Blogging and Beyond: Faculty Academy, 16 December 2004

Hugh Blackmer and how-to screencast
Links to related threads:
Technology Forum 13 October and oookspace at MSN
Anthropology 230 blog
Sequence of Documents, a reconstruction of the readings I've been influenced by in the last few months
my and my extispicious "a complete directory of syndicated feeds"

...and The Network Is the Blog (Jon Udell, 13 December 2004)

You are here to investigate the proposition that blogging may have some salience for what you do. Exploring the practicalities of blogging is high on the agenda, but there's some essential background to build a context for those practicalities.

These acronymous mysteries CHANGE what we can do, by greatly enhancing the accessibility of Information --volume, medium, management. SOMETHING is happening here, something really big. USB is an essential Enabling Technology... along with the great improvements in bandwidth that DSL is bringing to home computer use, and a bouquet of technologies for handling sound (MP3s especially) and video (Flash, Quicktime, Windows Media)

Any number of places we could start. Here are three versions of the landscape, drawn from material that has crossed my screen in the last two days, each of which expresses a different facet of blogs, blogging, the blogström, the blogosphere, and my own rumination:

Lilia Efimova is Right On with these personal reflections of significance:

What if I could follow those interesting links, read all unread stuff in bloglines, comment to all interesting posts, write myself, write on all topics that come as "would be nice to blog", write pieces that would connect bits and pieces from other weblogs and have time to craft writing?

Would it change anything?

Probably not. I'll always have more to read and more to write about than time to do it. Don't know a better exercise for learning to "let go" than blogging...

Richard MacManus on something related:

I wonder if weblogs are making our reading and writing habits temporal and 'always unfinished' (to twist the term 'always on')? Having written an article for Digital Web Magazine (and I must get around to writing another one), I can confirm it takes at least a couple of weeks to 'craft'. Whereas with my weblog, although generally I write carefully crafted long-form posts, it's still of-the-moment and a lot of times it's an ongoing theme I'm exploring (ie it's not "finished").

I would probably write more "finished" articles for my blog if I didn't feel so much (social?) pressure to continually update my RSS feed. As it is, I only write an average of 3 posts per/week anyway, but still...

And same goes for my reading. To participate in the blogosphere you have to keep up-to-date with the RSS feeds in your circle of influence. Which leaves less time for reading "professional" and finished articles.

Although often I escape into blogging when I don't feel like working on a larger, "finished" pieces, I guess I really need those pressures to produce something finished to take an extra effort for synthesising "always unfinished" into something "finished".

Back to finishing something bigger :)

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer. (© Copyright 2002-2004 Lilia Efimova)

Here's another starting-place candidate from Will R. at weblogg-ed, who places blogging into a social perspective:
What I've come to realize is that for me, at least, this really has become more a place to think and write and talk about the potential of the Read/Write Web. Sure, that includes the individual tools. But it's the larger shift that the individual tools make possible that is really the focus of much of my blogging of late. Recently, I've been starting every presentation and workshop with that context, and I think it gives people a better understanding of what all of this might mean for education. Our relationship with the Internet, with information, to some degree with each other, is fundamentally changing, in ways that I think are extremely exciting for educators. We're still throwing darts in the dark to a large degree, but it's becoming much more clear that as the Read/Write Web changes other portions of our world (business, politics, etc.) it will no doubt have a huge impact on education.

and here's another, just published yesterday, which emphasizes the innovation blogging represents as a Web medium, because of RSS:

RSS is one of a new breed of technologies that is contributing to the ever-expanding dominance of the Web as the pre-eminent, global information medium. It is intimately connected with—though not bound to—social environments such as blogs and wikis, annotation tools such as [1], Flickr [2] and Furl [3], and more recent hybrid utilities such as JotSpot [4], which are reshaping and redefining our view of the Web that has been built up and sustained over the last 10 years and more [n1]. Indeed, Tim Berners-Lee's original conception of the Web [5] was much more of a shared collaboratory than the flat, read-only kaleidoscope that has subsequently emerged: a consumer wonderland, rather than a common cooperative workspace. Where did it all go wrong?

These new 'disruptive' technologies [n2] are now beginning to challenge the orthodoxy of the traditional website and its primacy in users' minds. The bastion of online publishing is under threat as never before. RSS is the very antithesis of the website. It is not a 'home page' for visitors to call at, but rather it provides a synopsis, or snapshot, of the current state of a website with simple titles and links. While titles and links are the joints that articulate an RSS feed, they can be freely embellished with textual descriptions and richer metadata annotations. Thus said, RSS usually functions as a signal of change on a distant website, but it can more generally be interpreted as a kind of network connector—or glue technology—between disparate applications. Syndication and annotation are the order of the day and are beginning to herald a new immediacy in communications and information provision.

