Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘blog

Edublogs asked this question.

My answer is a more nuanced “neither”.

I call what I write and illustrate in my blog “entries” to indicate the reflective nature of journalling. I share my still-evolving thoughts out loud, and if they happen to help others with their own reflections, so be it.

I might have called them “posts” in the past, but I am not a journalist or advertiser. I certainly do not consider what I write to be “articles”.

There is another reason why I do not use “blog” as a noun. How does one distinguish the whole blog from an entry (read the blog on my blog)? Calling an entry a “blog” is just lazy.

I also wish to distinguish what I do here with navel-gazing tweets and self-aggrandising Facebook posts. So I stick with “entries”.

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There are many reasons one might maintain an edublog. The blog is a place to reflect, a space to exchange ideas, a platform to showcase or promote, etc.

One unexpected benefit of maintaining a blog is finding out who is searching for me. My guess is that these parties are trying to gain insights into what I do and why I do these things. These searches tend to happen when I meet new people.

This is the flip side of an oft cited warning at “cyberwellness” events — what you put online can come back to haunt you. While that can certainly happen, there is much good that happens here too.

Take my open critiques of what I sense and experience about schooling and education. Someone might choose to focus on the negatives, but I also share constructive thoughts on these issues.

Someone might choose to take a sentence or paragraph in isolation. I would rather they evaluate how my perspectives might have evolved over time.

My blog allows others to get to know me and how I operate. I need only worry about how skilled or experienced a reader is at evaluating what is essentially an online portfolio.

But here is a twist: Even as others search for me, I can use the blog dashboard to reverse search for my searchers. I see their search phrases and what they choose to read.

It takes two to tango and we can choose who to dance with, and I see nothing with that.

I started this blog, Another Dot in the Blogosphere, in July 2008. This means that this is its 10th anniversary. Whee!

A year later, I reflected on why I edublog. Back then I recalled how I started blogging non-academically in 2004 to chart my son’s life.

I also used a Seth Godin interview to outline the value of edublogging. The points then are still relevant today. Some values of edublogging are:

  • practising metacognition (thinking deeply about what you say)
  • developing disciplined personal expression
  • being part of an ongoing conversation (whether you or others are even aware that one exists)
  • changing the way you look at things

Back then, I concluded:

I blog because I am. I blog because of who I am becoming and who I want to be. I blog because it reminds me that I am always learning.

That is still true today. I reflect as a habit. I write because I want to and even when I do not. You could say that I have a fixed mindset about growth.

To listen.

To reflect.

To crystallise my thoughts.

To test the waters.

To keep going.

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I hope that a particular link does not work by the time you read this. Why? Every now and then someone will copy entire entries from my blog and paste it into their blog without acknowledgement or my permission.

How do I know this happens? Pingbacks.

I received an email notification yesterday that my reflection on the cost of textbooks was pinged in another of my musings about novice teaching mistakes.

Blog post plagiarism.

Screenshots of my blog entry on the left and the copy-and-paste job on the right.

I am choosing not to share the link to the plagiarising blog. Instead I share screenshots of my original and the copy [1] [2].

On visiting that blog, I noticed that it harvested an assortment of posts probably in a bid to get attention, increase its search engine optimisation (SEO), and benefit from ad revenue.

I will be taking steps like contacting the owner to have the copied entry removed, asking Google to counter the copy’s SEO attempt, and notifying the copycat’s web host.

This blog normally get a spike of views during or right after conferences. So I expected this week’s spike to be related to the my talk and panel at Educon Asia’s 6th Higher Education Summit.

Instead, something I reflected on two weeks ago took top spot this week and cause the spike, The pedagogy of Twitter chats.

It takes just a handful of tweets from a few regular readers of this blog to draw in the normal numbers. At last count, that blog entry had 21 tweets. Obvious cause and effect.

It has also been a month since I have started monitoring my Twitter dashboard.

The small rises seem to be associated with tweet chats I participate in.

I have a Twitter-based reach of about 27,000 to 28,000 per day. The day seems to be optimized to US time and it is tempting to repost tweets to suit that time zone.

I have already noticed that readers of my blog originate from the US when I check the blog stats in the morning. Later in the day, the readership shifts to Singapore and the region.

But the anglosphere is already saturated with edubloggers. Perhaps I should just focus on what I can do here.

WordPress informed me that I have been on their platform for six years this week.

