Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Blogging is good for you. And for me, too!

Blog posts can be a valuable source of 'soft' or 'fuzzy' information. They allow you to partake in a huge number of conversations, sharing cultural information that is otherwise very hard to transmit.

At the weekend I suddenly had a 'flashback' about something that happened some 30 years ago: I remembered a series of children's sci-fi books that I got out of the public library, and which I was then fascinated by. They were brand-new, so the librarian didn't let me borrow the full series, and I seem to remember that I tried to chase those books over the coming weeks/months, but cannot remember whether I actually got them or not, as they were then obviously borrowed by other people and my scholarship was by that age not advanced enough that I made a note of either the author or the titles of those books. All I remembered was the covers, pastel coloured hard-backs.

The stories were about some kids aboard a space ship, with no adults (cannot remember why, I think they were off at work somewhere), going through space and having adventures. I read them in German, and it must have been around 1980 or so.

This elusive memory came back to me for some reason, and I thought that it was a pity that this kind of information is not enough to find those books. But then I thought again, and tried a web search with "seventies" (as I guessed they were English originals, and it would have taken some time for them to be translated), "children books kids spaceship no adults". And I got a result.

The first hit was a blog from just around the corner, Warwick Uni, where the writer asks a similar question. The comments on this post contain a few leads, and as it turns out, there was indeed a story of children trapped on a space ship, "Space Hostages" by Nicholas Fisk. Close but no cigar: this is a single book, not a series, and I was not too sure about the description of the story line. But then I looked up the author and found a reference to a series of books, called "Starstormers". Wikipedia says:

Published between 1980 and 1983 by Hodder, "'Starstormers'" consisted of five books; "'Starstormers'", "'Sunburst'", "'Catfang'", "'Evil Eye'" and "'Volcano'". Fed up of being left in a boarding school on earth while their parents colonize a new planet, a group of children decide to build their own spaceship out of scrap in order to join their parents, but in order to get there they will first have to deal with the mysterious Octopus Emperor.

This seems a bit late, date-wise, but perhaps I only saw the first few, and maybe they got translated quickly. The story seems spot-on, even though I don't remember anything more specific.

Our local library has some of the books, but not the first one, so I bought that on ebay. I will see if this brings back memories, or whether it was a cul-de-sac. In the worst case I'll get my kids to read them, perhaps they are interested in science fiction. Would be an improvement over Harry Potter...

But the real lesson of this episode is that any blog post, no matter how trivial, carries some useful snippet of information. It is like somebody having a chat with their mates, reminiscing about some memories, and you are there, listening, and taking part. It also shows how powerful a simple keyword search is. I would not really have expected to find out this information so easily with just a few words.

This is of course a trivial example, but I would assume that it can apply to professional blogging as well. I often chat to colleagues and friends about teaching or research, and we come up with interesting ideas. If they are put on a blog, they can be shared with the world. And most of them would not be suitably earth-shaking to make it into a journal article (and who's got time for writing everything up?) So the humble blog has a valuable role for disseminating knowledge with a much lower barrier of entry.

What's your excuse for not blogging?

1 comment:

  1. The mysterious octopus emperor will find you out if you don't blog...

    Lovely post!

    I remember once reading a poem in a collection, I think by a single author, about being anaesthetised in a hospital and all I remember about it now is that it had a powerful effect on me. There's almost nothing to go on there, but I'd love to experience it again :-)