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Academic Blogger Gets Bit

Academic Blogger Gets Bit

When I clicked on this article at Inside Higher Ed called Withdrawal at Brooklyn, I didn’t expect it to be an article about how blogging can blight your career in academia.

Shortell’s election as chair became controversial not because of his actions as a scholar, but because of his writings about religion on a Web site. In an essay on a Web site where Shortell said he did work as an artist, he described religious people as “moral retards.” Among other things, he wrote in the essay that “Christians claim that theirs is a faith based on love, but they’ll just as soon kill you. For your own good, of course.”

The essay prompted a series of articles in New York City newspapers, with many editorials criticizing Brooklyn College for having Shortell serve as a department chair, and questioning whether he would be fair to students or faculty members who are religious. The New York Sun, for example, wrote prior to Shortell’s withdrawal that taxpayers “have got to have the right to draw the line at what kind of person they want teaching students and participating in the tenure process. If a professor had spoken of, say, gay persons or Jews as moral retards, it’s a safe bet that things would not be dealt with quite so delicately as they seem to be on Brooklyn College’s campus at the moment.”

What they’re not saying in this article is that this associate professor was using that controversial underground personal publishing platform, a blog (a greymatter blog, at that). While tenure may prevent this fellow from actually fearing for his job, it isn’t protecting him from criticism.

I don’t think it should, quite frankly. This story is both wonderful and terrible for academics with blogs. On one hand, the idea of free academic speech is threatened by the fact that this faculty member is feeling constrained because of his own input into the political and academic realm. People are reading what he’s written and are holding it against him. This article was sort of spun that way; does Shortell have the right to engage in political debates and write political manifestos (calling religious people “moral retards”)? Should it be held against him, should be have to step down from a position as chair of the department?

But on the other hand, look at it this way: people actually care. People (not just academics) have read what this guy has written. How many academics can say that? How many academics actually have some reach into the world at large? What this story shows it that academics blogging end up with a larger audience. And while Shortell can write and publish whatever he wants, he does not have the right to be protected from response to that writing.

In a traditional academic environment, frankly appalling things have been written by faculty from all departments for years, written in obscure journals with proprietary keys in their locks and boring covers. No one else was really reading all the offfensive things that were written in academic circles. Not that such things were going unchallenged; a month or two after the offensive article was published, a handful of academics would write sternly-worded letters to the editor that would be published in the next issue, or the one following, and there would be some buzz on academic mailing lists. Historians would hotly debate the ideas at conferences six months later. Unpopular ideas have always had at least some effect on an academic’s rise within his or her own department. They keep their jobs, but they might not become, for instance, chair of the department.

It seems to me that what’s really going on here is that many more people are being invited to the party, and we’re not restricted to a couple of pages in the letters section anymore. I have no doubt that left-leaning academics like Shortell have published articles with the same basic premise: religious people are “moral retards” (a term that would never have popped up in an academic journal, and one that, quite honestly, shouldn’t have been used on his blog either). If Shortell has been restricted to the publishing boundaries of the political science journal, no one outside of academe would have read what he thought. No one without a research library next door would have a subscription to that obscure journal and would be in a position to take the measure of the man.

I’d be surprised if one of the historians producing frankly misogynist history ended up as president of the American Historical Society. People are never entirely protected from the dust clouds they kick up when they publish controversial articles in any context. With the advent of popular self-publishing on the internet, the number of people with an interest in such things has expanded exponentially. A bigger audience is a good thing; what you opt to put before them is up to you. In what context is “retard” an apropriate epithet?

The other battle to be waged here is on the writer’s perception of what a blog actually is; if they feel that it is their personal diary, perhaps such terminology might be deemed appropriate. But a blog is emphatically not personal. It’s a public space, and while you have the power to write whatever you want, you have to face the consequences of talking smack in public. Because of the tenure system, this associate professor doesn’t have to fear for his job because of what he’s said.

I don’t think he should have to tone down his politics. But he should be using respectful language. Post an actual argument about why religion provides a moral vaccum if you will, but don’t just insult the faithful. Random potshots aren’t particularly smart or political.

Blogs and Essays: A rant

Blogs and Essays: A rant

From the Baltimore Sun: The Long Arm of the Blog by Victoria A. Brownworth. In sum:

Blogs are not essays, but somehow blogs are going to replace essays, and that’s bad because essays are great, whereas blogs are crap posted on the interwebs by the illiterate unwashed. Samuel Pepys and Jonathan Swift would not be impressed with the blogosphere. But you should be impressed that I mentioned those two men, because I am smrt and am a Real Essayist. Respect me.

Why am I being so harsh? I generally try to be respectful of the articles I link to, but my sinuses feel like their full of concrete at the moment and I have less patience for this kind of strong-arming by the mainstream media than I usually do. And strong-arming it is: this article is maliciously disingenuous, and you can consider that my thesis statement.

Any dot-commer can blog – a serious journalist with years of experience like, say, myself, or the teenager down the block spewing political rants during breaks from Grand Theft Auto. The problem in the blogosphere is that the kid and I will be received with equal credibility.

To suggest that everyone in the blogosphere has the same level of credibility shows a startling lack of research on Brownworth’s part. Even a basic understanding of the Google ranking algorithm flies in the face of this idea. Authority is calculable and regularly calculated online. Why, just yesterday I was talking to my buddy Jason about the problem of “A-list” bloggers, the ones with all the credibility and all the attention, and how that ranking system hurts women and minorities. So, not only are we not all equal on the internet as Brownworth suggests, but we are actively in the midst of a years-old debate about the lack of diversity in the blogosphere hierarchy.

[Jonathan Swift’s] “Proposal” works as well today as it did three centuries ago, its ideas still relevant. Do you remember last week’s blog? Yesterday’s?

Brownworth obviously misunderstands the term “blog”. If you want to make a comparison between “essay” and something related to the blogosphere, the term you’re looking for is “post”. A blog is not an essay. A blog post, however, could very well be an essay. It could be an essay that took four years to write. It could be an essay that was originally published in the New Yorker. Or, it could an essay that was published on a blog and then later in a book by a reputable publisher. A post could be a snippet of dialogue, too. It could be a link and nothing else. It could be an audio file, a podcast. It could be a picture. It could be a piece of short fiction. It could be a book review. But it could also very easily be an essay.

…blogs are pretenders to the throne of true essay writing. They mimic the essay much as Eliza Doolittle mimicked the Queen’s English before Professor Higgins got his hands on her. Like Eliza, blogs are captivating in their earnest, rapid-fire approach. But they are rarely, even at their best, true essays.

No. they are not essays at all. They are sources in which one might find essays posted, but they are not in and of themselves essays.

What’s a little fudged definition between friends? Am I being deliberately obtuse? What’s the problem with confusing “blog” with “post”?

Brownworth’s problem with bloggers is that they do not have all the careful editors and quality-control personnel imposed upon them the way that essayists do. Because the essay as a literary form is a technology so advanced that it actually comes equipped with five other human brains attached, so that whenever you sit down to write an essay you are immediately surrounded by an editorial team.

In blogging, the checks and balances of standard essay writing seem not to apply. With its component of endless ruminations, incomplete (and often inconsistent) ideas and run-on sentences, is blogging really an online tributary of the art of the essay or the Internet kudzu slowly wiping it out?

Here is where Brownworth’s vocabulary problem twists around and becomes a non sequitur, where it becomes intellectually dishonest. The “art of the essay” is not being lost as she is suggesting. If anything, the literary form of the essay is at an all time high, since so many people are latching on to non-fiction writing. Suddenly it’s not only paid “essayists” who are can write essays that other people can read and respond to. Anyone can do it; that means there are more essays around. They may not all be good, but they’re definitely not all bad. If Brownworth’s interest is in encourage thoughtfulness and good essay writing by us as a society, she should be applauding the blog, since writing is something that improves with practice. The pool of practiced essayists is in fact growing.

There are no “checks and balances of standard essay writing”. There are “checks and balances” in the mainstream media, which is what Brownworth really means to talk about. This has nothing to do with Pepys and Swift and everything to do with big business and what it wants you to know.

I am the last person in the world to suggest that bloggers will or should supplant journalists. But the reality is this: the mainstream media, particularly in the US, has failed, and bemoaning this as the loss of an art form is disingenuous.

A wake up call: that little law about freedom of the press that everyone jumps up and down about? That doesn’t actually apply to journalists. It applies to the press, as in, the publisher of the newspaper itself. The journalist is merely an employee of the person who has the right to publish whatever he wants. (See Fox News if you think I’m making this up.) If a journalist covers a controversial story, the owner of the press in under no obligation at all to publish it. Journalists are required to represent their employers first and foremost, not the “objective truth”, whatever the heck that is.

Further, newspaper articles are never exactly the length they need to be according to the topic at hand, with just enough examples and quotes and research and exposition. Newspaper essays are never considered complete simply when they have reached the end of their argument. They are crafted and edited to fit into a certain number of inches on a page.

So here we have two clear influences on the “pure” art form that is the newspaper essay; the bias of the owner of the press and the space available that particular day. Do either of these things improve the quality of the essay as a literary form? Would Jonathan Swift have taken kindly to chunks of A Modest Proposal being sliced out to fit the confines of a particular publication? Why should we prefer this content to the product of blogs, since bloggers are, in fact, the owners of their own presses, responsible only to themselves with no word count limits?

And why exactly should we prefer an essay written by a journalist?

There are lots of active conversations about the relationship between the mainstream media and the world of blogs. Those are very worthwhile arguments to have. What we’ve learned is that objectivity is dead, everything is subjective. When publishing is as easy as it currently is, what sort of subjectivity do we prefer: institutional faux-objectivity or on-the-ground-running personal experience and upfront opinion? Whose point of view do you want to hear first: that of an intelligent and articulate Iraqi woman living in Baghdad during the occupation, or that of an intelligent, articulate and well-trained journalist embedded with the American forces?

