Even after 15 years of cogdogblogging there’s nothing like the smell of a blog post about blogging in the morning.
I’m thinking today of the people entering into the blog network of Ontario Extend. Some obviously are not new to web writing, but I’d best in many cases, seated in front of that keyboard, many wonder, “Just what am I doing here?”
That’s a good question, but I was prompted today, as often, by the blogs of others. And for me, more often than not, it’s been a colleague named Jim Groom who has grey blog beard hairs, writing about blogging, Jim himself was jogged to write by yet another blogger named John Cricthlow who write about Small b blogging, where one writes more themselves and a smaller circle than aiming to get “thousands of views”
It’s a virtuous cycle of making interesting connections while also being a way to clarify and strengthen my own ideas. I’m not reaching a big audience by any measure but the direct impact and benefit is material.
Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.
And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows.
As I wrote in my comment on Jim’s blog (more on the C below) there’s not much more traditional in blogging than blogging about blogging.
Yet the benefits are not apparent when starting out. You might wondering, “Why am I doing this?” and “Does anyone care about this?”
My position is that blogging is primarily for me, that’s little b style. It has become engrained as the way I think and work. One of the early pieces that nailed it for me is Cory Doctorow’s My Blog My Outboard Brain — a blog post from 2002 that is still sitting at the original URL it was published at. It actually bothers me not to blog about something rattling around in my head.
Another aspect of this, that I will pull up any time talking about blogging, is Jon Udell’s concept of “narrating” our work.
“Since then I’ve spoken a few times about the idea that by narrating our work, we can perhaps restore some of what was lost when factories and then offices made work opaque and not easily observable. Software developers are in the vanguard of this reintegration, because our work processes as well as our work processes are fully mediated by digital networks. But it can happen in other lines of work too, and I’m sure it will.”
— “Data-driven career discovery” (Jon Udell blog)
It’s been clear to me for a long time that the participant/narrator, armed with easy-to-use Web publishing technology (aka blog tools), will be a key player on every professional and civic team. A couple of years ago I sketched out how blog narrative can work as a professional project management tool.
— “The participant/narrator: owning the role” (Jon Udell, formerly published at InfoWorld)
Another metaphor I often reach for is a DVD. Much of what we do in school feels like the movie on the disk- the paper, the project, the presentation, we focus on the final end product. But my favorite part of DVDs was always all the other stuff, the extras– the director’s commentary, the out takes, the location mini documentary, the story of the making of the movie.
I see blogging as providing that too.
Most of my teaching often works like Ontario Extend, where I ask my students to write about their work in their own blogs, that I then syndicate to a course hub. My classes are often about creating media; I don’t grade them on the artistic merit of what they make; I grade them on how they write about the ideas behind their products, the influences, the media sources, and how they made it.
Ask them to write Extras.
It takes them weeks or more to grasp this idea. They start writing like it’s a drop box, “here’s my assignment.” But I see huge leaps in writing about their work, as shown in my most recent Networked Narratives class.
It’s already May, where the semester ends and students like myself start reflecting back to what was learned and taught. I still remember the feeling of “what did I get myself into?” when walking into class. It was cool that my Professor lives in another state but the work that was announced was gave me the “hibby jibbys”. But while the weeks continued and I was trying hard to understand the work presented, I started to enjoy it. You can see that from my first blog to my latest, my attempt has improved and I have found ways to make it as interesting as I can for my readers (even if its only fro my Professor) Doing the weekly blogs helped me in remembering what was done on the prior class. Also, it gave me the freedom to comment on the project. If I did or did not enjoy it.
The end of the semester has finally arrived and it has been a long but insightful ride. This class was initially an elective that I took just because it was one of the only classes available. I was a little skeptical about it at first but I am so glad that I stuck it out the whole semester. I learned so many things and became much more tech savvy then I would have been had I not taken this class. There was a lot of things to get through so assignments more stressful then other’s but I still found it all very fun!
One of the many things we had to accomplish was weekly blog posts. This is where we practically vented about our weekly assignments but also where we were able to put our new skills to use and make our blog posts fun. I learned how to link, add videos, and just make a blog site that makes someone want to look at it and where it grabs there attention. Every week whether it was a meme, digital redlining or bots, I was able to use my experience to bring my blog post to life and show my hard work of the week.
In a course where blogging happens they start using this word “last”:
— Espen (@Espen4lyfe) May 16, 2018
— Denny (@SgDenny2) May 15, 2018
which leads me to wonder what it takes to help students, and maybe faculty doing an experience to earn a PD bump, how “little b” becomes part of their regular process.
The big C is for Commenting. Back in “the day” it was the rage, as pre-social media networks, it really was the primary channel for conversation between folks.
Commenting is pretty critical to new bloggers. It helps with fight the feeling of isolation. It’s really important for new bloggers to feel heard. I learned early on co-teaching with Jim Groom the importance of being a comment rocket engine with students.
What I abhor is setting some rubric-ized formula of asking them to do X comments a week. That sounds like a chore.
I have worked through several iterations of encouraging commenting; often students in a course feel lost looking at a syndication hub of 25 posts. I have done a practice of putting them in groups of 4 as a “comment group” where they are just looking at a more manageable number of blogs. I ask them to not only offer constructive comments, but to use it as a way of studying how other people write and design their blogs, like it’s a field trip. And to reflect on what they learn from their peer comments.
In my recent class, either by sub conscious design or mental lapse, I did not make a commenting requirement. I wanted to see what might happen if they got comments from me if it would trigger an ct of turn about… well it did not really happen.
Still in forming a professional network, commenting remains a critical part; I just ported over and re-edited a web page I had written for DS106 and moved it to Ontario Extends as On Constructive Commenting
What is a Constructive Comment?
It should be more than “Nice work” or “I agree”. A good comment is maybe a few sentences, and includes useful feedback or suggestion for improvement.
You can explain why you like what was written or agree. Or explain why you disagree. You can offer relevant contexts or links. Or offer additional resources or links that might benefit the writer. For every bit of opinion you might start writing, think of including an “and…” statement.
When you comment, show that you are listening. Respond to specific parts of what the author wrote. As a form of acknowledgement, when someone replies specifically to a point, it means they are listening. Do not be the commenter who just uses it as a means to talk about their own stuff.
Still I know people reach first for social media to converse. But that ends up detached from a blog post, from what it relates to. A constructive comment is a generous gift, and I am pretty confident, the more you give, the more you get.
I’m looking forward to both a lot of little b and Big C in Ontario Extend.
Featured Image: Composite of little b and big C pixabay images both by geralt shared into public domain using Creative Commons CC0 superimposed on keyboard photo by Airman st Class Greg Nash shared into the public domain as a work of the US Government.