Putting the Blog Before The Horse and The Electric Magic of Flickr

Flying home from San Diego to Phoenix after my piece in San Diego State University workshops this week, two, maybe three not so brilliant ideas floated in my head.

Perhaps the Wrong Tactic On Intro Blog Workshops
In the morning of the first day’s sessions we had all participants create new weblogs at Blogger. It went well, the usual issues of dealing with selecting a unique URL name, but everyone got started. It was lunch conversation Monday and likely Jim Julius who raised this point that perhaps we move too quickly into the “start a blog and start posting mode” when really a more sensible path would be to have people first spend time reading and identifying blog content, e.g getting a better taste of the blog-o-sphere, and a sense of the informal layers of connection (comments, blogrolls, etc).

It was like I was the Coyote getting an anvil dropped on my head– this was really the path I took.. it was the discovery that key web sites I was reading 2, 3 years ago like Stephen Downes and Serious Instructional Technology (David Carter-Tod, where are you?) where created by these things called “blogs”– I spent maybe 2-3 months reading and exploring more instructional technology blogs before I got into doing my own publishing.

The point is it dawned on me that maybe we put the technology cart before the horse by having newbies create a blog first, because it tends to start out with a blank face “Now I have a blog… what do I write about?”

I accept the need in a workshop to do things hands on, and to get some immediate gratification, but I am going to ponder this before doing another Blogs 101 workshop. I had sort of taken this approach in the old BlogShop with BlogWondering and BlogPeeking before all of the mechanics.

Any thoughts? Rotten tomatoes?

Flickr Is Electric
I should not be surprised but still i was at how engaged workshop participants got with a quick look and creation of flickr accounts. More than one person shared they had spent the evening loading photos, sharing with friends and family. There is a huge excitement and awareness created by a good flickr experience. People really were excited about the simplicity of creating interactive “hotspot” images with flickr notes (especially now that note popups can contain hyperlinks), the notion of finding usable images in the Creative Commons section, and Spell With Flickr.

If you want a sure fire excited crowd, get them flickr-ing.

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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’ve struggled with these issues before. One thing I’m discovering is that we are always drawn to take the linear approach. Finding the best starting point and progressing from there. The one thing I’m discovering about the way I learn espescially with technology is that it’s rarely a linear, step by step model. Whether you start by creating a blog or reading them ultimately depends on the individual learner. Some, like myself are doing both at once. If I were you, I wouldn’t second guess myself too much in this area since there isn’t a “one size fits all” model out there. Just keep it up.

    By the way, I’ve collected a number of flickr hacks and posted them here.

  2. I was having a conversation about this moths back with a few folks in AECT and we came to the same conclusion about “Intro to Blogging” workshops. Get people to read blogs for a while first and then they will have an idea of what they have created when you show them how to make their own blog. Maybe this is something for a multi-part workshop where they come one day and you teach them how to use an aggregator and find some blogs then assign them to read blogs for 2 or three days before they come back and you show them how to start a blog.

  3. I teach a course to preservice teachers at Pacific Univeristy outside of Portland. I have found that spending the first day exposing them to things like del.icio.us, Furl, Flickr, Jon Udell’s library lookup tool, and of course Bloglines goes a long way to get them to become active readers. I’ve found that the amazing number and types of RSS feeds (blogs, news stories, weather, traffic reports, library checkout lists…. ) makes it easy to help them understand that reading and responding to information can be much different than their current methods. I find that by the end of the first session that many are asking how to set up their own blog, and we do that with Blogger in session two…

    And yes everyone loves the Flickr… Most of the folks who take the class have cell phones with a camera. Showing a teacher how to easily take a picture of student work and then have it appear on the school web site is pretty slick too…

  4. Alan, when I started blogging it was with the Radio tool, and because of how that tool was built it never occurred to me that it was an either/or proposition. Radio had it’s aggregator and posting tool bundled together and somewhat integrated, and came with hosting space, and so I would simply post to my blog the interesting articles I was reading, at first with very little commentary. But it got me posting *something*, and gave me a sense of it being *my* place on the web. From their it blossomed and grew.

    My sense is that something similarly easy can be accomplished with Bloglines by using their ‘clippings’ blog. The frame one can put around it is “blog as my online memory” – in essence at first focusing on reading blogs, but clipping stuff of interest to their own blog space in Bloglines. I think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone who reads blogs to also write them; the history of online conferencing and communication is littered with lurking and other forms of ‘passive’ participation, all of which is useful and necessary. And some may be able to just skip this preliminary step and jump straight into writing their own blog, because of the strength of their ideas, personality or desire to stand up and be heard. But I like the “link reposting” as an easy way to get people to transition from reading to writing; some of them might get stuck there, but some won’t, and it does help to preserve the notion of blogs as “networked writing,” that is, not just writing that is available over the network, but writing that *knows* it is situated within a network. Good question though, and likely a potential source of study – what are the best blogging adoption strategies (and both instructor and student populations would be of interest to study). Cheers, Scott

  5. Alan,

    I appreciate the acknowledgement and the question! 🙂

    I am well. I have not been blogging for a variety of reasons, some of them pretty mundane (hosting-related). The main reason I think is that I took a new job earlier this spring and in addition to being very busy, I am still working out the ground rules.

    It’s a great job – one of the core team implementing our LCMS for the Virginia Community College System, and also envisioning and strategizing for the longer term. It’s a little less close to the front lines in some ways though.

    Anyway, like I say, busy, very busy, and not sure I’m yet at a point where I *can* blog about my work.

    Best wishes


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