Saturday, February 3, 2007

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Help me help APSA to help you

The American Political Science Association is putting together an edited volume on how to publish in political science. There will be an an overview of the current state of scholarly publishing, as well as how-to essays on writing university press books, textbooks, review essays, op-eds, converting dissertations into books, etc.

In their infinite wisdom, APSA has asked me to contribute a chapter on writing a political science blog.

So, a request for comments from other political science bloggers out there on the following questions:

1) What do you think are the do's and don'ts of poli sci blogging?

2) Does your blog help your scholarly pursuits? If so, how?

3) Are your colleagues aware of your blog? If so, what is their reaction? Has it changed over time?

4) As a political scientist, which blogs, if any, are must-reads for you (something like IR Rumor Mill or Fantasy IR doesn't count).

[You don't have answers to these questions?--ed. Oh, I have answers, but I'd like to get some different views on this.]

Post a comment, e-mail me directly, or post on your own blog and link back. Remember, this is for APSA....

posted by Dan on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM


Hm. I recognize DeLong and Cowen as engaged in a similar enterprise. Ditto for Balkin and Volokh.

You, me, Mike Munger, Laura McKenna, Russell Arben Fox, and Chris Lawrence? (Have you *seen* some of those Munger threads?) I'm not at all sure that there's a genre that encompasses them; *all* of these things are not like the others.

One obvious, bread-and-butter test: do we get cross-blog debates on political science questions, among political scientists, the way we do on econ or law questions among those scholar-bloggers? If not, there might not yet be a genre you can pin down. You and Henry on the EU is one of very few cases I can think of.

posted by: Jacob T. Levy on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

1) What do you think are the do's and don'ts of poli sci blogging?

Don't write like DeLong. Too shrill and disdainful of the insights of others (which, to him, are not insights at all but the sign of crippled intellect).

2) Does your blog help your scholarly pursuits? If so, how?

Blogging provides honest and necessary feedback useful in refining ideas, crafting phrasing, and anticipating counter arguments.

Not to blog before writing is like the writer who claims not to need an editor because he edits his own work -- the telltale sign of an uneducated mind.

posted by: sbw on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

As far as which polisci blogs are must-read's I'd throw Marc Lynch's Abu Aardvark into the mix, and obviously a lot of the more law-oriented blogs could go on there too (Balkin, etc.).

As far as question #2 - thinking about it, I might actually get more out of some of the less obviously polisci blogs, in terms of blogs getting me to think about something a new way, or raising topics/events that are perfect for use in class. It's not that I don't find a good deal of value in your blog, or those of others who work as political scientists. But since many of us are trained in similar ways and probably look for similar things when interpreting political behavior ... well, the eyes of a government analyst, historian or economist may more often make me think about something in a new way, and thereby help me improve my own models.

posted by: ScottC on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

Good questions, Dan. I'm a sociologist, but I've been a guest blogger on Marginal Revolution and am currently on the organization/soc/poli sci group blog "" Here are some thoughts:

1) What do you think are the do's and don'ts of poli sci blogging?

Do's: Write simply and directly for the audience; write frequently; think about what your audience might enjoy; have fun. It helps to have occasional visuals. Also add in humor, if that's your style.

Don't write anything trashy because anyone can read it. If you are untenured (like I am), stick to professional topics. Academic bloggers should speak from a position of expertise. Don't mouth off on controversial topics pre-tenure. My attitude is that my blog should be accessible to people of any political persuasion and people should feel comfortable reading what I right.

2) Does your blog help your scholarly pursuits? If so, how?

Two ways: It brings interested readers to my work. Also, since my blogging is academic, I can discuss ideas in a low pressure forum (as opposed to worrying what people think, or if editor of journal X will like it). I have had some wonderful interactions via blogging.

3) Are your colleagues aware of your blog? If so, what is their reaction? Has it changed over time?

Unclear, no one has mentioned it to me.

