Law professors do it–they do it with appeal. Economists do it–with demand and supply. If accounting professors did it (they don’t), they would be certified to do it. Why don’t accounting professors do it?
We’re talking about blogging, of course. This essay follows Accounting Professors Who Blog, where I provide links to the ten accounting professors who currently blog. Figuring out why accounting professors shun it is the subject of today’s essay.
Basics of Blogging and a Short History
What is a blog? Blogging is similar to the centuries-old practice of keeping a diary or regularly writing thoughts on paper and binding the pages into a journal or notebook. A blog is a web site where an author (or team of authors) writes or comments on an issue or several related issues. Additional comments are added on a regular or semi-regular basis. Every time a blogger adds to the web site, it is called posting. Blogs can be personal, about professional topics, or about current news events. There are several web sites devoted to providing the means for bloggers to do their thing.
Blog is the popular permutation of web log. According to Rebecca Blood, the term blog was created in 1997 when Peter Merholz rearranged the letters of web log into wee blog. Soon thereafter, the noun form of blog was altered into a verb. [Transforming nouns into verbs is great fun. Betamax, a videocassette recorder, means to be made obsolete when used as a verb].
Of course, blogging started before there was a term for it. There are several online histories of blogging [1 2 3 4]. They all pretty much say the same thing. Blogs started in 1992 or 1993 and early on were web pages (with updating) containing histories of favorite web sites. By 1997 or 1998, software was available to automate the posting, obviating the need for bloggers to be html coders. By this time, people had started blogging about personal or professional thoughts, incorporating images and audio files and video files whenever deemed appropriate.
Some consider early Usenet groups and e-mail list groups to be antecedents of blogging. Some consider e-mail lists to be equivalent to blogging, just done via e-mail instead of being posted to web pages. Of course, people have been writing journals for centuries, they just were doing it on paper instead of online.
The practice of blogging grew rapidly. Eventually the number of active blogs peaked at 100,000,000. As blogs become inactive, new bloggers take their place.
Typepad, one of the blog-hosting companies, posts these reasons to blog. I don’t think they provide much motivation, but then, it’s difficult to get me excited.
- A blog is a simple, cost-effective way to create a professional online presence.
- A blog creates a conversation between you and the people who matter to you.
- A blog is a tremendous way to boost your search engine rankings.
- A blog delivers a huge impact for very little money.
- A blog allows you to take control of what you publish.
- A blog allows you to develop a position of thought leadership.
- A blog is a valuable business tool for collecting customer feedback.
- A blog creates a historical record of your content.
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At the core of blogging, it is all about personal expression. It is about making a contribution where the writer describes who and why he or she is. Sandhill Trek as a nice piece–Why do we blog?– where many bloggers contribute their thoughts as to why they blog.
A belief held by many bloggers is that blogging is a natural form of self expression. It is the modern day equivalent of writing a diary or writing to pen pals.
But more to the point of this essay, why should professors blog? Martin Weller, The Ed Techie, has two nice pieces entitled, Encouraging Educators to Blog, and Some More Reasons to Blog. He has done such a good job of justifying the items compiled into his list, that I’m going to shamelessly paste them verbatim into this essay. Weller, take it away:
- The economics of reputation – increasingly one’s reputation online is seen as a valuable commodity. This is partly because a good reputation is difficult to establish and also because in an environment where content is free and widely available then quality becomes a differentiating factor.
- Engagement with your subject area – in many subject areas the blogosphere is where much of the informed and detailed debate is occurring. If this is the case in your subject area then not to be part of it limits your expertise in the same manner as not publishing journal articles (perhaps even more so). If your subject area is not one widely engaged with blogging then this represents a good opportunity to establish yourself as one of the lead experts.
- Increased reflection – keeping a regular blog seems to encourage a degree of reflection and critical analysis as you comment on conferences, workshops, research, etc.
- Personal status and payback – being a recognised blogger in any field is likely to raise your profile and thus lead to increased requests for participation in projects, key note speeches, consultancy, invited papers, etc.
- Organisational status – as an institution the Open University (UK) is not as prominent in the blogosphere as it should be. While company blogs tend to be rather bland, there is a positive image and potentially student recruitment effect for the institution if there are known to be a number of good bloggers in residence.
- Link to teaching – the type of content used in courses is increasingly diverse, and one model for including up to date information is to have feeds from a number of blogs incorporated in to teaching material.
- Eating our own dog food – increasingly students are encouraged to use blogs in courses, and so we should be demonstrating how they can be effective.
- It exposes the process – much of the community of practice theory argues that being able to participate in a community novices should be able to observe, and to an extent participate with, experts in action. A blog is good means of allowing others to observe some of the less well thought out ideas and ongoing projects of an academic. This applies to both students and other members of staff, as Christopher Semmus argues, blogging represents a good model for mentoring within a university. James Aczel has started a blog for his course H809 during production, which will reveal many of the design decisions taken in the course, and potentially be a useful resource for future students on the course.
