Yesterday evening was thinking about blogs and how helpful or otherwise they are as a means of journaling. I must admit to having reservations, which may be down to my use of the tool or something else, but which might be useful to identify to find work rounds or alternative approaches.
Firstly, each blog entry stands on it’s own. I don’t get a sense of continuity or building on previous ideas or linking with earlier ideas. It sometimes is possible to make the link to a recent post, but stuff I wrote 3 months ago might just as well have disappeared. OK I can find stuff by going through the archives or searching on a tag – assuming the tags actually make some kind of sense – but it is though there are a number of building bricks scattered around with nothing to cement them together.
Secondly, there is a need to record some kind of semi-complete thoughts. Because the blog format is at least semi-public – one or two people may see it other than me – it means I need to write complete sentences and do so in some way that connects ideas. It isn’t a place for scribbling the occasional word or idea or developing a mind map. It is not really even a place for exploring ideas. I guess, the positive bit of that is that it is a place to practice writing, but I’m not sure it is even good for that.
Thirdly, although the comment tool should permit some kind of conversation and development of ideas on specific topics, that doesn’t necessarily work. I posted a blog a few days ago and asked some friends for their thoughts. I am not sure how many might have taken a look at what I had written, but none used the comment tool. One used a micro-blog tool (responding to my original message) to say he had blogged back. When I went to his blog there was a lengthy and though-provoking piece responding to my ideas – but unless I make a link, there is no link between my original post and his response.
Finally, for the moment, there is a problem in keeping up with what other people have written. Although I am developing a blog roll, that means visiting other blogs fairly regularly to see if they have said anything interesting to me – and then sorting out how to bookmark the appropriate posts in a way I might be able to find them again. A few blogs have RSS feeds – how I love those. The benefit there is I can add them to Google Reader and very quickly find out if there is anything I am interested in and then bookmark with del.icio.us. But those without the feed, (and there is no feed on my blog as I don’t know how to add one) are simply a pain and potential cause of RSI as I click here, there and everywhere.
So what might be useful as a way of recording stuff.
Firstly, I use OneNote. This is a way of recording a whole lot of information, both what I write myself and also ‘grabbing’ relevant emails and webpages on the fly. What is more, I can then add my own comments to anything I put in OneNote, either using a stylus or typing stuff in. The biggest disadvantage to OneNote is that it is not internet based so I need to keep my different computers synched with each other (and occasionally this leads to problems) but in general my stuff is accessible to me in an easily managed and accessible way.
Secondly, mapping tools. My favourite is Inspiration, but there are loads of others around. I can create an ideas map with lots of ideas relating to each other. I can build linked layers. I can link documents and web pages to the bubbles. I end up with a resource that I can build, review and develop.
Thirdly, wikis offer an opportunity to write something and edit it and develop linked pages and ideas. What is more, they can be edited by others. I can’t help but think this would be a more joined up approach than a chain of ideas which may or may not be connected, such as is what my blog feels like.
Right, got that off my chest!