4) As a political scientist, which blogs, if any, are must-reads for you (something like IR Rumor Mill or Fantasy IR doesn't count).

As a sociologist, I read occasionally (at least one every week or so, in some cases daily, like MR):

Marginal Revolution
Crooked Timber
Jeremy Freese (more of a personal diary with occasional academic topics)
Organizations and Markets
Daniel Drezner
Chris Uggen (criminologist at Minnesota)
Volokh Conspiracy
Mystery Pollster
Gelman's Social Science Statistics blog
Leiter's philosophy blog

Good luck on the book chapter! And read!

posted by: Fabio Rojas on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

Add Scott Lemieux and the other political scientists over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money.

I'm afraid to bring up the blog with my colleagues. They have probably googled me and found it, but nobody has said anything yet.

Blogging has been useful for dipping into the perspectives of other disciplines. It has provided me with a new research topic. I've also met others with like interests and honed debating skills.

There aren't that many pol sci bloggers for whatever reason. I always read our gang of bloggers regularly, because it's nice when everyone speaks the same language. However, I've gotten a lot out of reading other academic blogs. There are also some excellent non-academic blogs, which I've mined for ideas.

I think the dos and don'ts of pol sci blogging are basically the same advice for all blogs -- don't suck. If pol sci bloggers want an audience larger than two, they shouldn't footnote every other sentence, should be short, and should make a good ha-ha now and then.

I still think we should do a panel on pol sci blogging at APSA some time.

posted by: laura on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

I'd echo most of the comments here. The question of controversy and professionalism, I think, is more a matter of "your mileage may vary" than a hard and fast rule.

A lot depends on purpose. The DoM, for example, is much more of a niche blog than DD's and most of the other ones mentioned here. I think our audience, which rarely breaks 200, tolerates a great deal more academic-speak than the kind of audience we'd be going after if we wanted to crack the big time. Maybe not. Who knows. I used to worry about this stuff, but having guested at bigger-time blogs I have to say that I kind of like the lower pressure environment.

I'd say that my blogging has led directly to one publication (a reprint of a blog post) and indirectly to a couple of works. Some of my present projects originated in blog series; or, at least, blogging on the topics gave me a chance to put some thoughts down on virtual paper.

The biggest advantage of blogging is no different for academics than for others: social networking.

As someone who tends towards IR theory and conceptual work, however, I've found blogging and invaluable tool for keeping up with current events and integrating theory and practice in my own thinking and teaching more than I used to.

One of the interesting (and depressing) processes associated with blogging and IR was the sudden emergence and abandonment of the the "snide blogs" on academic departments. I'm glad most of these have died, but they provided a window into some very unpleasant aspects of the discipline. One blog that I thought showed some promise but also seems to be moribund is the The Political Science Journal Monitor. I thought that might have been an opportunity for some very overdue discussion of the state of publishing and peer-review in our field. Sadly, not so much in the end.

I read the standards (as much as I've been keeping up lately). CT, DD, LGM, and so forth. I try to keep up with the American/Domestic politics blogs, but not as much as I would like.

There are a number of quite good autodidact IR blogs, such as Coming Anarchy and Zenpundit.

Some of the regional news aggregators, like, do invaluable work. I would definitely mention how much these regional blogs can help non-specialists keep up with current events and developments beyond what the major US papers cover.

posted by: Daniel Nexon on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]


1) The do's are pretty much what one wants. I'd say have some fun with it, most of all, and post frequently, for sure! The don'ts? Well, there are a few. Don't assume to be an expert at everything. I'm pretty much a generalist now. Eight years out of grad school, and mostly teaching the introductory stuff, I only comment from an "expert" perspective on just a couple of matters that remain close to my research areas and teaching specialities. One also shouldn't blog about one's colleagues (this relates to question three). The same rules of collegiality regarding gossip and hearsay in the department and on campus apply to posting on a blog. I'd also say don't get completely isolated from the views expressed by your readership in the comments. Comments should be interactive, in my view. Some bloggers (sorry, but can't help thinking about here) rarely engage posters in the comments section, leaving visitors on their own, like a coffee house. That may be fine a good part of the time, although the proprietor of the place ought to make a showing now and again. Althouse is not a political scientist's blog, but she does jump in and respond regularly, and is not afraid to get the controversies flowing (and that's something better left to those who are tenured, again pertaining to question three).

