A Content Free Link

July 29, 2007

That’s a bit of a lie.  The link (to a comment at The Valve), in fact, is chock full of content.  The post, however, lacks any content aside from the link.  Which I found interesting.


Is it just me…

July 27, 2007

Or is Julian Tavarez more effective when he is competing for a starting spot? At the beginning of the season, when we thought that Lester might come up any day now, he was excellent. Then, when his roster spot was assured over the past month or so, he was dreadful. Tonight, pitching out of the bullpen after Gabbard’s collapse, he has thus far been lights out.

That paragraph was written at the beginning of the seventh inning, before Tavarez imploded.  Which only make me more superstitious than I used to be.

Why is it…

July 27, 2007

That when I search Google for the CNN bumper, I get a slew of semi-pornographic videos?

Hillel Organizations or How I Suck at Coming Up with Titles..

July 26, 2007

I’ve spent the past few days at work compiling a list of contacts at Hillels on what my boss calls “key campuses,” which seems to mean campuses where we can get asses in seats for showings of our Israel advocacy film. So as I’ve been working though the Hillel websites, mining them for information as to the organization and orientation of each particular Hillel, I’ve been surprised at the incredible diversity that is out there. Not so much programming diversity. I’ve visited enough schools to know that programming, especially religious programming, will vary widely base on the composition of the student body. What surprised me so much was the vastly different ways in which these Hillels are organized and run. So, for example, Boston College Hillel, which seems to be relatively active, based on their programming calendar, shares its sole professional staff member with Wellesley College. Wellesley also has its own executive director, though it seems to be mostly student run as well. Contrast this to McGill, my alma mater, which has a student board which works closely with a large professional staff, which is integrated very closely into the city’s larger Jewish community.

While I suppose it is somewhat obvious that this would be true, it surprised me nevertheless. I had always thought that the Montreal system was somewhat anomalous, with a citywide Hillel board and staff coordinating the various campuses around the city, each of which has its own student board, and with the larger campuses having some individual staff as well (to say nothing of the separate system for the French speaking schools). So I was nonplussed to find that the same thing seems to exist in Chicago (excluding the larger campuses of the University of Chicago and Northwestern) and in Orange County. I suppose the question I have is, what creates such a system?

I understand where it came from in Montreal. The Jewish community at the Montreal schools was largely local, and lived at home. Instead of being clustered on separate campuses, away from each other, the Jewish student body lived mostly in the Jewish parts of Montreal. It made sense for Hillel to focus on the community as a whole, rather than on any particular university. Is this true of the Orange County and Chicago Hillels? I suspect not, though of course I don’t know. Something worth exploring I think.


July 26, 2007

For the lack of posts. Just starting, and I’m already slipping.   I’m going to try to have something substantive posted before I go to be tonight.

Once more…

July 20, 2007

Heading out of town for the weekend, to attempt to resolve my personal housing crisis (If anybody knows of an open room in Washington Heights for a Shomer Shabbos and Kashrus guy, let me know).  Have a good weekend!

A Lost Blog and the Future of Academic Blogging

July 17, 2007

Today for the first time I came across a short lived and unfortunately defunct blog called Giluy Milta B’alma. The idea was that it would be a forum to publish and discuss new and interesting findings in Hebrew manuscripts. The five posts that exist are somewhat uneven, but valuable for all that. It is a shame that the project did not work out, and here, presented in a roundabout, but hopefully useful way, is why.

There has been a great deal of discussion over the last few years about what academic blogging is, can be, should be, will be, etc…, from the UC Davis panel on “Historical Blogging and the New Media,” to the various ruminations at The Valve. (The link is to John Holbo’s, who has thought about these ideas as much, if not more, than anybody, long post introducing The Valve, what it is and what he wants it to be. It is pretty close to a programmatic statement on his vision of what academic blogging should be. Not all of his co-bloggers agree, and it’s worthwhile to poke around the place, read the comment threads and trackbacks and piece together some of the debates that surround Holbo’s vision of the future of blogging in academia. These issues are also addressed by a number of the bloggers on my blogroll.) I don’t want to rehash all of that, others have said it better than I could. The two links I posted above barely scratch the surface of what is a very interesting and productive conversation which has been going on for several years. But in all the time I’ve been following that debate, I never saw anybody suggest something quite like Giluy Milta.

The idea is to present either preliminary findings that are not yet ready for publication, or that are too short to merit a full length article. The blog format perfectly fits this project for two reasons. First of all, it is suited for shorter length pieces, such as “I was poking around in the archives today, this is what I found…:” The sort of things that you always want to put in papers, but don’t really belong there. The second reason is that blogs have built in space for discussion. “That fragment that you found? I think it might actually be…” A blog like Giluy Milta is, or would be, a fantastic forum for just those sorts of discussions.

In a certain sense this sort of project is a mirror image of John Holbo’s book events at The Valve, Crooked Timber and other sites. He and his colleagues bring their expertise to bear on scholarship which has already been produced. Book events stimulate discussion of what’s going on in a field, and contribute to the next phase of scholarship to an extent, but at the end of the day they are not actually part of the process of producing original scholarship. I think Giluy Milta points to a way that blogging can contribute to that production.

Unfortunately, right now two crucial components are missing. There is no audience, and consequently no group of contributors. To be successful, this sort of project needs a large number of contributors who are willing to take the time to post their archival findings online. It also requires people to read their contributions and comment on them, to create the lively sort of forum we see at the Valve. Without contributors, there will never be an audience. Somebody with some clout and some connections needs to get behind a project like this, and get others excited. If that were to happen, I think that it would open up a new opportunity for online scholarship.