How to Make Effective Use of Blogs in Your Research

Blogs are not an exotic species.   They are a form of expression by real people discussing, for the most part, issues of real interest to real audiences. At their core, blogs are not essentially different from books, magazines, television shows, newspapers, etc.  They are sources of information.

But anyone can write a blog!

That fact is actually one of the benefits of blogs.  Fields of knowledge are open to many more people and many more diverse points of view and experiences.  Blogs thus encourage the free exchange of information so essential to increasing our collective knowledge.

But a blogger can say virtually anything they want to!

That, too, is a strength of blogs overall.  However, anyone who reads any blog quickly comes to understand that mistakes, falsehoods, exaggerations, or misrepresentations are swiftly corrected or challenged by readers.  If too many such things appear in a blog, it will lose its readership.  This is the marketplace of information at work.  On the other hand, we’ve seen in our genealogy blogging community individuals who started as (dare I say) “hobbyists” become leading lights because their content is so consistently great.

Like magazines, newspapers, books, etc., not all blogs are accurate or careful with their content.  In all forms of expression, the educated consumer learns to comprehend the biases, strengths and weaknesses of the author.  The same is true with respe4ct to genealogy blogs.

Here are some tips about making good use of genealogy blogs:

1.  Understand what the theme or focus of a particular blog is.

2. Have a clear understanding of what you want to get out of a particular blog.

3. Read a number of similar and dissimilar blogs.  Sample the marketplace.

4. Find the blogs that you are comfortable with.

5. Regard factual data in a blog as a bit of evidence which requires, like most everything else, evaluation.

6.  Comment on blogs where you find data that doesn’t seem to ring true or that you don’t understand (this is one benefit to blogs that certain other forms make difficult).  Being a regular commenter with valuable input will enhance not only your own experience but will encourage the blogger to improve his or her output.

7.  Contact the author and ask for citations if such are not provided in a post.  Most bloggers are pleased to have a dialog with readers.  Again, this is an aspect of blogs that  is much more difficult with books or magazines or newspapers.

8.   Become familiar with the bloggers in your realm of interest (i.e, a surname, a region, a religion,  an ethnic group or nationality).   Remember that most genea-bloggers are in the game to share information and are just as interested in receiving accurate information as their readers are.

9.  Understand that there are not so many “bad” sources of information (blogs or otherwise) as there are unsophisticated users of information.  Don’t be one of the latter.

Several times I have told the story of how one of my blog posts about my Sanford family led to the convening of an ad hoc group of Sanford researchers who had not know each other previously, but who then proceeded to work together via email for several weeks and solved a long-standing mystery.

Just some thoughts.


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