The Selfish Blogger – A discussion :-)

Its ironic that having said that I don’t see blogs as a discussion tool…

“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.”

……there has actually been some discussion about The Selfish Blogger Syndrome, which I would like to respond to with this post.

Heli  has challenged me by commenting:

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

This made me sit up and think. When I look back over my posts, some of them have generated discussion, but not many and not much depth of discussion. On reflection I find blogging just a bit too distant for discussion. I value it for reflection and thinking things through, but for me discussion – in the deeper sense – happens in smaller more intimate groups away from the public arena.  So my most valuable discussions happen via email or on the research wikis I am working in. Very often a question might be raised in a blog post or an online session – but the discussion continues elsewhere out of the public eye. So Heli – to answer your question – I wasn’t really thinking in terms of hierarchy, more of depth of discussion – and for me, rightly or wrongly, that tends to happen in locations other than my blog.

Jaap started the discussion – and then Tony Bates and Alan Cooper – raised the technology issues around promoting discussion in blogs. Tony wrote:

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

And Alan:

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.

I think Tony’s comment is probably worthy of a research paper and certainly further thought and investigation. And Alan – Yes I always allow for pingbacks on my blog; I also subscribe to comments RSS feeds and I try to provide links to other people’s blogs within my post – but I find myself in a dilemma in the striving for integration. If I am writing about an event that needs (in my mind) to be advertised, then I am happy to click on the FB, Twitter, Google+ links at the bottom of the blog post and broadcast it. But if it is just my post, simply for me, like this one, then it doesn’t feel right to broadcast it. I get feelings of ‘who am I to push this post out into the webosphere?’ It makes me feel uncomfortable. So I don’t do it, but I am very happy if someone ‘visits’ me here. I just don’t want to push myself on people. Blogging alone feels like enough of a push.

And finally, brainysmurf has written:

Overall, I don’t think I would enjoy this mooc (change11 ) 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).

And that brings me back to my starting point. How much of this, i.e. Twitter, Facebook etc. is really discussion. For me a real in depth discussion takes a considerable amount of trust – especially if I am ‘discussing’ with people I have never met and have no physical gestures etc. to get a sense of them. My experience has been that in depth discussion usually takes time to develop and for me has extended long after the MOOC ends. Some of my CCK08 discussions continue to this day.  This reminds me that Etienne Wenger writes about the shared repertoire of a community of practice and that community members need to develop a shared history. I definitely need a sense of shared history to feel comfortable with in depth discussion.

Thank you to Jaap, Heli, Alan, Tony and brainysmurf for prompting me to dig deeper into my understanding of what it means to be a selfish blogger and the extent to which discussion can be promoted through blogs.

24 thoughts on “The Selfish Blogger – A discussion :-)

  1. fred garnett November 2, 2011 / 6:34 pm

    Jenny, I think that ‘selfish’ is too self-critical.
    If we like someone’s thinking and writing, as I do yours, then there is nothing better than hearing some of their selfish thoughts; its what we like about them.
    I think that what is happening with social media and learning is that we can evolve our own reflective styles, so there is no longer one right way of doing things, which allows us to evolve new strategies of engagements.
    Personally, like this time, I am pleased to see a notification in my inbox that you have a new post. For which, thank you! Fred

  2. jennymackness November 2, 2011 / 7:41 pm

    Fred – what a lovely comment. Thank you. It often feels when blogging that I am posting into a void, which is OK so long as I keep the focus on me – but then that does make me think of myself as a ‘selfish blogger’. I agree with your comment:

    > I think that what is happening with social media and learning is that we can evolve our own reflective styles, so there is no longer one right way of doing things, which allows us to evolve new strategies of engagements.



  3. pravinjeya November 3, 2011 / 12:49 am

    Hi, I think blogging is meant to be a “selfish” medium. It is perfect for self-reflection, any discussion that comes out of it is a bonus. I agree with you that unless one is particularly well-known, it is unrealistic to set out hoping for a mass response.

  4. Christy Tucker November 3, 2011 / 2:19 pm

    I think defining the “discussion” aspect of blogs primarily as happening in the comments also misses an important aspect of blogging. Much of the discussion doesn’t happen just on one blog: It’s spread out across multiple blogs as one person posts in response to someone else’s post. It’s hard to track and perhaps less visible, but there can be even more depth in the discussions across blogs than simply within a single blog.

