It is probably a rite of passage for people who blog to blog about why they blog. I confess I never read those posts before I became a blogger myself. What navel-gazing! Yawn. But now I understand a little more why it is useful to reflect and I think its time. You are under no obligation to read this.
This post is intended for a wide readership – you don't need to know about blogging or technical stuff to read it, I've tried to link to any specialist terms in it. I've been thinking I'd like to write more about technology in common sense language so would love your feedback on how far off I am!
Open Practice and Blogging
Hopefully My Story of O(pen) will help give a sense of what "open practice" means. Its a phrase that me and some of the folk I work with have started using as an umbrella term that covers a lot. Trust your instinct about what you think it might mean. This quote from Lou McGill sums it up well: "By Open practices I mean a broad range of practices which have an ‘open’ philosophy, intention or approach […] Informal and formal open practice takes place within wider societal contexts which are evolving rapidly. Open practices take place in, and are enabled by, a highly connected socially networked environment" (see Lou McGill's original post).
I am not a teacher, not an academic, not a software developer. I work with programmes, projects and policy. But I have always felt that open practices apply to me. I have always been quite collaborative in the way I develop papers, presentations etc. Colleagues would testify that I send an awful lots of emails about ideas, potential leads, parallels, things I've read. Some would say too many. Ahem.
Going back several years I have been involved in decisions about encouraging projects and services to work more openly. see Brian Kelly's post from February 2009 on should projects be required to have blogs?. I definitely see blogging as part of open practice and that applies to me too.
In 2010 I returned from maternity leave and was really keen to start blogging properly for work. I had encouragement early on, particularly from David Kernohan, and from Tony Hirst who kindly read through my Rethinking the O in OER Post. That post was well received, so I've been tried hard during 2011 to develop my blogging practice at work, which has also given me confidence to build my personal blogging.
Several years on, project blogging is much more common, and Brian Kelly is now encouraging more openness about blog stats, Also Doug Belshaw has recently surveyed his readers and shared the results. They are both in a different league to me, and have very different styles, but I watch and learn.
So this is my dogfood post.
(image sourced and stamped with licence information by Xpert Attribution Tool free, easy, try it!)
Who cares who reads my posts? I do!
Its easy to mock myself for caring if people read my posts, but you know what? I do care if people read my posts.I love watching my free bitly account tracker creep upwards. I love getting RTd on twitter. I love being scooped and paperli-d. I am informed that these days everyone is verbing nouns, so I am trying to keep up here 😉 As I've said before, I am excited about being citable.
Call it vanity analytics "vanalytics", personal impact "pimpact". (I made them up, can I trademark them?) It makes me feel uncomfortable to admit it, its not very … fashionable … but here goes anyway.
- One of my favourite posts on my work team blog, the OER Turn post (2011/09) had 664 page views of which 546 were unique. My highlight stat here is average time on the page: 6 minutes 17 seconds. The Topsy Report records 28 related tweets. A quick read through them made me grin with satisfaction, some "yes!" and a number of tweets from people far outside my usual circles.
Snigger into your flat whites. This is openness, folks. I've read enough website stats over the past 15 years to know that there is an awful lot of smoke and mirrors around web analytics. Now I'm in the web publishing business myself, in my own tiny way, I would like to know how I compare, in terms of reads and shares and responses. So how about my personal blog?
- I've only just hooked up google analytics to this blog, so don't have much info about usage yet. I do know that I've done 39 posts, had 32 comments, and that in the whole blog's lifetime (only the last year in earnest), I've had 2914 page views. For my most recent post about Frictionless Sharing and the Filter Bubble and Differentiation the Topsy Report lists 11 responses (of course some of that was my pimping!).
I know I am a dwarf compared to the giants, but most of us are dwarves and I'm ok with that. I don't aim to be a "guru" (can anyone point me to the recent new year post about things the blogger hoped to see the end of in 2012? educational technology guru was on the list, rightly so!). I just want to be an active participant on the web.
Behind the statistics is where the human interest stories are, where blogging and social networking really is about being part of a network. Some of my stories …
- When I prepared some slides for an event, I made them live in slideshare on my organisation's slideshare channel. (Slides: benefits of content sharing and re-use). Without any "pimping" from me, I got 1,000 views in 24 hours. How gratifying is that! As I write, it is up to 2,000 views. Not a blog post, but evidence of the power of publishing to the right channel.
- When I blogged an extract of a funding Call I'd released (Post: OER Rapid Innovation Extract) I unleashed the power of trackbacks. The director of a project in the US contacted me to correct an error. Not only did he see a reference to his project that would otherwise have been locked inside a PDF, but he was able to correct an error within an hours of the post going live. And now I follow him on twitter.
- When I was pulling together my thoughts on openness, I wrote a quick paper and circulated it to some colleagues for feedback. One colleague, Lawrie Phipps in fact, encouraged me to publish it as a blog post, get it out there. So I did. (Post: Story of O(pen)). I won't lie, it made the point to my communications colleagues that I am interested in open issues, and won me a bit more internal attention to influence that agenda
- I had been wondering about whether there is something drawing philosophy graduates into technology jobs, that gave me something to share with a Philosophy Foundation group just setting on on Facebook. I have something to say, something to ask. That has helped my sense of identity, reminded me of my roots and I have had lots of interesting conversations around it.
- added 2012/02/04 … the comment I got that said "I think this is the first time that I've ever commented on a blog, but I am because I agree with you and I worry about precisely the same things you do. Well written and said." (here)
- added 2012/02/04 … the tweet I got in response to my question about whether a work update post I did was helpful: "we loved it!".
And that, readers, is why I blog.
This quiz on What Kind of Blogger Are You? from Warwick University caught my eye today, and I recommend it. I was very clearly two types of blogger: social, and profile building. Considering I have these two blogs, and my work blog is to increase awareness of the work we do, I'm happy with that!
Frances Bell's comment below makes me realise I forgot to add some points that are obvious to me but I should have said them:
- composing a post helps me think
- thinking out loud helps me refine my thinking
- I like to have a record of the way my thoughts develop, and how they are influenced by other people
and Anne Marie Cunningham's comment makes me think maybe I should push my stuff a bit harder to get even more benefit.
One final thing. I would really like feedback, whether you've only just read this post or have been reading my work posts or my personal posts. What should I do less of or more of? What would make my posts better? (Except please, no-one say spellcheck my personal posts, I am quite happy editing a live post, I don't aim to be polished). Aside from that … let me know what you think!