This article of Victoria Brownworth’s strikes an elitist and nonsensical low blow that is enabled by that legitimate argument about blogs and the media. Hiding behind the spectre of a dying literary form is intellectually dishonest. The issue at hand is about legitimacy. The jury is still out on how we as a society are going to rule on that one.

Faculty blogs: Good idea or Bad idea?

Faculty blogs: Good idea or Bad idea?

I’ve used this space time and time again to extol the virtues of blogging; it’s not that I’m just dazzled by the technology, I genuinely believe that the venue has real promise. Linking ideas about information literacy from a library science perspective with pedagogical theory, and with the criticisms faculty and students have of university education as it currently it is currently configured, I think blogs could go a long way toward revolutionizing the classroom. In short, I think that when you have a medium to sketch out your reactions to the things you read, a constant, personal venue, you get in the habit of composing a post every time you get an interesting idea. You don’t read things and just store them away; you read and react, you write something down. Blogs can help encourage the habit of seeing the world of discourse as a conversation rather than an avalanche of information. And being prepared to respond means your critical thinking hat is never off. That’s information literacy. Always with a question, always engaged, never on autopilot. That, I think, is the goal of a university education, regardless of field.

That said, what does it mean to be a blogging faculty member? Duke University’s Chronicle published an article that briefly notes that some faculty members are uneasy at the idea of keeping a regular blog.

[A blogging facultt member] pointed out that other professors might not be as willing to openly express their personal views on blogs because they think it could threaten their chances of receiving tenure.

“Most professors are much more worried about what other people think,” he said. “I bet there are a lot of phantom bloggers here at Duke. I don’t know of anyone who is out of the closet like myself.”

Why are faculty so worried about blogging? Can a blog negatively effect their chances of getting tenure? Again, this seems to come down to the same question is always comes down to; what exactly is a blog?

If for a moment we understand a blog as a diary that’s available to all, I can understand their concern. A diary generally means something personal, an account of a person’s emotional existence. There seems to be a correlation between the idea of a personal weblog and random venting and private thoughts, ideas and comments that should circulate only from friend to friend over beer. Is that what worries non-tenured faculty? That they will be caught with their pants down complaining about the department chair, or lasciviously remarking on the physical attributes of the incoming class?

I’m not the sort to suggest a different classification for the different types of content one finds on blogs (see the <a href="“>journaling vs. blogging debate in some quarters), but possibly we need to have more discussion around what it means to publish in a way that is not strictly personal nor journal-publication level professional. Karen has tried to confront this issue head on in talking about what sorts of ethics are rules should be guiding us as professionals who blog. To date, there is no easy format for the audience-aware, semi-professional weblog. It’s not so much about ethics as it is about finding the right voice to use when speaking in this medium.

I can imagine that it would hardly do to have the committee pore over your personal musings about your navel while considering you for tenure, but on the flip side, surely it would only help your application if you kept a decent, interesting, professionally challenging journal where your active curiosity and interest in keeping up-to-date is apparent. A weblog wherein you actively engage with the work in your field and consider new ideas for your own research. Where you muse publicly about different teaching methods and comment about various issues relevant at your university. I mean, it’s okay to have a personality, right? It’s okay to care about and talk about the politics of the moment, international events, conferences, and so forth? In some fields, being web-savvy enough to have a weblog, and a domain name, can only be a good thing to tenure committee. What if your blog is actually a public sandbox where you learn about new things, try out new technologies for use in the classroom and discuss their pros and cons, littered liberally with ideas about your work and your field? If the students can benefit from keeping their ideas and notes from class on a blog, surely an academic can benefit from doing the same in the “classroom” that is their regular reading of the newest work in their fields. We are not, any of us, finished products. We are constantly learning and renewing ourselves, and why shouldn’t a online presence reveal that?

So what if it’s not the tenure committee faculty are worried about? What if it’s the students?

Professors are standing in front of students on a regular basis. Do they want only that experience to be unmediated by Google searches that reveal more about them? Is there something frightening about keeping a semi-personal journal in the face of a new crop of students every term?

Perhaps that’s the guiding principle of keeping a weblog as a faculty member, or an administrator, or a librarian, is less about ethics and more about being audience-aware. Your blog can actually be fairly personal and reflective of your real life, as long as you remember who your audience is or can be. Everyone has little anecdotes about their lives that they like to relate; before professors posts one, they should ask themselves whether, in a casual setting, they would tell that same story to a student. Most professors I’ve met are pretty liberal with the bits of real life they’re prepared to mention in class; one of my least forthcoming professors would tell us stories about the funny thing that happened on the airplane on the way back from the conference this weekend, or something that happened in line at the grocery store, and suchlike. Those stories, as told in class, would always relate in some way to her work, to the issues at hand. Those sorts of anecdotes, I would think, would be perfect blog fodder. And, I think, would not cross and lines in terms of professor/student interaction, but would not be entirely impersonal either.

I wish it were clearer what kind of communication blogs are in academic circles. It’s not like publishing in a journal, though it might be a bit like replying to a letter in a published forum. It’s not like a book review, though it could be how book reviews should be; as long as they need to be, as honest as they can be, and as fast as we need them.

I would love to see more faculty blogging. I would love to see more visible thinking from academia, more rough ideas and interaction and community. More personally, I would love to see some of my former professors blogging, because I want to keep getting the benefit of their insight even though I’m no longer in their classrooms. And I would love to see more of my friends who are professors blogging. To me, there are palpable absences in the blogosphere, and I’m not sure how to overcome that.

Edited to add: I guess I shouldn’t be encouraging my favourite profs to start blogging just yet: it appears that a non-tenured instructor may have lost her job over hers. It all makes me feel sick.

How Real People are Finally Being Heard

How Real People are Finally Being Heard

I picked up this white paper called Trust “MeDIA”: How Real People are Finally Being Heard. It’s on blogging, a how-to and explanation of the blogosphere “for marketers and company stakeholders”. So I’ve just been reading through the paper, and meanwhile in the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the relationship between blogging as it’s generally happening and how that process relates to the concept of information literacy. From the white paper:

[Mazda] launched a blog featuring three 30-second spots for its Mazda 3, apparently assuming that no one would figure out that the blogs—purported to be authored by anonymous bloggers who “found” incredible videos to share— were sponsored by Mazda’s ad agency and that the videos were hosted by an expensive Web-hosting service. That the videos featured Mazda logos only added skepticism to the bloggers’ already skeptical views, causing Rick E. Bruner of Business Blog Consulting to comment on his own blog: “Marketers, please, please get the point: blogs are about building trust, not spinning it.”

What went wrong? Pete Blackshaw, CMO of Intelliseek, shares his opinion: “….Mazda totally ignored the importance of ‘transparency.’ Corporate blogs are OK, but they must be as such, because if bloggers are anything at all, they’re savvy, inherently skeptical, defensive of their medium and able to sniff out imposters quickly. And once they do, they let everyone else know. [pg. 13]

Far be it from me to suggest that a technology or web application alone can instill the values of information literacy in a person, but there’s clearly something about the culture of blogging that librarians and educators need to get on side with. Librarians are trying to hard to explain to students that they need to be critical of the documents they’re reading; they need to question the purpose of the document, determine who the publisher is, the writer, the bias.

Look at what’s going on here in the Mazda example: individuals are encountering sources on the web, examining them critically, talking about them, determining the most basic elements of who, what, where and why, exposing issues when there’s something fishy about them, and bringing other people into a conversation about them. They are making news by being critical of the documents they encounter. Isn’t that the sort of culture and community we want to see built in classrooms? Isn’t that exactly the kind of critical thinking and document interrogation librarians have been trying to explain in those endless info lit sessions?

Blogging software alone does not create that kind of engagement, but it was built to support it. And fortunately for us the technology continues to improve its simplicity and transparency, and continues to add more venues of communication between content creators and content consumers.

Giving every reader a voice, a venue, and forum to receive and engage with commentary; that’s what blogs are being designed to do. Isn’t that just what educators should be aiming towards as well?

In Defense of Teens

In Defense of Teens

A rant from Will R. at weblogg-ed, inspired by an article out of Wichita called “On Xanga, students make their life an open blog”:

Show me how kids using Xanga are blogging. I’m sure there must be some students actually employing all of the information gathering, critical thinking, linking, and annotative writing skills that Weblogs bring to the equation. Find ONE. (Caution: Potentially profane content ahead.) Is this blogging? Or this? Or this?

I just spent fifteen minutes clicking through about 20 Xanga sites and I CAN’T FIND ANY BLOGGING GOING ON! Is it me?

Like most conversations around weblogs, this one is asking yet again the perennial question: what is a weblog? And more specifically, how can we make weblogs more what we want them to be? How can we keep boring content out, and keep everyone fresh, interesting, and intelligent? How can we keep boring, bouncy teens away from our precious software?

I understand that Will is ranting here. But where the rant is directed is the problem. You can unleash a publishing platform on the world, but you don’t get to tell people how they have to use it. Teens are creative, energetic, dyanamic people, and if anyone can find alternative uses for a piece of software, it’s them. Is there any blogging going on at Xanga? Given that blogging involves adding content to a website on a regular basis and arranging that content in a chronological fashion, with a time and date stamp and a name, often using software to facilitate its publication and syndication, yes indeed. There is blogging going on at Xanga.

This rant is coming from a place of frustration. Will wants weblogs to be accepted as academic venues. As useful to the educational enterprise. And he feels that all these kids using this technology to talk about unimportant crap are clogging up Google and getting in the way of people truly seeing the wonder that is the weblog.

From one of Will’s non-blog blogs:

To be in love is merely to be in a state of perpetual anesthesia…. Our lives are shaped by those who love us and those who refuse to love us. Iv been laying here all night listening to my heart and trying to explain why sometimes I catch myself wondering what might have been, and yes I do think about you every now and then. How can it be that 2 people can go from being eachothers everything to absolutely nothing? And why do we always love the ones that hurt us, and hurt the ones that love us?

