Something I’m going to explore in more depth in my Giving a Blog series over at blogsavvy is what exactly makes or breaks a blog community. Squashed finger aside though I couldn’t resist linking up Josie’s intro into Eduforge blogs, Stephen’s reminder of EDUCAUSE blogs the ever expanding edublogs site – 430 odd last time I looked!), a fascinating conversation I had with Mike Seyfang of LearnDog this morning and this interesting post on that old banana, discussion boards and blogs.
As I’ve said before I think that the question of how you give blogs is absolutely critical to their success / or not in your context and this boils down to a lot of things, the tools you use, the support you offer, the mission you set out to fulfil but perhaps most importantly the ‘community’ that you conceive of.
And here’s where I stick my neck out and say that I think EDUCAUSE and Eduforge don’t really get it. Importantly this is in a way that I have frequently have not got it too so don’t think for one minute that I’m saying that there’s a problem there… just that they’re barking up the wrong community tree. These organisations / associations can, of course, have communities but I don’t think that they should be ones that are developed around blogs. They have important object orientated sociality perspectives to offer and could support great groups of people getting together and talking but blogs, that’s too big a call.
I, for example, spend a fair bit of time harassing people for help on the WPMU forums, I’d say I was part of that community and that the tool available there works pretty well for me. Would I get a WPMU blog though? Hell no! My membership of that community doesn’t define me, it’s by no means broad enough (what if I want to look at Drupal?) and there’s no real ‘ownership’ there.
And eduforge / cause have the same problem… yeh I’m sure some people (probably very close into, employed by or serious members of the community) get in there and find it valuable but I have to say that the figures on the members list down the left of the ’cause site aren’t all that promising.
But I’d wager that edublogs won’t have the same problem… an enormous and growing pool of blog users define themselves to a degree through their profession, you can be any number of different things in ‘education’ as a whole, it’s no tied to membership of any particular group and individuals have full ownership / independence. Oh and it’s a great system too :o)
But the point is that it’s kind of independent but themed, general enough and yet specific enough.
Perhaps like cities or regions might be?
So, with finger hurting and no prejudice whatsoever I’d say that edublogs has a much rosier future than either of the others… or any other community / professional blogging projects that aren’t carefully considering what they are aiming for.
Your critique of Eduforge in comparison with Edublogs does not draw the distinctions in the bundle of offerings each site has. The answer is really quite explicit in the names. Eduforge is very much a Sourceforge type of site with the primary mission to provide project hosting space and community around FOSS in education. It uses GForge as the master code-base with blogging tools simply used as a way for project members to reach their members and broader audience. Yes, we aggregate specific blogs on http://planet.eduforge.org if they relate to open source, standards or content in education.
In short I believe you are comparing apples and pears (and thereby providing a rather weighted critique on Eduforge. The mission of Eduforge is not the same as Edublogs, we’re wanting to build communities around projects not blogs.
All the best,
Fair comment… definitely not the same sort of organisation, but the same principle applies I think… am not sure if having a blog around a project is a particularly great idea.
Thanks for the clarification though
I’m still perplexed. Given that we’re not trying to build a blogging community per se, why wouldn’t a project leader/member blogging about their project (and related issues) be a good idea? Blogging is simply a communication tool, albeit typically individual centric. Why are you defining how it should be utilised? Afterall, with RSS where the individual actually blogs becomes less relevant. Of course, comments & multi-user blogging also blurs the lines as to how the technology can be used. Project team blogs to document / report on progress is highly useful – blogging is simply a publishing device.
It’s great that you promote the benefits of Edublogs – I concur with you that it has a very bright future, is a great thing and well done for the time and energy for getting it going. But I remain confused as to why you would be critiquing useful tools being used (in whatever flexible ways people choose to) by other communities such as Eduforge – it’s a different type of site/service altogether.
That’s a good question which helps be draw out what I’m saying a little better… I don’t think that blogging is simply a communication tool, I believe it’s a forerunner to genuine digital identity and hence the concept of me having different identities for particular projects doesn’t work for me (or many other people I’d wager).
I guess it’s easier to figure stuff out by comparison… even if it’s tenuous ;)
That is rather tenuous alright because why as an educator would someone use Edublogs when their passion is Classic Motorcycles would be clearly off topic for example? – or to put it even in more relevant contrast – in one area I may be a teacher, in another I may be a learner – what I write in each space is necessarily different.
So I might want to blog using Edublogs, keep a narrative of my project on Eduforge as a separate blog, add to a wiki in Wikipedia, blog about a matchless motorcycle elsewhere etc etc.
The digital identity will come perhaps, but in my view it’s more likely to come about with the rise of VOIP (businesses like Skype), rather than simple publishing tools like Blogs.
Thanks for the healthy debate ;-)
I think I am with Richard on this one. I am a member of many different communities and to some extent have a different identity and persona in each. I am a different person in each and it is a common sociological phenomenon that when an individual is confronted by two normally discrete audiences, say on graduation day when ‘cool’ student friends and doting parents are simultaneously present, he or she can experience some discomfort and embarrassment as they try to carry off two different personas at the same time.
I would probably find setting up a blog to address all of my different groups and communities would make me feel uncomfortably egocentric as the only thing my potential readership might have in common is me. The implicit assumption is that I am the main focus and purpose of the blog. Of course, that might work for some! However, a more focussed readership around a topic that I am interested in would be more obviously focused on the topic and our shared interest.
That’s a very valid point Terry, thanks for sharing it. In fact I agree with you entirely, we do behave and project ourselves differently in different contexts and that does have definite relevance to this discussion. ‘Owever, while we project ourselves differently we’re still essentially the same person, wouldn’t you say?
I’m not saying that the tools as they currently are adequate or even that close to the things we’re going to end up using (or the ones after that ;) but I do think that we are beginning to get a digital ‘presence’ (perhaps that’s a better word for it) which facilitates the development of multiple digital identities… from the one starting point that is ‘I’.
So, taking this to the online communities arena, I’d say that while we need to be able to present ourselves differently to our different social contexts, we shouldn’t have to and won’t be persuaded to start all over again in developing multiple “I”s… what we need is to be able to bend ourselves to fit or have facilities which we can just ‘drop into’ as appropriate.
G H Mead would love this!!! I find this a really fascinating subject. So there is an authentic and stable ‘I’ (‘still essentially the same person’) behind the different identities we present to the world as we move between different social contexts in time and space. This is what I am not sure about. What seems to me fairly certain at the moment is that there are quite a lot of ‘mes’. It is the ‘mes’ that are multiple rather than the ‘I’. And in some respects the ‘I’ is a sedimentation of various ‘mes’. If this is correct, a fairly stable ‘I’ develops in time lag with multiple ‘mes’ as we move on through life and society. You seem to be suggesting that the digital world offers an oppportunity for a new social context which could allow a more authentic engagement with the ‘I’. Perhaps this is one of the most exciting possibilities we now have the opportunity to explore with the developing social technologies. I guess Mead would be sceptical about this. It’s a long time since I read him but if I remember correctly I think he thought of the ‘I’ as largely unconscious. As soon as you try to reflect on your ‘I’ (if that makes sense) you are actually operating at a conscious level as a ‘me’. Writing this now makes me wonder just how much of that stuff did I really understand!
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