Sunday, September 7, 2008

What a load of blog

Here follows alittle bit of a end of the working day rant. To be honest I always thought the word blog was annoying. Now that I have one and read some I am coming around a bit, but have yet to perceive their great value in promoting community.

I am yet to be convinced. I don't know if I am a Scrooge, but 'bah humbug' springs occasionally to mind when I hear people effusing about blogs. Mind you my opinion has slightly changed over this. My participation in FOL has to do with following Leigh's blog. I suppose that is the heart of it, trolling through blogs, eventually finding one or two you admire and respect, RSSing them, learning, commenting engaging, following links to things you may not have found out about yourself. All well and good.

The bad as I see it mirrors problems with the internet as a whole. Miles wide and an inch deep. In the end we can spend a lot of time reading through the opinionated blogs of others with no vetting of what they say. Using your own noggin is a valuable way to do this I know and will probably help in formulating your own ideas and constructs. Yet some external measurement, support or correlation with authenticity would be nice.

Here are some rambling thoughts on potential issues when trying to use blogs as a community-building/facilitating/sustaining tool:

- it takes time. there are too many blogs fed into my reader to bother going through them all. There is limited time at work, and I like to spend time with my family. I am happy to hear what people ahve to say but I don;t want to have to open their feed have a look to see if is anything useful.
- related to this is the disorganisation of the content and the difficulty in browsing previous content. It is categorised usually chronologically. How do I know if that person has blogged something useful? I might be able to search if the blog has the facility to do so and I knew exactly what I was looking for. But often I wouldn't have a specific idea and identifying worthwhile posts/topics is difficult. Chronology lacks a great deal of value as a way of storing information. Tags are ok, but limited. This is where a website/wiki is a better option. Put what you think is your 'good oil' on the front page or provide clear links to it with short descriptions. Then it takes a small time commitment on the viewer to ascertain yes I will look further or no I will wait till next time.
- People probably get their favourite blogs and then ignore the rest. If a blog has been quiet for a while (like mine) then many people will probably be less likely to look, even if they see that new post has been made in their reader. I wonder if there are people out there who feel a little disenfranchised because they perceive their blog is less well visited or even largely ignored.

I am sure for many of those who have or dedicate the time to perusing the blogs, making the comments, going to another blog, and so on, are establishing productive connections with others and mutually enagaging in productive learning. I will try and find a blog of someone in here who waxes enthusiatically about a blogosphere and obtain their perspective.

Even the group email we have makes it difficult to read through., Not sure if I am using it incorrectly, but a flood of emails come in, and when I go online to the google groups site, it doesn't seem that much better. I'd like a nice threaded discussion list.

I feel that an online discussion forum is a better idea, structured on ideas rather than time, collated rather than dispersed, easier to skim through. Occasional comments by peripheral users are more likely to be noticed and responded to. Yes, a nice threaded discussion board, such as

Well time to go home. As I said a bit of a ramble, not 100% thought out, but then general feelings and considerations play a huge role in how people interact anyway. A blogosphere may be of use for a bundle of tech-savvy time free bloggers, but not so great for the vast majority of everyone else. There are other better ways.


artie said...

I don't feel that I suffer so much from "Information Overload" as "People Overload". I don't need 100+ people in a "discussion". Give me 10 people who are committed.

Marcel Bruyn said...

I agree Artie. It is possible to have an intense high volume ongoing conversation with a small group of others.

When the number gets to big, though, then it gets difficult to manage. The structure is based on the person not the content, too many people = too confusing, have to try and combine many many similar but not necessarily parallel conversations.

With a discussion board, can follow a content theme more easily.

When you say 'give me 10 people who are committed" yeah that's great for mutual progressive learning. In the situation of a community of large numbers such as 100 the scenario is different. 100 blogs will not work as far as I can see. And even 20 or more would I think be confusing and off-pointing to many. "people overload" is a good term. In large numbers sub-grouping can be a good idea and a way around this.

artie said...

Current web "wisdom" say that the more, the better. I think fewer is better. You can have fewer and more! Take the 100 and separate them into groups.

When Leigh split the meeting into two sessions, he unwittingly split the the group into two distinct groups. The natural divisions of a community are according to time. He set up two times. The two "meetings" must have had a substantial difference in membership because those who could not attend at one time did at the other. that constitutes two distinct groups.