Do you think you can identify learning when you see it? Can you identify quality in a blog post? Who exactly are you to say? What sort of social network are you coming from when you come down so hard on these social networks? How can you champion student participation on one hand and then rant so derogatorily about those same people using technology to communicate on the other, to work out the truth and the lies about their lives? What’s important to them isn’t important to you. What’s important to them often isn’t important to me either, but these blogs shouldn’t be interpreted as a black mark on the educational use of blogging. What does it tell us that teenagers are prepared to sit down at a computer at regular intervals throughout the day and compose some chunk of text about their lives? That they are using text to work through the same issues we all work through at some point or other?

“Write a little every day.” That’s what they tell writers. They don’t say, “write something good every day.” They don’t say “write something pedagogically useful every day”. Teens are using the resources available to them to do what’s important to them; they are creating and strengthening their social networks. Social networks are of primary importance to teens. It’s well-established a developmental stage. Do they need to learn how to communicate with their peers? Yes, they do. Is this something that works it’s way on to the curriculum? Of course not. That’s something students use high school to do in spite of being requested repeatedly to stop. Teens communicating with each other is not a bad thing. Teens experiencing their lives and writing about it is also not a bad thing. Just because we’re adults and think it looks childish, useless and immature doesn’t mean they should stop doing it. It doesn’t mean they don’t need to do it, either. It doesn’t mean they aren’t learning.

If anything, the mass use of blogs by teens, and their highly-nuanced use of blog comment functions, is a great big selling point for blogs in an educational context. Is this a technology familiar to kids? Yes, it is. They know how to use it, they know it’s potential, and they know how to build and foster community through it. We can start dictating what kind of content we want to see when those blogs are classroom dedicated. When we give them categories to shunt academic content into. Should they stop using blogs to talk about the great party they went to and all the neat people they met? No. Exploring the world and learning to communicate with it is just as important if not more important and learning to think critically about Pride and Prejudice.

I’m profoundly uncomfortable with the snobbery around these topics. Dissing software because teens use it to talk about themselves to each other is not fair. Teens are all about discovering themselves; how can you possibly bring anything useful to the table as an adult if you didn’t go through a period and working out who you are as a teen? Without learning how to have friends, how to deal with conflict, how to distinguish good chatter from hurtful gossip?

Let them play with the software. Let them form their social networks, deconstruct them, destroy them, and start over. Let them work out their issues and get comfortable with the technology. The shift to blogging for curricular purpose can come later.

Anon and Non-Anon Blogging

Anon and Non-Anon Blogging

I’m intrigued by anything that lays down a how-to in terms of blogging. What to say, what not to say, whether or not to delete a post, whether or not to delete a comment, correcting mistakes (typos, grammar or otherwise), how to avoid mistakes. All of these how tos do something else when they tell us what we should be doing with our blogs; they’re defining blogs and the content they contain.

The ethical discussions (introduced to me most recently by Karen Schneider over at Free Range Librarian) underscore a very journalistic, professional undertone to the practice of blogging; we do it as a public service, as a voice of the profession, as a citizen journalist. So a code of ethics, some guidelines to absorb and follow, makes sense, if that’s what your blog is.

So today the post that enters into this discussion is How to blog Safely, which came to me via Depraved Librarian:

Blogs are like personal telephone calls crossed with newspapers. They’re the perfect tool for sharing your favorite chocolate mousse recipe with friends–or for upholding the basic tenets of democracy by letting the public know that a corrupt government official has been paying off your boss.

I think this is an interesting and fair assessment of what blogs tend to be. Personal telephone calls is an interesting analogy; a blog is a way to communicate with family and friends, the sorts of things you may or may not want to become fully public. The second analogy, the newspaper designed to keep the public in the know, is the precise opposite. Not personal, just a journalistic witnesss to important events.

It’s easy for me to take a moment here to point out that your blog doesn’t have to be either of these things, but for the sake of fairness let’s assume the author is trying to span the spectrum.

If you blog, there are no guarantees you’ll attract a readership of thousands. But at least a few readers will find your blog, and they may be the people you’d least want or expect. These include potential or current employers, coworkers, and professional colleagues; your neighbors; your spouse or partner; your family; and anyone else curious enough to type your name, email address or screen name into Google or Feedster and click a few links.

This is completely fascinating to me. The presumption here is that people would blog as themselves and not expect anyone to find them, or not want anyone to find them. I know that this is often the case; the internet is huge, how would anyone find your blog? Why would they want to? People approach these huge sites like Blogger or Livejournal, sites with thousands if not millions of users. The internet is larger every single day, how would your friends and family possibly find your blog? Your tiny little insignificant blog? We have so instilled this idea of the impersonal web that people actually seem to believe that they can write personal letters to the internet in privacy.

The internet is getting increasingly well-organized, so it’s not a matter of being a tiny little cog in the gigantic machine that is the wired world. Unless your name is John Smith, you can reasonably expect a Google search to turn up something that relates to you when you punch in your name in quotation marks. If you have a more unique name, as I do, then Google is going to turn up pretty much everything you every put out there.

Since it’s easy to find a person’s blog or whatever internet activity they have engaged in in the past ten years (my heart did a nervous little twirl when I learned about dejanews in the mid-90s, a service that put usernet on the web, and was then bought by Google), the next logical step is to go underground. Embrace anon. The safest way to blog, this article suggests, is to do it as someone else.

What does it mean to blog anonymously? On the upside, it means that you can gossip, diss your boss, and generally complain about the people in your life in the desperate hope that none of them will ever find out it’s you. You can consider whether or not you’d like to be unfaithful, discuss the pros and cons of your current relationship, or paint an unloving portrait of your mother-in-law. Anonymous blogging pins the tales of your life on Jane Doe; your life could be anyone’s.

When you write about your workplace, be sure not to give away telling details. These include things like where you’re located, how many employees there are, and the specific sort of business you do. Even general details can give away a lot. If, for example, you write, “I work at an unnamed weekly newspaper in Seattle,” it’s clear that you work in one of two places. So be smart. Instead, you might say that you work at a media outlet in a mid-sized city. Obviously, don’t use real names or post pictures of yourself. And don’t use pseudonyms that sound like the real names they’re based on–so, for instance, don’t anonymize the name “Annalee” by using the name “Leanne.” And remember that almost any kind of personal information can give your identity away–you may be the only one at your workplace with a particular birthday, or with an orange tabby.

I disagree with this on some levels. This kind of thinking presumes that someone you know has found this blog and is trying to find out if it’s you. How likely is this?

While it’s definitely easy to find the blog of a person using their real name, it’s almost impossible to find one by a person using a different name and avoiding the most obvious pitfalls of named specifics. While tell-tale details may indeed point fingers at you, there is very little about any person’s life that is so remarkably different from another’s that the trail would lead directly and inarguably to anyone. If you are a single woman named Annalee living in Seattle with two orange cats, and your blog byline is Leanne, your blog is highly unlikely to surface in an employer’s search for you no matter how many times you talk about how orange and wonderful your cats are. Without naming names, your cats are just like anyone else’s cats.

It’s remarkable how much personal detail you can safely hand out online without anyone being able to trace it back to precisely who you are. And why would anyone want to, really? I find this one of the most intriguing and compelling parts of personal revelation on the internet. The boring details of our lives (our address, phone number, full name, birthdate, etc.) are not the things that prompt us to spill our guts in hypertext. The sorts of things people actually want to dish about are rarely traceable; for instance, a man in New Orleans posting about his gender identity issues may feel that he’s pouring his unique heart out onto the internet, but there is nothing unique about his feelings or his experience. Conflicts with parents and siblings, troubles at work, relationship problems; none of these things are unique enough to point a finger at anyone in particular. The more secret and private an issue tends to be, the more likely you are to find thousands of anonymized bloggers moaning about just that thing on the internet in just the same way. You could be any of them. You could be none of them. Strangely enough, there is something truly anonymous about incredibly private confessions; they are so universal that you effectively blend yourself out of the picture.

The trouble comes when you start to take a little pride in your blog. People do, eventually. They want to let one or two people in on it, they want to get a network going of anon. blogs. Gossip ensues. Secrets are revealed. The larger the group involved, the more likely everyone is to be revealed to others. And then you get the worst of all scenarios; the anonymous moniker you took on in order to reveal the insanely private becomes connected to your real name. Now there is no distinction, and while your employer or prospective employer may be out of the loop, the people you care about will see a side of you you may not want them to see. Insert mass livejournal deletions here.

There’s a part of me that reads articles like this one and wonders whether I made the right decision in using my full legal name online. I did it very consciously. Blogging anonymously makes me feel like I’m chipping away at myself, giving away my stories and my ideas to some generic internet person rather than claiming them as my own. The fact that my real name (and thus all my friends and family) are revealed here keeps me from doing anything truly dumb. This isn’t a place to muse about the private elements of my life. Maintaining a venue for idle gossip and the detraction of my peers is not productive, and not particularly good for anyone’s mental health, least of all my own. In that I suppose there is loss of some kind; but the gain is that I get to control my own web presence, I get to speak out as myself and be heard as myself.

What is your blog? Is it a venue for personal and private venting, or is it a venue for you to communicate on a variety of levels with others like you? It seems to me that that’s the distinction between an anon. blog and a signed one.

I don’t fear the prospect of friends, family, co-workers or prospective employers reading what I write here, because I am ashamed of none of it. I am honoured when anyone I know takes the time to see what I’m thinking. Using my real name, knowing that I am adding to my Googleable profile with every word I type, keeps me honest and thoughtful. It also allows me to enter into dialogue with my profession as myself. I value that ability.

Ten Reasons why Blogging Might be Good for You

Ten Reasons why Blogging Might be Good for You

This summer I posted about Sun Microsystems, their encouragement of employee blogging, and about their blogging policy; Sun is clearly a forward-thinker in this regard and I think they’re policy is sound and should be imitated. I posted about them both before and after a hail of news stories from all directions about bloggers who had been fired for what they had written on their blogs. In an attempt to stymie all this interest in the downsides of keeping a blog, Sun employee Tim Bray has written ten reasons why blogging is good for your career.