And here's my own recent experience:

I don't think I've ever experienced so vertiginous a pace of change and florescence as the last couple of months, though really the last two years have been in a class of their own. The speedup really began in earnest about the same time I began using a blog as an integral part of Anthropology of East Asia --I was paying much more attention than before to the blogosphere, both for its content and for developments in its attendant technologies. Many times a day I check my link, to see which of the blogs I'm following have new content... and quite often I print or link or otherwise save the path to a resource I discover via blogs. In the last month, podcasting has added still more RSS feeds to my daily involvement, and I'm now setting up the wherewithal to make and use mp3 files as the central technology for my Winter term course for University Scholars (Cross-Cultural Studies in Music: Ethnomusicology in the 21st century), and I will also include a substantial blogging component in the course.

The startling thing to my mind is the sense of community that participation in the blog/podosphere engenders. What it comes down to: for me personally, broadband (and especially DSL at home) has utterly transformed what I can do and what I want to do in reaching audiences, and participating in virtual communities. As an educator and a scholar, it seems to me that everything is changing, the effects rippling through the body of the Elephant that we Blindpersons fumble with... new protruberances and textures...

Every year (or is it every week?) we have more and better access to Web services to consume, and (thanks to tools like blogging software) we are much closer to being equipped with efficient tools that encourage us to be providers of content for the Web as well. How will we use these potentials to advance teaching and learning?

Bandwidth is the key to all this, and its availability/convenience has opened all sorts of opportunities. We experience this as personal affordances --the possibility of listening to/watching streaming audio/video, instantaneous downloads of text and image materials (measured in Gigabits per second), routine personal storage of and access to vast amounts of data (viz: the 250 GB auxiliary drive I bought for less than $300)... and each week brings new opportunities for participation in bitstreaming. Home DSL is now pretty common, and once experienced, there's no going back to the old 56K dialup connection.

USB devices are at the core of our experience: it's practical to carry Gigabytes of storage in a handful (my iRiver holds 40GB), and hundreds of Megabytes in a Thumb drive (the latest: 8GB...), and to buy slip-in cards of auxiliary memory for digital cameras and a rapidly-growing array of other consumer electronics. With a pretty simple setup, it's practical for me to create 30-minute sound files on my home machine, transfer them to a thumb drive (half a Gig for around $60, at the moment), plug the drive into a classroom computer, and use the result in a class, or transfer the files onto a network drive so that my students can download them to their own machines, or listen to them on campus workstations equipped for sound (?where are they, by the way?). I can also contemplate ubiquitous access to the communication channel of a class blog, to which all class members can post text and links to material in other media... and mp3 players are turning up in many plumages, in addition to the near-ubiquitous iPod that will be so profligately gifted this Christmas...

These affordances, which we might as well label as "ubiquitous computing", change teaching and learning forever, by greatly enlarging ease with which anyone can access and use digital materials, but they simultanously create new problems in the management of personal information resources. How am I to organize and retrieve the many thousands of files I've created, or found via my searches of the Web? There are some mighty apps that offer some solutions, but no single one that laces everything together into a nice neat bundle. And there's the great problem. As a recent posting on a blog that emerged from a conference two weeks ago in Amsterdam puts it:

ubiquitous computing is probably here already, just that what is seen to be ubiquity is made harder each time anything is accomplished. Ubicomp isn't a box you will buy from your local electronics retailer, plug in, and switch on. It's lots of really small pieces loosely, sloppily joined - glued together. (
We have all had the same experience, over and over again: one's apps and tools and solutions change from month to month, as new possibilities appear and reach the level of personal salience where we start to experiment with them. One's personal information environment is a construction of "pieces loosely joined", a shifting array of hardware and software, linked into our lives by habits. We "check our email", are vigilant for the cellphone's ringtone, open a browser to consult Google, and copy/cut/paste with documents we create. Occasionally we adopt new items and begin the process of integrating new affordances into our routines, because we sense that the novelty may facilitate something we need and want to do. Usually we learn of the new thing virally --a meme is passed to us via reading or conversation, and awareness builds as we encounter more instances.

Blogging is just that sort of thing. So is podcasting. There may come a point where the penny drops, and one grasps how x might fit into (and probably enlarge/improve) what one does. At that point you need HELP --with mechanics and practicalities, and with turning the vision of potential into practical reality...

