Friday, January 6, 2012

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

I promised to write this post, and then I put it off for almost two weeks. Mostly because I’m torn myself. Also partly because the heated nature of the topic has me quaking in my boots. But I have an opinion, and one that I need to get off my chest. So bear with me, and if you don’t agree with me that’s cool. We can still be friends <grin>.

There’s been a great big push back—make that a shove back—over Michael Hait’s couple of blog posts on blogging and source citations. I can’t speak for Michael, but I didn’t read them nearly as harshly as others have. What I got from his posts was basically, ‘If you believe in the standards, show that on your blog.’
What I got from his posts is that he’s worried. He’s concerned that the hard work and time put in by prominent genealogists over the last fifty years to standardize and elevate genealogical research will be swallowed up in the tidal wave of the newest genealogical publishing avenue—blogs. Personally, I think he’s right to be worried. I share his concern.

I greatly enjoy starting my mornings with a diet coke (I take my caffeine cold) and my RSS reader on my iPad. I love to read geneablogs. I follow several—professionals, amateurs, and many in-between. Some are source-cited, most aren’t, and I enjoy them all. BUT I am also an avid reader of the NGSQ; I attend any lecture I can that is given by an FASG, CG, or AG; and I read and participate on the Transitional Genealogists Listserv. In other words I’m getting a good dose of peer reviewed and crowd sourced information in addition to blogs. I have also been doing this long enough to know how much weight I can place on any one person’s opinion, blog post, article, or lecture.

But there are plenty of people who aren’t. There are plenty of people who are just starting, and the first thing they see isn’t a peer reviewed journal, it’s probably a blog. So I choose, on my blog, to work to promote standards. I choose, on my blog, to try and build on the foundations which have already been painstakingly laid. Do I think everyone else should? Well yeah, of course I do, or I probably wouldn’t think I should do it. But I also think that my four-year-old daughter should wear matching clothes to preschool. Her response? “You’re not the boss of me!” And you know what? She’s right (at least in a choosing my battles sort of way). I’m also not the boss of any other blogger. Nor would I ever want to be. It’s our differences that make us interesting.

I just hope that we don’t forget the work of those who have gone before us (and are still going before us). I hope that we appreciate and respect the foundations they have laid. I hope we continue to strive to learn all we can from them. I hope that we continue to build on these foundations and continue to legitimize our passion in the eyes of the academic world. Because it does matter and it will affect how our profession grows. So if we do support standards including, but not limited to source citation standards, we can help newbies learn them by practicing on our blogs.

So . . . the takeaways from this post? No one is the boss of what you write on your blog, but our blog is often our public face and it’s a great place to teach newbies about standards—citation standards, research standards, and ethical standards. (Of course if you don’t agree with the current commonly held standards that is totally your own business.)


  1. Thanks, Christy! I just can't believe how nasty things got on Facebook. Especially from people who have never met me, throwing personal attacks on my character.

  2. Great post Christy! I think you've found your "voice!"

  3. Well said, Christy. I couldn't agree more. And I'm sorry to hear that Michael was attacked for expressing honest opinions.
    - Brenda

  4. I'm torn myself. Frankly, if I'm doing "scholarly" writing, it's not on a blog. To me - a blog is a place to free fall thoughts and stories...I don't see it as a place for academic standards in writing. But -- that's just my 0.02.

  5. Greetings, my sister of the Sisterhood of People who Start Their Day with Diet Coke and an RSS Reader on the iPad!

    I think emotions are running so high that at this point, the statements some folks are making don't necessarily reflect their real feelings. It's like taking your blood pressure right after you have a car accident--the reading isn't accurate, so your doctor shouldn't prescribe medicine based on that reading.

    I'm hoping once things settle down, we'll realize that we have more in common than not, and that it's okay to agree to disagree on some issues.

  6. Thanks, Christy, and well said, Kerry -- that's why I'm cool with disagreement, because I think we all do have a lot in common, and a lot to learn and be humble about ;-) Nobody take my pressure in the middle of a football game, though!

  7. I find myself agreeing with Christine S. I've had thre articles published in genealogical magazines complete with the standard citations. However, I see my blog as more informal. I often cite sources but not necessarily following a formal format. For me, it's a different type of venue.

  8. I have followed this conversation and commented on various blogs. I am from the school of "I might not agree with you but I will defend your right to have an opinion and state it."

    In the geneaworld and the real world, we need a little more polite listening, a little more thinking about what was said and assuming it was meant in a thoughtful manner, a little more taking what we consider helpful and discarding respectfully what we consider to be unhelpful. It all goes back to grade school - play nice with others, don't assume the worst, and be willing to consider someone else's opinion.

    I appreciated this entire discussion (with the exception of Facebook which I did not see and don't use for genealogy and apparently should be happy I missed).

  9. Be very happy you missed the mess on Facebook, Tessa.

  10. Thanks for the great comments.

    I couldn't agree more, Kerry. We really do have more in common than not. One of those commonalities is a passion for the discipline of genealogy (whether you do it professionally or not. That passion can just get us in trouble sometimes.

    Kathy and Christine--for me I agree that a blog is certainly a more informal medium. But I also know that I enjoy reading a blog which does cite its sources. Case in point Judy G. Russell's new blog, So I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.

    Either way you look at it I think it's been a useful discussion. I know it forced me to really look at how I wanted to handle citations rather than taking the path of least resistance.


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