Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Model Blogger Bunch

After dinner yesterday, we brought our daughter to Barnes and Noble for her to buy a school-assigned reading book. As she and my wife were browsing for other merchandise that Barnes and Noble offers, I was doing my own survey at the Magazine section. I picked up a US News and World Report publication on the America’s Best Graduate Schools (the 2007 edition).

One article talks about blogging in the academe, as a relief valve for pent-up pressure from the rigors of academic pursuit. Entitled Blogging Their Way Through Academe by Carolyn Kleiner Butler, the tagline to the article states that “It should come as no surprise that young, tech-savvy graduate students with countless theories and opinions to share make model bloggers and that they're using the seemingly ubiquitous medium in ever growing numbers.”

Now it has been more than ten years since I left grad school but I still can identify with some of the tribulations experienced by grad students, especially as a SOTA (students over the traditional age), and the need to unload the “flood of malcontent” to a willing listener. But those days blogging was practically unheard of, save for communication to the then fledgling BBS and the occasional email exchanges of snide remarks and veiled disclosures. So words of mouth became the primary conduit for the free flow of opinions on all facets of campus life.

But with blogging, a prospective student has now one valuable “unfiltered” source of information right from the horses’ mouth regarding a college’s quality, both academic and social, as opposed to the glossy brochures that colleges churn out.

In this instant, one should be discerning enough to separate the chaff (personal gripes) from the straw (objective opinions, albeit sounding oxymoronic) lest the opportunity of joining a great program is missed.

The article also alludes to some professional pitfalls for job seekers in the academia whereby an applicant’s blog can be easily googled and any perceived “inappropriate personal content, misrepresented research, or concerns that such scholars might "air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see” can result in a negative portrayal.

So a blog can cut both ways. While pseudonyms are rife, they are no protection against a determined mind who is capable of ferreting out their origin with a bit of internet sleuthing. And lawsuits have been filed and won against bloggers whose “targets” have been deemed wronged by the court as I’ve blogged previously here.

As with life in general, exercise judgment in both blogging and making use of information from a blog. For bloggers, these inspiring words from Graham Walker, physician-in-training featured in the article, in relation to his future patients should strike a concordant chord:

"I want them to know that I'm a fallible human behind my white coat, not some godlike figure who can automatically heal them or give them a magic pill. I say things I regret, think things that are wrong, but through my blog, I try to analyze these things and recognize the wrong assumptions or bad behaviors so I can correct them. I think it's really important to get that out there.”

P.S. This article was actually destined for my other blog, Going Global. But it seems the alpha version of has some problem for a week now judging from the postings in the Help Forum. This is one instant where I'm glad that I've decided to migrate one of my blogs to the Beta version. Is this a prelude to phasing out the alpha version? You tell me.

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