The value of blogging

Task 4 requires I setup a relevant blogroll; at present mine just contains links to my other blogs, the course blog and Liz’s – so that needs some work! I’m unsure at present of good relevant blogs, but will include them as and when I find them.

Also, I’m wondering as the purpose of a blogroll – it’s an old model (indeed, the latest version of wordpress doesn’t include the facility to have one, I had to install an additional plugin to display links) and it’s purpose seems to be a collection of signposts for other reader, not the author.  I now have all my bookmarks stored on xmarks and so don’t refer to the blog for them, but perhaps I’ve missed the point here…

Right then, so on to the value of blogging. I actually have 3 blogs for different purposes:

  1. This one – it’s sole purpose is for me to reflect on the MSc TEL. I can store any sort of content, access it anywhere and search it later.
  2. My work one – I’ve recently set this up as part of a Jisc project to help disseminate the ACCESS: Technology websites further, but also use it as a platform to share ideas and thoughts on assistive technologies.
  3. My family one – this serves as method to journal memories and share pictures / moments with Grandparents etc.

In terms of my professional development, whilst it’s hard to have a grasp on the benefits at this very early stage on the course, it’s incredibly useful to write down and reflect on what I’ve been doing to clear my busy head, help organise my thoughts and be able to look back on previous experiences. Writing regularly has additional benefits in practicing academic skills (although, this style is very informal by comparison); indeed there’s a programme setup just to encourage people to regularly empty their heads and just write.

I find that here I write fairly regularly (twice a week..ish), although I only post about once a month on my other blogs for some reason; perhaps I’m treating this more as a diary and not really fussed who, if anyone, is reading this (hello?). On that note, I also use an excellent journal writing system Oh Life for my personal diary. Once an evening it emails me and asks ‘how did you day go?’ and includes a random post from the past. All I have to do is reply. I’ve been doing that for 3 years now and have written regularly in that time.

Now, I don’t (yet) use all the functions that blogging has to offer, in fact I find tags, categories, authors and archives cumbersome and irritating – it all seems to be aimed at prolific multiple content writers for large corporations rather than little old me sat at my laptop. However I do understand the benefits of organising content (I use tags and categories on Evernote to organise all my lecture notes, coding snippits and tons of other content) and as this blog gets more and more full over the 3 years, I’m sure I will be grateful for theses organisational functions.

Reading other blogs has enormous benefits for learning new skills. We do live in a wonderful age, a quick Google on installing an Apache webserver or how to bake pretzels and someone, somewhere has documented their experiences in a blog for me to learn from. This individual user created (and curated) content is invaluable and, whilst there is a ton of junk out there too, Google and other feedback informed engines cleverly sort out the popular (and therefore assumed high-quality) content from the dross.

I have used blogging with my students, as a technology supported method to keep work diaries – usually writing content over email (email is a very accessible method as it’s ubiquitous – everything supports it). Unfortunately, the excellent email-to-blog service Posterous sold themselves to Twitter last year, leaving only WordPress as a viable option. However, in the most recent versions WordPress has really stepped up their game and produced a very usable tool including post-to-email functions in or with the Jetpack plugin on self-hosted sites such as this. The learners I’ve tried blogging with seem to not really be motivated by blogging as they themselves see little value in it and as such the post frequency tends to dwindle and blogs remain unused.

The documentation for Task 4 also touches on wikis. I have to say, I absolutely love the concept of wikis – everyone creating and moderating content to inform a resource is an excellent idea. In Dan Pink’s book Drive, he talks about how this is also intrinsically motivating when comparing the success of volunteer-run Wikipedia to the failure of the highly funded Encarta.

I recently watched a TEDx talk on wiki collaboration which included this wonderful slide demonstrating the increased trust in the wiki style of working.

I’m looking at starting an assistive technology wiki to support the developments of my accessible website projects by hosting documentation and including examples of best practice. I will make it completely in the hope that it attracts additional collaboraters to currate the content adding much more value to the resource than it being a one-man-band, which i suppose is the essential difference between how a blog and wiki are written, along with the formatting differences, providing that the wiki is opened for public use.



One thought on “The value of blogging

  1. Hi Mike
    Great to know that you an enthusiastic user of blogging. Remember to keep the entries quite tight to keep your reader focussed on your topic. Love the use of images :-) Liz

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