Posted by: ayrshirehealth | July 2, 2014

Sensational blog says nothing of Bieber by @austynsnowden

Sensational blog says nothing of Bieber or Kardassian

I am genuinely unsure as to the value of blogging. That remains my position despite the articulate and plausible support for blogging from some extremely smart people I know. Of course I recognise the irony of expressing this in a blog. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely opposed; I am probably only about 98% opposed. I can see an advantage. For example many people have very interesting things to say. However, on asking the most talented writer I know to write a blog instead of an email so that more of us could enjoy his rich musings he responded:


Blogging reduces precious creativity to the mundane. There are of course other views. The problem is they are mainly held by people who blog; people more interested in shouting their own views than attempting to comprehend my friend’s objections, people who see nothing harmful in papering over tragedy. I do though, and this is why I don’t read blogs either.

 Self-Prescribed Palliative

I can see the argument against this claim. The implicit message in the somewhat nihilist response above is that blogs change nothing. However, if change is the goal and you can reach people with your blog you otherwise couldn’t, then surely you can change more things if you have a larger blog/twitter/facebook/megaphone network[1]? Nihilism

Well I suppose it depends upon a) the type of change you want and b) the propensity of the recipients of the message to change.

I would imagine (please note complete absence of evidence here) most social networks are built from mutually reinforcing cultures of agreement thereby negating any need for genuine change given everyone agrees about everything to start with.

This is the nature of people (so said Festinger, the god of cognitive dissonance and explainer of all). Self-prescribed palliative it is then.

Grumpy old sod needs an enema

To be fair, no-one said blogging would save the world, and perhaps blogging is just meant to be a social pastime, an introduction to publishing, a means to pontificate in public to an admiring mutually reinforcing audience. Well again, if so, please count me out. Ivory Tower

One of my jobs as an academic is to test the rigour of my ideas through the fallible but worthy process of peer review. This can be difficult, infuriating, and occasionally just bitchy and pointless. But the vast majority of the time the end product is a significant improvement on the first draft and (hopefully) a worthy contribution to the evidence base.

This process is entirely absent in blogging, where as far as I can see any opinionated uncorroborated tosh (such as this) can be published as long as it doesn’t mention unspeakable things. All I can say is woe betide the first student who attempts to reference a blog in an academic essay.

The woe betide

As usual I am behind the curve. Apparently there is already a method of citation supported by the academic community that uncritically describes the process of how to citeblogs . I am speechless. And you can cite me on that, although I would fail you if you did. CatastrophisingAnd then you’d probably appeal and win and I’d probably get into bother for not following university guidelines, blotting an otherwise blemish free record and I would fall into despair at the state of the world.

Some call this catastrophising.

In fact I call it catastrophising, but some others may call it wisdom or prescience. I have no idea who these others may be, and I don’t need to think about that because this is just a blog. Actually this is quite good fun isn’t it? No need for boring lit’ reviews or consideration of the weight of evidence. Politics here I come.

This week’s blog was by @austynsnowden (Professor Austyn Snowden) who is Chair in Mental Health at University of the West of Scotland.

The blog is in two parts – next week  @rwatson1955 (Professor Roger Watson – University of Hull) takes a different stance on the value of blogs and answers Austyn’s points raised in his blog.  Ahead of next weeks blog you can have your say by clicking on the comments button.


[1] For example, with only 100 followers, five ‘retweets’ later from each of the subsequent set of followers [given that these people each also have 100 followers that are independent (a big if)], your message would have reached every living human member of the known universe.


  1. If you are blogging you are getting peer reviewed Austyn. It’s not the same “difficult, infuriating, and occasionally just bitchy and pointless” peer review that happens in the paywalls, ivory towers and walled-gardens of academia. This is the less-mannered, more-real version of peer review. Post-publication peer review means that your blog won’t attract hits or comments if it’s boring or ill-informed, and will attract lots of comments and social media shares if people find it worthwhile and interesting. Welcome to the jungle. Good luck.

  2. Your enthusiasm in portraying your views about blogging would suggest to me that you have enjoyed the experience Austyn! Views and opinions expressed via blogging CAN result in changing attitudes and development of different viewpoints which are essential to us in the world of healthcare. I have recently risked being “woe betided” by citing a blog (courtesy of @ayrshirehealth) in an academic essay (for which incidentally I gained a distinction), and I think that students needs to be encouraged to look beyond traditional journal articles (some of which are also tosh) to broaden their ability to argue a point with a wide range of viewpoints , experiences and views. By the way, I say all these things from neither an academic nor a blogger’s stance, as I am neither, having only written my first blog last week.
    PS your blogging skills are brilliant and I very much look forward to reading more should you decide this is your forte.
    Thank you

  3. Austin, interesting points on blogging. Whilst I agree there is no academic rigour to most blogs, I’m not sure people would refer to them in academic work. I do think there is benefit in using a blog to share thoughts and generate debate- just like you have done. Well done and thank you

  4. Thanks @austynsnowden an interesting perspective. I’m convinced that blogging offers us an alternative way to connect with others. Whilst published papers may make a contribution to the evidence base, which is essential, few make real improvements or connect with the realities of clinical practice. I like the freshness and realism of blogs. Academic papers are so highly polished and refined that sometimes the fully ‘story’ is removed. They are different avenues for different purposes. For me, most blogs are compelling to read (carrot) and perhaps write (not done yet), whilst writing academic papers are mostly a requirement (stick). The latter usually restricted to an academic audience, whilst blogs are accessible to all. If we, as nurses, want to make a difference to frontline care we need to connect, co-create, build social networks and movements, the principles of which seem to ‘fit’ with blogging. We have a shared purpose – improving care. Saying all of that I must go and work on my systematic review for an academic paper!

  5. […] Snowden has thrown the first punch in the great blog debate of 2014; I felt the wind but it didn’t connect. If Austyn is shocked at the thought of academics deriving […]

  6. As a psychiatric survivor activist and human rights campaigner blogging has been a lifesaver and a way for me to have a voice when otherwise I would have been silenced. As an unpaid carer it has empowered me to be heard and, together with social networking, the solidarity has been inspiring and uplifting.

    People with mental disorder labels or diagnoses can be marginalised in Scottish society, a bit like the lepers of old, despite the recovery movement which has in recent years been hijacked by government. Often people may have mental health issues alongside physical illnesses and will prefer to be identified by the latter rather than be stigmatised by the former.

    I have many blogs ongoing, on different topics, and I like to read other blogs so as to be informed and encouraged. I believe that bloggers and tweeters are at the forefront of sharing news, opinions and viewpoints. We are setting trends rather than following the crowd. I am very grateful for the blog invention and long may it continue to thrive!

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