Chris Chesher

Some thoughts on why blogging is being recognised, they are an innovative cultural form:-
it’s new
It seems to be live (time stamped posts)
Connected to a network

A blog is also conservative, as the text is attributed to an individual author’s voice, it also generates cohesive narratives, the predictive nature also gives them authority (and easy of use).

The author is the person who does the writing work, a social environment is needed for the author to generate work. The author is also the name in the “by line”. It is also the author that the reader “fills in” when the real author is absent.

Sorry Chris is was getting late in the day and the content was covered very quickly due to time constraints so I missed portions, however you can read the whole paper on the site.

Adrian Miles

Adrian’s work covers media rich and rich media courses at RMIT, his paper is not really a paper (his words not mine), and is written in TinderBox (which by they way is not a mind mapping tool but could be used as one).

Blogs are granular in nature, the post is the smallest granular component (granularity is the smallest unit of something that can make sense), ie you don’t need to read a whole blog to understand an individual post. This has influenced the conventions, tools and is a major affordance (“actional” properties of something) of blogging.

Adrian had a very interesting statement that went “blog can only exist in conjunction with other blogs, therefore you cannot have a blog by itself” a concept I find a little difficult to understand.

A great piece of advice If you have lots of small posts it is easier to link to than a large single post, the large post might have lots of links out but difficult to link in.

Video granular as well (the frames), until it is published it is very hard to link to a section of a 40MB file. Video should be as granular as a post even after publication, same with audio.

Linking is granular, (text is highly granular), blogs epitomise this factor. You should be able to link to parts of a video and link from parts of video. This together is a combination of technical and social practices. Everything Adrian is saying can be done today with existing technology but we don’t have the tools.

Adrian has put together a series of prototypes to explore and probe into the different ways we can make video granular.

First Prototype
The video is clickable and interactive, as Adrian says the site a thumbnail appears in the video. When you click the video pauses to allow you to explore the site. If you click on the first link you jump back in time to the context of the link. Very cool.

Second Prototype
A quote window allows the user to quote another video blog work and if the user clicks in the video the quoted video blog appears in the quote window at that context. Almost like linking as a blog. While the quote is playing the original video stops. Adrian has no control over the quoted video as it is being pulled in from the original site.

Third Prototype
Picture in picture where the user can click to a specific point in the video. Downside of this is that both videos need to be downloaded in full before anything can happen, but the effect to fantastic.

Adrian has transcribed a video (I think his maybe I am wrong) into text and it is 3000 words, you would not post 3000 words in a single blog, he is now posting a few hundred words a day. While I am not sure I got the full picture of what was said the meaning was there. Adrian was basically arguing that the current video blogs tend to have more content (words) than a typical blog post and if you tried to post the text into a traditional blog you would have lots of text, which he stated early is not very granular.

Discussion on data interchange of blogs and rich media content. Atom is actually has a set of defined metadata and APIs for moving blog data. There are also standards for metadata coming from Yahoo, Google and MSN Search to help search and index this new content (audio and video), which you will see imbedded in podcast feeds.

Carol Cooper

Carol Cooper a teacher from NZ Lincoln University from Canterbury New Zealand . Her research was also conducted with Lyn Boddington covering an ethical case study on the use of blogs in course work. Of interest the course happened to be on an HR subjects within 2nd year business management, any interesting perspective given some previous reports that 70% of HR people did not know what a blog was.

Why did they use a blog? They were inspired by Tom Smith at Ultralab South to enable learning, interaction between students and collaborative learning.

They put the proposal to the ethics committee and got the following response back :-

  • What is a blog
  • Had to have ability to have response to psychological harm
  • Students had to have options on which assessment they could do, ie they needed to option not to blog

Started using Blogger last year, now they are looking to move to Moodle as a blog component will be in the nest version.

They used Will Richardson’s video on blogs as an intro to blogs, along with some hands on sessions.

Lots of little teething issues around Blogger, on a side note some of the issues I had with Blogger hence my move to WordPress.

Really positive feedback on the collaboration aspect and the influence on team interactions. Students had “other doors” opened up in doing the work, therefore it is a positive experience and will be continued.

Some issues were around the informal nature of the posts and citations, but I wonder is this then trying to put a square peg in a round hole? This was something that Gavin found (the next paper presented but posted out of order) and this year is using blogs to support the collaborative nature of his course,

Ben Hoh

Ben is a student at UTS talking about the different areas of his life including his Post graduate studies, web design, community worker, activist. Specifically looking at the use of blogs within a refugee context while trying to address the different digital divide issues.

StoryBox is about literacy, IT, English and public space, as part of the work he wants to move beyond training to a more social engagement. They are trying to generate new critical knowledge.

Ben has previously done work in a process called “Digital Story Telling” voice overs on a multimedia slide show. Most of these end in a high climax where the presenter has overcome the issues being discussed and everything is positive. He is looking at it blogs could provide a different, yet complimentary, approach and develop a deeper connection with the story telling. Essentially the whole concept of a conversation.

He looked at blogs as a method to be anonymous but being able to express oneself in a real sense. Many of the kids blogged about trivial life events, but also used trivial type language to describe terrible events. Some of them created new ways of writing to express how they feel, the vocabularies cross over each other. A concept discussed was “Neveryday Like” activities that are hardly an ordinary life but by the same token it is now heroic.