1. You have to get noticed to get promoted.

I will certainly not disagree with this statement; however, I fail to see how it has any relationship to blogging. If you are depending on your employer discovering you and your ideas through random Google searches, that promotion might be a long time coming.

2. You have to get noticed to get hired.

I agree here too. Again, the relationship between blogging and getting a job is somewhat tenuous. If you’re like me and put your blog on your CV, you’re forging that relationship as best you can. I think owning webspace and using it for learning and communicating purposes is a good thing and something you should highlight if you do it, but again, if you’re depending on your blog to get someone to offer you a job, I hope you have a fat trust fund to sit on.

3. It really impresses people when you say “Oh, I’ve written about that, just google for XXX and I’m on the top page” or “Oh, just google my name.”

It does? I would suggest that bragging about your Google rank instead of engaging a person in conversation is the opposite of impressive. If someone starts in on a topic you’ve written about on your blog, that means you’re entering into territory you’ve considered and have ideas about; rather than directing people to google you, which is such a smarmy-ass thing to do, why not just relate your ideas? If they’re good ideas, and you can discuss them with intelligence and thoughtfulness, that would be far more impressive than merely brushing someone off and sending them to Google.

Personally, I never ask anyone to google me, or even to read my blog. Not that I discourage it, but my workplace and professional communication doesn’t hinge it. People are busy. I don’t expect anyone to keep up with my long rants and random digressions. My blog is no secret, but relying on an audience is never a great idea. In terms of the workplace, no one should need to read your blog to know what you think. Be more proactive than that. Open up your mouth.

4. No matter how great you are, your career depends on communicating. The way to get better at anything, including communication, is by practicing. Blogging is good pracice.

What blogging is not: talking, giving a presentation, or sitting in on a meeting and offering opinions. Blogging is, at its best, writing. If you write long dissertations on your subjects of interest, that is certainly good practice at both constructing an argument or an idea and at writing. So on that score I agree. Writing well is an incredibly important skill. But is blogging practice in professional or even personal communication? Not so much.

Bloggers are better-informed than non-bloggers. Knowing more is a career advantage.

I honestly fail to see why bloggers would be better informed. Just because you have a blog doesn’t mean you read anything substantial (and Michael Gorman obviously believes it means that we don’t!). Having a blog doesn’t mean you have an RSS reader, or a subscription to the New York Times. Some bloggers are link hounds, constantly scouring the net for things to post about, and some people just like to write about issues (including the status of their houseplants, the length of their toenails, or the policies of the ALA). While these two elements are common among bloggers, they are often not found in the same blog. But that doesn’t mean that non-bloggers do neither of these things. Some of the best-informed people I know are non-bloggers. Just because they don’t keep a blog doesn’t mean they don’t read the paper, or follow their profession, communicate ideas in the workplace, or live an unexamined life.

Being “better informed” is a misleading description; better informed about what? Bloggers are often creatures of the internet, but they may not be on top of all the right issues in terms of the workplace. There is nothing inherent in the process of keeping a weblog that would make a person more or less informed than their peers.

6. Knowing more means you’re more likely to hear about interesting jobs coming open.

What I think is most interesting about this list of 10 reasons is how it constructs the idea of knowledge and its relationship to the internet. Obviously I’m a big fan of the net and all things associated with it, but come on. Just because you know how to post to your blog doesn’t mean that your mind is at one with Matrix. Why would a blogger be any more likely to scan the job post boards or the careers section of the paper? I know the girl who posts the jobs to the job board at the library school where I just graduated; she doesn’t have a blog, but she’s way more in the know about interesting jobs than I am.

7. Networking is good for your career. Blogging is a good way to meet people.

Networking is a great thing. But just posting links or even posting ideas to the internet on your own personal blog is not a good way to meet people. Interacting with others by reading their blogs and leaving comments, sending email about their ideas, striking up conversations over IM, joining a listserv and participating in conversations, getting involved in a wider community; those are good ways to meet people online, and none of them are dependent on you having a blog of your own. Communicating is not just setting up a soap box.

8. If you’re an engineer, blogging puts you in intimate contact with a worse-is-better 80/20 success story. Understanding this mode of technology adoption can only help you.

I’m not an engineer, and I’m not sure what this “worse-is-better” idea is about. But I agree that understanding web applications and trying them out is only a good idea.

9. If you’re in marketing, you’ll need to understand how its rules are changing as a result of the current whirlwind, which nobody does, but bloggers are at least somewhat less baffled.

I’m not sure that this follows at all either. I don’t know anything about marketing, but I read an article in the paper a couple of weeks ago about how product placement in films and tv shows is becoming more important than commercials. This morning I drank an entire pot of President’s Choiceâ„¢ English Breakfast tea. Does that count?

10. It’s a lot harder to fire someone who has a public voice, because it will be noticed.

Everyone has a public voice. People still get fired every day. I’m not sure a blog is any kind of protection against getting fired, but it might help you get embroiled in a very public law suit if you try to use your public voice to discredit your employer.

I actually do think blogging can good for your career, but not for these reasons.

Ten Reasons why Blogging Might be Good for You (and possibly for your Career):

1. Keeping a blog means you generally end up learning a little HTML, a little CSS, a little web design, and a little about web interactivity (i.e. comments, RSS, etc.). These are good things to know, and might come in handy.

2. Writing is a good skill. Blogs are generally text, and any bit of practice writing is a good thing for you professionally as well as personally.

3. Keeping a blog might make you more likely to read blogs or keep up with what’s new via the internet. This may or may not prompt you to think about things you would not have thought about otherwise. Even a slight chance of prompting new thinking is a good thing.

4. Blogging can help you sort out your ideas, build on them, and come up with new ones. This is also true of keeping a paper journal. However, if anyone happens to have read your blog and given you some feedback, your ideas might have been honed and changed in the process.

5. You can put a well-designed, well-constructed blog on your resume.

6. Your supervisor, potential employer, instructor, or other important person might one day come across your blog, read a few posts, and think that you are an interesting/intelligent person who deserves more attention/money. Or they think you need to work on your spelling. Or that you should break up with your girlfriend.

7. Having a blog and using your real name means that you will have a least one real result on Google when someone searches for your name. It may never be the first option, particularly if your name is John Smith or something similarly common.

8. Blogging software is just content management software; understanding ways to manage information may come in handy professionally. Or not.

9. You’ll always have an archive of ideas at your fingertips. That is, if you consistently blog about your ideas.

10. Your exes can follow your life from a distance without calling you in a drunken stupor to find out what you’re up to.

RSS, Collage, and the Art of Disappearing

RSS, Collage, and the Art of Disappearing

Everything I know about RSS feed readers I learned from my referrer logs.

I’m admittedly fairly new to reading blogs through an external reader. Fairly new, though I have had a livejournal for a few years now, and the friends page that livejournal provides is a de facto feed reader. But that only offers the content of other users inputting into livejournal’s database, and those other blogs who have been siphoned through livejournal’s database (like my own livejournal feed).

For the last couple of years I’ve been too busy and too complacent to shift over to reading new blogs through feeds, and to be honest a lot of my blogging friends from days of yore have dropped off my radar. Nostalgic about that as I am, I didn’t cultivate new blog friendships again until recently. I just kept checking the pages of my friends through the traditional method; type in URL in browser, hit enter.

What made me finally decide to have a look at feed readers was my referrer logs. In particular, the user agent strings. There was a time when you would get a unique hit for each person reading your content, but no more. Instead there are all these feed readers showing up in there.

A regular day in my referrer logs, using today as an example:

Something called Twisted PageGetter nips in for content. I have no idea what that is, but it’s pulling the .rdf file. I scan past someone’s Google search for “fitting men for bras” (why Google’s brilliant technology leads these people to me I’ll never entirely understand). Something called rss bot ( grabs the .rdf file. The everyfeed spider drops by for the .xml file. Then two different bloglines bots swoop through, one for the .rdf and one for the .xml. Then livejournal updates its feed, and like bloglines helpfully tells me in the agent string how many subscribers they’re getting that information for. Then there’s pubsub, an online reader popular among the librarian crowd. The unfortunately-named Terrar makes an appearance.

Then netnewswire arrives for the .rdf file. Pulpfiction, used in its (free) ‘lite’ edition by someone in the US. Drupal pops up as a user agent. I’m jealous of anyone using Drupal for their blogging software, since Drupal attempts to do for a regular blog what livejournal does with its friends page. Then I see Newsfire, my current RSS reader of choice. This is exactly how I discovered it; seeing it sitting in my referrer logs.

I read blogs through feeds, and I wouldn’t switch back to the regular way. This is much quicker and I can even glance over the posts if not read them in their entirety while offline. (An important consideration now that I’m back to skimpy dial up.) But it does make for strange referrer log reading. I tend to learn less and less about people who frequent my blog than I used to. What operating system, what version, what browser. I see all these other user agents instead, so in some ways I learn other things about the people reading my blog; I know that they are consistent readers rather than drop-bys, I know that they care enough about what I’ve got to say to actually add the feed to a reader. I know that they’re technologically savvy enough to understand and make use of RSS, and that they probably read many blogs. I know that my blog has become part of a larger collage for them, nestled between posts by others, probably on similar topics. I can’t get a look at what they see, but I know that’s the context I find myself in. It’s the TiVo of the blog world.

I’ve always seen web browsing as more of a conversation than a static, solitary activity; when you look at a webpage, you leave a note telling the content producer that you were there. This is my browser, this is my operating system, here’s what time I was here. Here’s what I looked at. Here’s what brought me here. But the feed readers, the online ones that seem to be so much more popular, are anonymizing. Even with livejournal and bloglines, who kindly tell you how many people are reading your blog through them, don’t tell you who or why or when. They leave a note but it’s a generic one; we’ve picked up your content for our users, but that’s all we’ll tell you. The online feed reader brings the world wide web a step closer to what people think it actually is; a private, secret, anonymous place where no one knows that you haven’t upgraded from Netscape 4.7.

