I’m back today from roughly a month’s hiatus, which I spent working intensively on my dissertation. I plan to maintain a regular blogging schedule through May and the summer, though some travel this week may prevent me from resuming daily blogging until the weekend.
It’s good to take a step back from this project, but I’m returning to blogging with a few more frustrations than when I left. The big advantage of what I write here is that I can react rapidly to events and add a little meaning, context, and analysis to them, with a lag of as little as a few hours in some cases. An academic journal article, in contrast, might take as long as two years from the time of submission to the time of publication. The big disadvantage of blogging is that almost all of what I write day-to-day is provisional or, at worst, inaccurate or irrelevant in light of later information. I’m simplifying, I admit; there are a slew of options and genres in between the academic article and the blog post. In general, though, longer-form, better-researched pieces take more time to craft, but offer deeper insights into trends and the long-term meaning of events. All this is merely to state the obvious, but also to say that my evaluation of the trade-offs among different media has shifted a bit. At present I’m less satisfied with the blogging medium than I used to be; I would like to find a way to present information more holistically.
In the short term, I’ll likely stick with the blogging model I’ve been using: quick reactions to events as they occur. In the medium term, I plan to start experimenting with different ways of presenting information, including visually: the Syria Files at Syria Deeply offer one model of how to make crucial contextual information available, accessible, and compelling to readers (viewers?). At the same time, I am wary of duplicating content already available at Wikipedia, BBC country profiles, etc. I welcome suggestions from you on how to make the site better and how to diversify its content without reinventing the wheel. What kind of content would someone new to the Sahel need, that is not available, or not well presented, already?
Turning to other matters, during April I wrote two pieces for World Politics Review: one on Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan (April 2), and one on Chad‘s role in (and announced withdrawal from) Mali (April 16). A few other external pieces are in the works; I’ll post those here as they come out. I should be back by Saturday at the latest with more news-based content.