Jun 17, 2013

Online Bios, Hate 'em!

I don't like writing mini-biographies, the kind used on websites to briefly introduce people to faculty or staff. They are terribly short and require you to cram some aspect of your life into 150 words or less. They are a pain to do and it annoys me just thinking about them. How can I distill my academic and work experience into such a small space? Here's one I wrote recently:

Rick is one of the newest members of the Ink Spot. He has taught English and writing at both the high school and collegiate level and is excited to bring his expertise to Mountain View. Rick has a Master of Science degree in Journalism from Boston University and a B.A. in English Language & Literature from the University of Chicago. Rick has worked as a freelance journalist for both online and weekly publications as well as a corporate communications writer. Most recently, he has worked as a substitute teacher for 6th-12th grade in the Little Elm ISD. Rick looks forward to bringing East Coast wit and Midwest charm to the Ink Spot.

Education, check. Work history, check. But does the bio really give a reader insight into who I am? No. I always feel like I'm missing some crucial aspect which is never found out until the bio is "live" on the website and effectively unchangeable. Here is another one, written for my Phreelance Writers blog:

Dash is a native of Dorchester who, despite popular belief and lack of an accent, actually grew up in Boston. He left Beantown for the bright lights and big times of Chicago and the University of Chicago. In 2007, he returned to Boston and met Gage through a tutoring job at the West Roxbury Education Complex working with high school students to improve their writing. Dash recently completed a Master’s degree in journalism at Boston University and freelanced for the Bay State Banner and UMass-Boston.

I feel like my personality comes through better on this one but it still remains informative in terms of my education. It even gives a sense of where I've lived in the past. But even this doesn't truly represent me, what I like and what I'm about beyond writing. Here's one more for you:

Rick spent his early years training in the Kung Fu style of Xiao Hong Quan at the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng City, China. At eighteen, he left China for America and undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago. After receiving BAs in English and Ancient Greek and Roman History, Rick traveled the world, getting into adventures across Europe, Northern Africa and much of Asia. In 2007 he decided three years of the "wandering warrior" life was enough. Settling on a career in journalism, Rick was accepted to Boston University's Journalism program. He is currently a first year graduate student focusing on sports journalism. Rick enjoys telling stories from his "wandering warrior" days. Ask him about his time in Thailand. On second thought, maybe you shouldn't.

This is, by far, my favorite bio I've written and had online. Elements of it are completely false, but presented in such a way that they are believable. When taken as a whole, and mixed with truthful facts about my life, who's to say the bio isn't completely true? Did I grow up in Boston or a Shaolin temple in Dengfeng City, China? If asked, I'd probably just shrug my shoulders and smile. 

While I'm not a fan, I understand the necessity of these bios. As a writer, I can bang them out quickly but it's not my favorite type of writing. Still, finding something within the writing process of the bio can make it less painful. Besides, we all know you really want to ask me about my time in Thailand!