How does one mark this anniversary? With a blog day cake? I will mark it with nothing more than this blog entry.

I have actually been blogging for almost a decade. I started when my son was still in utero and continued to document his early years. His blog has moved from one host to another and is currently also in WordPress. That was where I gradually built up the habit of blogging every day in an attempt to view the world from my son’s eyes. (Now my son co-authors or authors short entries every week or so.)

But that was not enough. I wanted to reflect on my own work life and way of thinking. So I added another dot in the blogosphere.

To mark this milestone, I remind myself why I created this blog. Years ago, I wrote this in the tagline setting:

I am an edu-explorer. I promise to walk on the edge of reason and let you know what I see. I use this blog to think out loud. If this promotes informal sharing and learning on technology integration issues, thank serendipity!

Sometimes it is amazing how many people drop by. Here is a recent stat WordPress sent me:

But in the About Me page, I remind myself why I started reflecting on this dot:

I do not blog for views. I blog my views. I do this to learn and to shape my thoughts on educational technologies and technology-mediated pedagogies.

All that I have mentioned so far is not remarkable. Lots of people can do the same.

But not many can say they make themselves reflect and write every day whether they want to or not. It is a discipline that works itself into other areas of life. Perhaps for that reason alone, I blog.

I have decided to conduct an experiment with my blog feeds. The simple research question is: What happens to the readership of this blog when I stop the feed to my Facebook profile?

The experiment is not entirely my design because the automatic feed stopped on its own some weeks ago. I cannot say whether this was due to a technical change in Facebook or whether the feed tool stopped working.

I suspect that it is the former since the same feed tool that updates my Twitter stream keeps sending automated tweets whenever I blog.

I have already noticed a drop in readership by almost half when the Facebook feed was inactive. This is surprising considering how I carefully cultivate my Twitter followers and am practically anti-social on Facebook.

Perhaps the Twitter stream of consciousness flows by too swiftly for folks to catch. Maybe I am taken more seriously on Facebook. Horrors!

I have been a fan of Martha Payne’s food blog, NeverSeconds, since I learnt about it barely a month ago.

This enterprising and entertaining nine-year-old girl authored a blog that went viral after she started photographing, rating and commenting on her school cafeteria food.

As she gained attention from the media, she became a minor celebrity, met with celebrities, and raised funds for Mary’s Meals.

Because of Martha’s initiative and efforts, her school food improved, she helped the less fortunate, and she even got students and teachers from other parts of the world sharing their own food photos and ratings.

But her success was met with resistance from the Argyll and Bute Council, and Martha was forced to stop taking photos and stop blogging about the food.

The reaction to this was swift. As I type this, there are more than 1712 responses to the shutdown. Sites like CNET and Wired had a field day reporting the news.

My reaction to the blog shut down was not printable. When I calmed down, I wanted to know:

  • If the council had nothing to hide, why prevent her from taking pictures of the food?
  • If they thought that the representation is not fair, then why not make their stand by commenting in Martha’s blog or setting up their own channel?

Thankfully, the council has backed down and Wired documented this through a series of updates.

Reason does not always prevail. When it does not, good work in and via social media can apply pressure so that justice is served. So I borrow from Martha’s rating system:

Food-o-meter- 10 out of 10
Mouthfuls- I could barely swallow the initial news!
Courses- Starter, main, and dessert
Health Rating- 0 out of 10 (I almost had a heart attack!)
Price- Priceless news via Wired’s updates
Pieces of hair- There was a whole wig that came with the ban.

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When I was living in the USA, I had a “No Soliciting!” sign on my front door. I disliked being disturbed by folks trying to sell offering questionable products or services.

The sign was quite effective. I wish the same sign would work here in Singapore so that I don’t get flyers stuck in my front gate or slipped under my door.

Now I am wondering if a similar sign might work on a blog…

I have received email to feature an online resource or article on this blog. I don’t know if I am ready to review or promote something I haven’t found myself.

I have also received an invitation to speak at a regional edtech conference. The invitation seemed legitimate after a quick background check. But in this day of scams, phishing and other nefarious online solicitations, my alarm bells went off.

It was a surprise since the inviter claims to have found me through my blog. It’s not a surprise since I make some of my thoughts and writing public.

The last huge spike in readership and the invitation might seem like good signs. To me they are signs that our digital footprints can leave impressions that we might not expect. For now, I am going to err on the side of caution.

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