2) Blogging helps my scholarly pursuits not from the publishing perspective -- I don't worry about publishing any more -- but from the keeping-up-with-the-literature perspective. It's fun to post on articles of interest in one's specialty or thereabouts -- and anticipating future topics for posts has one scavenging for material, in newspapers, magazines of opinion, and scholarly journals. And posting regularly helps one stay on their toes analytically, for one never knows who might drop in for a visit, after seeing a post up on Technorati or some more obscure aggregator. Also, blogging on daily news and commentary (punditry) provides fresh ideas for writing, and in my case regular posting prods me toward writing op-ed pieces at least (so far unaccepted, but I'm trying).

3) My colleagues don't know I blog, or at least I haven't told them and they haven't approached me about it. Here's where tenure helps. I adopt some pretty firm positions ideologically on the issues -- which might go against the more detached scholarly perspective one might expect from an academic. Huntington on cultural nationalism feeds my views on immigration, not some whacked out multicultural/indigenous perspectives, or what have you. Some on my floor might not love that so much. And don't even get me going about anti-globalization and U.N.-institutionalist types! If you write passionately about deeply-held topics, get ready for some heat (I'm still waiting).

4) Frankly, I don't know of that many political science blogs. I've read for a couple years, and decided to get into the game myself. Law blogs seem to have a more critical mass, and perhaps the blogs in economics. Oh, sure, I read a few political bloggers here and there, but they seem so insular and, well, academic, especially if you're a low-lying community college professor like me (no "elite" blogger here). My experience blogging leads me to see blogs as a key democratizer of the web -- it's mostly unfiltered, unpeered, un-methodologically driven commentary out there, much of it very good. Academic bloggers are public intellectuals, on the other hand, and I'm wondering how much influence they might have, compared to say more activists pages, like Kos, etc. Maybe they'll influence those already reading their stuff in more formal outlets, like journals and op-eds. Beyond that, it doesn't seem the elite wade down with the proletariat posters all too often.

My two cents anyways.

posted by: Donald Douglas on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

I think there's a helpful overlap between political blogs and political science blogs, plus the people who do a bit of both.

One of the helpful things is that blogs make it easier to cascade down the long tail. I don't read Registan that often, but I am confident that it is there, and I am further confident that by following their links and blogroll, I can get as close to ground-level perspective as I want.

I make this discovery just about every time we take up a major new topic at Fistful of Euros. We're more politics than political science, but we're a bit of an aggregator, too, and it's exciting to see how fractal the blog world (even just the part of it written mostly in English) has grown.

posted by: Doug on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

I addressed some of these issues in "Why I blog" and some posts linked therein.

I have several papers or ideas for papers that have grown out of blog posts, including something on electoral reform in plurality systems (mostly Canadian provinces) that is now forthcoming.

My personal must-read academic blogs would include Political Arithmetik, LGM, PoliBlog, and Two Weeks Notice, as well as Cowen's and this one.

posted by: Mattthew Shugart on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

I forgot to address the question about colleagues being aware. I did little at first to publicize F&V, but over time I began to hear from several colleagues (both at my School and elsewhere) who had run across the blog in a Google search or been told of it by others in the profession.

I know of a few who have told me they use posts on elections and electoral systems in some of their courses. One just told me the blog was a "great service." Very gratifying!

I have also gotten a couple of calls from journalists who found the blog and wanted to ask me something about a given topic.

posted by: Matthew Shugart on 02.03.07 at 08:34 AM [permalink]

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