Blogging Archaeology

I’m taking part in the “Blogging Archaeology” carnival sponsored by Doug’s Archaeology. The carnival is designed to expand upon the 2014 Blogging Session that will be held at the Society for American Archaeology’s annual meeting in April 2014. Doug is asking a series of questions each month leading up to the meeting.

You can learn more about the carnival here. And for those of you who tweet, the hashtag is #BlogArch.

Responses to November’s questions can be found here. This month, the questions center on the good, bad, and ugly of blogging, and we have the option of answering one or more of the questions.

What Is The Good I’ve Found In Blogging?

We’re supposed to move beyond the basic “creating networks” for this question. That’s a bit tough for someone like me, who hopes to gain an audience for the fiction I’m writing. Potential agents, editors, and publishers want demand to see that social media presence, even from previously unpublished writers. I’ve likened that to bands needing an established audience before they can even book their first gigs.

Like many other aspiring authors, though, I’ve discovered unexpected benefits of blogging besides networking per se. I’ve found excellent critique partners whose insights help improve my writing and storytelling skills. The regular weekly posts I write are also good mental exercise. Posting snippets from my draft novels lets me measure reader reaction. And while I don’t often post about archaeology specifically, it’s encouraging to see the positive response those posts receive from my readers. As a whole, I’m afraid my “field” — like so many other disciplines — turns up its collective nose at the notion of making our work understandable, and yes, entertaining, to the general public. So I find it encouraging that when I do post about my “day job,” there’s still an interested audience.

What Is The Bad I’ve Found In Blogging?

For me, the bad is limited to the time blogging takes away from the novels I’m writing. Putting together quality posts takes time. When I started blogging, I posted several times a week. Then I dropped to two posts per week. And now it’s one. I also follow too many blogs, and even though I don’t comment on all of them, I do comment regularly on more than a few. That’s a small price to pay, however, for the support and friendship I’ve found with fellow bloggers.

What Is The Ugly I’ve Found In Blogging?

My corner of the blogosphere doesn’t see ugliness, and I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief and gratitude as I write this sentence. Of course, a large part of that ugly-free state is the fact that I don’t post about controversial subjects or follow bloggers who focus on such topics. And if I don’t agree with a post I’ve read, I simply won’t comment. I know of other bloggers who have had to deal with trolls, and I couldn’t—and wouldn’t—put up with it. If a flaming comment did appear in my moderation queue, I would trash it. I’m not against disagreement. But I am against disrespect and intolerance.

In Sum

So there you have my experiences with the good, bad, and ugly of blogging. I’ve found a corner of the blogosphere that is both comfortable and challenging for me and my particular goals. In the end, blogging is what we make it. We can be silly, serious, supportive, critical, political, religious, creative, honest, manipulative, timid, bold, and so many other things. We can close comments and use it strictly as a personal soapbox. Or we can seek active engagement with readers. The choice is ours.

Please feel free to share how you would answer any of these questions in the comments.

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It’s time for me to focus on the upcoming holidays—and a heavy push of end of the year work. So I’ll be closing out December with two simple posts. I hope you’ll all be back in 2014!

42 thoughts on “Blogging Archaeology

      • Great stuff. Do you remember Maggie Cammis? She used to run a blog called Norfolk Novelist – which is where I found you. We used to go to the same writing group in Suffolk, UK. Lovely lady and a very talented writer.

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        • I most certainly do remember Maggie and Norfolk Novelist! I always enjoyed reading her posts, and I really miss seeing her here in the blogosphere. If you happen to see her “in the real world”, please let her know that and say hello for me!

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          • I certainly will. I’m not sure I shall see her – at least not for a while as she’s just rejoined the writing group I am taking a break from. She’s a real asset.
            I don’t think she’s doing much writing as they’ve just had an extension built on the house for her partners mother (who has dementia). I lost both my parents to dementia recently, and it is very demanding. I’ll pass on your greetings when we next speak in cyberspace!

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  1. I agree with all of the above, JM. For me, your take on the good, the bad, and the ugly is spot on. That’s probably why I enjoy reading your blog so much!

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    • Thanks, Gwen. 🙂 There’s so much nastiness in the world, and I do my best not to contribute to it.. So this blog will always be a place where people can be comfortable and know they’ll never be subject to trolls, disrespect, intolerance, or hatred.

