Blog comments

Oh no, another blog post about blogging …

John Naughton discusses whether blogs need to have comments, picking up James Cridland’s piece on the topic. John Naughton doesn’t have comments on his blog – and neither do many other big-noise bloggers, including most famously, Dave Winer.

All of them make good points: with posts rather than comments, you get a single voice in a single place; there’s more space (and links) in a post; readers of either blog can see the conversation develop; and even very light-touch moderating a busy comments section is a major task in itself. (As you can see on any high-traffic blog site that enables comments.)

It seems to me that working through posts seems to be working the medium to its strengths. Comments are fine, but they are fundamentally a different medium to blog posts, even though they are usually attached. Using media to their respective strengths is one of those fundamental good ideas to have been developed by the OU – originally articulated and developed through and by my own Institute of Educational Technology. So for me that’s a pretty strong argument.

I’ve been getting more interested in economics recently, and one of the central good ideas of that field is that it’s worth paying attention to the incentives for individuals in any system. So I think James Cridland put his finger on something important when he noted in passing that

The extra addition of Google Juice, etc, also is a good thing for both of us.

That’s the thing. If James and John have a discussion in the comments on one post, they might help develop an interesting thought further. However, if they do it through posts, they also both gain Google Juice, Technorati authority, and so on. As well as all the other benefits above.

Restart – skimpy plan

Well that was an embarrassingly long hiatus. Sorry about that.

I’m now free of my management responsibilities (well most of them, plus a few bits of tidying up) and my main task for the next while is – as I mentioned before – to re-kickstart my research profile. I’ve enjoyed being a manager, but it has been at the expense of my research activity, so I’m now looking forward to a spell of being a researcher.

First job is to set out a two-year plan, based on an assessment of my research profile and strengths. I had an outline of this somewhere but can’t put my hand on it, so in the spirit of getting moving quickly, here’s a quick-and-dirty redraft from memory, in very loose terms:

1. Outputs/writing

  • Journal articles above all else. Need quick wins (rewrite/re-place a couple of bounced joint papers) .
  • Plus churning them out on all the projects I’m involved in.
  • Also stuff that looks across a lot of projects with my management eye, to gain traction and impact.
  • And/or the Theory idea I blogged about before.

2. Bids/income

  • Focus on hard-research stuff, so aim for RCs, foundations, EU in that order. JISC etc low priority unless it has a clear route to something more big-R research, even though it might play to some of my strengths.
  • Develop bid for Big Pet Project, with me as PI, linked to the labs and the Big Lab idea since I have the clearest conception of how that should work.  Could include the U3A people as a particular focus – very neat fit and hits lots of interesting buttons.
  • Work as Co-I on OPAL, plus other bits and pieces as appropriate.

3. Research students

  • Keep up with existing students, think about taking on another one or two, if synergistic – contribute specific project to next recruitment round.
  • Think about EdD supervision, maybe.
  • Fish for an external examiner gig or two.

4. External recognition

  • Get out more. Virtually for sure. Blog more and better. Pick off clever conferences to go to. Be ruthless about what I’m getting rather than just ‘for general background’, even when it’s staff-development funding, not research.
  • Look for external chums to be regular partners, and a (preferably nascent) community to locate work in. (Pick one, or go my usual liminal route between several? One is easier to start with, plough-your-own synthesis might be better long-term strategy to build a chair profile.)
  • Maybe pick up reviewing/journal editing if opportunities come up (JIME, *sigh*).
  • Fish for keynotes (yeah, right – hard to do from a standing start but may be possibilities linked to new labs)

Supporting activities

  • Do systematic reading/lit reviewing to meet specific writing projects, but no general background. But develop some better literature-scanning habits/routines so I don’t miss things coming through that route.
  • Keep reading blogs (fold research-related blogroll in to here and expand?) etc.
  • Keep playing with bits of new technology.
  • Think about how to develop all of this in to something approaching a unified take across a lot of stuff, that can build over time into a huge chair-securing portfolio of Clever Stuff.

Tactics

  • Write little and often. Aim to blog on research at least once a week, and bang out a paper or a bid every month, at least in discussable draft.
  • Work with others/openly – easier with shared projects than my own pet one.
  • Remember to have fun.

Posts to come

Specific projects and how they fit with all this –

  • OPAL/Biodiversity Observatory/Evolution Megalab
  • Knowledge Network 2.0
  • My Pet Project (Big Lab idea).

Blogging on blogging

I remember the early days of blogging – back in the mid/late 90s when I used to read Dave Winer’s Scripting News and Jorn Barger’s Robot Wisdom regularly. It was actually a bit rubbish: most blogs spent a huge amount of time discussing the value of blogging.

It’s not really changed. If you could somehow get information about such a meta-question out of, say, Technorati, I’d bet a pint that you’d find that the runaway most-blogged-about topic is … blogging. There are nuances in every field: no doubt the numismatic blogoverse discusses subtly different issues to the furry community. But it’s basically the same argument, over and over. Don’t you hate that?

I certainly do … and yet here I am doing just that on my own blog, in response to Martin Weller asking Is Blogging A Good Use Of Time?

He discusses some of the benefits and comes – unsurprisingly! – to the conclusion that those benefits do justify the use of time.

I agree with all his benefits, but my take is slightly different. I’ve had a personal blog for ages, but I put off (work) blogging for as long as possible for the ‘time sink’ reason.

I started this blog because it was becoming more and more indefensible to be doing my job without blogging.

Part of my job is to track new technology and see how it can be harnessed to support OU teaching. To do that, I need to be part of that technology world. And in that world, if you don’t blog, you don’t exist. Simple as that.

Hello world!

First post! And the big question for any new blog: is it a one-post wonder, a month-long marvel, or an ongoing project? Find out here first!

There are all sorts of tricky issues with a work-related blog. How much detail to make public? Will the employer approve? All of which are excuses I’ve used not to get started. But this is a start.