In that time, I've posted 428 reviews, 1044 short items about net work, 39 items on coworking, and miscellaneous others. The blog has changed a lot over the years - for instance, most of the short items I once posted to the blog are now fodder for my Twitter feed - but the backbone has always been the book reviews. In fact, the blog solved two interrelated problems that I had noted back in my grad school days:
- Keeping track of my insights. Beginning with grad school, I've always annotated the books I read - but I've always been too cheap to buy the majority of those books. So my preferred method - sticking post-it notes in the margins - didn't work too well when I returned books to the library. At the same time, I had a hard time keeping detailed notes in a notebook or on a file. It seemed like a lot of work to get these notes in a format that would make enough contextual sense, and I had a hard time disciplining myself to take such notes. There wasn't enough external pressure to do it.
- Sharing insights with others. Also in grad school, I became interested in sharing insights with others and getting their insights from them. The big factor here was the reading list for our qualifying exams: what seemed like an endless number of books and articles we had to read and know. I thought: how can we share our insights and comment on each other's thoughts? Let's start a conversation about these items! (Maybe I had too much time on my hands.) The problem was that in the mid-1990s not many collaborative writing formats existed. I actually tried to get people to construct a hypertext in Windows Help format, but as you can imagine, it never went anywhere.
- I blog a review of every book I read.
- My reviews should be helpful to external audiences.
- My reviews should be detailed enough that I can slot them into background sections in my future papers.
Although I confess that I don't always follow principle #1 anymore - some nonacademic reading I've decided to keep personal - the vast majority of the books I've read have been reviewed on the site. Some are very short reviews and others are very long ones, but all have helped me develop a memory and an understanding of these sources that I couldn't before.
Re principle #2, I've also been surprised by how helpful these reviews have occasionally been to readers. One person told me that "Clay Spinuzzi saved my life" because she had trouble absorbing Bakhtin's work, and reading my reviews helped. People occasionally weigh in with their comments too, which I appreciate.
And principle #3 has paid off in spades. Nearly every paper I write has sentences in the literature review that I've copied and pasted from the blog. (It's okay if I do it - but I don't encourage you to do this, of course.)
In 2008, I found another use for the blog. Intrigued by what seemed like a mysterious blog post, I met with a couple of guys at a "co-company" called Conjunctured. Soon afterwards, Conjunctured started the first coworking space in Austin, and I started interviewing space proprietors and tracking the fascinating emergent phenomenon of coworking. It's the first research project I've blogged, and for these posts, I always conducted member checks, running the text past the proprietors before I posted the profiles. Doing so gave me a sort of member check that helped me to deepen my understanding of these spaces and this phenomenon.
In any case, I can't believe it's been eight years. Hopefully the blog has been helpful to you too - it's certainly been a game-changer for me.