A Blog Idol

As a blogger myself, I find it important to browse, read, and comment on other blogs inside and outside my discourse community to get inspired and learn new things. Since my blog mainly focuses on the psychological aspect of French, I now have several bookmarks of psychology and French blogs. Out of my little collection, the one that struck me the most was Wray Herbert’s psychology blog “We’re Only Human” His blog presents blunt and clever articles about the psychology of everyday life while still maintaining a highly academic tone. There are a few reasons why I find this blog to be so successful, and I want to share with you what I’ve learned in order to become a more successful blogger.

One of the first things I noticed about Herbert’s blog is the title, “We’re Only Human.” This title resonates with and makes the audience interested–it’s a perfect hook to a great blog. The header is also attractively displayed over pastel colored dialogue boxes which perhaps subtly suggests the involvement of his intended audience. “We’re Only Human” is affiliated with The Association for Psychological Science’s website which clearly defines the members of the discourse community: students, professors, or other bloggers who want to learn and relate to the psychological issues brought up through relatable experiences and interesting musings. The second feature I noticed is the “about me” section right under the header. This choice to display it under the title, as opposed to in a separate tab or page, demonstrates the want for an established credibility. A smart choice in my opinion, especially under such a prestigious website (The Association for Psychological Science). In addition, Herbert kept his “about” concise and in third person, rather than displaying a long, first person account of his achievements—which, let’s be honest, can sometimes come off as arrogant.

The picture also adds a nice personal touch!

The layout of the blog is fairly simple yet appealing, containing two relevant ads, one of which is advertising Herbert’s new book, On Second Thought, and one for The Georgia Institute of Technology’s Department of Psychology. The sidebar contains recent articles and news in the psychology world and the archive at the top of the page lists an impressive history of posts starting in 1988! This is evidence enough for his audience that he’s been around and knows what he’s talking about. “We’re Only Human” also displays five posts on one page, each displaying just the first two sentences of the entire post. This makes it easier for readers to choose which article they would be interested in since they don’t have to continually scroll through pages of full length posts. In contrast, the page lacks any other form of navigation aside from the archive list. Perhaps adding a list of categories (ie. cognitive, developmental, social, issues) which sort out all the posts would aid the reader in finding exactly what they want more efficiently.

Herbert’s posts are frequent, often making several posts each month, however there are very few comments.  Nevertheless, the posts containing the comments are usually analytical and are most likely from highly informed people. For example in the post “The Bully in the Baby”, the three comments continue the conversation by asking questions and bringing up intriguing points.

This supports the idea that though there is little community involvement, it is evident that there is a faithful audience.. Many blogs surely contain the same characteristics and are equally successful. Take for instance, The Valve, an academic English blog with daily posts by several authors. There are little to no comments but the sense of community is very strong and the archives dating back to 2005 show that this blog has prospered.

What I’ve noticed about the articles posted is that Herbert often begins them with a relatable experience (“Last night I had a chocolate milkshake for dinner”–“The Vitamin Paradox” July 19, 2011)  or a current event (“The Supreme Court’s decision today to overturn California’s ban on selling video games..”–“Fast and Furious: Belief, Catharsis, and Video Games” June 27, 2011) to intrigue the reader. There is always at least one picture relating to the topic and a couple hyperlinks to studies that back up his points. Most posts are short but very detailed including references to findings and scholarly journals. Since the posts usually discuss appealing topics such as “The Hazards of Team work: Does Group Study Disrupt Learning? (April 22, 2011) Herbert’s goal can be pinpointed to informing and adding to the psychology discourse community. Along with Herbert’s about me section displayed at the top of the blog, these two examples appeal to three modes of rhetoric:

  • Ethos (appeal to authority): By immediately stating and presenting the audience with his achievements, it establishes how qualified Herbert is to blog about issues within his academic discourse of psychology.
  • Pathos (appeal to personality): The choice to start off entries with personal accounts or well-known events helps his intended audience to associate themselves and feel more connected to him.
  • Logos (appeal to logic): Including links to other studies and often citing journals and experiments keeps the blog academic and makes Herbert seem more knowledgeable.

By seamlessly incorporating these three appeals to persuasion, Herbert can communicate with a well-rounded audience while keeping his credibility. In addition, his posts, although often reviewing psychological studies, do often spark a conversation within the discourse community. Aaron Barlow, author of Blogging America, addresses the criticisms that blogs merely restate work done by others rather than post any original findings. Barlow counters this by pointing out the purpose of the blog is conversation (Barlow, 50) which is exactly what Herbert’s blog promotes through his short, yet highly informative posts. Other blogs such as Postcards from the Id which also relates recent new media to psychological issues, lack in the multimedia included in Herbert’s blog are full of big, long chunks of text, which may make it less appealing to certain readers. If you quickly scroll through “Postcards from the Id”, you will see that there are practically no comments. “We’re Only Human” does a great job of keeping posts to the point, which keeps the audience more interested and more likely to read and comment.

I can somewhat relate to his blogs since I tend to begin most posts with a personal experience and then tie it in with an academic study or two though I lack the amount of credibility Herbert has, I feel I am still able to connect to my intended audience . Overall, “We’re Only Human” adequately informs the intended audience of those willing to learn about psychological issues through forms of multi modality, an established credibility, and a little sense of humor. “We’re Only Human” contains many great examples of how a blog can foster conversation and contribute to the discourse community. I can only hope to one day be at the same level as Herbert and have a well established blog. However, seeing as how Herbert has been blogging since 1988, I’ve got a quite a ways to go!

———-

Barlow, Aaron. Blogging America: The New Public Sphere. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008. Print.

Herbert, Wray. We’re Only Human. n. d. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/were-only-human&gt;.

Postcards from the Id. n. d. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://postcards-from-the-id.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/12/page/3/&gt;.

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