A spectre is haunting Stanford–the spectre of blogging. Hey–if Karl Marx can be melodramatic, so can I.
A bunch of people have asked me (and other bloggers) a very simple question: why blog? And more specifically, why blog on The Unofficial Stanford Blog (TUSB)? Unfortunately, there is not just one good answer–there are a whole slate of reasons, any of which can influence a particular blogger. So, since I can never seem to adequately give all of the possible answers to the ‘why blog?’ question when it is asked, I decided to write it down. Then, given the nature of the document, I really had no choice but to post it on the blog. And hey–if Karl Marx can write a manifesto, so can I*.
The following is a list, in no particular order, of all of the reasons why I believe people should not only read and access TUSB but also feel encouraged to actually blog. If you have any that I didn’t think of, please comment them–I’d love to hear your feedback.
Anyone and everyone can blog about (almost) anything: The blog is open-content, meaning that anyone at Stanford that signs up to blog is able to post: TUSB is based upon the idea that everyone should have a platform to express their voice and talk about the things that they want. Once you sign up to blog, you are able to post whenever you want: you will be provided with some simple instructions and tips, and then are free to blog as you please. TUSB will not tell you what to write about, or how to write about it, or from what angle to approach the topic as long as it has at least some tangential relationship to Stanford, student life, academia, the Bay area, or something along these lines.
On top of this, there is no specific “style” a blog post must conform to–it can be short (a picture and a sentence is plenty) or long (do as you so desire), funny or serious, profound or superficial. It can be a straight interview, it can be a theoretical analysis of abstract concepts, it can be a logical argument, or it can be a news report. The blog is an open canvas, and bloggers are free to post in whatever way makes the most sense to them.
The blog is open 24/7 and publishes immediately: If something exciting happens, the blog can capture it right away–there is no waiting period for anything to become stale since blog posts are published immediately and the Internet never goes to sleep. Thus, the blog provides a way to capture breaking news as it breaks–even on weekends–or allow people to speak up any time the need to do so arises.
The blog is paperless: Printing a publication means that an enormous number of trees have to meet their maker. The blog, however, is only online–and as such requires no paper. In fact, the only pieces of paper the blog will ever consume are those fliers that advertise the existence of the blog…and maybe some napkins when we eat food at meetings.
More generally, the blog utilizes the power of the Internet in many ways besides being paperless. Blog posts have the capability to hyperlink to anything else on the Web, meaning that related articles, events, commentary, and evidence to support an argument can easily be utilized and accessed with just one click. TUSB also has an RSS feed, a feature which allows you to see all of the new posts being generated in one place if you want a quick(er) way of skimming through all of the newest content.
The blog has essentially unlimited space for text, pictures, and video: The most important aspect of the Web that makes the blog stand out among other news media is its ability to support all kinds of content. TUSB operates on Stanford’s server (thank you Stanford!) and the Internet (thank you Al Gore!), and as such has what amounts to limitless space for content. This allows for written pieces to take on a new life–they are no longer limited by the constraints of being text-only and fitting into a small space. Instead, the blog allows for all kinds of posts, including photo galleries and video-centric analysis.
The blog gives people an incentive to write and publish material: Many people, myself included, have a slew of ideas swimming around in the abyss that is our brains that desperately want to be written but are never committed to the written word. By having a place to publish these thoughts, the blog provides a good incentive for people who want to be writing more to actually sit down and put their thoughts into words and pictures.
The blog can reduce the rampant problem of chat list spamming: By consolidating all things Stanford and slightly beyond in one place, interesting pieces of information–whether they are important pieces of news, funny Stanford items to share, or something else–that would normally spread through chat lists can now have a home that doesn’t clog everybody’s inboxes. In particular, we are working on creating an “Events” section that will consolidate all Stanford and student events into one easy-to-access place so people will never feel uninformed of campus happenings and our inboxes will not be filled with the same flier about an event seven different times.
The blog is not just for writers: The blog also provides a space for photographers, videographers, interviewers, artists, and computer virtuosos (to name just a few). In terms of computer geekery, the the back end of the blog holds enormous potential for people interested in Web design to challenge themselves and experiment with designing the aesthetics/functionality of the site.
No experience necessary: Many people have approached me with the comment, “I’d love to blog, but I don’t think blogging is for me” or “I’d love to blog, but I’ve never blogged before.” Never fear–bloggers of all levels of experience and blog-familiarity are welcome on The Unofficial Stanford Blog. A working knowledge of the English language and access to a computer are all you need, and we will provide you with all the information about how to create blog posts and incorporate media files. Plus, we have just upgraded our system–which means that blogging just became much more straightforward. Stay tuned for more information about a TUSB Information Session the first week of next quarter.
It’s fun: When people ask me, “Why blog?” I try to give them any and all of the above reasons. But most of all, blogging is enjoyable–writing is fun, exploring the school in which we go to is fun, and having creative control to say what you want when you want is not only fun but also liberating. Stanford needs more free speech and more writing, and TUSB provides that. Also, “it’s fun” is required to be the last and most important reason on every long list.
Because of all these reasons, The Unofficial Stanford Blog is, I believe, a great opportunity for people at Stanford, and it fills an important and desperately needed niche on campus that is sorely lacking. As we head into a new decade, I invite anyone who is interested to join the blogging team or shoot me an email (jbfreedman@). And as Marx would say, “Bloggers of Stanford–unite!”
*Since Karl Marx features heavily in this post, I want to commend him for the length and volume of his beard (conditioner? I don’t know). While this is not relevant to the rest of this post, it shall remain a part of the manifesto nonetheless. I feel very strongly about this issue.