The Selfish Blogger Syndrome

‘Selfish Blogger’ – This jumped out of the page of Tony Bates’ blog post .  He has been bemoaning the fact that there has been little discussion around his presentation to Change MOOC  – and that the discussion that there has been, has been distributed across people’s blogs and he has had to go out and find it to collate it on his blog. As an aside – I’m not sure that we could class people individually posting to their blogs as discussion. Tony asks:

  • Could I have done something that would have resulted in more comments, more discussion and more integration of the discussion in this MOOC?
  • Or is the topic itself the problem – just not of interest to most people in this MOOC?
  • Or are people just too busy to go beyond the webinar and a short response?

I think the answer to all three questions is ‘No’. I think it is a problem of the design of the MOOC, which actually promotes ‘the selfish blogger syndrome’.  I should say at this point that I am a self-confessed selfish blogger and likely to remain so. Roy Williams, John Sui Fai Mak and I explored people’s preferences for blogs and forums in our paper, which we presented at the Networked Learning Conference in 2010 –   – so I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on being a ‘selfish blogger’.  In my own defense (do I need to defend myself?), I like to think that I am making a contribution, albeit small, in other ways – but perhaps this is over-rationalization 🙂

I should also say that I recognize the effort required to synthesize and analyze ideas from distributed blogs – that is why I am staying here in my blog. If I make my own comments and observations here, then at least I know where they are. So despite Tony’s comments, I am still not inclined to go to his blog and post there. I would rather keep a record of what I think at this point in time here. Sorry Tony!

It does feel to me though that this MOOC is missing potential for some deeper discussion. In line with being a selfish blogger, I am not desperate to get involved in discussion forums, but I do like to be a ‘lurker’ in forums – and there are always plenty of people in a MOOC who like to engage in them – which makes it even easier to lurk and not feel guilty. I have recently been reminded of the benefits of engaging/lurking in discussion forums through the Networked learning Conference Hot Seat – where the depth of discussion was very rewarding.

The other thing that is constraining the potential for in depth-discussion in this MOOC, is the speed at which the topics are changing. We get a new speaker each week –  and they have all been great so far – but we scarcely have time to get our heads around one speaker’s issues – and they are big issues – when we move on to the next. This is a shame. Each of the speakers has clearly put such a lot of thought and work into their presentations and have provided us with carefully designed and interesting tasks. It’s just a pity that we haven’t had more time to engage with them.

Then there have been the consistent weekly technology problems. These haven’t bothered me particularly but I can see how they detract from getting into the nitty gritty of the subjects being discussed.

Frankly, it’s all I can do to keep up with being a selfish blogger. I had sort of promised myself that I would make one post each week related to the topic – but when the topic is new, there is little chance of posting anything significant within the week. All I can do is put down some sort of a marker and I am wondering this week whether I will be able to keep up with this minimal engagement.

I have participated in enough MOOCs to know that this is the way it is and also that there is no expectation that we engage with every week’s speaker, but I find myself thinking that the speakers deserve better. I am also even clearer in my own mind that I don’t see blogs as a discussion tool, for the average person like me. They might be a discussion tool for people like Tony Bates, Stephen Downes, George Siemens and others who have a well-recognized reputation and likely a lot of hits and comments on their blogs. But for people like me, my blog is not a discussion venue. It’s a place where I post my own reflections. If others are interested in them, then that is great – but I really am a ‘selfish blogger’ 🙂

I have read this through a few times. I don’t want it to sound like a moan about ChangeMOOC. I continue to be impressed by the work that Stephen, George, Dave and others are doing in trying to change the ways in which we think about teaching and learning. I have learned and continue to learn a lot – which is why I hang on in here despite not always being able to keep up 🙂

17 thoughts on “The Selfish Blogger Syndrome

  1. jaapsoft2 October 27, 2011 / 10:28 am

    The teachers do have trouble to adapt to the MOOC and the way students behave.
    The subject of Tony is not my favourite topic, so my thoughts are only on the side this week.
    A MOOC does not have a centre, that is why students must be very self centred to stay organized.
    If Tony, or other teachers, do want to collate blog posts and other parts of the discussion they should ask the students to use a special tag, or use another technical solution. We have to look at a MOOC as a technical solution, a MOOC is not only a social solution.