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  2. I feel much the same way as you on all counts. I recently had a troll. I initially approved his first comment and left a respectable response. But when he started to slam my commitment to public health and left increasingly negative comments, one after the other, I deleted them. What was his supposed beef? It was my humorous post on America’s Funniest Home Videos of men taking hits to the crotch and why other men find this so funny. He claimed it was women who were perpetuating this violence against men, not other men. When I Googled his email address, I found he had left dirty comments on other women’s blog, basically referring to male anatomy in a sexual way. It was weird, so I treated him like the troll he was.

    As for readers being interested in archaeology, I think there is a definite market out there. A science that people know little about makes for a great theme in a novel in my opinion. I’ve loved the few good ones I’ve found.

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    • I just don’t understand people who enjoy being jerks or hurting others. And I would’ve been seriously disturbed to have a troll like yours even visiting my blog. So I would delete those comments, too. Heaven forbid it would ever get so bad that I felt the need to moderate every comment before they could be posted. But I’m sure it’s happened to some bloggers who now have to take the “better safe than sorry” route.

      There are some blogs I really enjoy, but occasionally the blogger does a post that really isn’t my thing. Maybe it’s a joke I find insensitive. Or it’s a political statement that runs contrary to my leanings. But in those cases I simply refrain from liking or commenting on that particular post. I would never even think of making a snide remark or saying they should rethink that post. Yet some people feel entitled to be hurtful or hateful. In some ways, I feel sorry for them. In others, though, I want no part of them.

      Now, to make sure archaeology comes across as realistic, but also entertaining, in my WIPs!

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      • You can put in the email or user name of a commenter you want moderated in the future, but when I started doing that with a few iffy commenters, WordPress started moderating many of my regular readers, too. Too many similar word matches I guess. So now I just check in frequently and hope a troll hasn’t left a present for me. 🙂

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  3. I love what you said about trying to find a writing audience being the same as bands needing that established audience before they can book their first gigs. It really shows how crazy it all is. Archaeology is interesting and it should be written about in an entertaining way because, if more people understood all that’s behind it, maybe more grants would become available for more research. My favorite books are the ones that teach me something while entertaining. Hope you have a fun filled break of novel revising! If it’s any consolation, I’ll be going crazy doing the same.

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    • When it comes to every branch of science, I think those of us in the professions have done ourselves a huge disservice by avoiding “the public.” For some, it’s a matter of arrogance. For others, it’s having difficulty in explaining complex concepts simply. And some simply don’t know how to deal with people from different educational backgrounds. But it means we leave ourselves vulnerable to pseudoscience and others who, for their own agendas, say we’re wrong. And when people feel left out of a discussion or feel like others look down on them, it’s easy for them to be misled or to be turned against the “academic elite.”

      The rest of this week will be a zoo, and I really hope I’ll have the energy to do some writing and rebuilding over the holiday break! Madeleine and the others deserve it!

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  4. Enjoyed your response to Sheila.
    Archeology is so interesting as it reflects humans and their behavior. Maybe the “experts” of any field get so used talking to each other, they discuss in leaps and jumps coming from their common body of knowledge – which is totally missing from other audiences….and it’s time consuming to rethink how to say it so it can be understood…time consuming and sometimes difficult – so much easier to ignore the blank stares and dismiss…but as you say there’s a negative impact. Always good to try and bring people on board – you neve know when you will need them.
    Whew about the ugly blogging – here isn’t as bad as other places. Some places the comments get ugly and sink into name calling and stupid illogical nonsense. I do screen my comments though. There are some trolls. Must be very sad people to be so harsh to people they don’t even know, in cyberspace, behind a screen.
    Always love a glimpse into your world. It’s always good here.

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    • You are so right about that “shorthand” being used in a group of colleagues. Archaeologists, for example, can talk about features, AMS dates, phases, and such, and we know what we’re referring to. But anyone else would likely be in the dark. One thing that irks me about some science professionals is the way they look down on colleagues who do try to make the work understandable to the general public. As if that’s somehow “less professional” or is “beneath” their position. And yet they’re the same people who will decry popular belief in things like astrology. Sigh. But that’s another losing battle to fight.

