It’s been interesting to see how a dis-connected set of blog posts about “distributed conversations” have pretty much emulated the topic. Mine was but one tiny ripple among the tide. With a few iterations of search (lacking an explanation of their syntax), Technorati does a credible job, but is it all the echoes?
Just recently, Stephen Downes pointed to an iteresting, long thread on this topic inside the house of Moodle, the forums where Moodlers are trying to get their hands around fitting a blog tool. Take a gander in Blogs, Forums and the Nature of Discussion (you can read by logging in as guest).
It seems like there is a village of people who dwell in tree houses, and spend all their time there. They sometimes see through their binoculars 1 or 2 people who live far away in the caves. The two societies rarely meet, yet they form amazingly concrete opinions on the relative merits (or lack thereof) of the others living styles. How can opinions be so firm based on such little interaction?
Inside the Moodle forums are some utterly star, grand, sweeping proclamations:
Very few bloggers bother to engage in conversation with the people who comment on their original post. They usually just post and move on to another topic without engaging readers in a discussion.
I must admit I don’t really understand all the fuss about blogs. They just seem self indulgent to me. They have very little value (especially educational) compared to the input required to maintain them and they can very quickly become dated and laborious. The only people who tend to read them are the authors themselves.
Another difference between blogs and forums is the time nature. Blogs tend to be very time sensitive. The relevancy of their content usually decreases over time. I’m not going to care in 2 years what you had for dinner on July 13, 2005, nor is a collection of outdated links to news Web sites covering the London bombings going to be of much use to me either. Whereas information in a forum tends to have a more lasting value than the content of blogs.
I mean have you considered the reason nobody but the authors read blogs is because they don’t make for very good reading? I mean, if those people really intended the blog for no one but themselves then why don’t they just open up a document on their own computer and record their thoughts there?… I believe most blogs are pretty much like portfolios in that they aren’t really polished work,
These “facts” and summaries are astounding, and to echo myself earlier, make me wonder if I am really using the same internet.
Frankly the “control and structure” glasses of the people who live in the tree houses of Forums make them draw some odd conclusions about all the bloggers running in and out of their cave complexes in the valley below. The tree folk have never even seen the inside of a cave, yet they can handily dismiss it.
As a primary counter example for the tree folks, just spend a few minutes reading Brian Lamb’s post about accidental discovery of a Live Journal site of students from his University who are trading valuable (to them) bits of information and commentary about student life at UBC. Is that conversational or what? Is it just “self indulgent” and only “outdated news”? Can you really say “nobody is reading” them?
It gets even more interesting as Brian, who has set up one of the most free and open educational wiki sites, finds out these students are proposing to create one outside the university’s reach. (And what a fair and open response he provides to them– he joins their conversation in their space).
Maybe I am singing a broken record, but after all these years, we still have people dismissing blogs as juvenile diaries. They are mistaking the product of blog (the noun, the published thing) form the social process of being in blog space (blog the verb).
Come out of your trees for a while.
Lastly, and I am on my own limb since my Moodle experience is slim to nil, I empathize the complexity of successfully trying to roll a blog tool into / around Moodle. They are weighted down by the CMS approach where everything needs to fit under one big roof. You might want to keep your eyes on a FLOSS project by Teemu Arina in Finland… I’ve been inside and seen a demo of this software, where it takes everything from a blog entry to a discussion board thread to a wiki page as entities than can be mixed into new forms by recombining elements joined by RSS, and user/group control over portions which are public vs private.
The post "Conversations: Tree People and Cave Dwellers" was originally cracked open and scrambled from a rotten egg at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2005/08/conversations/) on August 24, 2005.