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I wrote my first blog post on June 28, 2009. To date, I have created 56 blog posts. I realize that my blog posts are my version of the notes in the margins of what I have read or observed about the life going on around me. Because of this class, and the multitude of Web 2.0 tools I have learned to use, I have done a lot of reading online. My blog posts have been my way of distilling the essence of what I have read about each tool. Recently I have heard from two friends who have read my entire output of blog posts. In both cases, they have learned more about Web 2.0 tools and how to use them.
The fact of the matter is that this Web 2.0 class will be over in about 8 days. I plan to continue to write in this blog. However, my writing may be less about Web 2.0 tools and more about my thoughts and observations about life. How can I retain those readers I have gathered during this six week period as a blogger? How can I continue to develop my voice as a writer? Will people continue to hear the trees falling in the forest? (Early on this was my concern: that no one would read my blog except my classmates who were required to read it for class credi
Image by Cengiz.uskuplu(On-Off) via Flickrt in participation marks. I am surprised and amazed that, according to my Cluster Map, people from as far away as Australia, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom, have discovered my blog and have returned to read more. Who are you people and what did I do to entice you to read my blog posts? Was it my ranting and raving posts that attracted you or do you just want to learn about Web 2.0 tools? Could you let me know please? Click on comments and tell me how you found me.)
In the past week, I was on holidays and doing a lot of driving across Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. For one day, I created no new blog posts. However, people had checked in with my blog to see if I had anything new. I felt sad that I had provided nothing new that day. I am beginning to see that I have a responsibility to my readers. I know from my daughter's observations that she prefers my short blog posts. During this class, I have had no choice but to go on and on in my major blog post assignments for this class. I needed to fulfill certain requirements for the content of those blog posts. However, I personally prefer to write shorter blog posts. So I will be doing that in the future.
I will continue to read other people's blog posts. I subscribe to 31 blogs on my Google Reader feed. Each day Google Reader aggregates these blog posts so that I can skim and scan my way through them. I am also discovering great resources through the people I am following on Twitter. Often they provide great links to blog posts or news items of interest. Just as an example, this morning on Google Reader there was a post from Mashable about whether a person eats breakfast first or checks the internet first in the morning. (See link. This post has 360 comments already.) Then I came across another story about how the morning rush, which most families experience in trying to get out the door each day, is now further complicated by the injection of technology's demands. (See link.) What marginalia will I write alongside these two articles? I have already posted a tweet on Twitter about the tyranny of the urgent. How important is it for us to be tethered to the online world? Is my relationship with my sons, daughter, or husband better or worse because of that tether? Where does that connection come on my priority list compared to going for coffee in real time with friends who live in the same city as me? It may feel urgent to check my Twitter account or check my email. Yet how important is it in the grand scheme of things in my life.
How will I model those priorities which are best with my family and with my students? What about "continuous partial attention" which allows people such as Mack Male and danah boyd to always be doing back channel work (like searches for additional information while listening to a speaker)? If high school students are texting during class, how does this affect their concentration or focus? Does the younger generation have a different way of giving attention that works for them?
The above gives you some examples of the reading I will be doing and the writings I will do in the margins of that reading. I will also seek to bring various aspects of my life together so that there is a web of connections and new understandings as I gaze at life from various vantage points. For example, as I have learned about Web 2.0 tools, I have contemplated using many of these tools for the Caswell Homes project (see podcast blog post and wiki blog post). In this project, my grade 5 class from a four years ago, collected information about 25 older homes of the Caswell Hill's neighbourhood in Saskatoon. With the new Web 2.0 tools, this information could now be made available to a wider audience. In this way, I am attempting to take what I already now and combine it in new and inviting ways with new understandings of digital communication tools.
I prefer an organic way of creating a blog post. I just sit down and start typing. This likely leads to rambling and disjointed blog posts at times. I want to continue the organic touch while channeling the energy into productive pathways. I discovered that the Problogger website has many great ideas that will help me in this task. Darren Rowse discusses how to find your blogging mojo (30 July 2009). He 20 Types of Blog Posts. I will be checking out these suggestions as I continue to develop and learn as a blogger.
Guest blogger, Ali Hale, provides encouragement for novice bloggers in the blog post, Every blogger starts from zero (Hale, 2009). She reminds us that even the great bloggers of today started with no followers and possibly without knowing their own voice very well. Ali suggests that you allow your blogging voice to develop over time. Sooner or later you need to turn the focus from "me" to "you, the reader of my blog". This is where comments from readers will be important in learning to know what your readers are looking for when they come to your blog. This post by Ali struck a cord with Problogger followers. Many people commented that it was exactly the encouragement they needed to jump in and start writing. One reader, se7en commented, "The thing that really got me loving blogging was when I realized that you can post without perfection… If you have an incomplete idea - say so - write what you think and fill in the gaps in a later post… If you haven’t finished with a topic then just write part 2, part 3,… to be continued… Obviously edit and read over before hitting “post” - but not every post has to be pure shining excellence. You just cannot sustain endless excellent posts… but as your material increases so your base of key posts, that get searched and read again and again, will grow amongst all the rest." I know that each of the students in this Web 2.0 class have experienced this search for perfection. Yet as we have jumped into the blogosphere, we are learning to discover our voice. Hopefully we will hone our craft if we continue to blog.
Seth Godin is one of the bloggers on my Google Reader list. I came across a short video in which he talks about the importance of blogging.
Seth speaks about the importance of blogging as a micro-publishing platform. He believes that it doesn't really matter if anyone reads your blog posts. What matters is the meta-cognition (or thinking about your thinking) that takes place within you. Blogging allows you to become part of the larger conversation that is taking place on the internet. Seth also says that if you continue to blog, you will become better at it and you will find an audience.