  2. jennymackness October 27, 2011 / 11:42 am

    Hi Jaap – thanks for your comment.

    > A MOOC does not have a centre, that is why students must be very self centred to stay organized.

    This is interesting – something I shall think about further. It is related to the balance between the individual and collective that was raised in Allison Littlejohn’s presentation,

    I also hadn’t considered before that the people who have been invited to speak to us in Change MOOC might be inexperienced Moocers and might themselves be having difficulties in navigating and understanding the environment and how it works. I wonder how much support (induction?) they have had before hand – or has it just been assumed that because they are researchers in these areas of change, that they will automatically feel comfortable in a MOOC. Interesting thought! 🙂

  3. Tony Bates October 27, 2011 / 8:47 pm

    Hi, Jenny

    Thanks for your comments. I should have known better than use a perjorative term such as ‘the selfish blogger’ as it was not meant as a criticism of people who post comments on their own blog – I too do it all the time.

    I think Jaap is right – this is a technical problem for MOOCs and there is probably a technical solution such as using Delicious for co-ordinating and linking all the posts. Blogs are meant to be personal and I use mine as a way to capture articles and news that are personally useful to me – but merely by posting we are sharing.

    And you’re right. This was my first MOOC and I jumped into it as a presenter. If I do this again, I will probably try to think more about how best to design it to make my week more coherent for participants and to find ways to link comments better. What’s for sure is that you can’t just apply good learning management system approaches to the looser structure of a MOOC. We need to find ways to better exploit this looseness


  4. alQpr October 31, 2011 / 12:42 am

    As I noted in the blog post trackbacked above, I do think that postings in small isolated blogs *can* be integrated into larger discussions. And I would go further to add that if we believe in open, networked learning then we *should* strive to make that integration as effective as possible. One step in the right direction is to integrate trackbacks into the comment stream as you have done here rather than isolating them in a separate list as on Tony’s blog. Another would be having more extensive and illuminating excerpts shown in the trackback – and for that there may be things that the poster can do which I need to learn about. In any case I would be interested in hearing what others think about whether trackback “solves” the problem, and if not whether there are changes of either how it works or how we use it that might make it work better.

  5. Heli Nurmi October 31, 2011 / 2:38 pm

    Hi Jenny, I have been reading your posts since July and enjoyed a lot. You have so much to give to others. And I have to ask why did you say in this post above that

    “I don’t see blogs as a discussion tool, for the average person like me. They might be a discussion tool for people like Tony Bates, Stephen Downes, George Siemens and others who have a well-recognized reputation and likely a lot of hits and comments on their blogs. But for people like me, my blog is not a discussion venue.”

    I greatly disagree, why can’t you be a better facilitator in discussions than whoever? It is not the number of hits that matters and reputation is not same in everybody’s eyes.

    So my focus is: why that hierarchy? Who needs it, to whom you speak? I was astonished about those words

  6. brainysmurf1234 November 1, 2011 / 6:56 pm

    Jenny, you used a great title to catch my eye out of the many links and posts awaiting me in a week’s worth of The Daily yesterday and it was a delightful read! A few thoughts:

    – I don’t always comment directly on someone’s blog site if I don’t like the reply process, particularly in Blogger. It prompts me for some kind of permission that I find odd and Big Brotherish, even if I’m already signed into WordPress. In those cases, I reply on The Daily or the #change11 mooc site instead, which creates a discussion thread in the next issue of The Daily.

    – I hear you about the weekly change in topics and perhaps needing more time to digest and reflect in between before weighing in. Since it’s only Week 8, maybe we will find people starting to synthesize over several weeks’ worth of topics now? I hope so! 🙂

    – If facilitators are new to moocs, do they join us as participants during the weeks in which they are not presenting? Does that help them to immerse in the process and see the spin-offs?