I think that we should use what naturally and fundamentally unites and divides people on the web - time. With that principle we can logically divide the 100 people into groups of 10, 15 and 20 and solve the "people overload" problem.

I'm blog, blog, blogging about this. Latitudes and Longitudes (The Comfort Zone)

Leigh Blackall said...

The networks that are forming from the initial large FOC08 group are slowly becoming visable. Initially everyone was trying to be everything to everyone, but as people settle in, they start commenting and communicating with the same people. Artie seems to be cruising everything still, perhaps looking for that connection with someone. The way I see it, start with a big group first and narrow it down later. You increase the chance of a small group of "committed" then. Start with a small group and you risk a small group of nothing.

marin voter said...

Blogs can be many different things - public record of personal thinking, recording events as they happen, mini newsletters, basis for discussion, powerful statements about the state of the world.

Through the FOC08 assignments this week, I realized how important they can be to the community.

I know what you mean about being overloaded, though. I have subscribed to several blogs for years - Stephen Downes OLDaily, for example (How does he find time to read and comment on that much great stuff every single day? Amazing!) I have them sent to my email, so it is a quick scan everyday and delete the email. For the FOC08 course I "discovered" (with the help of 20-something son), Google Reader - which makes it really easy to skim through 50-60 FOC08 posts in a couple of minutes.

So there you have it. Blogs and blogging are useful to me (old news) and important as a community facilitating technology (new news).

Bee said...

Hello Marcel,
Just came to comment on your blog but noticed you have restricted the comment area to Blogger/Gmail users or other commercial blogs only. any reasons for that?
I do have an old Blogger account which I am using here but have no possibility here to link to my own blog, where I am writing my posts.
Warm regards from Brazil,

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi there
I am totally hooked on blogs, so I'll give a very positive view, although I do understand why people don't like them.

There's no doubt about it - you get back what you put in, but even that depends on what you want your blog for/to do. Some people have one purely as a personal reflective journal. They don't link to other blogs or comment else where - and don't expect to hear from others.

But if you want to be part of a blogging community, you've got to put the work in, which means you've got to get out there linking and commenting. You can't sit around waiting for people to come to you and make your blog a 'success' (whatever that is). This takes time, but I believe it is worth the effort.

Trishus said...

Hi Marcel,
I thought that your rant was great. Personally, really like the idea of blogs but finding that I am not adapt at wading through the "Miles wide and an inch deep" and finding community in a blogging setting.
I think that Sarah is spot on though, it's putting the time in... and i spose, also giving it time. I have been a really off & on blogger for maybe 4 years now... (and more off then on) not really knowing what I should post online... not wanting to just add to the mountains information out there that don't seem to have any purpose... not wanting to put up things I haven't thought out...being shy to post comments... again not knowing what to say. Not finding blogs that I find interesting... or that I find interesting for some post but it is too much to wade through them to get to the 'good stuff'... But as I have been getting over my 'cat got my tongue' glitches, I am starting to open up to blogging more... and finding that it is getting better but I have a lot to learn... and good blogs to find... FOC08 is helping with that! People even put comments on my blog (thanks Artie & Bee)

Yet I still find I get a little contemplative about whether to exist online or not (too much William Gibbon I am afraid)

Sarah Stewart said...

Now there's an interesting question, Trishus: do we have a choice about whether we exist online or not?

Trishus said...

I think that it would take a great deal of effort and huge changes in the way that we do things to not exist online... and in the world today would almost require stepping out of major communication. No emails, no mobile phone, no blogging, skyping, twittering or wikiizing (coining a new term here? :D ), no web surfing, no bookmarking, no ATMs, no internet shopping... it would take life long dedication. Maybe live like the Amish... or a recluse. possibly there is a choice whether to exist online... but a life changing one.

I think maybe my musing would be better directed in reflecting on what creature I create in my online presence? Imagine what we would look like online as a conglomerate of all out digital presence...

Sarah Stewart said...

I guess what I was thinking was that I have an online presence without even trying to have one. By that I mean that people will talk about me, or mention me in blogs, etc - I can be found through my activities in Amazon & trademe - my journal articles can be found in online databases or through google. So I am thinking that I am better to take control of my online identity rather than let someone else dictate what it is.

Sorry to distract away from the issue in hand, but I know that personal online identity was tightly integrated in my thoughts this time last year, especially when I thought through the issues of blogs. How can we 'be' in an online community if we do not know who we are in the personal context first.