I love my feed reader, but I’m sorry to lose a piece of that conversation. I love the idea of being part of someone else’s collage, but I wish I could have a look at what’s around me.

Adminblog: Other (academic) uses for blogs

Adminblog: Other (academic) uses for blogs

I went on at length here about the use blogs in education, a topic near and dear to my heart and one many of my friends (and others) have spent years contributing to. As a (very) newly-minted librarian, my short experience working in academic library administration has shown me how useful a blogging system could be in an library environment.

Blog This!
To date I’ve mostly seen administrative blogs used for public consumption; many large libraries are using blogs and their associated RSS feeds to keep their users informed of news and updates. A blog as a public face of an institution means that the information on the website is constantly changing. In my experience in web-based community building, a constantly updated website is critical to it reaching into the public consciousness. If there’s something new and interesting on a webpage every day or every few days, web traffic stays high and the word you want to get out is more likely to get there. What can your institution contribute to the information landscape of its community? How can you make your website a must-see destination for members of your community? A blog like this takes time and effort to maintain, but the software by its very nature supports this kind of endeavour.

A blog written by a person can give an institutional website a human face, and as Google Scholar comes in to take over the finding of things, we as librarians need to step up to be the human face of this new information world. Blogs are a quick and easy way for us to start.

Are the printers down again?
But a public blog is only one side of what a good administrative blogging system could accomplish. On the other side of the reference desk, a staff blog could help keep an entire staff team up-to-date. When a reference librarian comes to the desk to start his shift, he needs to know a whole rash or things at once; are there any instructional sessions scheduled for today? Will I need to direct anyone to a particular classroom? Is there an assignment coming due that is bringing students into the library in droves looking for a specific source? Are the computers acting strangely? Are the printers down again? The number of possible bits of information required for each librarian or reference staff member on a given day is impossible to quantify. A blog kept by a group, noting anything unusual that is happening in the community or anything that the staff should be aware of, could keep a team on the same page.

Most organizations already do something else in place of a group blog. They send mass emails. Hundreds of mass emails a week, which generally clutter up mailboxes or get deleted. Wouldn’t a blog be better? Rather than spotty archives in people’s email, everyone could have access to ONE keyword-searchable, date- and time- stamped archive. Rather than carry on a conversation on a listserv, forcing all staff to get our witty repartee via email, staff with questions could post comments and have them answered by the poster or anyone else with information. I suggested complex, threaded comments for educational blogs, and I would definitely suggest them in this context as well. With threaded comments, questions could be asked, answered, and archived in a forum open to all staff without clogging up inboxes.

Keeping in Touch
At the library where I worked this summer, there were two kinds of people; staff who were often on the reference desk and those who rarely were. Many of the subject librarians were often too busy for long reference shifts. In the profession, the reference desk is in many places dying a slow death; the “reference librarian” is becoming a thing of the past; no one can be just a reference librarian anymore. Anyone with an MLIS is busy behind the scenes building collections, managing staff, arguing over digital resources, teaching classes, and consulting with faculty. As one librarian noted, cutting subject librarians off from reference means that the people buying the books and making the decisions are getting more and more distant from frontline knowledge and needs. While the reference staff are well aware of which reference sources are being used, what sorts of questions are stumping students, and what kinds of books are in need, the librarians exist in a more hermetically sealed world where they speak to advanced graduate students, faculty, and undergraduates only in a classroom setting. When they do make it to the reference desk they feel rusty and out of touch. A well-used, often-updated blog chronicling not just problems but also interesting questions, trends, and suggestions for sources would help keep staff in touch with each other as well as their patrons.

A frequently-updated group blog can also help train new staff, introducing them not only to the personalities in the department but also to the issues they face daily at the reference desk. And it can bring staff up-to-date when they return from maternity leaves or holidays, and even connect everyone with events and problems that occur in the evenings or weekends.

Categories and RSS
In an educational capacity, I discussed how categories with individual RSS feeds are necessary to filter content to one class or another; good categorization with RSS organizes content for consumption by a particular audience. In an administrative capacity, categories fulfill the same function.

What kinds of categories are needed depend entirely on the library and its set up; part of the benefit of a blog system is how flexible it is and how many options it presents. Determining what categories are significant for a particular workplace is as simple as searching through ye olde email inbox to see what sorts of information staff are generally sending out. Announcements of events happening in and around the library; new developments in databases or online sources; technical problems with photocopiers, printers, microfilm readers, or other equipment; lost items; class information and specifics regarding assignments; new print sources added to reference, or other significant sets; meeting minutes, etc. If circumstances demanded, a reference blog could have categories for each subject area to note any significant problems or interesting questions that arise in specific disciplines. This would make it easy to find class-related information and for subject librarians to keep tabs on the needs of the students in their disciplines. The blog archive could act as a record of frequently-asked-questions for specific classes and thus a resource for reference staff.

When we introduced the idea of a reference blog to the head of reference this summer, she had an additional category idea; just general chatter. As head of the department, she wanted to know in general how things are going; was it really busy on the desk today? What interesting things are happening, good as well as bad? What general problems are people encountering? What’s the general student mood? Are they stressed out? Are reference desk staff feeling cut off? Do they feel not properly trained on a piece of equipment or particular source? Did someone go looking for something in an obvious place and not find it? She wanted a category for the general, so she could scan it regularly and get a sense of what’s going on and how everyone is doing.

So how does RSS fit in? With only one blog, there is hardly any need to syndicate. With a good archive (which most blogging software has) and good categories, staff can simply use the website itself rather than aggregating its content. Having no new clients to download to their own computers is a bonus; the blog would be one stop shopping for most mass communication needs. A good blog archive structure can take away the need to store this information in a feed reader. For front-line staff and subject librarians, bookmarking the blog and possibly one or two category indexes would probably be enough.

But there are other complications. Many academic libraries exist as part of a system; at Western Libraries where I did my co-op term, there are seven libraries and thus seven reference desks, and I know many other systems are larger than that. Administrators will not want to keep track of seven or more separate blogs recording everything that happens; they need categorical RSS feeds so they can choose the categories they want to follow from each library and read them in the comfort of a solid RSS reader. This gives administrators an “at-a-glance” sense of what’s going on in the libraries and gives them the opportunity to dig deeper into any particular issue.

Shout it out
In an educational context, we want a blog that represents the student’s thinking, and then a page that represents the thinking of all other participants in class, with opportunities to comment and engage in a discussion. But the administration context is a bit different. It’s all at once an archive, a newspaper, and an alerting system, but not a record of personal thoughts and opinions. The people who use it are busy and don’t want to look in more than one place for information and updates, either. How can we keep all information relevant to the staff in one place?

What if we have an option that adds a particular post to every library’s blog? This is arguably dangerous. To compare with LiveJournal, this is the equivalent to posting to a community, but instead having that post hit everyone’s personal blog rather than one communal blog. The key difference here is that each blog is not personal; it is already communal. A system-wide option would allow higher-level managers make announcements that appear in a local space; a notice that appears in every local paper, so to speak. It would also allow each library to communicate important information with the entire system with one post, without sending mass email.

My monitor just exploded!
My goals with an administrative blog are clearly bent on keeping all the important information in one place rather than scattering it to a feed reader or page buried somewhere behind a link. In the structure I’ve laid out, there are a variety of categories for a variety of things, much of which might not be useful to staff in departments. However, certain categories might be extremely important to someone in another department.

At the library where I worked in the summer, there was a very carefully-constructed alert system created to let the LITS (Library Information Technology Services) people know when there were computer problems. Staff filled in a help form, which was sent to a generic email address that LITS staff took turns monitoring. That email was cc’ed to the entire reference staff, keeping everyone in the know about things technical.

What if we had a blog category for computer related posts? This would have the effect of keeping the entire staff informed of problems. But blogs aren’t the quickest way of getting the word out. Sometimes those help emails were dire; “the computers in the reference hall are down!” When those computers went out, they went out all together, as one 400-seat unit. That’s are emergency situation in an academic library. LITS received the same kind of alert messages from all seven libraries in the system.

A good RSS reader at LITS could keep everyone on the ball; a reader could check the feeds every few minutes for problems or questions. I trust RSS to get the message out fast, but RSS alone doesn’t seem like enough. There are lots of different questions that get sent on to LITS, and not all of them are emergencies. LITS could subscribe to all computer-related categories at the seven libraries, which would keep them in touch with all technical problems, questions, and issues. That in itself would confront a whole host of problems related to communication issues within the system, including keeping an archive of a problem so that a history of it exists (What if, for instance, printing always goes down at 2pm every other Thursday?) as well as alerting the rest of the related staff to the problem. But what if the category itself included an emergency flag that sent out an email notification to an address tagged by the category? That way, if smoke started pouring out of a monitor, the blog itself could act as recorder, archive, and emergency help line all at once.

That functionality could work its way through the entire system, allowing an administrator or subject librarian to be notified if something dire is happening in an area under their supervision, or simply if their attention or comment is required. This way staff could still get in touch with someone in a hurry using email without actually having to use multiple systems for recording information.

Keeping up with the Joneses
Blogging software is not new, but it’s still barely breaking into the larger world. What librarians and administrators need to understand is that blogs aren’t just journals; they are complex content management systems that have a lot of offer to a variety of environments. Since information and information delivery is supposed to be our area of expertise, it seems to me that it behooves us to get in touch with some of this software. And on the flip side: working in a information-heavy, blog-free environment was certainly an eye-opening experience for me. Everywhere I looked I saw another task that a blog could take over.

Now we just have to get down to actually writing the software for it. Unless someone else gets around to it before we do.