A year ago hardly anybody in the liberal arts college world was interested in RSS; two months ago, when I asked the question at the Technology Forum, only 5 people (of 30 present) had a clue what RSS was, and NONE were using RSS feeds or aggregators. I don't think very many have changed their habits since... but I have certainly become much more tied into the blogström myself. I'm now following about 30 asynchronous conversations.

"The big benefit to RSS is that individuals opt-in to content of interest, totally controlling the flow of information that they receive. If the quality of the content in the feed declines, users simply remove the feed from their RSS reader and they will not receive any additional updates from that source. The RSS reader acts as an aggregator, allowing users to view and scan multiple content streams in a timely fashion." (

As we explore blogs and blogging, we're looking at the world of social software, which emphasizes the facet of computing that focuses upon communication (rather than computation, or information management, or graphics... ), and linkage. Most media interest and coverage has focused on recreational and avocational uses, and only a few pioneers (and most of them in IT, rather than classrooms and disciplines) seem to be on the case of the pedagogical implications of these emergent technologies.

Here's waht this all comes down to: as a personal affordance, blogging is a convenient way to publish to the Web. Because blogging software produces RSS feeds, one's postings can be SHARED with subscribers --with colleages, students, interested others who may discover your blog via a Google search or a reference. Blogging is a means to be better connected with communities of various sorts, local and global, known and virtual.

To get some idea of blogs that are now attracting attention, take a look at some of the examples in the 2004 EduBlog Awards, announced last week:

Well, what can I say, a great bunch of people sharing a great bunch of blogs, thanks to all who came along & voted!

Basically, congratulations to everyone who was nominated. As I’ve gone on about ad infinitum the idea of how ‘results’ might work has been troubling me a fair bit and I’m really keen to avoid ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ (because really, these and the many great blogs that weren’t nominated (probably due to lack of credible-blog-clout :o) are all very much winners) and in that thinking we kinda decided to scrap the ‘editorial’ aspect and just let the votes decide. In the end I reckon if you picked up 5 votes or more then you should get a mention here.

Also before we kick off I’d like to thank Alex Halavais for the spark and his support through this and say that, yeh, I’ve never been a great fan of awards but for me this is just about sharing, recognition and community and I’m sure you will find some fantastic blogs below… I have!

Best Individual Blog: Pharyngula

In high esteem:
Mario tout de go
Early Modern Notes
Easily Distracted
The Life and Times of a History PhD Student
Seb’s Open Research
Alex Halavais

Best overall group blog: Crooked Timber

In high esteem:
Into the Blogosphere
EdBlogger Praxis

Best resource sharing blog: OLDaily

In high esteem:
Teaching & Developing Online
Online Learning Update
No.2 Pencil

Best Research Based Blog: Mathemagenic

In high esteem:

Best blogged paper(s): Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs

In high esteem:
Into the blogosphere
The Buntine Oration: Learning Networks
E-Learning Flexible Frameworks and Tools: Is it too late? - the Directors Cut
Educational Blogging

Best designed & most beautiful blog: Blaugustine

In high esteem:
Teaching & Developing Online
Stephen Downes

Best technology meets pedagogy blog: Teaching & Developing Online

In high esteem:
EduBlog Insights
Think Thunk
Abject Learning

Best use of weblogs within teaching and learning: Bee-coming a Webhead

In high esteem:
KMD1002 & KMD2003
EduBlog Insights
Alex Halavais

Best Newcomer (2004): Chasing the Dragon’s Tale

In high esteem:
Learning Curves
My Blogging Experiment
Random Walk in eLearning

Best Librarian Blog: Library Stuff

In high esteem:
The Shifted Librarian a library weblog


A whole bunch of other bits that I might have included, parts of the emergent world of social software:

Movable Type and offer a window into the activities of the MT karass... ( and for RSS feeds...) from
More on interview with creator Joshua Schachter (who is also one of the memepool people, and a peek at his tags)


My page on podcasting

From and ...and for the feed

Audacity, a free utility for editing sound files

Nimiq ("rss ripper extraordinaire") seems a good way to keep track of podcasting subscriptions, which go into my c:/podstuff

On Musical Variety protopodcast

screencast demo

Do you know about Skype? "Skype is free Internet telephony that just works. Skype is for calling other people on their computers or phones. Download Skype and start calling for free all over the world..."


Jon Udell on The CAPTCHA Game ("completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart.") is relevant to the Comment Spam Problem...

Video Feeds Follow Podcasting Daniel Terdiman, Wired News 7 December)