here’s a list of my Research Whisperer posts generated from #tabit, crowdsourcing info online via #tabit, and face to face versions of #tabit:
- THIS ONE that you’re reading right now.
- How good am I? Publication quality (the very 1st #tabit – from a face to face conversation with a buddy, I think)
- Building conference karma 2 – Question time
- Life, death, and collaboration: Finding research friends
- Making the right impression: Academic phone interviews
- Academic fandom
- What I tweet
- Get me a project manager, stat!
- Myths about research cultures
- What’s a FoR?
- How NOT to pad a budget
- Research career stories – Parts 1 and part 2
- How to chair
- Keeping referees sweet
- What does a research developer do?
- You are not your FoR code
- Ask a question
And these are just the more straightforward #tabit moments.
When I talk about using social media and how it can benefit your profile and reach, I’m usually not talking from within the ‘how to boost your citations’ school of thought.
The way that social media influences and informs my everyday practice as an academic, as well as a research network convenor, is beyond only seeing the platforms as tools. They are my gateways to energetic, demanding communities of colleagues and potential colleagues. The way #tabit has grown and become an information stream that I depend on demonstrates the creative and amplifying power that good networks have.
So, if you ever find yourself wondering what the best way to do X is, how other researchers might cope with Y, or why does anyone bother with Z in academia, use #tabit to ask the question on Twitter, and you may receive an answer via an RW blogpost!