Why I blog

 

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 β€˜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.

Dogfood

(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 πŸ˜‰ 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!

 

POSTSCRIPT

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.

 

 

Amber

aka @ambrouk

 

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!

8 thoughts on “Why I blog

  1. Lovely post Amber;) Quite diffident and self-effacing but I can see that you want to post your stuff for YOU but are keen to see how it impacts on others.
    Analytics are important ( I am currently following analytics on a recent blog post of mine that surprises me in terms of interest). However, analytics shouldn’t deflect us from the importance of the qualitative aspects of online interaction – that comment that influences, that image that inspires, etc.
    Everything is not what it seems!

  2. Actually, after a conversation I had yesterday evening I’ve been thinking I should write a post like ths. I’ve been told its hard to tell what I’m really focused on when you look at my blog which I’m sure tells its own story!
    I’m surprised your blog isn’t getting more hits actually. Are there hashtags which could be better used to flag posts up to people?
    Open practice- I’m going to think about this. I don’t talk about work as a GP… The ins and outs of different days… But I do share how I find and use information in my work.
    I have recently started a LinkedIn group to learn with others but I’m thinking I need to wite more about the challenges we face on my own blog. Or as the time come to start an offal work blog? I’m thinking.
    Thanks again,
    AM

  3. I like the analytics side (“Ooh, someone from Azerbaijan looked at my blog!”), but that’s not why I blog. I see that as a useful technological side effect of the medium. For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone I knew about my ‘Someone Else’s Kitchen’ blog at all: I saw it as an online diary which some people might find interesting if they were in a similar situation to mine (or were planning to be). But with other blogs I have set up, the whole point is to inform and share news about the project/organisation/workplace and to raise the profile of those things.
    I think I’d answer that I blog because I can. The technology makes it easy for people to share information on whatever it is that interests/inspires/infuriates them and makes it equally easy for other people with similar proclivities to engage. With my personal blog I’ve made friends with people I would never ever have met in real life. With the other (work) ones, I know that I’m raising awareness of those activities and reaching audiences that would have been much harder to get to without the combined power of blogging platforms and search engines.

  4. Interesting stuff, Amber. πŸ™‚

    Blogging’s a weird thing, isn’t it? People do it for many and varied reasons. But if there’s one thing that almost everyone who blogs wants it’s to get their ideas out there. Right?

    I’m not going to tell you how to blog or even what to blog about. It’s your space for your voice. Do what you like.

    But as someone who’s travelling on this road and counts themselves a member of your audience, some generic advice:

    1. Find someone who inspires so you can emulate them. It’s like learning to paint. For me a few years ago that was Kathy Sierra. Now I’m reminded to remain concise by reading Seth Godin and Leo Babauta’s blogs regularly.

    2. Less of the negative self-talk. We all do it. But it doesn’t need to make it into the final version. Interestingly, a lack of this comes across as ‘self-effacing’ for women and ‘arrogance’ for men. A sweeping generalisation, for sure, but what I’ve found. Be bold.

    3. All of this takes time. Keep at it. I’ve been blogging for 7 years and still feel like a newbie. Pimp your stuff, absolutely, but remember there’s an element of luck/chance/serendipity/whatever in what gains traction!

    Like that you’ve switched to WordPress. That Blogger theme sucked. πŸ˜‰

  5. Interesting thoughts Amber.

    I suppose blogging as an activity can have a number of different aims – it might be business related, ‘being seen’, building a brand, communicating with a community, or anything else.

    For me, it’s mainly about a process of reflection – in that sense, I am the the key demographic for my blog. It helps me think aloud – sometimes we don’t have time to properly reflect on the things we do on a daily basis, so the process of writing a post and editing it, helps clarify those thoughts/reflections. This would obviously fit in with your open approaches.

    If other people are interested in what I say, then great, and I love to discuss/debate stuff. Sometimes I use it as a platform to generate those debates.

    I agree to some extent with @dajbelshaw above suggesting finding an inspiration – I often use his posts, Steve Wheeler’s and a few others, who often stimulate my thought process, and then I take it out on my blog πŸ™‚

    If we’re getting into advice (like I’m one to offer it anyway), I’d suggest 4 things that I think are important to blog successfully;

    1) Have an inspiration, but use it as a catalyst for reflection/debate, rather than repeating what they’re saying – believe it or not, that happens.
    2) It’s time consuming, so it has to be a priority
    3) Blog regularly, but make it meaningful.
    4) Try not to write too much in a post. As insightful as Stephen Downes is, I seldom read a full post because they are full on essays.

    I think it helps that you are quite well known so getting readers shouldn’t be too difficult πŸ™‚

    Good luck

    P

  6. The reason I blog is exactly as you note in your postscript – it’s thinking out loud. For some reason, I’ve found that people are more forgiving of you thinking out loud on a blog and accept that it is just your own thoughts, your own ideas, and by commenting they can share their own ideas…however different. When I try to do the same via mailing lists, I find people react very differently – maybe they see the list as more authorative? More combative? I don’t know. Anyway for me, that’s it…just me having a think out loud and if people happen to be interested than that’s great.

    I honestly never check the number of hits I get on anything, unless one of our comms guys bullies me in to it (they are normally disappointed!). I work in a very niche area, so I know the potential reach and interest group is low so there’s no point me getting upset that a dissection of MDUI application is going to attract less readers than something on innovative elearning. Impact for me is whether the thoughts I express in a blog post ever make it in to a workplan or an application somewhere….so it’s kind of different. I do worry we live in a world where numbers are more important that genuine impact though.

    I’d differ from Doug on some points. Don’t emulate anyone – be yourself! After all blogs were intended to be personal journals from the outset….and if being self-effacing is who you are, then be it. I find the whole self promotion thing horribly uncomfortable as we’ve discussed before, and I just think of this lovely young man when I see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E09CXqMjSFw.

    The quality of your work and ideas shines through – you don’t need to pimp it.

    Then again, I’m a girl who blogs about unicorns…so what do I know? πŸ™‚

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