      I have a hard time reading newspaper articles online because of the vicious comments so many people leave, directed to both the writer and other commenters. I mean, even something as simple as an article about an upcoming event brings out the trolls. I try to ignore them as much as possible!

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  5. Agreed, agreed, and agreed!

    I like knowing that you won’t comment on posts with which you might not agree. I have to take extra precautions when I comment on posts focusing on literary agents and traditional publishing. I follow a couple of blogs who are quite pro-tradtional publishing, and I don’t always agree with their outlook on why it is so important to follow a literary agent’s wish list. I have found even the simplest of comments that might challenge the blogger’s views can be taken the wrong way! And that’s not even as controversial of a subject as some other topics out there.

    As far as the archeology side of things, your attempts at educating us are quite successful, JM. I know I told you before that you should have been a teacher, because you have a great way of turning on the intrigue while still giving us useful information. That’s hard to do with such “dry” subject matter.

    I love our blogging community; I think we are pretty darn lucky!

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    • Thanks, Kate! I love the interaction on blogs through comments. But when we can’t see the author’s expression and body language or hear the tone in his/her voice, then it is so easy for a comment to be misunderstood and taken the wrong way. That’s why I really try to be careful with how I respond on all posts, but especially those on sensitive topics. I know there are some bloggers who actively seek controversy and debate on their posts, and that’s fine. But rudeness and hatred shouldn’t be tolerated, especially on blogs that aren’t geared to hot-button issues.

      I’ve been so lucky to be troll-free, and I hope that continues for as long as I blog. If the books are ever published, well, I’m sure I’ll have to steel myself for some reviewer trolls. But you know I won’t like it one bit. It’s good to know that my real blog buddies will be there to ease the pain. 🙂

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  6. I agree with you on most of these points JM. Blogging does take up an incredible amount of time, but writing is a lonely business and it’s rewarding finding like-minded souls across the planet to share the journey with. Thanks for the great post x

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    • Thanks, Gemma. 🙂 Blogging is a great way for this introvert to interact with a wider audience than she’d ever be comfortable with in person. And the encouragement, support, and critical eyes from my blog buddies mean more to me than I could ever let you know. And how amazing is it that we can have “a writer’s group” that spans the globe and cultures?

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  7. Great post, JM. I agree with all of your points here, and couldn’t have said it better. In two years (blog anniversary post coming soon), I’ve only had one questionable comment, and I left it because the person just disagreed with me in a very frustrated way. The commenter told me I was a terrible person for posting my opinion and showing a photo. I responded with a polite comment in return. Nothing more came of it. I so much prefer blogging over all the other social networking. Glad the blogosphere brought me here. 🙂

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    • I’m glad the blogosphere led you here, too. 🙂 And I think you handled your troll very well. I simply cannot understand how a person could enjoy inflicting pain on another. It’s one thing when we’re young children, learning to deal with our emotions in a culturally acceptable way. But adults should know better and should lead by example. We’re never all going to agree on everything, even with the people we love. But that doesn’t mean others are necessarily wrong or bad. I wonder if we’ll ever get past that as a species.

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    • I can’t understand people who enjoy antagonism and conflict just for the sport, either. I just do my best to be positive, compassionate, and inclusive. Not always easy in today’s world. Happy Holidays to you, too!

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        • I think it may have been. I don’t know if you have “shock jocks” in England, but they’re all too common here on the radio. And popular. People have been calling in to them for years, making inflammatory comments behind the anonymity of radio. Just one of the many things that makes me think “civilized” is not an accurate word for describing modern Western culture.

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          • I think you are right – I know a few of these jokers are on the radio over here nut they don’t have the cache of Rush Limbaugh(?) et al. Largely because the BBC Radio dominates the airwaves.

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  8. Pingback: Why do I blog? And on archaeology, for Heaven´s sake? #blogarch | Sprache der Dinge

  9. I agree with your assessment of the good and the bad JM, as a blogger who will be coming up to a year soon. Fortunately I haven’t seen any of the ugliness of blogging, just a welcoming, warm community.

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    • We have a great community here, and I suspect if any trolls showed up, we’d quickly show them the door. Disagreement, and even discord, have their place. But being shoved down our throats in our own “online home” is not one of them. I’ve greatly enjoyed your first year of blog posts and am looking forward to year two!

