Skip to main content

Taking My Own Advice

I'm realizing that creating a membership website (a task that I've been working on for about 8 months) has a lot in common with writing a dissertation or publishing a book.

  • It's big and overwhelming

  • There are not clear guidelines

  • It's hard to know when it's good enough

  • It's easy to get isolated when you're working on it

  • It's hard to do without feedback from others

So I've decided I need to start posting more about the process, and trying to get feedback both here and elsewhere.
Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Academics can be isolated

  • Academics feel overwhelmed

  • Academics often think they are the only ones who feel that way, partly because they are isolated, and because they are afraid to share their feelings with other academics

  • Therefore academics need a safe place to go to share these thoughts, and to get feedback, encouragement, and "end the isolation."

My membership site, tentatively named Cafe Academia, will offer such an environment. I'm thinking of having:

  • A discussion list or forum

  • Programs such as "One-Day Workathons," "Five-Day Quick Starts," "30 Days to a Complete Chapter" to help motivate people to work.

  • Teleclasses where subjects are presented and people can discuss everything from dealing with difficult advisors to handling a boring colleague in faculty meetings, or on the academic front, from picking a research topic to submitting articles for publication.

  • Interviews with successful academics -- those who have recently finished Ph.D.'s, who have interviewed for jobs, who have spent 2 years on the tenure track, who have negotiated book deals, etc.

  • Recordings or MP3's of interviews and teleclasses available to members on the site.

  • Checklists, forms, resources and other downloadable products, with new ones available each month.

  • Articles in areas relating to becoming a successful and satisfied academic.

I have other ideas, but I'd like to throw it open to others -- any thoughts about the goals of this site, the ideas I have for offerings, or any new ideas of what academics would like to see on this kind of web site?


  1. I've just recently found you blog, and this post has me quite excited! I'm looking forward to joining the list, too.

  2. I'm so glad you are excited by the list of services I'm thinking of having in the site, Mary and pocacosa. I know there's a huge need for this; it's just a matter of optimizing the format to fit the needs of the potential members. Thanks for your input!

  3. Anonymous10:09 AM

    Hi Gina,

    That list looks like a great start. From past experience I'd venture that if you have any sort of discussion space (like a bulletin-board or a newsgroup-type forum), as the Fearless Leader you'll be saddled with the task of introducing new topics and actively encouraging conversation. But then, you're great at that anyway. :)

    How will you deal with anonymity (or not)? On one hand, many people (myself included) prefer to identify themselves by real name on the net. On the other, this sort of membership site may be scary for some to contribute to, unless they're anonymous. When there's a mix of both, I find that often factions arise, some people feel uncomfortable with those who "hide" ("Are you my colleague next door? Will you tell on me?"), etc.

  4. Hi Vika,

    You've definitely brought up two issues I'm concerned about. I know it's hard to bring people to discussion forums on a website. I might try a listserv. I use private listservs for my groups, which only have 6 members, and they can become very active (and useful) places.

    Re: how people identify themselves -- I don't think that it would make sense for me to enforce using one's real name. I think people will have to make a choice, bearing in mind that no matter how much I emphasize confidentiality, there is no guarantee on the internet. Since it will be a membership site, and therefore password protected, posts won't be accessible through search engines. But there is no stopping someone from sharing private posts.

    I think the best I can do is remind people initially and periodically of the importance of confidentiality, and also the importance of assuming anyone can read one's posts.

    As to factions, I guess that's life. There always will be that sort of thing in any group. My goal is to have a supportive, nurturing atmosphere with a sense of "we're all in this together and we'll do better if we're not isolated or antagonistic."

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Vika!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

"ABD" -- what does it really mean?

I thought I knew what the definition of ABD was. It was exactly the same as defined here in Carnegie Mellon's University Doctoral Candidate Policies for All But Dissertation (ABD) : After the completion of all formal degree requirements other than the completion of and approval of the doctoral dissertation and the public final examination, doctoral candidates shall be regarded as All But Dissertation(ABD). I have, though, occasionally run into the term ABD being used as a somewhat disparaging designation for one who fulfills the formal degree requirements of the Ph.D. but never finishes the dissertation, and then quits the program. Most recently, I saw it in What They Didn' t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career , by Paul Gray and David E. Drew. Number 9 of their helpful hints is one that I strongly agree with: "Remember that a Ph.D. is primarily an indication of survivorship." They go on to say, "You stuck wi

Academic Exhaustion Syndrome: Four Recovery Strategies

The semester’s over. If you’re anything like the academics I coach, you feel like death warmed over.  Those last stacks of grading got done on sheer will, determination and fumes. And this is before considering your writing deadlines, committee responsibilities, and other demands.  You are suffering from Academic Exhaustion Syndrome.  Academic Exhaustion Syndrome (an advanced, more scholarly state of burn out) is a state of emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, ending with grading, over the course of the semester and academic year. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation to work, you have fantasies of standing up and screaming in the middle of a meeting, and you wonder what temporary loss of reality testing made you decide to become an academic.  This dreaded Syndrome can: Reduce your productivity and saps your energy Make you irritable and have thoughts of strangling an undergraduate Make you feel like you have nothing more to g

The Second Holiday Writing Challenge for Academics

Here's a little boost for those who need a little kickstart to write over the holidays.  I first offered a Holiday Writing Challenge  back in 2005, so I'd say it's about time to do it again. Here's what you do: Post in the comment section: what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily . Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadline pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done! Whether you're a professor or a grad student, make sure you get a copy of the Dissertation Toolkit.  These tools will give you more information and tips for productive and creative writing.  For those of you who have had trouble making yourself write, you may want to start with VERY short writing goals . Even 5 or 10 minutes will be enough to get you jumpstarted.  Don't go more than 25 or 30 minutes withou