Thinking, Writing About the Small Pieces (NMC 2004)

Brian Alger has been doing some nice reflecting on the concepts of our NMC 2004 “Small Piecess Loosely Joined” idea- recently writing about “Weblogs: Which Pieces and How Should They Joined? (NMC 2004)”

I would have written, but Brian’s blog lacks a comment function (I find that a gaping large piece, but understand that people have to take drastic steps about blog spam roaches– as a side bar and likely a self jinx but since our last battle we have been actually spam free. I am guessing, hoping that changing the default comments script name, removing embedded references to the comment posting full URL has done the trick.. but the war is never won).

I thinking I should try to focus on improving my writing so that the entries that comprise what it is I am trying to say take on the character of big pieces tightly joined. It seems that we think of software as small pieces, but I would like to believe that what we are trying to do in our mutual explorations is to develop big pieces of thinking – big in the sense of the meaning they have to each of us, not in terms of their scope.

I think there are no singular answers, Brian. I started blogging because I saw it as a viable web publishing tool for teachers and learners, but I do not probe technology well by reading about it or looking through academic journals– I am only able to get may arms around it… when I jump in. You are correct that there are manby layers of “small pieces” we often try, and like you said, often discard. Just today I toyed with QuickSub for the RSS links, but it may not stick.

I see the blog as my living laboratory, my workbench. a 1950s Ford pickup slowly being restored in the driveway.. it is honing the craft by doing the technology integration ourselves, or in informal networks. It is the polar opposite of putting all of your trust and hope into large, expensive commercial systems, where you bend and make concessions due to their limitations.

Brian closes:

In the end, I had to change my perception of what a piece was. I had been thinking technological tools, instead of mental tools. This helped me to remember what it is I am trying to join.

I would add the joining that happens between people and far flung places that otherwise could not have happened— that is the payoff, making connections.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I agree with your comments, and thanks for the trackback.

    The lack of a comment feature on my site is something that I’m not happy about. The frustration with having to delete spam (I really wanted to use some very, very bad words there) definitely got the better of me. Trackback has helped to a degree and I always follow these links into my site and outward from other sites. Yet I am able to write a comment here on your site. Perhaps I need another less extreme solution for commenting on my own site.

    “I think there are no singular answers, Brian” Completely agree. It may be that I have been “playing” with the wrong pieces – wrong in the sense that they don’t fit into my purpose for writing, not in the sense that the pieces themselves are somehow deficient. And, of course, there are many pieces I have yet to discover and undoubtedly some I have tried but failed to see the benefit. I’ll keep playing and always reserve the right to be wrong.

    “… that is the payoff, making connections.” Definitely. Since I started blogging I have “met” many new people that I would not have had I not been blogging. I now have email exchanges and have had a few phone conversations with people in “far flung places.” There are people I will now try to meet f2f if and when my travels take me there. This is exciting stuff. My entry about which pieces and how to join them was intensely selfish. I was really lecturing myself on not getting too carried away with tools at the expense of trying to think and write. But that’s not the whole story as you have added. I appreciate this.

    I admit that, if I had to choose sides, I am decidedly in the pro small pieces loosely joined camp. But I think, at least for me, questions about which pieces (or even, what constitutes a piece) and how (and why) should they joined will remain a baseline reference in my thinking. These questions are not intended to imply a pro commercial systems stance, but are more of along the lines of, “Yes, of course, small pieces loosely joined – but how?” I don’t really know and I have removed some of the pieces I was exploring – but it does make a great workbench.

    And there are no singular answers:-)

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