Dan Cohen’s inspirational welcome speech to historians rings true after seven years. Cohen, in his August 21, 2006 post, explains the positive sides to professional blogging and puts to rest the typical fears and reservations academics cling to.
Cohen’s post was engaging, funny, and right to the point. Personally having had several short lived blog failures behind me, this was a refreshing invitation back into the fold. In part thanks to RSS subscription technology and Cohen’s explanations it puts to rest the concerns of busy academics whose infrequent posting to blogs might result in guilt, shame, and other unseemly emotions. RSS allows blog followers the convenience of checking one source to see if any blogs have been updated. They no longer have to check each blog individually and feel the crushing sense of neglect when after months of looking there is still not a new post by their academic of choice. Now, when a blogger posts their quarterly expose on medieval Russian folklore (or Victorian Science, as Cohen suggests) it’s like Christmas morning on your RSS feed.
Cohen does not specifically recommend an RSS service and currently there are quite a few options. I am currently flirting with Feedly. It has everything I desire in an internet service: clean layout, simply buttons, cute monster-esque mascots willing to fetch blog updates, etc. So far, so good, but the wounds are still fresh from the untimely demise of Google Reader this past July. I had given up on following blogs, news sites, and the like simply because all of my subscriptions were erased.
One nagging insecurity Cohen does not address is the fear of being unnoticed and unread. Yes, it would be wonderful to have thousands of subscribers, but what if you only have a few? One of which is yourself and the others are co-workers or friends you’ve shamelessly mentioned blogging to. It would be defeating to the professional academic who is used to publishing books, articles, and presenting to packed houses at conferences. Yet, if professional historians take Cohen’s advice there should be plenty of interest generated amongst colleagues to inspire fellowship and subscribers.