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  10. Wonderfully said! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    You talk about your topic being sort of unfriendly with the general people.
    I don’t know how you feel about her / it, but I read Kathy Reichs and I love the show “Bones”.
    It occurs to me that archaeology is probably not as interesting to most as the Bones show would indicate, however, it does bring the topic out to the general public in a very interesting way. Your thoughts?
    Scott

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    • Shows like “Bones” and books like those of Kathy Reichs show the very narrow subdiscipline of forensic archaeology. That’s a very new specialty in the field. And, as you might expect, the screen writers and authors make things more exciting and flashy than they really are. Still, that’s far better than portraying archaeologists as digging up buried treasure, or worse, dinosaurs! We’re not tomb raiders or paleontologists. 🙂

      Most of us don’t even work in academia these days. We’re in the business world, helping clients fulfill federal, state, and local requirements regarding historic preservation. But the field is still usually represented in the public eye by the old guard—the academics who get grants to work both here in the US and across the world. And too many of that old guard, and even too many of my fellow contractors, don’t think they should “waste their time” with the public. And I find that a dangerous philosophy for any scientist to have.

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      • Glad you don’t mind working with the public. I have read that Kathy Reichs really is a forensic anthropologist and divides her time between Canada and US.

        So, if archeologists don’t do treasure or dinos are there any who go outside the “old guard”? What do they do?
        Just nosey,
        Scott

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        • The “old guard” academics often do the work that you see in National Geographic or on television—at “sexy” sites that have pyramids or are really old, like the Paleolithic period in Europe or even older, such as early hominin sites in Africa. But there are academics who work at sites that don’t grab the headlines, like those who study precontact Native American cultures in the US. Those of us in the public sector often need to be more generalized because we can deal with anything from the earliest Native American sites to 19th-century farmsteads or urban remains. Ideally, we’re all trying to understand what it is to be human and how we’ve arrived at where we are.

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  11. Really interesting to see how your archaeology work looks into blogging, JM. Social media has understandably become very important to those of us in the communications field. It’s somehow more intriguing to see its effect (and effectiveness) in more critical arenas.

    The impact of posts is one of the more challenging aspects of building a blog presence, no doubt. This blog does a good job of covering a wide range of interest levels and subjects, though. I like that we get to see glimpses of so many facets to you. 🙂

    I think most of us will be taking a break – or have begun, already – for the winter holidays. Here’s hoping 2014 brings some pleasant surprises! 🙂

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    • Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that the SAA even has such a session. Because a lot of archaeologists really don’t like interacting with the public. Maybe some only blog for other archaeologists and students, though. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. As a profession, we’re probably as bad as physicists and chemists when it comes to making our field interesting and relevant to the public. And I think that’s a very bad thing for us in the long run.

      I’m really glad to hear that you enjoy the different things I blog about. 🙂 I’m always afraid I’m wandering too much, then too focused on the WIPs, then too serious, then not serious enough, too personal, not personal enough, not funny enough…. Well, you get the picture! 🙂

      I have two very simple posts for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. And then I need to figure out what to post in 2014! And definitely yes, may it bring pleasant surprises!

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  12. JM, I had issues with trolls, so I approve all comments. As long as they are relevant and respectful I am happy to approve them. Sometimes it’s just people putting up their links. Those I trash or I remove the link if there is something relevant in the comment. 🙂 I too shy away from controversial topics. I’m trying to build an audience not alienate one. 🙂

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    • I hope I never have such issues, but if I do, I’ll switch to moderating all comments, too. There’s just no good reason to let them through on blogs like ours. Disagreeing with me respectfully is fine. Being nasty and purposely vindictive or inflammatory is not. And I love your reasoning in your last sentence! 🙂

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  13. Great answers to the questions and I agree with all of them. I’m glad to have not had to deal with trolls, but would probably switch to approving all comments or even removing comments for a while. Better to visit bloggers who follow the same ideals and principles.

    Happy holidays 🙂

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    • Happy Holidays to you, too, Pete! I simply cannot fathom the desire to be a troll, to always be negative and destructive. It’s a sad commentary on modern culture, I’m afraid. I’m with you completely on sticking with bloggers who feel the same way, too. I’m very happy to be in our particular corner!

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  14. Pingback: Blogging Archaeology #BlogArch – All of the Responses to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly | Doug's Archaeology

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