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The Powers That Be have bestowed upon us a new feature: Stack Exchange community blogs. There's also a Stack Exchange blog post about it.

I think a blog for the English Language & Usage site is a great idea. We could use it to:

  • Provide hints and tips to users on how to write better answers
  • Provide long-form commentary on topics related to EL&U questions
  • Anything else you can think of

We have a unique voice on the internet—Language Log-style rational analysis of a descriptivist tilt with a focus on practical advice, and think we have some useful contributions we could make to the blogosphere. I think a somewhat expansive scope, with topics specific to our site as well as general English Language and Usage topics, would be best.

Answer here if you have any ideas on

  • Blog topic and scope
  • Topics for posts you would like to write
  • 5
    I'm in favor of a blog in principle. However, I would not be able to contribute very often, and my only worry is finding enough people to write and enough topics to write about. However, if there was one person who was willing to be the ringleader and ensure that we had a regular schedule of posts, topics, and writers, I'd be happy to join in as I'm able. – JSBձոգչ Jun 29 '11 at 13:50
  • This is actually a very good idea. I'd like to write an article or two. But I couldn't commit to a regular schedule (too many other things to write in other languages). – Cerberus Jun 29 '11 at 19:19
  • I'd also be interested in contributing, but couldn't commit to a regular schedule. – Kosmonaut Jul 3 '11 at 18:05
  • 1
    I'd be happy and proud to contribute because my answers are always too long and I'm really struggling to condense them in less than one page. Armed with a blog, I could get many more people bored with larger quantities of my nonsense gobbledygook without fear of down-vote retaliation... I'd be interested to know however, whether there would be some sort of built-in galley-proofing mechanism as I'm even more ashamed of my spelling than of my gibberish. – Alain Pannetier Φ Jul 7 '11 at 22:25
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Brainstorming blog topics (I thought of a bunch this morning, let's see if I can still remember them)...

  • Guides to online resources
    • Reviews of online dictionaries
    • Non-dictionary resources you might not know about
    • Pronunciation - dictionaries with audio, searching words by pronunciation
    • How to search a corpus
    • How (not) to use Google to research usage
  • Reviews of print or offline resources
    • Do you still use a printed dictionary? (survey users in chat, post the results)
    • Reviews of offline dictionaries
    • Offline/print resources that every library should have
  • Gripes! Well, sorta (debunking, educating, lighthearted complaining):
    • Take an example of popular usage, say from an ad or a TV show, and examine why it sounds wrong to some people, and perfectly natural to others
    • Language change and pet peeves (survey users in chat about things considered wrong/grating/ungrammatical today and say, 100 yrs ago; post results and discuss)
    • Spoken English vs. written English, maybe mention sociolect, register (informal poll could also work here - say aloud if you can to see if phrase/usage sounds ok? would you write it? report location/country, see how that matches with existing research)
  • How to ask an interesting question
    • What makes a particular etymology interesting?
    • When is dialectal information pertinent?
    • When is comparing the difference between two words interesting?
    • How to ask a question that encourages deeper research
    • How to find the general case behind a narrow question
  • News items
    • Annual Social Security Administration name frequency lists
      • Equivalents thereof (if such exist) from other English-speaking countries
    • Other English-language related news tidbits that show up in the media (possibly just to debunk the fallacies contained therein)
  • This day in English-language history (birthdays of famous linguists, publishing dates of seminal works, etc.)
  • Hard questions: the questions that keep popping up, with recursive series of duplicates snaking all over the site, because everyone has trouble with them
  • More specific topics that aren't really part of a series
    • Origin of holiday names - Michaelmas? Candlemas? Is that mas as in mass, or something else? (post in a somewhat-timely fashion, i.e. on Michaelmas or Candlemas or whatever, though probably not Christmas)
    • The 12 days of Christmas (they come after Christmas! Really! - again, to be posted in a timely fashion, perhaps on December 13)

Feel free to add to this list!

  • Added a couple ideas. Bit of overlap with linguistics, but I think that's ok. Linguistics.se hasn't launched yet and besides, plenty of linguistics-related things (IPA! there's one I forgot) are relevant here... I also think a gripes section could be quite funny if kept light (making it obvious that judgment like "WHAT? You can't say that! That's not a word!" is humorous or reflects the writer/speaker's own dialect) and this would give us an opportunity to address difficult subjective topics, in a way that's easier for non-experts to understand than some Language Log posts. – aedia λ Jun 29 '11 at 17:27
  • @Martha: Heh, I intentionally put that section under "Gripes" but... I guess it works on its own. :) – MrHen Jul 1 '11 at 17:47
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I propose a blog where we are posting something (at least) once a week.

I commit myself to writing a post at least once a month for at least the next 12 months. I will probably focus on writing articles about how to write good answers—getting the most out of corpus searches, n-grams, dictionaries, grammars, etc.