Edublog Revisited

Edublog Revisited

Long ago a small group of educators got together and formed a group called Edublog. The point, as I recall, was to create blogs for educational use; to promote the use of blogging packages in an educational context. The end goal was, I think, to build an educational blogging system, designed specifically with the classroom in mind.

It never happened. The players got busy or got different jobs or for other reasons scattered to the winds, and not much ever happened on the edublog agenda. Of course lots of people have seen the potential for weblogs in the classroom, and lots of people have made good use of the resources that are there.

But now I think it’s time to revisit the original purpose of Edublog, and after lots of careful attention to different available weblog packages and the particular needs and pressures of the classrooms I have known, I think I know what direction we should have gone. And the direction we should go.

What’s prompting me on this is the recent purchase of livejournal by Six Apart, the creators of Movable Type. As I’ve said, I have both a livejournal (LJ) and a Movable Type (MT) blog. I’ve also had a Blogger blog, though I shifted it over to an MT blog long before Blogger was purchased by Google. Looking at them all as a longtime student and a recently-minted librarian, I am starting to see what a true edublog system should look like.

One Journal for Many Purposes
For the end user, the student, the world of blogging for class could be extremely overwhelming. Let’s say the blogging revolution really takes off and five out of five instructors are asking students to blog their comments on lectures, readings, and to participate in online classroom discussions via blogs. Would they be required to have five separate blogs?

In the universe of Blogger and Movable Type, the answer would be maybe. The student could have one blogging account and five separate blogs, each with a separate updating interface. Or, a student could have one blog and five categories, effectively separating content into different segments, and classmates and instructors could read the categories page rather than the main journal. This is cumbersome and doesn’t support the multiplicity of uses to which the blog is being put. Categories on MT are fantastic, but they are only a first step.

In the world of livejournal, the answer would also be maybe. For livejournal what you might have is a separate community blog for each class, so while the student has one blog, she would be posting class-related posts to five separate communities. In that case, the actual blog would be irrelevant. The markable content, the required content, would be on a community blog, eliminating the confusion of going and looking for categories. Or students could simply keep all their classroom thoughts on one LJ, and have the instructor worry about where that content is aggregated to. Say, all students from the class “friend” each other (as is done on livejournal), and the instructor “friends” all the students, and any posts relevant to the class would automatically end up on everyone’s plate.

But if you have mutiple classes? Concievably livejournal could still handle this scenario; the student could create a filter for each class, and then post specifically to a filter (locking out anyone not on that filter). But this is convoluted and complicated and puts the onus back on the student to create filters and sort content. While MT creates categories to organize your content, livejournal creates filters to organize your audience.

I have a suggestion for how this can work; one blog, multiple classes, filtered content by category and by audience or class. Livejournal aggregates its own content very well; what if you could merge the concept of categories on MT and the filter on LJ? What about a blog with categories and a separate RSS feed for each? In this scenario, the student writes a post, uses a dropdown menu to choose the category, and the content is then forwarded on via RSS to the right audience. For the student, their own work is presented to them by the date they created it, all their content together in one place. They could view their own content by category (which is what MT offers now), and they would also have the option of viewing all content by classmates and their instructor or TA as an aggregated “friends page” as on livejournal, one for every class. Aggregated categories.

This way, students have an easily-accessed connection point to all of their classmates posts about class, while not having to see their thoughts on other classes or personal musings unrelated to class. These RSS categories could be controlled by the instructors directly, so that students enrolling in a class will automatically have that class show up as one of their RSS categories. Students are not merely directing their comments and questions at the instructor; they are engaging with the entire class.

The next important piece of an edublog system is a sophisticated commenting structure. Currently MT comments are extremely simple; you leave a comment under a post and it records your name and the date you left the comment, that’s it. Comments are great, and this system encourages users to leave comments for the post itself, not to engage with others who are commenting. Livejournal has extremely sophisticated comments, and long debates and ensue within them. This is because livejournal does two things; it allows comments to be threaded, like a message board, so that you can reply directly to a specific comment, and also because livejournal allows users who comment to receive email notification of replies, not only the author of the post. I think a system of comments more like LJ’s would be extremely useful and effective for an edublog system whose goal is not only to allow students to note down comments in a public forum, but also for encouraging communication between students.

I have been considering the “locking” mechanisms of livejournal. I’m not a great locker of posts myself, so I am hard-pressed to encourage such a thing. For an educational blog, my gut on this is to say that you can filter your content by allowing posts to go this way and that, and that you can create content that is not aggregated anywhere. You can write a post that goes only on your own page and nowhere else. Why lock posts?

On livejournal, locked posts are often where users discuss things they would not want the general audience of their “friends lists” to know they are discussing. These might include party plans, personal details, or gossip and backstabbing. As far as I’m concerned, none of these things are particularly appropriate on an educationally-related blog. While I have no qualms with anyone making reference to their personal life and personal struggles in a public forum, students should be aware that any content placed on a university server (and this includes email) is the property of the university. Students wanting to say something private and possibly inflammatory about a person at the university without others knowing about it probably shouldn’t be saying it on university hardware. I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t say it. I would just not encourage the use of “locking”, which only provides a false sense of security.

The biggest and most obvious reason for locking posts, I would think, is the plagiarism problem. What if a student were to post (as I’m doing) a long rant that could work its way into someone else’s essay or thesis? What if one student’s intellectual labour becomes another student’s good grade?

Blogging is not like taking notes or writing an essay, though I think it can certainly fulfill those functions. Blogging is publishing, and opening up the floodgates and letting undergraduates publish their thoughts on what they’re learning is a good thing. In using online technologies as part of classroom instruction, professors need to be aware of the issues they raise, and while posting discussion questions is a good thing, they should never take the form of exam questions or essay questions. I’ve heard of English professors who specifically pair up strange books on exam questions so that students can’t go online and find easy answers; instructors using blogs need to be conscious that while they are giving students work that can be marked, they shouldn’t be using a blog as a makeshift exam or as a timestamp method for receiving essays. Students shouldn’t be asked to share that kind of work with a class as a whole, or a university community as a whole. While creating the technology is interesting and challenging, determining exactly how that technology can and should be used is an equally daunting task.

There has been debate about automated plagiarism checkers like Students are being asked to submit their work to a database without acknowledging that student work is the property of the student, not the professor or the university. Rather than determine who has intellectual property rights around content, I would suggest that an edublog system simply work with systems like to allow bots to crawl the content regularly. Students don’t need to part with the content; in publishing it, they allow others to read it, including bots who will parse it and remember that it exists. The system could disallow Google bots and msn bots and other major search engines, keeping other students from easily finding edublog content.

I feel conflicted about how to cope with so much online information and plagiarism; in the end I feel that it’s up to the instructor to make sure her testing methods are foolproof. There are still serious benefits to the in-class, pen and paper exam with questions carefully crafted around lectures, in-class speakers, specific points that arose from discussion, and comparison between specific readings set for the course.

Blogging and the Instructor
When I first started talking about blogging in the classroom back in 2001, some of the initial reactions went something like this: “Well, that’s a lot more marking to do.” I found this comment irritating; as an instructor, do you want more participation, or less marking? As a long-time student, I am frustrated that encouraging my participation simply means more work for an instructor. But I think the reaction is coming from linking all written work together. If students are writing stuff, each post should be marked, no? Each post should have a letter grade?

I think blogging should be compared not with written work but with spoken participation. Instructors should keep track of what’s going on in blog posts and conversation (Who’s doing lots of thoughtful commenting? Who’s never commenting?), but should save the grading of it for specific times, like at quarters or at midterm and the end of term. Each student should have a comment history for each category, so that instructors can easily assess frequency of comments. Posts are all archived by category, and a quick perusal a few times a term will give an instructor a sense of how much thought went into the blog for that term. In terms of strict grading, I think instructors should allocate a fairly small percentage of the overall grade to blogging participation (10-20%), and determine only if that participation is poor, good, or excellent.

But the benefit of blogging goes beyond the grading side. Use the blogs can help students with their work, or help with understanding. When a student posts an interesting idea, leave a comment telling them so, suggesting a paper on that topic or recommending further reading. Correct a student’s assumptions when they are wrong. Commiserate with student outrage at a historical wrongdoing or a hateful character in a book. If one student posts something particularly interesting or controversial, post yourself and link to it, asking other students what they think. As the instructor you are also part of this community, dwelling on issues that helping students learn about the world they live in and helping them to develop critical thinking skills. For students unlikely to have the confidence to pipe up in class, a blog post, which will appear among many others, may help students break out of their shells.

Spending serious time using different blogging systems, and keeping an ear to the ground for new modifications and advances in software, leads to an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. I’ve found that blogging long enough has let me see what’s possible and what would be useful. Now, all we need is the time and the money, and we can get to work writing some new software.

I have ideas about how this blogging system can be used from an institutional point of view as well (interoffice communication), but I’ll leave that for another post.

Blogging Librarians

Blogging Librarians

Okay, I’m starting to feel that I’m in such an old school of blogging that I missed some massive turnabout. Reading about bloggers these days has made me want to dig my heels in and express, over and over, that people are adding elements to the definition of “blog” that really should not be there. I’m standing firm on this one.

From Free Range Librarian:

For some time I’ve grumbled and groused about the practices of librarian bloggers. Too many of us want to be considered serious citizen-journalists, when it suits us, but fall back on “hey, it’s only a blog” when we’d rather post first and fact-check later, present commentary as “news,” or otherwise fall short of the guidelines of the real profession of journalism. (This is doubly ironic, considering how librarians squeal when people without library degrees claim to practice “librarianship.”)

We’re on the eve of having the first serious blog coverage for an ALA conference. (I’m going to be one of the Citizen Bloggers for PLA, thanks to Steven Cohen’s advocacy in this area.) I really would like this to be a credible event that reflects well on blogging in librarianship. But I worry that if we start off without agreeing, however informally, to a code of ethics, we may prove to our colleagues why blogging has its bad reputation.

