On Student Blogs

There was an article on InsideHigherEd.com this week that piqued my interest. And mostly for what it lacked in content.

The post listed three ways in which colleges and universities could use student blogs: storytelling, advertorializing (not a word, BTW) and employability/digital literacy.

I pretty much disagree with this thesis across the board. What I do agree with, though, is the comment by Alert Reader Antoinette, who points out:

My personal view of student blogs is that often they are – sorry to be unkind – simply boring. No criticism of the students writing them – their effort and enthusiasm is more than apparent and commendable. But stories about personal experiences and interests are rarely relevant to the reader, nor do they seem actionable in any way. As you say, more could be done to get the most out of this medium.

And she gets a gold star.

Look, if you are marketing a college or university and someone says, “We need to have student bloggers because everyone else seems to have student bloggers or ‘I went to a conference and someone said I need student bloggers’ or we need student bloggers because adult bloggers cost too much,” please do us all a favor and get another job.

The point of student blogs, in my estimation, is to position them to entice prospective students to visit and then ultimately get excited about and apply to your institution. They need to be (1.) authentic, (2.) engaging, (3.) compelling and (4.) AUTHENTIC again, this time in bold caps.

When I started student-written blogs at a previous institution, I hand-picked my first crop of bloggers and tasked them with writing something new once a week. I did not give them any more direction than that. I also promised that, outside of spelling and grammar, I would not edit them and if they wanted to criticize the institution, they could present their case and I would have their backs.

It was a learning experience for all parties — including me, who, more than once, got yelled at by a dean or VP who didn’t like what they had read — but I earned the trust and respect of my writers by standing firm and by treating them like professionals, And all of those bloggers grew as storytellers by leaps and bounds and that blog was the most-read section of our website.

And, out of the myriad projects I conceived and managed during my near-decadelong tenure at that institution, it is the one that I am most proud of.

I Know What You Read Last Year

Here’s what you were reading on this site last year. Just the Top 5.


Image: Richard Peter|Deutsche Fotothek/Wikimedia Commons

5. To Better Position Your College, Remove Word ‘College’ from Name?
Yet another spectacular fail from the world of highly paid branding and marketing consultants. This one is just beyond stupid — and the fact that an institution of higher education bought into it, well, it’s just beyond the pale.

4. He’s Baaack. The Ever-Buoyant Jonah Lehrer Bobs Up to the Surface Again
Lord, who knew Jonah Lehrer was going to be my own personal ‘bad penny?’ I was all set to do a sit-down interview with Lehrer as a bit of a puff piece for my then-employer when his “self-plagiarizing” scandal broke in 2012 and I got sucked into the drama. I’ve followed him since, just cause. Some topics never disappoint!

3. Branding is Killing Your Website
A cut from and a link to “New Thinking,” a regular e-thinkpiece from web guru Gerry McGovern. There’s no one who writes better and with more clarity and common sense on web topics than McGovern. No one.

2. About Mark Blackmon
Thanks for caring. By the way, a ranking at this level is either a good thing — “I want to know because this guy is interesting.” — or a bad thing — “Who in the hell is this clown?”

1. How Closing San Diego Opera Makes Your Life Worse
A private e-mail howler that one of the recipients asked me to put somewhere so that they could link to it. I did, and then provided a bit of context to the whole thing. And what do you know? It went viral in a very specific sector of the web almost immediately. The funny thing about it was that the original e-mailer that I replied to said that they received forwards of this thing by the hundreds because no one knew that I was replying to them in the first place! Or that we even knew each other, let alone that we’d been fast friends for decades. You can be anonymous on the web. You just have to be crafty!

Thanks for reading and writing and sharing. It’s a delight to interact with you. Happy New Year!

My Top Ten List from One Last Word

International Studies Association proposes to bar editors from blogging | Inside Higher Ed

International Studies Association proposes to bar editors from blogging | Inside Higher Ed.

Oh, this is hilarious! And absolutely typical of higher education.

I get in trouble when I stand up in front of higher education administrators and college presidents and tell them that their entire industry is out of step with the world. They take great umbrage. I am an infidel!

And I’m bloody right.

The simple fact is that colleges and universities are run by people who contemplate for a living. And, as such, they are always running behind. They are having this revelation today, but in reality, this question has been asked and answered a dozen years ago. But, because they have been busy contemplating, they do not realize this.

It is also why many institutions of higher learning should be run by management professionals instead of, you know, religion professors. It doesn’t make me too popular, some days, but I AM right!

H/T – Bill Tyson

Follow, Follow, Follow

Two points if you know what musical the title’s from! (If you don’t know, I’m going to box you severely around the ears!)

I’ve taken up a new full-time job recently and it may suck me dry, though I’m hoping to have time to continue to ruminate here on a regular basis.

I’ll have time to tweet more than blog, I think, at least for the first few months while I try to wrestle the unruly beast to the ground as I create a communications plan and communications system for this organization out of whole cloth. So, please follow me on the Twit at @markrblackmon.

Thanks for following, liking and commenting on the blog; I appreciate it. … Good God, it’s October. How did that happen???

Why Internet Trolls? Why?


As you’ve probably discovered, there are people lurking all over the web who find great joy in humiliating and attacking others. This insightful infographic describes the inner workings of Internet trolls, explaining why they decide to spend their online time in attack mode. Tapping the expertise of psychologists and experts, it offers solid reasons why this scourge of the Internet continues.

via Why Do Internet Trolls Exist? [INFOGRAPHIC] | Mashable

Check out this short piece and this AWESOME infographic on Internet trolls. It’s a great psychological study. Worth a look.

How the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Grief Model Helps You “Get” Twitter

UnknownIn her seminal 1969 book On Dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced what would become commonly known as The Five Stages Of Grief (and professionally, as the Kübler-Ross Model). Based on interviews with more than 500 patients, Kübler-Ross’s research describes the five sequential stages by which people cope with grief and tragedy – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.

Kübler-Ross’s study originally applied only to those suffering from terminal illness, but this was later expanded to include any form of ‘bereavement’ – for example, the loss of a job, income or freedom – as well as major life-changing events, such as drug addiction, relocation and divorce.

I believe that we can also apply this process to Twitter – specifically, the concept of ‘getting’ it.

via The 5 Stages Of ‘Getting’ Twitter – AllTwitter.

Shea Bennett offers up an intriguing thesis. This is a bit old, but it got buried in my e-mail. Sorry. Worth it, though, to ponder now.