By Laura Harrison |

It started, as so many things do, at a wine reception.  Early in our orientation at the University of Edinburgh, the first year PhDs had a class on the virtues of maintaining a social media presence, and we were all feeling a little uneasy about our lack of an online footprint, but also the mountain of thesis-related work that was quickly taking up all of our time.  Several glasses of wine later the (rather obvious) lightbulb went off: maybe it would be easier if we did it together.

I put out a call for committee members and ended up with five eager, naïve fellow first year history PhDs joining me.  We weren’t diverse, but we were dedicated.  We had several meetings in the autumn of 2014 in an attempt to figure out who we were, and what we could offer in terms of a PhD blog.  We knew that we wanted this to go beyond Edinburgh, and to be more about the process of doing a PhD, rather than our own research.  The name proved most difficult, and in the end it was my partner that came up with ‘Pubs and Publications’- or as we prefer, Pubs and Pubs.  It seemed to suit what our emerging aim was— to provide a forum for PhD researchers about the highs and lows of completing this process.  We wanted to be a helpful place to go for information about the highbrow things like getting published, but also navigating the lesser-discussed aspects of navigating a post-seminar pub.  After a lot of help from Karen Howie and the University IT department in setting up the website, each of the committee members wrote one post, we crossed our fingers, and we launched on Wednesday 18 February 2015.

‘This first year we have had 34,781 page views from 140 countries.’

We had 600 views the first day.  It was certainly a better response than anything I had ever expected, and feedback since day one has been incredible.  This first year we have had 34,781 page views from 140 countries.  Excluding a short break over Christmas, we have posted two articles every week, adding up to 116 posts, by 56 authors.  Other successes include being picked up by some social media moguls (The Guardian and Dan Snow), a 1000 view week in September, and our 25,000 views reception in December.

Our 25,000 views celebration

It certainly has not been all sunshine and rainbows.  Last minute drop-outs, twitter spats, tough choices about post content, and website crashes have taken a few years off all of our lives.  There have also been really unexpected consequences; we’ve had some surprising posts from people we thought we already knew well, the search engine results that somehow bring people to our site are often wildly inappropriate, and for a time we were really popular in Russia.  We are mildly afraid to look into that one too much.

‘…the search engine results that somehow bring people to our site are often wildly inappropriate, and for a time we were really popular in Russia.’

Looking toward the future, we are focused on expanding what Pubs and Pubs has come to embody— providing a useful community for PhDs.  We diversified our committee in September, which has helped expand our post topics and reach, but this will be a big focus for us in the next few months.  We are also looking into expanding into events and other opportunities where we can actually talk in person.  We are also intrigued by the idea of different blog post formats— not always just our written words.

Since this is an anniversary post, I need to say some thank yous.  To my committee members past and present, this honestly would not be happening without every single one of you, and for that I am forever grateful to Roseanna Doughty, Fraser Raeburn, Aglaja Kempinski, Elke Close, Drew Thomas, Richard Parfitt, Rachel Davis, Gary Hutchison, and Ben Rogers.  We have received a lot of support from many staff members in the HCA at the University of Edinburgh, but special mention goes to Karen Howie, Stephen McDowall, Emma Hunter, Michael O’Reilly, Anna Groundwater, and the HCA IT team.  All of our guest contributors (too many to name here) have added insight and experiences that have enriched the blog far beyond what any of us expected— thank you for giving us your time and your experiences.

Finally, thank you to every single person who has ever read a post on our website, and especially to our loyal readers.  Everyone always talks about how lonely the PhD process can be, but I think we have created our own little community.  Here’s to many more anniversaries!

Laura Harrison is the Editor-in-Chief of Pubs and Publications.  She is a second year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, studying commemorations of the Scottish Wars of Independence from 1800-1939.  You can also find her on Twitter, where she tweets about Canada, Pubs and Pubs, baseball, and occasionally history.