I also feel that as librarians our “code” has to go even farther than in the examples I cite at the beginning of this entry. We are the standard-bearers for accurate, unbiased information. Blogs filled with typos, half-baked “facts,” misrepresentations, copyright violations, and other egregious and unprofessional problems do not represent us well to the world.

Keeping a blog does not by definition cross into journalism. I understand why people feel that it does; many blogs have a newsy feel to them, and since blogs are serial, I can see the connection. Vaguely. But a blogger is not journalist. A blog is a format. It’s just a personal webpage that’s easy to update, and is generally updated often. It’s really important that we not get so wrapped up in linking blogs with journalism that we start imagining that we have some kind of higher calling to “report” with accuracy. As if we’re some kind of playback device. As if this is the point of the profession.

I can’t work out which part bothers me more; reducing a blog to serial fact-spewing, or reducing librarians to “unbiased” cyphers of information.

Do with your blog as you see fit, of course, but generally speaking, historically speaking, a blog is one person’s perspective on what’s going on in the world. Whatever that world happens to be for that person. While I agree that anyone should be careful not to spout random bits of gossip and break copyright laws, no one should pretend they have the capacity to be unbiased. That’s not a benefit to anyone. Presuming objectivity is the first step in providing misinformation.

So, those librarians who are going to blog the ALA conference; do it with your personal lenses snapped into place. Blog about what it means to you. Blog about what you hear and what inpires you, what you disagree with, what makes you think. There are ways to get transcripts of what happened. Why would you strip out all that good, personal, thoughtful information? I’m not looking to blogs to report facts. I’m looking to them to provide a personal memoir of something, one person’s view. I’m looking for the subjective.

Technology is a tool that seems to make people feel hip and modern. While blogging may be the hot item of 2004, our ideas about librarianship need to crawl on out of the 19th century.

You Reap what you Sow

You Reap what you Sow

Well, this is certainly interesting.

In sum: Michael Gorman, ALA president elect, jumped up and told us that blogs are dumb and bloggers are dumber. Blogosphere goes balistic, most nod their heads and say, yeah, we knew librarians were stodgy and on their way to extinction. Blogging librarians everywhere have a heartsore day. Next up: Blaise Cronin writes BLOG: see also Bathetically Ludicrous Online Gibberish. Most bloggers, recognizing a troll when they see one, ignore him. Some others respond, understandably miffed and personally affronted.

Blaise Cronin today, reacting to the blog backlash he stirred up:

In the long run, the net effect of such mean-spiritedness will be to chill public debate, deter people from blogging and depress free trade in ideas. Personally, I would much rather face another, even angrier fusillade of blogs than be cowed into silence. And I would expect no less of graduates, past and future, of this school. For now, though, I leave you with the cautionary words of Samuel Johnson: ‘When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.’

I can’t believe he’s arguing that the response he got from being rude to a very, very large group of people is indicative of some kind of PC big chill. On one hand he wants his voice to never be silenced, but he disapproves of the tools that exist to make sure the voices of the rest of us have the same priviledge. On one hand we’re spilling out of control with our blogs and our endless nonsense; on the other hand, that massive growth is in danger because of our inability to sense anything valid in his petty little derivative screed. You can’t really have it both ways. Too much feedback isn’t likely to kill a genre, generally speaking. When you have a truly democratic space, things sometimes get ugly and loud.

Never have so many tongues wagged so waspishly and wittily in warp time…Old rules and constraints have fallen away…On the Net, every voice is equal.’

And this is his great lament, and a very telling part of his response. First, that he expects his voice to be more weighty than that of anyone else, and expects us to naturally believe that this is the proper order of things. Second, he believes that every voice is in fact equal on the internet. At this point it becomes painfully obvious that Blaise Cronin is yet another old school academic who has not come to terms with the socially vibrant and dynamic world that is the internet. Not every voice is equal here. But every voice gets a chance to be.

But his Samuel Johnson quotation stands. When he opted to troll the blogging community with his clearly insulting and offensive musings, the first shot of incivility was fired.

One wonders for whom these hapless souls blog. Why do they choose to expose their unremarkable opinions, sententious drivel and unedifying private lives to the potential gaze of total strangers? What prompts this particular kind of digital exhibitionism?

We’re wondering the same thing about you, Blaise. There was nothing classy about this op-ed. How could you possibly expect a classy response?

Blog Comments

Blog Comments

Just added blog comments via enetation. V. nice, I’m most impressed. Very sexy looking. I haven’t had blog comments since dot comments went down, and I must say I like these better.

Thinking of alternative uses for them as we speak…

The Technology of Knowing

The Technology of Knowing

Isilya: I don’t feel like I know a person unless I’ve read their lj now… how did relationships ever exist pre lj?

Well. Yeah. I mean, now you can go through someone’s dayplanner/diary/personal correspondence before you even hook up with them. Before you even consider, seriously or otherwise, hooking up with them. Someone you meet in real life or across distances. Now, here’s the question: for a blogger, for someone who’s used to blogging, and reading blogs, and getting to know people who blog, and all of that…for those of us who do, do you ever really trust a person who’s unwilling to blog? Someone who won’t, for some reason? And I know we understand that some things are too personal to blog, but is there a part of you that wonders about it? A part of you that says, well. So what is it, then? Who are you, really? I mean, where would we be without details like this:

When I was two, I renamed myself Little Bunny Chicken Feather, and refused to answer to anything else for the next six months.

Otherwise, the only way you learn about the Little Bunny Chicken Feather story is at Thanksgiving five years later when your honey’s mother makes a sly comment about it, and everyone but you laughs. Yes, that’s a traditional way to find out about these little stories. But isn’t there something nice about the idea that you would also be laughing with the family? And then on the way home in the car you can casually drape your arm over the back of the seat and say, “Well, Little Bunny Chicken Feather. That was quite an evening, wasn’t it.”

Or the things that the family doesn’t usually know about:

Last night, I dreamed that I had a tricycle. It was big, and red, and newly old-fashioned. It was shiny and beautiful, but it was too small for me. When I would ride it around town, my knees would knock against the handlebars.

I didn’t want to let it go, but what I really needed was a bike.
I rode my tricycle to a trike and bike exchange. They had one bike there, older and blue and a bit rusty. I offered to trade my tricycle for it.

The shop owner said no, that she needed no tricycles. She said that she would sell me the bike.

I was upset. I emphasised how nice and new my tricycle was. I demonstrated how it changed into a milk truck in only a few easy steps.

She was not impressed. The bicycle could be converted into a fire truck.

Do you feel better knowing these things? Do you gain something from it? I love dreams. I know lots of people who hate to hear about them. I’ll never understand that. I think dreaming is very interesting. This may because a) I am a lucid dreamer, and b) I dream in plot. I think dreams say quite a lot about us, but I’m not sure what they’re saying. Granted. But I still like to know about them. If nothing else, they are filled with massive amounts of detail. Dreams ARE detail. And I am fetishistic about details.

I have friends who rant best on their blogs. Well, they rant best everywhere, most of the time, but their blog rants are wonderful and logged/preserved/noted down and handoutable as a url.

Listen, I’m not a passive observer. I read the writing on the fucking walls. I spend most of my time watching, analysing. Many years of internet addiction means that I even conceptualise in text.

So I notice the tags, I notice the signs.

The city is talking. It tells me to “Keep (my mind) Clear”, it tells me to “Shut up and Shop” and it tells me in tiny letters on the back of the underground toilets that “Meat is Murder” and “Hell is a state in America.”

This *is* dialogue…

…Or perhaps I’m mistaken. Perhaps my tutors are right. Perhaps the city is some infernal monologuist, and every dawn is herald to open mic day on the old concrete soap box. It’s a cohesive, many-authored monologue, though. There’s a thousand script writers standing behind the scenes, awaiting a pedestrian applause.

Is this good to know? Yes. Yes, it’s good to know that a blog is a place to get a point a across and show me, yet again, why I’m choosing to co-write with you. Indeed. And I’m a believer in the dialogue. Did I mention that I saw a perfectly dressed, rational-looking woman having a terribly amusing conversation with a concrete wall while waiting for the streetcar? Yes, I think it’s a dialogue, Lib.

How does one look rational, anyway?

have been ripped up from the inside out. have been sewn back together wrong. cannot find elements within me that used to be there. cannot rid my head of one verse of a song. sleep crawls ever further away on bruised knees.

Is blogging just a form of accidental poetry?

Educational Blogging

Educational Blogging

Wow, thanks to Evan for listing me on the splash page…I’ve learned quite a lot about how people are managing or thinking of managing their blogs for class. One fine example is a film studies seminar in Australia where the instructor and three students all maintain blogs. I think that’s a great advantage in a seminar, and certainly it must bring students closer into conversation. I hadn’t thought about how blogging would helpful for a small class like that…I had only been thinking about undergrads who often don’t get heard or don’t often get asked what they’re thinking. But I think this is a really nice example of how the intensity of a good seminar can make in onto the web.

Then there is the group blog, the class after class discussion board. Bernie Dodge at San Diego State emailed me about his class on educational games, which seems to have worked nicely. One of his students said this about blogging, which struck me as interesting:

“I figure since this is my last blog, I should comment on my opinioins about this whole blogging thing. When it first started, I wasn’t sure about the whole thing because I figured others weren’t really reading my blogs. After a week or so I was getting some interesting feedback from other students, and I saw myself quickly starting to enjoy this whole blogging experience a little more. I think though, these blogs are only effective if they are being closely monitored as Bernie has done so well over the past couple of months. Without communication between students and the transfer of feedback, students will quickly find themselves blogging because they have to. All in all, I must say that this was a nice addition to the class, good job Bernie!”

And I think he really hit the nail on the head; feedback is critical, not only instructor feedback but student feedback as well. Certainly deciding to insist that students keep blogs for a large class means work for the instructor. I suggest that would be work worth doing. How to manage a large class seems like an administrative hurdle more than a significant barrier. But again, I’m just thinking outloud.