I also volunteer myself to be the blog coordinator, taking care of the administrative details like actually posting the content, lining up contributors and contributions, and maintaining the schedule.

5

Let me start off by saying that I'm not against a blog. I'd love to have one for EL&U, but I see a lot of pitfalls, considering the subject area EL&U covers, as compared to other SE sites. (I do have a proposed solution at the very bottom, for those of you TL;DRs).


For a blog, we have to cover something that the main site does not do so already in Q&A. Generally, I find that this requires either a lot of extensive detail in posts exploring one particular topic per blog post or a personal feel, such as in the form of reviews.

I'm worried that these types of blog posts aren't something that EL&U could sustain—how much is there really to say that wouldn't work better in a Q/A?


Putting that thought aside, let's look at the topics suggested by SE:

Interview top users.
Highlight top content.
Review a product.
Tell us an interesting story.
Explore hot topics.
Keep up with current events.

The first two are the only ones we could really do on a regular basis—English has few, if any, products, interesting stories, hot topics, or current events.


Most important part here: The key, I think, to making a blog work for EL&U would be to team up with Writers.SE—the two communities are related enough that I think blog posts would be mutually interesting, and we'd have a larger size topic area that allows more freedom for contributors. Of the six SE-suggested topics, EL&U can only truly do the first two, but EL&U + Writers would be able to explore all six.


Oh, and I'd be happy to contribute in any way, be it helping to coordinate or writing, or whatever.

  • 6
    I think there are lots of interesting stories that could be told about English. – Marthaª Jun 28 '11 at 15:12
  • I agree mostly, but felt like pointing out that there are a handful of interesting EL&U related products involving dictionaries, corpuses, sites like NGrams that could provide some great starter content. – MrHen Jun 29 '11 at 0:42
  • I agree with @Martha but I also agree that a 'blog combining us with writers could produce some fascinating articles. – Matt E. Эллен Jul 1 '11 at 8:12
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So it's been a week since this was posted, and despite the feel I get that there's a lot of enthusiasm behind this, our progress seems to have slowed—so I thought I'd help light a fire on this.

Quick review of the four steps to a blog:

  1. Post a topic on Meta
  2. Define content and scope (Martha and others have done a great job of this)
  3. Recruit contributors (See below)
  4. Plan a schedule (Depends on #3)

Right now, I see four people who have explicitly said that they want to post:

Add yourself to this list!

  • JSBangs
  • Cerberus
  • Kosmonaut
  • waiwai933 (me)
  • nohat
  • Callithumpian
  • Alain Pannetier
  • Matt Ellen
  • Simchona
  • Martha

Four is workable, but I think around eight is a safer number to go with, to account for vacations/holidays or other times people are busy. Anyone else up for this? Edit above!

  • I'd be up for non-regular contribution but cannot commit to anything steady... so, I am around but not enough to be on the list. – MrHen Jul 6 '11 at 14:08
  • I would also like to contribute, but I am not sure whether my writing would make the cut. – rest_day Jul 6 '11 at 21:07
  • Yes, I'm in! Let's do it – nohat Jul 7 '11 at 20:06
  • I'm willing to contribute some articles but I'm not sure how often I can contribute. So, tentatively count me in. I have a blog of my own (linked on my user profile page) if someone wants to see my writing style and quality. Note: my blog may be highly opinionated or use strong language. It doesn't always have to be that way! :) – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 9 '11 at 13:39
  • I'd like to contribute post for beginners learning English as a second language, if that's a valid topic. – Matt E. Эллен Aug 11 '11 at 17:54
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Adding on to waiwai's answer here.

Can't we have this blog as a sort of extension to the main Q&A site. We have a lot of questions that are currently closed as too subjective. We could use the blog to address such questions, once in a while.

I am sure we will be able to address most of the other topics too. For example, in product reviews, we could have reviews about some of the books that help(ed) us understand English better.

Keep up with current events should also be not a problem, and I believe language log has set a good example on how this can be achieved. Of the top of my head, I can think of a question about Obama's use of the term 'Lead from behind', which I am sure has a lot more than what could be addressed in a Q&A forum.

And I don't think there would be dearth of interesting stories from the users in our community.

1

It's been a while, and now it seems that this blog thing isn't happening, or may be happening, or who knows what. We seem to have lots of people who want to write, or suggest topics. Are we only missing a leader? Someone to take charge? Someone who may not write articles at all, but rather herd the catsauthors?

If we don't have a leader, could we just try to come up with 52 subjects, and dole out writing assignments to volunteers? @nohat already volunteered to write 12 articles, we have 6 or more other confirmed volunteers, plus I volunteer myself (for occasional writing), so that's about 5-7 blog posts per-person. Maybe we could get the first, say, 4-8 posts written and previewed/edited, then see if this proposal can pick up some more steam.

  • I'm looking into this now. – Grace Note Aug 10 '11 at 13:46

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