Blogs are NOT airy-fairy, soul-searching, self-indulgent

You know how you can’t let some things go?

Well, the back of my mind is often processing ways to demonstrate to people the value of reading and writing blogs. Recently I read an educator’s comments about introducing teachers to Web 2.0 practices, where he says he wouldn’t start with blogging, but provide teachers with examples of great blogs to read. Often people considering blogging will say that they don’t know what to blog about. It’s a bit like a student getting an open essay topic; it’s difficult because it’s undefined. That’s why reading blogs of people who share your interests is a good starting point for new bloggers or even sceptics. What I’m actually saying is – you don’t know what you’re missing – there are people out there who are really worth knowing, in all parts of the world and in many spheres of life and occupation.

John Connell linked to a series of blog networking interviews by Lilia Efimova in his post about passionate bloggers. People whose blogs centred around knowledge management topics were interviewed by Lilia about how they used blogs for networking. What’s particularly interesting is the variety of backgrounds represented. Lilia’s interviews covered the following:

  • professional background of a participant and characteristics of her network in KM field prior to blogging
  • changes in the network or networking practices because of blogging
  • uses of weblogs for developing, maintaining and activating relations as a starting point for articulating stages of the process at more granular level
  • place of the weblog in the ecosystem of networking tools (mainly focusing on what weblogs are good for and when they do not work).
  • important networking-related issues that haven’t been discussed

Here are some examples:

Brett Miller, a system engineer, says

 “I know more people in different areas of KM when I knew before.” Blogging helped him to reach people he wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

Dave Snowden is a founder and a Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, a consulting company focusing on complexity, sense-making and narratives. He was formerly a director of IBM Institute of Knowledge Management and founder of the Cynefin Centre for organisational complexity. He has about 50 science bloggers in his RSS reader.

“They scan journals for me, so I don’t have myself … I’ve learnt to trust them over the years … it’s much better than summarisation surface”.

Euan Semple is an independent advisor for social computing for business (www.euansemple.com). He started blogging with his personal weblog The Obvious. He says:

“Previously I was subject to geographical constraints or social constraints or organisational constraints as of who I was likely to meet and suddenly with online networks I’ve been able to connect to […] the whole bunch of interesting and interested people whom I suddenly had an access to in a way in a normal life I would never ever had that chance. I could then establish relationships and (and again something I get very hot about) is that these are not pretend or unreal or virtual relationship, the real relationship, where you build up trust and affect and those powerful things that make people work together. Online.”

And also:

[Blogging] is “a collective pointing that helps to find stuff, once you have an established group of bloggers you read and trust. And their ability to find a good stuff to point to it, increases your signal to noise ratio on the web … Blogs do that better than other tools because of the context – you have to say why that is important, why are you pointing to something”.

Luis Suarez works at IBM as social software evangelist. He is located in Spain, but travels frequently for his work. He says:

Weblogs allow you to get beyond what people publish and to get as sense of what a person is like – to build a profile of a person as a person, not a business entity. Not how long you have been married, but how people write articles. When you write a blogpost you are giving yourself out as a person. The line between life and work is going to disappear.

The question of blogs developing trust is an interesting one. Luis says that trust is developed through a ‘willingness to expose what you don’t know’, and ‘a willingness to learn not yet finished thinking’ or ‘taking a radical position that invites criticism’, ‘being brave and bold’. He added that ‘there is something special about somebody coming to your place to leave their words there’.

Talking about changes in professional network as a result of blogging, Monica Andre, who worked in a research lab in Lisbon focusing on information behaviour and information management, says:

“I didn’t realise that linking and giving credits to someone’s work would extend my professional network extended very quickly.” She then told a story of being contacted by a municipality government from Spain who wanted her to speak at an event. “I didn’t know I was followed by them. If [people] leave comments, you have a clue, a footprint. It turns out that guy who was reading my blog suggested the government that I would be a good person to talk as a keynote speaker”. When she received an email she thought it was a joke, but they called to confirm.

These are only a few examples of what people had to say about blogging in Lilia’s interviews, just to whet your appetite. You can read all interview summaries on Lilia Efimova’s blog Mathemagenic.

It’s difficult to ‘convert’ people to reading and writing blogs and to online networking in general for a variety of reasons I’ve spoken about many times in previous posts. It may be as difficult as religious or political conversion. To those of you reading this post, I’m preaching to the converted, I know. So please tell me, have you had successful experiences in converting those resistant to blogging that you would like to share?

