Monica is Portuguese. Till recently she worked in a research lab in Lisbon focusing on information behaviour and information management, but took a leave to work on her PhD research, which has not been supported by her group.
Monica says that she started blogging by reading other weblogs, commenting and sending links. Her own blogging came when she felt comfortable sharing and making mistakes in public. She created a weblog in July 2002 to complement work on her Masters, writing primarily for her advisor. Although she found out that her advisor wasn’t reading the weblog, others found her. The connections she developed via her weblog make her feel having many advisors and being connected to people who are “more friends and colleagues than those I work with”.
Since then she had multiple blogs. She says that all of them serve different information needs “it didn’t make sense to have a blog with all of that, but instead different rooms with different needs”.
Her second blog was part of her work – she used it to collect ideas on how blogs could be used in organisations, however it was anonymous as mentioning weblogs before got negative responses from her organization. Her authorship of the weblog was discovered via a newspaper. She was an only researcher at a blogging conference and a journalist “connected the dots” referring to her as a Portuguese expert on organisational blogging. Because of that publication she was discovered by people from other departments, who looked for someone to help them to start blogging. She was happy to be able to put her name on the weblog: she talks about her own practice of checking weblogs of others to find out who they are and dissatisfaction of not being visible in the same way. However, writing openly was not very well received by her boss because of political reasons. That was difficult to accept since information in her weblog was actually used by the team and she didn’t put anything personal in it (“[In my weblog] I will not talk about myself. For me blogging and being in public are the same”).
Monica also tells about the experience of leaving her research group and some unfinished projects to work on the PhD. Her colleagues commented that she wouldn’t really leave them – since her weblog and her ideas were on the weblog. “I had mixed feelings, so I stopped posting work-related things there. […] I felt used, [I felt they were saying] we are not supporting your PhD, but we still have your enthusiasm, your motivation, your resources”.
Changes in professional network as a result of blogging
Monica said that her blogging friends were already established when she started writing her own weblog and it did not change much. She talked about getting to know people via weblogs and then discovering “real life” details about them (“later I discovered he was a professor in Spain”).
She told about difficulties of being recognised as an expert working in a hierarchical environment, when individual contributions to reports are often muted (” I could be the one who made the reports, the name of the head of the department and then the team…”). She told that blogging helps others to know you, and to be recognised as an expert, and in tern help your own “professional self-esteem”. She also noted this visibility challenges existing power distribution in organisations and “that’s why blogs are also a problem”.
“I didn’t realise that linking and giving credits to someone’s work would extend my professional network extended very quickly.” She then told a story of being contacted by a municipality government from Spain who wanted her to speak at an event. “I didn’t know I was followed by them. If [people] leave comments, you have a clue, a footprint. It turns out that guy who was reading my blog suggested the government that I would be a good person to talk as a keynote speaker”. When she received an email she thought it was a joke, but they called to confirm.
“Before [blogging] my network was known by me, now [it is] beyond my knowledge and my control… I existed and had a life apart from my existence, just because of the insights I put in the blogs I created… I also discovered things about myself I didn’t know… when more people started saying something about me”.
She also noted that she wasn’t sure anymore what her professional network was, since she considers many bloggers she knows friends, not professional contacts as she can observe the details of their lives that “only friends have a privilege [to see]”
She says that “blogs per se don’t create the network, they do not create relationships”, that it’s what people are doing with their weblogs, their motivations to write, style, engagement with others, events that they go to.
“At the first years of blogging I made more connections than today. More than that most of the connections I made died with the time. Now I’m following less people, may be 15 that I read regularly, the rest I just scan… mostly I open new items just to see the bold disappear” She thinks that this is because of the change in a writing style, which now more frequently includes business motivation, hidden agendas, competitiveness…”. However, she also adds “may be I have enough friends now. Like after getting married, you are not looking anymore.”
Monica talked about the challenges of choosing the language to blog. She writes primarily in Portugeese and says that this choice makes her “invisible”. Although she thinks that her English is “not good enough to have a public conversation”, she writes in it when criticising someone’s work written in English as “it is not fair to critic while not allowing the person to know what I’m saying”. She was surprised to realise that tags in her weblog were in English.