Thanks to everyone for telling me about their class blogs. It’s been just fascinating to see how these ideas are working around the world.



Well, a new blog announcement:Project Achieve has registered, which will be an open source educational blog project. We’ve got lots of ideas! If you’d like to be kept informed, bookmark me, as I seem to be the ‘voice of the educational blog project’. Let me know if you’d like to be informed!

Educational Blogs Revisited

Educational Blogs Revisited

Clearly there is some interest in the idea of blogs as educational tools, and I’m glad to see this, because I’m obviously a firm believer. This raises practical questions: a group blog, or individual blogs? How does this work practically? How does it fit into the evaluative structure? I should point out right off that I’ve never tried this with a class. I’m just a 2nd year PhD student who thinks too much about things that lie outside her field of study. So take this as you will.

I would personally suggest an individual blog for each student. Primarily because there are other tools out there that can be used in conjunction with blogging (message board type programs) that would work just as well. I think the real charm and real use of blogging comes when used individually. I suggest this because, in spite of being a ‘public’ space, viewable by the world, it is also a profoundly private space. The student is able to design the site herself, able to control how the content is shaped. It is a personal journal, with an audience. I think this sense of the personal is what will make a blog more effective as a classroom tool than a reflection paper is; it is not only to the instructor, but to classmates as well. And to the student herself. I also like the idea that, if blogging, say, weekly, about the readings/lectures, the student ends up with a nice, useful archive for the exam.

How blogs could work evaluatively: you could make specific requests for blog entries; for an English class, ask for a quick summary of the major theme of the book. This is a good skill for students to acquire. The fact that blog entries are timed and dated is also handy. (Students *must* do their reading on time.) Also: what if you decided to make the final exam worth less (or got rid of it altogether), but asked for short essay questions once a month in class to be answered by a specific time in their blogs? The up and down side is that students can read other people’s answers first, if they’re smart; but doesn’t this just make it that much more interesting? That may well be part of the process. It may change the kinds of questions you ask; they may require more thought and more personal reflection. Or, if you’re really concerned about it, insist that they post their answers within a 15 minute span of time. I’d say make the blog worth a substantial amount; I’ve had seminar classes where participation is worth 40% of the grade. This is participation and written work. I’d try to make it worth their while.

What’s particularly nice about this is that it means that humanities students will not only learn some critical thinking tools, and time management tools, but also how to respond to each other and *gasp* they’ll pick up some html. (Yes, you can learn to build a webpage in my class on the Renaissance poetry. How about that.)

So, these are just my brainstorming ideas abou educational blogging. If you’re interested, post your opinions and send me a link to your blog. Maybe if enough people are interested we can ask to set up something on blogger. And, again, please feel free to visit us at Project Achieve to discuss these ideas online in real time.

Quoted on Blogger’s Front Page

Quoted on Blogger’s Front Page

Well, I was starting to wonder why I was getting email about my blog all of a sudden…now I see why:

I’ve been cited! Wow. I’m amazed. Well, if you’re interested in ideas about blogging and other online educational tools, please feel free to visit us at Project Achieve, an online interactive graphical and text based educational environment. We’re discussing this kind of thing all the time…maybe we can all have a roundtable discussion online one of these days. Educators unite!

Fan Mail

Fan Mail

Well, would you believe this? My first ever fan mail!

Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2001 22:25:17 -0500

I somehow found your blog from the blogger web site. I just kind of leaned
on teh keyboard and it popped up.

Anyway, great job, and I especially like the looks of the page. Any chance
you could send me the html code… I would most assuredly put your name all
over it and shamelessly promote your site to the 4 or so guestst that see my
site weekly.

Thanks for whatever and again, congrats on your layout, I think it is

Jim Storey

Thanks, Jim! I’m so incredibly flattered, since this is my first ventre into html. Wow, talk about making my little day. 🙂

Blogs as Educational Tools?

Blogs as Educational Tools?

I’m getting more and more firmly convinced that blogs are tantamount to essential in humanities classes. I believe this to be true because a) it allows students to speak in a ‘public’ forum about their readings and the lectures in a course, no matter what format the class takes, no matter how shy the student is, and no matter how many students are in the class, b) it allows the instructor/TA to read, respond to, and evaluate students critical thinking skills, understanding of the course material, and if they’re paying attention at all, c) it allows students to read and respond to each other’s opinions in a ‘democratic’ space, d) unlike reflection papers or other forms of journaling for class, the responses are not static documents that are handed from student to evaluator, but exist as individual archives of thoughts and information that are permanently available to both the student and the teacher. And that’s not even beginning to think about the possibilities of multiple-media representation within the blog. And I’m seeing all this happening within the structure of a current undergraduate class format, not as a replacement to being in class or as distance learning. I’m not sure I know how to tackle that stuff yet. Not virtual university, just virtual assignments, really.

InMOO blogging?
I never really thought about this as a positive option. Why read a blog inmoo? What’s the point? That’s just using the moo as a lens to see webpages, I don’t see blogs as particularly moo-compatible, or that there’s an benefit to blogging being moo compatible. UNLESS: what if we were to write a blogger program into the GUI? So that every char, or, say, student chars, a generic student char, would come equipped with a blog ready to use, either as an object or as a part of the player class, like mail-recipient, internal mail server, internal blogger server, and an inmoo interface for inputting posts, changing html template, and all of the rest of it. Like VASE, we could then program the blog prog to allow for instructor comments visible only to the instructor and the owner of the blog, but not anyone else; you could add the comment function, as in greymatter, for student comments on other’s blogs; you could have them linked together by class, possibly searchable by class group; we could rework the archive to sort by theme if we wanted, or time, or whatever else, have a programmable archive delineation, depending on the class….still, I’m not clear how this works as a moo function, aside from it being handy to have a blogger program that we could tweak ourselves and that would be on site. I can see then the moo becoming a kind of bridge between the work Jason and emma has been doing with VASE, the kind of project work inmoo that I’ve been thinking about, and blogging. the moo would be the structure that links all these kinds of possible projects together; straight html, as VASE projects are, or straight textmoo narrative walk-through projects that rely on the structure of an object oriented space, like mine, plus course commentary/personal reflection inblog thereby linked to to all of this via character….maybe there could be an option on the ‘look char’ that would have a ‘read my blog’ button, part of the descrip? I mean so that all these elements are bundled. I have no idea how I would explain that to someone who doesn’t know about VASE, blog, or Achieve, though. And could the blog work as straight telnet as well as html? If it did, then it would be as we’ve been talking about, really really available to a wide audience, because there would be no heavy GUI front end to deal with on a computer with little memory. Particularly if there’s a fancy GUI interface blog, as well as a text based blog input option. Like this:
@blog myblog
[Type a line of input or `@abort’ to abort the command.]
Today’s class
Blog Room

Do a ‘look’ to get the list of commands, or ‘help’ for assistance.

Composing post to Hildegarde’s blog (#21493) entitled “Today’s class”
“I had a great time today. I learned a lot.
One line added.
Your message so far:

Date: Thu Apr 5 15:13:47 2001 EDT
From: Hildegarde (#1974)
To: Hildegarde’s blog (#21493)
Subject: Today’s class

I had a great time today. I learned a lot.
Message actually sent to Hildegarde’s blog (#21493).

Oh, the possibilities….

Blogging Friends

Blogging Friends

My goal to get the world blogging took some important steps forward recently! When Brin was feeling all sad last night I told him creating a blog would cheer him up….and who knew, it worked! And he’s getting all html on us too, so that’s one to keep an eye on. And then miao decided that, since her due date is a week away, it’s time to start a kitten/baby blog. First point of news! All heed the call! And finally, just now, I managed to convince blue (from baymoo) to get herself a blog too…(she’s the one with the funky descrip a few paragraphs down.) Links to all three are on the left. Enjoy! May the blogging revolution continue!

Writing out of Books

Writing out of Books

Let’s let writing out of books, give it a chance and see what it does with its liberty. Maybe there are butterflies in the core of those cloth-cased cocoons stacked away in libraries. Let’s let them out and have a look.
–Rob Carlton Brown
(via salmon’s rough draft; I’m looking forward to the completed paper!)

Educational Blogging

Educational Blogging

lots of trouble posting today…I lost at least 2 entries that I can remember trying to make off hand, and the template isn’t saving my html changes. I know it’s because of the upgrades blogger has been getting, and I know there were lots of problems with the process. So I’m trying to be patient, though that’s not really my strong suit. So much to talk about, too much else to do. I’ve been playing around with html, so every day this page looks a little different. Every couple of hours, in fact. I’m inspired by the blogs around me. 🙂 And, we had a nice conversation at Achieve about the possible uses for blogs in educational environments…I think this is one of the truly exciting uses for blogging. Do you know I went through many classes in English (as an undergraduate English major) reading a book a week and never being asked what i thought about what i was reading? (Until the exam, of course, but that hardly counts.) The impact blogging could have on student-instructor interaction is almost unfathomable…and I think mostly because your blog is YOUR BLOG, it’s got a kind of…’private’ sense to it, in spite of it being public. ‘private’ in terms of control, i suppose…Well, I’m at work now, and I should probably be doing something more useful. I told Richard that I was learning html and he’s decided that I should create the banner for the Centre. I don’t have a clue how to do that, but I just smile and nod.

My very first Blog Post

My very first Blog Post

Well, here I am writing my first blog entry. Of my first blog. Maybe I should take this time to point out that I think I’m becoming a bit of a tech head in spite of my best intentions. When my old powerbook 1400 died in September, I didn’t know all that much about the internet, really. I knew enough to get around without making a complete fool of myself, but there was only so much I could find out about with a 1 gig hard disk. Once I hooked up with the ibook, everything changed….now I find myself wanting to learn to (ahem) program stuff. Strange. You know whose fault this is (salmon, jason, heidi, you know who you are.) And after oscar night, I’d like to thank….