The Benefits of Scholarly Blogging or the 4th Anniversary of ICTlogy

Last September 25th, 2007, I had the chance to present my paper The personal research portal: web 2.0 driven individual commitment with open access for development (paper, presentation) at the Web2forDev Conference in Rome.

The hardest criticism I got was that my presentation was too theoretical and lacked practical evidence or, at least, a real example to illustrate what it was thought to be a good theory. Ironically — for me at least — I did have some of these examples, being the one I new better in the field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development my own case: ICTlogy. Ironical, I said, because I did not pretend to be immodest by presenting my own site as a good practice, so I “shifted to theory”. After a good time talking about the differences between pretentiousness, humbleness and plain idiocy, I promised Wang Zhong (Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences) to seize the opportunity of yesterday being the 4th Anniversary of ICTlogy, be completely unhumble and picture some of the benefits that scholarly blogging has given myself, most of them about facts that scholars in developing countries, junior scholars or scholars working on marginal subjects — i.e. people out of the mainstream — could perfectly use to leverage their own digital and offline presence and reputation. And I might add, following Olivier Berthoud’s suggestions, that they could be useful for practitioners too.

There’s an added reason to write such a practical — but grounded, I’d dare add — article about research and development: the Council of Science Editors has proposed all science editors to publish a Global Theme Issue on Poverty and Human Development for today. And ICTlogy has committed to join this proposal.

ICTlogy began its way in October 21st, 2003, as the blog of both a practitioner and a researcher in the field of ICT4D. Since then, it has evolved into a Personal Research Portal, covering a wide range of disciplines directly or indicrectly related to ICT4D: the Digital Divide, e-Readiness, e-Inclusion, Digital Literacy, Open Access, Nonprofit Technology, ICT Reglulation, the Information Society, e-Learning…

The information gathered here is organized across the following sections:

In June 2006, retroactively, an edited version of the blog became ICTlogy, review of ICT4D (ISSN 1886-5208), destilling the best blog posts. The reasons to do so were many, but can be summarize as avoiding establishment allergy.

Quantitative data of the whole site are as follows:

  • 550 blog articles
  • 70 static pages
  • 70 events
  • 350 wiki articles
  • 760 works references
  • 625 authors references
  • 100 unique visitors per day
  • 200 feed subscribers

All this content is accessible (for me and for each and everyone) everywhere and everywhen. Indeed, it is highly searchable and, hence, findable. The first benefit thus in having such a site is knowledge management: from my notes to my finished and polished articles, from my thoughts to my bibliographical references, from some links to expert dataset sites, everything is here and, at least for my needs, neatly organized.

The second benefit is that from time to time I can extract the essence of some ideas going on and on and feed with it an article, my PhD Thesis, a conference. I (almost) never wrote anything for the blog, but the contrary: the blog helped me in writing something. The story of my Master’s Thesis (e-Learning for Development: a model) or the story of my article The personal research portal: web 2.0 driven individual commitment with open access for development are perfect examples of this.

The third benefit comes from this good amount of content gathered around my digital persona, shaping a live CV that automatically gets updated as soon as I upload new content, news, etc. Thus, searches by keywords representing recent subjects dealt with here usually make the site appear on the first or second pages.

The interesting output of it all is not having a happier ego, but finding people, networking being a third, highly valuable, benefit: doing reverse engineering and replicating the searches helps me to find people, institutions, projects working in the same fields that I do. It happens every time. And same applies with visits to the site coming from links (not searches). I’ve noticed that this site belongs to the list of recommended resources of several other sites and, indeed, courses about ICT4D. Again, the good thing is not knowing you’re there… but knowing they are: thanks to this, I now know of courses and scholars interested in the field that otherwise I maybe wouldn’t.

Of course, it is great when, at last, you get to know personally some of these “e-people” and kindred souls can end doing things together: most of the editorial committees and board of reviewers I belong to either (a) began as a formal invitation through the site or (b) took the site as my CV/e-portfolio in which to base their resolutions to accept me in. Same applies to the conferences, speeches, seminars that I have been invited to impart.

My calculations are that half the visitors of this site come from .edu or related domains. The other half come mostly from the practitioner field — leaving just a very narrow margin for lost people and occasional voyeurs: the site is pretty focused and I believe people are seldom mislead here. And this gets me back to networking, closing a virtuous circle where the more you share the more you find interesting people and can access things they know and share. I think it’s way more useful knowing that this site is a reference for some ICT4D courses than having a six digit number of daily visits. More is OK only if it adds to my general purpose: LEARN, or reach people from whom to LEARN.

Summing up:

  • this site does serve my purposes of keeping all my knowledge under control
  • having all content open, it helps interesting people coming by
  • having all content open makes me findable not by myself, by thanks to the content gathered around me
  • interesting people leave their tracks behind them, tracks I can explore and find them, their institutions, their resources
  • those people sometimes send me feedback
  • sometimes I get invited to events, where I find more interesting people
  • sometimes I get invited to review papers, from whom I learn from firsthand interesting approaches and information
  • sometimes I get invited to review papers, from whom I learn how to write good papers (and how to avoid not-so-good practices)
  • being a reviewer puts me, directly or indirectly, in contact with interesting people once more
  • the more you know, and share it, the more these issues repeat along time… and the more you can reach new people to learn more and more

Want to step inside the virtuous circle or let it pass by?

Update: This article featured in the Sounds of the Bazaar: Online Educa Podcast Magazine #15 (also accessible at Pontydysgu), by Graham Attwell. Thank you, that was really kind!

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2007) “The Benefits of Scholarly Blogging or the 4th Anniversary of ICTlogy” In ICTlogy, #49, October 2007. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.