Home » reflections » My anti-blog blog – or why I don’t think I like this medium

My anti-blog blog – or why I don’t think I like this medium

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!

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5 Comments

  1. misetak says:

    Hi Lizit.

    Part of the problem with the lack of comments is the need to register and log in before we can comment. This is illustrated nicely with the discussion in plurk that followed your posting (http://www.plurk.com/p/cktef).

    When people are busy, this is the sort of thing that makes us give up. I wonder if this is more of a problem because we have to sign in before we have written the comment. Blogger does it the other way around – write the comment and then log in to post it. The fact that we have already invested the time in writing the comment means we are more likely to invest a little bit more to post it.

    Just a thought.

  2. robp says:

    I’m in now. Properly registered. You’ll never get rid of me. Mwahahahahaha…….

    I think you’re having a bit of a Luddite moment, to be honest. To my mind a blog is a tool, just like any other tool. It’s good for some things, and it’s not good for some things. There’s no point using it for the things it’s not good for. For instance, I don’t think it works as a means of capturing half formed thoughts; OneNote, mapping tools or a personal journal are much better for those. I use office documents scattered all over my desktop for adding half formed thoughts to the subject in question.

    I’ve found blogging very useful in three respects. First it makes me finish my half formed thoughts. That’s very useful in a life that is full of half formed thoughts. The idea of writing for an audience, even if there isn’t actually one there, makes me work my thoughts through to a conclusion, which either makes them publishable or makes me realise they weren’t worth pursuing. Either outcome is a result.

    Secondly, there are many different ways of journalling, all of which have different effects. One of the things that’s bothered me about journalling for a long time is that a journal is a social document, even if it’s private. it can’t be divorced from the influences around you that got you to the point you’re at when you write. But I suspect that very often the discourse of privacy gives people the impression that they’re writing something that has no link to the world outside. Blogging with comments that gives other people the opportunity to respond and then gives you the opportunity to deepen your own response brings the socialness of the situation into the foreground. It remains under your control, and is structured so that there is a spine of the author’s thinking interleaved with responses from others, which makes it a very personal account but with a social aspect. I think that’s good, and potentially very provocative.

    Thirdly, I like the fact that the basic html functionality is there. Sometimes a post provokes a response, as yours did on troublesome learning, which I felt was worth a blog in its own right. I linked to your post, and you have now linked to mine. That’s all to the good as far as I can see. You can also link within your own blog as well as tagging.They’re just different ways of doing the same thing, and of carrying on a conversation in a different way. In my own blogosphere I quite often make new discoveries by following links from blogs I read regularly to places I’ve never found before. Yes, there are too many to deal with properly, but that is the way of the web, n’est-ce pas?

  3. Lizit

    Finally getting back here to make a comment….

    @misetak is right – the register to comment feature is a deterrent – it’ll be interesting to see if you get more comments now it is disabled. However, my experience with blogs is that it’s mostly a one-way conversation unless you’re covering controversial topics that people are passionate about. (Not that they shouldn’t be passionate about learning!!). I use my blogs as a way of keeping my own stuff in one place – as well as sharing it with others. I think a blog is good as a reflective learning journal – but in this case is probably best kept private so you can make whatever jottings make sense to you.

    A wiki sounds like a good solution for what you want to do. You can keep it completely private or public or allow just some people to read it – or even write in it. My favourite tool is PBWiki (http://pbwiki.com/) which is free. I have one set up for my doctoral studies (http://carolsdoctorate.pbwiki.com/) – open to public view with just a handful of people given access to write & access the files I have attached to it. I have heaps of wikis on the go for everything from project planning to operations manual.

    I also like Plurk (http://www.plurk.com) for getting comments from others. The drop down comments box is conducive to on-going conversations and the sharing of ideas.

    My favourite RSS reader is Netvibes – it organises my life.

    (All of this in retrospect & just for the record. Looks like your new wiki is doing the trick)

    Cheers

  4. lizit says:

    Thanks all for the comments. I think it did me good to get my thoughts off my chest – and also led to positive action in opening up this blog (OK I still have to approve the first posting for anybody and that seems to be a system thing that I can’t knock off). More importantly, it led me to looking at wikis again – thanks Carol for the pointer to yours – and I have now set one up and that is proving extremely useful for the kind of things I felt a blog wasn’t doing.

    Yes, this blog really is a personal journal more than a public account. It probably is helping to keep me on track and helping to make me accountable.

    I endorse what has been said about Plurk. Haven’t looked at Netvibes, but have been using Google Reader for quite a long time and if it ain’t broke why fix it!

    I guess, like earlier discussions in other places about bibliographic tools, one of the important things on this DPhil journey is getting the different props in place for myself – and making sure they are tools which I personally feel comfortable with.

  5. srdawes says:

    I agree with robp that this is a good medium for displaying more or less finished ideas but you’ve done well in getting this many comments on your blog. If you look around, most people’s blogs have very few comments. I’ve found a few comment when I’ve specifically invited them to, but otherwise people seem too polite.

    Have you thought about putting an “about me” section in here somewhere? It isn’t immediately obvious who’s blog this is. Perhaps there is one somewhere but I haven’t found it.

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