As radiologists, why keep a blog yourself when academic journals, professional blogs, or even newspapers offer a wealth of outlets to share your thoughts?
In a blog post, Arjun Sharma observes that the multitude of places to express his opinions a confounding option. Then, he and I exchanged a few emails seeking an answer.
Where to share?
The job description of an academic is to generate ideas, but the job doesn’t end there. An idea needs an outlet, and the pathway we choose to share ideas may be as important as the content itself. It may say as much about us as it does the ideas themselves.
It may seem obvious why so many choices exist. After all, we know that different sources publish different material. However, newspapers and periodicals do not always avoid niche topics. Although The New York Times is a newspaper, it also routinely publishes cutting-edge research topics in its science and health sections. A [Philadelphia-based radiologist] (https://twitter.com/roguerad) published a story on antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, essentially a case report, on Philly.com. New England Journal of Medicine frequently publishes editorials, particularly during the period when the Affordable Care Act was garnering massive general interest.
Perhaps the choice of outlet comes down to the audience. Although most people who visit Philly.com are not physicians, some are sufficiently interested in medically-related topics to find affinity towards autoimmune diseases. While NEJM is designed for physicians, journalists from The New York Times monitor it routinely for publications that may be of interest to their audience.
These options are about wanting to share. In making that choice, you determine what to share, and with whom to share. You clarify the idea, polish the mechanics, and present the information in the best way possible.
Blogging is different
Beyond the topic and the audience, there is one more party of interest: the writer.
Until recently, the spotlight shone only on the most accomplished – journalists, researchers, or physicians. The voice of the common person is drowned by those of the rock stars. With the advent of social media, the individual becomes empowered to write.
A web log (i.e. a ‘blog) began as a way for software developers to track daily progress and quickly became a tool to express that powerful desire to share.
It comes as no surprise that the man who made it possible to share by blog also created a way to kick blogging into hyperdrive by creating Twitter.
Keeping a blog then, is not too different from publishing in any of these other sources. It, too, is always about wanting to share.
The difference is that blogging puts the accent on wanting. The decision to keep a blog for me depended on how much I wanted to share my not-always-interesting-but, more than about the quality of the content. I don’t mean that quality doesn’t matter when writing in a personal blog, only that for the first time, there is a way to write for yourself and not for others.
In fact, sometimes quality writing unwittingly emerge after the rumbling pressure for excellence is lifted. You might find that little gnarly whisper in your head screeching “Pzzt! It’d better be good, or it’s not worth writing at all!” actually shuts up and occasionally pitches in “Pzzt! The lunch conversation the other day fits perfectly here!”
Professional blogs like The Healthcare Blog and diagnosticimaging.com are topic-specific and audience-specific blogs, putting them somewhere in between the formal journals and personal blogs. They ask you to write for the audience and relevant topic like established print journals and carry a far wider readership than most people’s own blogs, but at the same time, they generally also welcome a more informal tone and a little bit more personality in the writing.