SAA Blog Carnival: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Associated with the “Blogging in Archaeology” session at the upcoming Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Doug’s Archaeology is hosting a blog carnival that I will be participating in, along with an incredibly large number of other, excellent bloggers!  Unfortunately I missed the month of November, but below is my response for December:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Blogging

Let me start this post with a hats off to the wonderful 1966 archetypal Clint Eastwood Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. SO GOOD. Okay. It seems appropriate that a question posed to archaeologists alludes to a movie in which people were trying to find buried treasure (Confederate gold). So most of us don’t carry pistols and engage in duels at high noon, so what! I carry a shotgun, and most of my California brethren wear cowboy hats… doesn’t that count? I think a Western featuring archaeologists would be amazing! Not quite as exotic as Indiana Jones or Romancing the Stone, but probably a bit closer to reality (lots of plodding across barren landscapes). But anyways…

The Good – For me, the best part about blogging is sharing information with the public and other archaeologists. Some of the things I most appreciate about other people’s blogs are stories and photos of their work. It seems that most people blog because they’re excited about what they do, and that enthusiasm is translated easily over the blog format, which allows us to post photos and links as well as words. And although many of us also post photos of our field or lab work on other types of social media, blogging allows us to reach people other than our Facebook friends. For me, blogging is a (slightly) more professional outlet where I can express my ideas and concerns about anthropology in general and my research in particular, and I don’t have to worry about old high school friends or my second cousin pestering me about it, or complaining that I take up too much of their news feed.

I also love it when people list suggestions for hard-to-find articles or books on their blogs.  This is something that I do on this blog, and I hope it is as useful to others as I find it to be. Reading blogs allows me to keep up with certain aspects of anthropology and archaeology that I wouldn’t, otherwise! None of us have the time (or access) to read all of the new articles and books that come out every month. Many blogs that I follow post reviews of books, or discuss new research or recent events. This is incredibly useful, and something that I hope to do more of in the future.

The Bad – The worst part about blogging is the time it takes. I don’t post very often, and I wish I did. Despite my best intentions, I’ve found it difficult to set aside the time I need to research and write a post. As mentioned in previous posts, I have a list (which keeps getting longer) of topics that I would like to blog about… I just haven’t done it yet! I often end up avoiding my blog all together, because it frustrates me that I’m not more prolific. Blogging, no matter how ‘professional’ you intend to be, is personal. I often don’t end up posting something because I’m not satisfied with the quality of writing. We don’t have anonymous reviewers or editors that can check our posts for us. It’s worse when you’re blogging for an actual organization or department. I’m currently writing for the Arctic Anthropology blog, which is a lot of fun, but it takes me a ridiculous amount of time to write the posts. There is a tricky line to toe – to be neutral and professional while still being interesting. In today’s world of Buzzfeed headlines and Facebook polls on the news, this is more difficult than you might think! All I know is, is that I can whip out a 1500-word essay in half the time it takes me to write a 500-word blog post. and that’s just silly.

The Ugly – I haven’t had an ugly experience with blogging yet (knock on wood!). The worst thing that’s happened so far was someone whose website I had listed under a certain subject heading contacted me and asked for it to be moved under a more appropriate heading… completely reasonable and an easy fix. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve avoided talking about controversial subjects (I definitely find myself staying away from topics that encourage me to I break out my soapbox), or because Arctic zooarchaeology and ethnobiology isn’t very interesting to most people out there in the InterWeb, but my experience blogging (and reading blogs) has thankfully stayed away from the ugly side of things!

On that happy note, I’ll conclude this post. I encourage you to check out all of the other blogs that are participating in the SAA Blog Carnival, and to participate yourself if you are interested! Also, if you’re on Twitter please use #blogarch when discussing the blog carnival or blogging session!