Anthropology 101: Managing a Blog

With this series, the TGA team had several objectives. One was to share some of our own wisdom and knowledge with those of you who are considering starting to blog. Such is the purpose of today’s post. Indeed, in my long years of blogging I have learned much I can share with you, my young blogging padawans. Sure, I started in 2012, but in Internet standards that’s a long while.

I will happily provide tips regarding the more technical aspects of blogging (graphic design, building a website, choosing a hosting service, etc.) in future posts. Feel free to let me know in the comments what information you are looking for. However, I discovered when I started blogging that useful and relevant tips for beginners are easy to find. More importantly, no matter how much research you do to prepare for blogging, you inevitably learn most of it as you go, one mistake or success at a time. 

So instead of writing my own how-to-blog guide, I want to share with you more personal lessons I have learned over my years of blogging. Hopefully, these will be useful to you as you decide whether or not blogging is for you and how you should go about it.

Managing takes time

The most surprising thing about blogging is how time-consuming it is. I never could have guessed how much work goes into creating visual content, setting up the layout, fixing technical problems, answering comments, etc. Managing social media accounts and setting up an online shop also add to the workload.

What I call ”the trimmings” are particularly demanding: these are elements and settings which, will they are not necessary, improve the look of the blog or make it easier to navigate and more appealing to new readers.

For instance, when I last updated the layout of the blog, things needed to be adjusted. I had to replace featured images, modify title formats and make several other changes on several posts and pages. I also setup various menus to help our readers find content more easily and I added a header image in the sidebar for each of our main series. Each of these are my original creations, and while they may look very simplistic (I am an amateur graphic designer, after all) it took me a lot of time to make them look as good as they do now. The one I created for the (Fake) Geek Girl Series still needs to be improved in my opinion, but I have decided to leave it as it for the time being.

Cleaning our media library, fixing broken links to our social media accounts, making sure the way content appears is generally harmonious; all these things take time. Yet even if my co-editors and I decided to keep things simpler on The Geek Anthropologist, say by having a more minimalist look with less images, managing the blog would still occupy much of our time. In fact, ever since the blog became a community endeavor, I have found myself increasingly busy with editing pieces by guest contributors, recruiting said guest contributors, managing social media accounts, meeting with other editors and fiddling with ”the trimmings”, among other things.

On the other hand, TGA never would have become what it is had it remained my personal project. Who knows, I might have stopped maintaining it altogether. When I look at some of our greatest moments, several were made possible precisely because our blog is a team effort. For instance, a piece by my co-editor Emma Backe was recently quoted in the Guardian. Way to go Emma! And while ”the trimmings” are rather time consuming, I’ve received very positive feedback on the appearance of our blog over the years.

The problem is that the more time I spend editing and managing the blog, the less I spend writing and researching. And with a busy schedule to begin with, I’ve had to find strategies to protect some time to create original content and explore the topics I wanted to write about when I created TGA. I will discuss these strategies in an upcoming installment of this series. But for now, I wish to present a few possibilities for those of you who are considering blogging but fear falling in the deep time-devouring time vortex that it is.

My top 3 blogging recommendations!

1. You don’t need a blog to blog

You don’t have enough time to setup a blog? If you want to start blogging, you don’t need a blog. You can easily identify a few blogs you could write for to get started. In fact, guest blogging is a great strategy to network with other bloggers and build readership. You should consider doing this even if you do have a blog already. And hey, we are always looking for contributors right here at TGA!

2. Why blog alone?

The Doctor needs a companion, maybe you need blogging buddies. Several of the great anthropology blogs we featured in this series, such as PopAnth, Peeps, and Allegra Lab, are team projects. The team behind Tenure, She Wrote says it best :

Being an academic takes a lot of time, especially if you’re pre-tenure and are already engaging in other forms of outreach. By having multiple authors, we share the workload and bring a diversity of perspectives to the blog.

I was certainly glad Nick Mizer had experience recording the Spot Check videos and uploading them to Youtube when we started testing a format for our new podcast. What? You didn’t know we are starting a podcast? You would if you had registered for our new newsletter!

3. Blog or do not blog. There is no try.

Master Yoda says it best. If you want to blog, go ahead and do it. The design, the purpose, the layout, the graphic design, even the title of the blog don’t have to be final when you get started. Of course, if you purchase a domain you will be stuck with it, so you might consider using a free domain for a while if you aren’t sure about the title. Anything else can be defined and will inevitably change over time. Don’t hesitate over details and try it out, adjusting gradually over time. If you want to blog, do it!

Have you started an anthropology or a geeky blog? Do you have any questions about anthropology blogging we should address in future posts? Let us know in a comment below!

 

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About Marie-Pierre Renaud

I am an anthropologist living in Quebec city, Canada. I specialize in native studies and anthropology of health. I am a geek. I founded and now co-manage The Geek Anthropologist blog. I am working on transforming my memoir into a book and journal articles. I like to knit while watching Star Trek. Reach out to me for collaborations! https://mariepierrerenaud.co/

There are 2 comments

  1. laurentdsb

    I was thinking of trying to live the experience of beginning a small blog or platform to write for me ( to practice) and some friends to publish. I was wondering how you manage to learn about, how to acquire a domain name, learn to do the layout, with what, the license to write and e.c.t… I admire how start it all and was thinking where you had to start?

    Like

    1. Marie-Pierre Renaud

      Hello Laurent! Thank you for your question!

      When I began to consider starting my own blog, I looked to some of my own favorite blogs for advice. Several bloggers share tips on their blog regarding the best hosting services, graphic design tools, how to manage social media, how to grow readership, etc. There wasn’t a lot of blogging advice for anthropologists specifically, but I found relevant information on sites sur as the thesis whisperer. Academic bloggers have great insight to share about the specific advantages and disadvantages of blogging fof academics (impacts on work, institutionnal directives, etc.). You could look to your favorite blogs for advice as a start.

      I decided to use WordPress.com to start my blog and I must say it is absolutely perfect for a total beginner as I was at the time : forums, tutorials and daily tips and inspiration are provided to users. It’s also easy to get started with the purchase of a domain or you can use a free wordpress.com domain. Looking back, however, I do wish I had taken the time to learn to use WordPress.org and self-host The Geek Anthropologist. Now we are considering switching and I can’t help but think I might have been easier to start there instead of moving. But choosing one or the other really depends on what you intend to do with your blog/site.

      Another great suggestion is to join a local WordPress group (if you are considering using WordPress, but of course you are!). A friend and I started one in Québec city, where we live, and there is one in Montréal as well. You might consider joining to connect with beginners and veterans alike.

      I would be happy to answer any more questions you might have! Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

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