Patter is four years old.
Time for a tally. Time for a bit of reckoning.
This is my 430th post. I have posted a trifle over twice a week in that time. Actually, I posted about once a week for the first few months and then increased the frequency to twice a week. Since then I have occasionally posted daily when I am book writing or teaching a course.
I began patter because I thought it might be helpful to write about some things which consistently bothered the doctoral researchers I worked with. I thought the posts might be of interest to a few others. I thought that some doctoral researchers in my own school and my own institution might find the archive of material useful. Now, the doctoral researchers I work directly with tell me they always read patter wondering if I am writing about them – so here’s the answer… No, no, no. I’ll tell you if that’s the case. But I can’t guarantee that I haven’t stored something away for future reference and it’s become a general ‘thing’ I think I need to say something about. This is the only time I’ll write something directly to/about/for you. ☺
I try to vary the kinds of posts that I write. After all, a blog is not a methods text or an academic writing book. I’m not simply posting about my own experiences or writing as a virtual mentor. Nor is patter a series of op-ed pieces. Mostly I want patter to cover the range of topics that I discuss with doctoral and early career researchers. Sometimes that is about the relatively hidden rules, the secret business of academic life, that some people find hard to get access to. Sometimes it’s about me, that’s the professional me not the personal me, and what I do. And quite often it’s about the “stuff’” of scholarship and the nuts and bolts of getting the “stuff’ done.
I haven’t counted the number of words that I’ve written for patter, but it must be more than 424000, since most of my posts are a bit over 1000 words. It’s probably quite close to four books worth.
I do use patter as a place to try out things that end up in my books and papers. This is not an unusual thing for blogger to do. I’m not particularly worried about the repetition, because there is always more in the books and papers than in the posts and they have a different angle/take/point. I do however feel a bit sad about not being able to fully develop a lot of ideas in patter simply because of the word length of posts. There are some things you can do in a book that you just can’t do in a post – and of course that works vice versa too.
I’ve certainly used patter to write in a more conversational way than I do in books and papers. I tend to crank out these words in half an hour or so and ideally edit over a couple of days. Patter is written fast but quite often published almost immediately (hence some days of subsequent fixing of typos!), although I do have a small backlog of drafts. I enjoy writing in a more chatty tone. I like not having to do all of the inevitable signposting and throat clearing that goes with more formal academic genres.
The most popular patter posts are those which are directly pedagogical and/or address issues that are a bit tricky. The most popular post by far addresses the difference between aims and objectives, followed closely by one which discusses the difference between methodology and methods. Then there are posts about rejection in journals, writing conclusions, reviewing literatures and the like.
I couldn’t write about these things all of the time. And I don’t want to. I do want to try to promote a view of writing that is more than simply how-to-do-the-worrying-bits. I do love writing and reading myself. It’s what I (selflishly) most enjoy about being in higher education and it’s what makes all of the nonsense about contemporary universities bearable. So I do want to try to focus at least some of the time on writing without a problem-focused lens.
Patter is read in every country in the world. While most readers are in the UK, Australia, and the Northern Americas, there are lots of people everywhere else. I’m conscious that not everyone has access to the writing books that I’ve produced with my colleague Barbara, nor to the range of books that I have in my own library. I do have a kind of open access view about what I post. I don’t see that patter is about selling my books – this is why I don’t advertise them too conspicuously. Rather, I’m very pleased that more and more patter readers now come from countries where university libraries struggle to afford English language journals and books and where the price of an average academic text represents a very large chunk of an annual income. A year or so ago now I bought my own domain name and paid to remove the ads so that patter could make it through various kinds of national web-filtering/censoring systems.
There now seem to be about ten thousand patter regulars and, on average, six or seven times more hits than this per week or three. I’m very grateful that so many of you follow patter either by subscription or simply by checking in every now and then. I’m always very pleased when readers ask me questions or add helpful comments after a post.
So, thankyou all for helping to make me a happy and productive blogger. Happy birthday to patter. And here’s to the next patter year.