    – Blogging is still very new to me. I find it takes time to compose something relatively articulate and to find the right links to embed in the text. I really enjoy it and I also notice how different it is from FB and Twitter.

    Overall, I don’t think I would enjoy this mooc nearly as much if I only used one tool to ‘discuss’. To respond to Nancy White’s question during the #socialartist live session yesterday, I seem to use five sources and that’s as much as I can manage (The Daily everyday plus Twitter, FB, SharePoint and my blog less frequently).

  7. Jeffrey Keefer November 4, 2011 / 2:11 am

    Great conversation you have going on here, Jenny.

    This reminds me about the nature of conversation itself. While this initially meant something that happened with people F2F, and then included phone calls, extended to webinars (still all synchronous) to blog posts or Tweets (my personal favorite), but notice that each of these plays with the concept of time. Conversations can be extended over time and place and media. Here I am replying to you over a day after you post.

    How about when I think about this and extend it into my own post or Tweet or network; isn’t the nature of conversation or discussion changing as we develop our concepts of community or presence itself?

    Where is Nancy White #NancyWhite @NancyWhite when I need her to see that I am struggling with here #change11 #socialartist notion, perhaps?


  8. jennymackness November 4, 2011 / 7:50 am

    Jeffrey – I haven’t got to Nancy’s ‘socialartist’ notion yet. I am currently about a week behind in changemooc – but it has been stirring in the back of my mind. Do you know of a good article. Has Etienne written about it?

    > isn’t the nature of conversation or discussion changing as we develop our concepts of community or presence itself?

    Have you seen Matthias’ diagram in Google+

    I think this is really helpful for considering how the nature of conversation or discussion is changing in distributed environments and what connectivism might have to say about that.

    Thanks for your comment. Jenny

  9. Jeffrey Keefer November 4, 2011 / 11:17 am

    Thanks for the link to the diagram, though I have always struggled with reading and trying to make meaning out of these network diagrams with their language of nodes and such. I am not sure what to make from it…

  10. jennymackness November 4, 2011 / 4:58 pm

    Jeffrey – I understand your difficulty with understanding these diagrams. Matthias and I have often discussed it and I have often wondered whether a good understanding of connectivism needs an ability to think in terms of models and maps – which I find very difficult, if not impossible to do.

    But Matthias will be pleased to hear that for once I found this diagram really helpful – but I know I will have to express my understanding of the same ideas differently – so that is what I am thinking about at the moment, i.e. how to do that.

  11. Brenda Kaulback November 10, 2011 / 10:34 pm

    I love the title, It drew me right in. I do look for places for some deeper discussion as well. One of the learning sites (for college faculty) that I manage/support has a similar issue. It is not a mooc, but there is a community site (Moodle) where all members can post and also individual e-portfolios, which allows posting by another faculty member (blog-like feature). But it is different being in a public space where the conversation is on neutral ground than it is one private space, such as here, where the space belongs to you. It changes the conversation somehow. I don’t long for a public forum either, but I find the phenomenon interesting – how it changes what I write – maybe what others write as well. Meanwhile, I love learning these new ways of communicating, even when I don’t find them endearing.

  12. Brenda Kaulback November 10, 2011 / 10:36 pm

    Postscript, I suppose part of it is that I speak directly to you, Jenny, and that is different from posting to an open, unknown audience, even though I know that more people than you could read what I say here.

  13. jennymackness November 11, 2011 / 7:27 am

    Brenda – how lovely to read your comments and ‘see you’ here. I agree that being in a public space changes the conversation. I find I need to have private conversations going on in the background as well, i.e. I need a balance between this public space and the private wikis I have mentioned soemwhere.

    Does CPsquare feel more private to you, or is that still too public despite being a membership only community?

    Thanks for your comment. It has enabled me to find your blog which is great 🙂

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