I believe that as I continue to write my blog, I will become better at blogging and I will find an audience. I would like to build a relationship with that audience. I found this guest blog post by Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits fame, titled 7 Steps to Building a Genuine Relationship with Your Readers. Here are Leo's suggestions:
"1. A genuine relationship starts with you — you have to take responsibility for it. You can’t expect your readers to automatically be encouraging, supportive, kind, positive, loyal, helpful, and generous … just because you’re the awesome person you are. So start with a positive mindset, and be willing to work on the relationship, be open to what emerges.
2. Make your posts as helpful and useful as you can. Your posts shouldn’t just be about you, and how great you are (as true as that may be), but about your readers and their problems, and how you can help them solve them. Really try to help your readers in som
Image via Wikipediae way in every post. They will appreciate it.
3. Be helpful and positive in all interactions. In every comment you respond to, in every email with a reader, in every interaction on forums and Twitter and other social networks, you should try to be positive, try to be helpful, and try to build your relationship in some way. It’s the same when you build a friendship or working relationship with a co-worker, isn’t it? Being online doesn’t change how relationships are built — if you are always critical, defensive, offensive, attacking, sarcastic … well, that’s the kind of relationship you’ll have. If you’re just trying to sell stuff to people all the time, it won’t be a genuine relationship.
4. Encourage discussion in comments. You aren’t the only person who has good ideas or knowledge, so ask your readers to contribute their thoughts, to share their experiences, to add tips of their own. I like to do that at the end of a post, but even if I don’t, readers understand that I want this stuff by now. When readers give comments, thank them, respond to their questions and thoughts, interact. Sometimes, it’s good to get discussions going by
Image via Wikipediaasking reader questions in an “Ask the Readers” post — just pose a question and ask them to respond in the comments.
5. Accept criticism with grace. Bloggers have to have a thick skin (diagram of skin), because inevitably we will be criticized. It’s the nature of the Internet, or any discussion of ideas actually — there is always criticism, and sometimes it’s harsh. And it can hurt. You get angry, or defensive, and when you respond to criticism in this way it’s not a good thing: 1) you look immature and defensive; 2) it discourages an open and frank discussion; and 3) you harm your relationship with your readers. Instead, thank your readers for their criticism, respond positively, and sometimes, acknowledge that they may be right. Because a lot of the time, they are, but our egos are too wounded for us to admit it to ourselves. Read more: How to accept criticism with grace and appreciation.
6. Build relationships in other channels. Having discussions in blog comments is great, but there are other ways to build relationships — through email, on Twitter, on Facebook, in forums (maybe even your own forums). While I can’t possibly respond to all the email I get now, I certainly did when my blog first started out, even when I had 10K subscribers — I tried to answer every question or thank them for every kind email. I miss that level of personal interaction, but I still try to connect with readers on Twitter and in comments. It’s a great way to take the relationship to another level.
7. Give back on other blogs. Many times, readers and commenters on your site will be fellow bloggers — which is actually how blogs emerged when they went beyond a log of interesting web links: they became a way to have a larger discussion on the web, as bloggers linked to each other and commented on each other’s posts. And so as other bloggers comment on and link to your posts, do the same for them. Go to their blogs, comment on their posts, link to them now and then if it’ll be useful to your readers. Write guest posts for them and invite them to do the same. Share their posts on Twitter if you like them. Building relationships with other bloggers is a great way to become immersed in the wonderful community of bloggers, and to build a relationship with some of your most active readers." (Babauta, 2009)
Darren also suggests that in order to invite other readers to comment on our blog posts, we also need to comment on other people's blogs. In this way we show that we are willing to take time to read carefully and respond thoughtfully to continue the conversations about learning and technology.
Scott Williams suggests that your Twitter account and your blog site can be used in tandem to help your voice be heard. (Link.) I follow both Scott's blog and his tweets. He uses micro-blogging to support and feed visitors to his blog. I could learn from his example.
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As I think about students and blogging, I realize that students could also use blogs to keep track of their learning. Students also need to learn to find their voice and their audience in blogging. One person who commented on a Problogger post was Stef who bills herself as a 12 year old gadget blogger (Check her out at http://www.laptopmemo.com/). Many of our students will know more about certain aspects of technology than we know ourselves. My daughter knows how to text on her cellphone. Maybe it would be helpful for her to write a guest blog post about how to do this for my readers. (By the way, inviting guest bloggers to write a blog post for you, seems to be a popular trend these days.) Our students could write blogs on various topics of interest to their peers. Maybe grade two students could blog about Webkinz or websites that they have found. As well, as our students develop their own Google Reader lists,
Image via Wikipediawe could encourage them to become part of the ongoing conversations by adding comments to the posts that they enjoy the most.
I will continue to work on finding my voice and carefully listening to hear others respond to my thinking. As I read other people's blogs, I will try to grow bolder in adding my comments to the threads of conversation that take place after those blog posts. My own blog posts and my comments on the posts of others will be like my notes in the margins of my reading and reflecting on life and learning. Even if no one else finds value in these jottings, I will have a record of my thinking over time. It will become my online journal.
Babauta, L. (2 August 2009). 7 steps to building a genuine relationship with your readers. At Problogger. Online at http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/08/02/7-steps-to-building-a-genuine-relationship-with-your-readers/
Hale, A. (3 August 2009). Every blogger starts from zero--you could be on the A-list next year. On Problogger. Online at http://www.problogger.net/archives/2009/08/03/every-blogger-starts-from-zero-%E2%80%93-you-could-be-on-the-a-list-next-year/