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7 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, Education, internet, learning, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

7 responses to “Blogs are NOT airy-fairy, soul-searching, self-indulgent

  1. One thing I tend to tell folks who ask me about blogging or choosing topics or webstats of the blog…. I write with my purpose in mind. Sure, I read lots of blogs before I started. It would be cool to have a readership the size of Miguel’s or Wes’s or many others. If I worry about that, though, it will never be my blog. It will be me trying to be one of them.

    So I found a focus for my blog. It is my place to share new resources with my staff and for me to think out loud about education related topics. If I concern myself with who else might read it, then I might change my writing and I do not want that. Transparency is more important than popularity. If you ever look at my writing, you will see I do not concern myself with reactions of readers. I open myself wide to criticism, rejection, and counter-comments. Honestly, it is the best way for me to grow in my knowledge. If I wanted to make everyone happy, I would not blog. Sure, it is hard to take sometimes, but most folks who visit the blog maintain a professional level in their replies, so that makes it easier to deal with.

    So, in short, that is what I share. Transparency. Blog as who you are, not who you want to be. Once you actually meet some of your readers in person, they know the truth. Trust me.

    As a last quick comment here, most of my staff that start a blog and then don’t blog say the same thing: “I don’t have anything to say others want to hear.” Then why be a teacher? We all have things to share. Just start blogging what is important to you as a writer. If it ends up being scrapbooking instead of education, then so be it. Writing is therapeutic. Enjoy it.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Scott. Yes, we all have something to say only we may not know it until we have a go. Then we’ll know.

  3. I agree. Blogging for me is like another form of journalling, something I have done in one form or another almost all of my life. I have kept reading journals (since 1997), diaries (in English and Indonesian), travel journals, captioned photo albums, and scrapbooks both fancy and plain. I’ve also been recording my BBRLM (Best Book Read Last Month) for years, through posts to my online bookgroup, ANZ LitLovers (http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/) I even have a Dipity timeline of my career. (Yes, that’s real self-indulgence, but I’m trying to scrapbook my career and I needed a timeline to jog my memory about different places and events.)
    However, I suspect that those who don’t care for it are the sort of people who don’t record their reflections in other ways too. There are writers and there are talkers in this world, and maybe the twain just don’t meet?

  4. Hi Lisa, good to see you again.
    I’m impressed by the depth of journalling you’ve been involved in. I think that once you start, it becomes more natural to put stuff out there, but before you do, it seems foreign. Bit like housework for me at the moment. I’m sitting here thinking – I can’t imagine myself getting up to clean the house.

  5. Well, I think the confidence with blogging comes from lots of private writing. Though I remember when I first submitted work for publication, I was worried that my opinions might not be ok. (Girls of my generation, you know, were not supposed to be opinionated). It was a tremendous feeling of validation when my first little book was published and I saw my name on the cover: wow, I thought, my ideas have been accepted and are out there in the marketplace! What will people think!
    Blogging is different, of course, because you can write any old rubbish and there’s no filter (i.e. an editor) to approve your work or not. I think this is a good thing in its way. It teaches bloggers to be responsible about their own writing. They have a responsibility to do their own filtering: write rubbish, or poorly researched stuff, or inane commentary and you risk flaming or being ignored, part of the Great Oblivion in CyberSpace.
    If you buy a book, magazine or newspaper from a publisher you trust or an author that’s been reviewed kindly, you’ve got some idea that you’re getting what you pay for. That’s good too, because there’s so much out there on the web, that filtering is useful.

  6. So far it’s been talking to the converted and encouraging each other in our cyberspace journeys. I sense some reluctance by others who know I blog. There is hesitance, perhaps a little skepticism that I am part of an elite club. Then again there are those who really prefer the eye to eye exchange of ideas. Also one gravitates to his/her set of skills and interests. Some people don’t particularly like to write. They prefer to communicate and pursue diverse interests in other ways.

  7. All very good points, Paul. On a personal level, it’s a matter of take it or leave it. But I wonder if making blogging an essential part of the teaching process would do away with the elitist aspect, and just throw people into the deep end, and that would be the end of the mystery, and the end of those that do and those that don’t.

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