    That said, I think we do have some technological hurdles to facilitating those discussions. If you comment on a blog, it can be hard to keep track of follow ups. You have email enabled, which is great, and that’s becoming more common, but it isn’t ubiquitous. Tying together threads across blogs can be even more challenging, although posts can link to each other and pingbacks help. It’s harder for an outside reader to jump in to a conversation spread out across blogs though.

  5. Jeff Merrell November 3, 2011 / 4:49 pm

    I would agree that “selfish” is too harsh a word. In part because, well, I’ve not run across your blog in the past and (via George Siemen’s tweet) serendipitously landed here to find a thoughtful piece that resonates with my own experience (and questions).

    I think we need to believe that these reflective posts do have value in a larger discussion sense – whether or not it is directly observable in the form of posted comments, etc. Your commentary on Tony and Alan’s points are spot-on, I think. We really do need to explore how to do a better job of integration (I struggle there as well).

    But consider this: Had I NOT commented here, I would still have found great value in being a part of this “conversation.” It helped add to my own sense-making in this area. It’s a difficult bit of value to measure or track, but it’s real.

    For what it’s worth: Here’s a Google+ conversation from mid-July about whether or not “lurking” was an appropriate term for this behavior. We ended up kind of landing on “sampling.” Gets at the idea…

  6. Sylvia Martinez (@smartinez) November 3, 2011 / 4:54 pm

    I guess I’m a “selfish blogger.” I’m terrible about taking notes, I run out of patience with bookmark tools and Evernote and such. My blog is where I keep track of things I want to think about, with my notes about them. When I want to remember something, I search my blog. I use my drafts folder for ideas that are even less formed.

    I don’t get a lot of comments. Most of the conversation on these topics happens outside of the blog, but because I’ve had a chance to write things down, I am better able to remember and articulate what I was thinking about. I don’t have professional colleagues available to me on a daily basis, therefore I don’t have the opportunity to “mull over” ideas with others. In that sense, my blog is mostly a conversation with myself that better prepares me for conversation with others.

    I don’t feel as hesitant as you do to tweet about my posts. I don’t do it for every post, but I mostly do it because Twitter feels more like a conversation and I like having conversations about things I’m thinking about. Guess that’s selfish too!

  7. jennymackness November 3, 2011 / 8:08 pm

    @pravinjeya – thanks for your visit and comment. It’s good to know that there are others who have similar thoughts to me 🙂

  8. jennymackness November 3, 2011 / 8:18 pm

    @Christy – thanks for your comment and focusing on the difficulties of managing distributed discussion.This is even more difficult for someone who is new to working in this distributed way. I remember that it took me 2 years to even realise that Google Reader might be helpful in this 🙂 But despite now having Google Reader set up, I still haven’t yet found it possible to experience in-depth discussion across a distributed environment. As you say it is very difficult to keep a track of the discussion – but perhaps easier than it used to be. Technology is always advancing and what used to seem impossible 5 years ago, can now be straightforward – so maybe tracking distributed discussion will become easier in the future.

  9. jennymackness November 3, 2011 / 8:24 pm

    @Jeff – I really appreciate this comment
    >But consider this: Had I NOT commented here, I would still have found great value in being a part of this “conversation.” It helped add to my own sense-making in this area. It’s a difficult bit of value to measure or track, but it’s real.

    I think it’s interesting to consider how this relates to the ‘lurking’ discussion you have been having on Google+ (I have to admit that I haven’t got my head round Google+ yet. :-)) – thanks for the link. An interesting discussion.

    I had similar ‘discussions’ here about a year ago. You might be interested in them –

    Thanks for taking the time to comment here. Jenny

  10. jennymackness November 3, 2011 / 8:33 pm

    >I don’t have professional colleagues available to me on a daily basis, therefore I don’t have the opportunity to “mull over” ideas with others. In that sense, my blog is mostly a conversation with myself that better prepares me for conversation with others.

    This is exactly my experience Sylvia – I mostly feel as though I am talking to myself – so it’s great that this post has generated a bit of interest. I do have a different experience of Twitter though – which might be a conversation – but for me is a ‘cocktail party’ type conversation and I have to say that I have never enjoyed those. I find Twitter useful for advertising events, links to resources and in the moment information, e.g. if an online event venue changes. I know it’s also supposed to be useful for getting help but I haven’t had this experience yet. I just don’t use it enough to have a wide enough network to enable this affordance.

