HTTP Turns 2: Making HTTP Great Again
Yesterday our blog turned two! If it was a child, it would be asking “Why?” all the time; be able to walk, run, and jump with both feet; and, most importantly, climb furniture (instead, we have Muz for that). Last year, we were still learning how to crawl. As a blog and as a community, we’ve grown and learned new skills. We’ve gained new members, and lost a few to busy student/work life. Most of us have also undergone huge personal changes and challenges.
Last year, we had the chance to get together to create our first ever podcast. This year (mostly due to time constraints!) we’re going for a more traditional format – though a new podcast is coming soon, fear not…
What have you learned in this past year?
Gaelle: I have been doing more for the blog as the year has gone on and I have found it hugely rewarding and fun. I particularly enjoy getting people I know, mostly students from my university in Germany, to publish something on HTTP. This not only offers the blog something new – a new perspective, a new theme, a new writer – but also encourages those who write to do something they have not done before. I can tell people like to see their ideas published on a smart, open platform and often in a different language than their own. It’s very exciting. Something else I have discovered during this year has been how much fun and how productive and insightful it can be to write collaboratively: not only is it possible, but the result is also better!
Muzaffar: I have been doing less for the blog as the year has gone on and as such I have found it not as rewarding and fun as my colleague Gaelle (who I am now very jealous of). This was my own doing mostly down to personal reasons. In 2016 I have learnt that, honestly, anything can happen. With Trump winning the presidency, Brexit, and Leicester winning the Premier League, we’ve seen that it is all too important now to truly understand. At History to the Public it is very important that we understand you. Our readers, our contributors – you are the very reason this whole project exists. HTTP has taught me to believe in myself while at the same time to doubt myself. See, I work best when I’m questioning what I’m doing – and at HTTP we’ve built a great community that pushes everyone.
Tiia: Having been on the bandwagon of HTTP now for 2 years, and seeing how much it has inspired others … has been incredible – that I think is a learning experience in and of itself. I’m also learning, now, how to make the project sustainable in the long term, when some of us move on to other projects or enter new life stages: who will continue our legacy? On a more general note, in 2015 I mentioned how difficult it is to write well. Over the year, I’ve worked hard on becoming a better writer. I’m nowhere near as good as Simon or Sarah, but I am working towards that goal.
Simon: I’ve done more or less the same for the blog this year as the last, but I’ve found myself enjoying it more and more; I’ve certainly found it more consistently satisfying than my ‘real’ academic work! One change that I have noticed though, unless it’s just wishful thinking, is in my writing style. I’d like to think that my writing has matured (or rather, softened) as I’ve written more in this medium – adapting my writing to different platforms and levels of formality has always been a sticking point for me, but after two years it feels as though I’m finally getting the hang of it. This is a lesson I would definitely have had to learn at some point, since I want to stay in academia, so I’m massively grateful to HTTP for giving me the chance to (gradually and long-windedly) sort myself out!
Cherish: I’ve been working more to help schedule the blog posts from both inside and outside our team. I’ve enjoyed working closely with fellow Content Director Gaelle in organising a diverse range of posts. It’s also been great to welcome on board new writers, particularly after our successful Women’s History Month’s posts, which I hope to repeat this year. I’ve also learnt a lot from taking part in the new podcasts and discussing issues which arise in historical research. The first podcast I participated in sparked off my interest into scrapbooks, following conversations with Bridget at our partnership blog ‘Inciting Sparks’. Our podcast certainly did that for me!
What’s something you want to develop for the blog for the next year?
Gaelle: I have been watching quite a few niche foreign films lately, mostly in some sense historical. One of my ideas has been to set up a running document of short summaries and keywords on the blog, a bibliography of sorts, so that our readers could find out what films exist on different historical topics such as Communism, the Holocaust, Eastern European history and so on. Let’s see if 2017 is the year for that!
Simon: If I achieve nothing else in the coming year (which seems worryingly possible), I’d very much like to start expanding the range of podcasts HTTP offers. This is something I’ve been hoping to get off the ground for a while now – our current group discussion podcasts are always fun to do and (with any luck) edifying to listen to, but I’d really like us to be able to offer a bit more. As well as preparing to record the group cast a little more frequently, I’m planning to put together a series of shorter, bite-sized audio instalments, which we’ll release a couple of times a month. Some of these will discuss particular debates, disciplines or methodologies (much like our written offerings), but some will have a markedly more personal feel, focusing on our writers’ feelings about and experiences of historical research. If we can get enough interesting voices together, I think it’ll be a fantastic way of providing new perspectives on the field, and reaching entirely new groups of people to boot. Keep your ears peeled, folks…
Muzaffar: My role at History to the Public is to handle the marketing side of things. This year I plan to take even more responsibility and establish HTTP in the public eye. We will be coordinating, in very close partnership with the editorial team and the authors, various campaigns to ensure that our readers are getting the best out of us. We all handle various departments here at HTTP and I’d like to work closely with Simon on podcasts as I believe this is an important tool to engage with our readership. I want HTTP to be focused in 2017 and have a clear roadmap of where we expect to be going into 2018. My promise is, with the rest of the amazing team, to spearhead this focus.
Tiia: I want to work on sustainability for the long term. While we don’t give full stats out to the public, I can say that we’ve grown about 80% in readership in a year (obligatory Hi mom! insert). I want to continue pushing our growth with Muz, and further expand to other formats, like podcasts and YouTube videos. I’m happy to take the blog anywhere our writers want to go. It’s amazing to see the blog flourish, but also to watch our members grow as writers, academics, and people.
Cherish: Likewise, I would like to support all of the directions suggested by the team above. I’m particularly keen in helping share our content in a variety of podcast forms; hearing someone discuss history really brings it alive. Once I finish my degree, I would also be keen to explore the opportunities for funding and outreach. It would be great to run workshops with students around the benefits of blog writing and history more generally.