- It provides a useful tool for engaging with other technologies – the array of web 2.0 technologies can be quite daunting. However, many of these relate to blogging, and so by keeping a blog one is exposed to these technologies in a meaningful context. The technology required to keep a blog is fairly simple to use, so it is easy to get started, and then once your blog has momentum you may wish to explore some of the related tools and technologies. For instance Technorati is a site for ranking blogs, so you may want to claim your blog in here, and Feedburner is a means of allowing people to subscribe easily to your blog, while Slideshare allows people to embed their powerpoint presentations within their blog postings, and so on. By keeping a blog there is a motivation and a means to engage with many of the newer technologies that have potential benefits for our students.
- It’s a good means of getting down, or building up, all those thoughts that never quite get in to journal papers. Either because journals are too restrictive (they’ll want lots of data for any claim you make), or because you never get around to it, but I know that I for one, have an idea (or maybe it’s an idealet) every day (okay maybe every week – month? go, on year then), which never finds an outlet and is then lost. The blog is a good means of capturing these, and over time they may find their way in to something more research recognizable.
All of these reasons could appeal to accounting professors. But there is an important additional reason for accounting professors to blog, stated so insightfully by Steven Muzatko, Associate Professor of Accounting at University of Wisconsin at Green Bay. Professor Muzatko says that each entry in an academic blog can be a think piece. Think pieces, for him, are not only interesting, but also important. He was attracted into academic accounting because of its history of publishing such pieces in The Accounting Review and other journals. Unfortunately, very few think pieces have been published since 1970.
In some academic disciplines, blogging is becoming very popular. In law, medicine, economics, education and literature there is a growing expectation that professors will blog as part of their normal set of duties. In law, especially, blogging is very common. But not so in the academic discipline of accounting.
Why Accounting Professors Don’t Blog
As was seen in my first essay on blogging, Accounting Professors Who Blog, the practice of blogging is not common among accounting professors. There are only ten and one of these is written by a retired professor who has become a consultant. Why isn’t blogging a common practice for accounting professors?
The first reason for few blogs by academic accountants is that blogging simply doesn’t count as scholarship. The major accrediting agency–AACSB– pretty much controls most aspects of the largest colleges/schools/departments of business. AACSB defines the basic qualification for teaching in one of their schools to be mastery of content as evidenced by recent refereed journal articles. If it isn’t refereed, then it doesn’t count. And if it doesn’t count, then it isn’t rewarded. Period. As long as the AACSB tightly rules the academic world of business and accounting, it will be difficult for many business professors to be motivated enough (financially) to crank out a blog. The ACBSP (accrediting body for smaller colleges and departments of business) also stresses refereed journal articles.
Now, I personally define scholarship as insightful contributions by an expert who has near total command of a subject matter’s content and who has sufficient experience to develop a wise world view that produces thoughts that are of interest to others. For me, a piece has to be valuable for it to be scholarhsip. I think there are multiple outlets for scholarship. A few years back, Ernest Boyer proposed a model with four types of scholarship. Although Boyer talks about the natural outlet for the scholarship of discovery being publications, he does recognize the potential for other types of outlet. Boyer’s way of thinking has not yet made it to AACSB controlled colleges/schools/departments of business. A refereed publication need not contain scholarship but will still count, and non-referee published scholarship does not count.
A second reason for little blogging by accounting academics is that the discipline is dysfunctional after years of control by a network of elite schools that emphasize accountics. Jean Heck and Bob Jensen provide support for this in their incredibly valuable and insightful paper, “An Analysis of the Evolution of Research Contributions by The Accounting Review, 1926-2005″ in The Accounting Historians Journal, December 2007. In their paper, Heck and Jensen chronicle the ascendency and dominance of the accountics model for accounting research and publication. Accountics has been disastrous for the discipline, because in large part all research has pretty much been bunk, devoid of value to anyone but other accountics researchers. Prior to the advent of accountics, The Accounting Review regularly contained think pieces. After accountics, no think pieces were judged to have any value what-so-ever. Of course, not all think pieces, if they were to be written, contain scholarship However, the ancient history of academic accouting is that such pieces sometimes contained scholarship of the highest level.
A final reason deals with the conservative nature of most accounting professors. Accounting professors have been described as the most traditional and conservative group of faculty in the entire academy. Such professors are naturally resistant to change. This resistance to change is regularly seen by the continued use of archaic instructional approaches that have been debunked by the learning centered approach. Never-the-less, almost all accounting professors continue to use the old ways of teaching.
I think that the acadeic discipline of accounting could be amazingly transformed if more accounting professors started blogging. Medicine has its list of top 50 blogs, and Law has its top 100. Accounting only has ten blogs in total.
Over and out – - David Albrecht