    Thanks for your visit 🙂

  11. jennymackness November 3, 2011 / 9:02 pm

    @Jupidu – thanks for your comment. I have responded on your blog. Jenny

  12. Liz Renshaw November 4, 2011 / 6:52 am

    Your post really generated some discussions this time. I must say as someone who regularly reads your posts I am in accord with several of your observations. Twitter is like a cocktail party- lots of buzz, small talk and the occassional gem….Whilst change11 twitter has a very strong learning focus I was really excited -almost relieved- to read about Stephens D’s food poisoning, torn trousers and lost camera, and Jeff K’s resolve to put away the summer chairs for winter. All quite incidential tweets but somehow the informal spontaneity really triggered a strong response for me. I began to ask myself what did this response tell me about myself as a learner in a ‘consellation’ of people.

    These personal anecedotes helped me begin to build ‘a picture’ of these people in my minds eye, and somehow gave me a sense of a more human touch for Change11. It is also prompting me to think about how having some personal context for people helps to build a different level of engagement for me.

    Keep posting and creating such great discussion Jenny, us lurkers are really engaging and benefitting from your authentic reflections.

  13. jennymackness November 4, 2011 / 7:35 am

    >I began to ask myself what did this response tell me about myself as a learner in a ‘consellation’ of people.

    Liz – have you seen Matthias’ post in Google+

    I think this is a really helpful post when trying to understand what is happening in blogging discussions.

    Thanks for your comment. Jenny

  14. brainysmurf1234 November 7, 2011 / 3:26 pm

    Thanks for keeping the conversation and thinking going on this one, everyone! Jenny, you’re not alone in feeling like blogs are posting into a void and I’m so glad you wrote that so I don’t feel alone either! 🙂

    I’d like to clarify my previous thoughts that I wouldn’t enjoy #change11 as much if only using one tool (and I use 5).

    What I mean is that I need to find participants “where they already are” in order to engage with them (nod to Jane Bozarth’s work “Social Media for Trainers”). Folks in #change11 are already on FB, Twitter and blogs for reasons other than this course so I would be missing out if I didn’t go find them in each of those spaces and lurk, sample or participate in the conversation. As it is now, I am “missing” some of what’s happening on G+ and other platforms because I have hit my upper limit of what I am willing to commit time and effort to. Thankfully, The Daily continues to harvest this for me so I can poke at it if/when I make the time to do so.

    On one hand, it would be far *easier* on me to only use one tool for all discussions and activity related to #change11. Easier to manage, easier to keep track of. There’s probably some kind of harvesting I could do on my own if I made more time to learn about that.

    On the other hand, using only one tool would have us miss the whole point of examining how collaborative, cooperative and social technologies have changed where, when and how we interact around the world. I didn’t give much thought to FB, Twitter or blogging until I got hooked on moocs. Now, I dabble with them all. I still have lots to learn about each of them and I am driven to do so every time I dig a little further to find relatable signals within the noise.

  15. jennymackness November 8, 2011 / 9:03 am

    @brainysmurf – thanks for this. I also keep an eye on FB, Twitter, Google+ etc. – but like you I don’t really have the time (or it’s not how I want to spend my time) to engage in a distributed way – which is why I stick to my blog. Occasionally all the others come up with useful information, but for now I’m happy with blogs and Google Reader 🙂 That takes as much time as I want to spend on this. I still can’t do 10 minute blog posts – 🙂

  16. rae_j April 22, 2012 / 4:18 am

    Jenny – your post captured so articulately a lot of thoughts that I have had – and prompted a rich discussion. I have a blog I started when I started my uni studies, mainly so I could track my journey as I wanted to capture everything I could. I think maybe on 3 or 4 people have looked at it, but if they do and tell me it looks good, this makes my day.

    Selfish – mmm – more reflective as others have said above. But selfish in that hearing nice things is affirming:-)

    Found your blog from this page:

    Thanks to Liz above who wrote:
    >I began to ask myself what did this response tell me about myself as a learner in a ‘consellation’ of people.

    Important observation in how we can connect as people with real lives using social media, even in a formal context.

  17. jennymackness April 22, 2012 / 6:38 am

    @rae_j – thanks for your comment. I think getting people to read your blog can be a bit of a game, i.e. it is possible to play the system if you want more people to read your blog. I suppose it all depends on what it is you want to blog for.

    You have loads of interesting ideas on your blog which would attract people, but I suspect that’s not what you blog for?

    Thanks for you visit,


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