Overall a very interesting perspective on how the conversation is being extended within teenage culture.

Both of the this presentations and the one from Yuh Huann Tan & Eng Hui Teo (the Singaporing teachers) are at a certain level researching further what makes students write more in blogs rather than using traditional pen and paper. Which from an education perspective is very interesting.

Gavin Sade

Gavin has been looking at constructive environments, that are low tech, low barrier to entry, and curious.

His class is about contemporary issues in design and tech, he looked at blogs initially as another method of just writing essays. His students previously had marked each others work, so blogs seemed natural.

Interesting he did not prescribe a tool he gave students 3 factors:-
1. Support multiple users
2. Must have RSS
3. Could support comments, optional

Most used WordPress, on the faculty web server.

As part of the class they had to read, via RSS, he coupled this with sessions on using the university library. An interesting approach as RSS is just another for of information analysis and searching.

Feedback in 2004 from students was mixed, however peer review was seen as good. Engaged students did better, performance was not directly related to previous experience. Increase use of casual language, and web sources, many entries also posted on personal items, such as life a uni.

Now using blogs as a support platform to collaboration not as a specific assessment, to support small team. This has been a major benefit within the course of the use of blogs, should this be surprising?

Students are now starting to post discussions with tutors and is now providing Gavin a new insight into what is going on in the tutorials, a novel idea. The students are posting to keep others “in the loop” if other miss out.

Yuh Huann Tan & Eng Hui Teo – Singapore

Their paper is found at the web site, here is my summary.

Both are secondary school teachers teaching Chinese language at Singapore secondary schools. There is a need for higher motivations as Chinese is not the first language, English is the official first language.

Their vision for blogs is secondary schools is to be for portfolio building, to track growth not just a showcase, across subjects and continue beyond the school-life, focus on self-directed learning (side line that the Singapore government pushing life long learning).

Project looks at building a reading portfolio with reflections (like a book report) to shift away from pen and paper. They are moving towards an open platform that allows students to interact, a type of 360 degree review of student work. This has been an interesting change for students as they are mainly use to teacher-centric feedback.

Two major benefits across motivation and modelling oneself from other students. Another benefit has been around learning to type in Chinese language, as a majority of people use the English language keyboard.

Issues and Questions
· IT literacy, especially teachers my feeling is this is a typical change management issue.
· Vulgarities and personal attacks, a lot of this is focused around “saving of face” within the Asian culture.
· A common thread through the last 2 sessions is also highlighted in Singapore on the time and effort in moderating the environment
· Copyright, especially around wholesale copying of content as part of the reading portfolio
· Can self-directed learning work in secondary schools
· Sustainable of the learning environment and the overall blog process (links back to IT literacy and change management)
· How “Life-Long” can the portfolio really be?

Ian MacColl

I lost, system crash (ahhh), the second session from Zenon Chaczko, that was on how blogging is being used in software development courses at UTS.

Ian’s presentation was on some of the results from the usage of blogs in their IT course at University of Queensland.

Ian was initially from a theatre background, went back to study IT in later life, now teaching at University of Queensland (UQ).

They used MovableType 2.661 and now have 400 undergrads, postgrads and staff blogs. All blogs are not world-visible due to UQ policies, he plans to look at changing this.

Varying uptake on readership, which is interesting as this is a assessable component of the course.

Reflections at the end of each semester a summary:-
Worth continuing
* student ownership
* explicitly revealed progress and process
* provide a alternative voice
Problems
* MT not enterprise ready
* large effort on proving feedback
* UQ policy an issue
* public vs private distinctions

Moving to blojsom
* a much better multi-user blog
* more enterprise based
* Intend to migrate from MT to blojsom.
*looking at rich content addition

Issues they have experienced
* Affordances of paper vs cyber-literacy
* Finer granularity the public-private
* Corporate policy around visibility
* Relationship to portfolio of a students work
* Formative and summative assessment
* Relationships of products and process where the blog crosses over

Ian talked about the whole issue around paper notes, sketching as the tools we have today are just not there yet, even Tablet PCs. There is still nothing like pen and papers.

Mark Bernstein’s Key Note

Some notes from Mark’s very stimulating key note, I know I missed lots of information.

Save the blogs, we have lots of blogs and they are now being talked about in big media and are being covered everywhere and as such now in danger. The blogosphere is an ecology, just like nature.

Notes are like blog posts, how do we make notes?

Most of blogosphere is in the long tail, almost all, provided the tail don’t decrease too quickly, details on the blogosphere http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2005/01/04.html

The long tail matters because it is where we will find the best work “where the magic can happen”, aka everything we did not expect.

Natural is not always pretty, nor is blogosphere, but it is authentic and that is the beauty and what attracts us from blogosphere. Blogs provide a personal voice and personal response.

Blogs can introduce us to many really interesting people that we would not normally meet. There is a charm in meeting people we don’t really connect with.

Don’t take the long tail for granted, if no one reads the tail then nobody would notice it and then they will drop off the aggregators and. We could always wreck blogosphere in the same way as Slashdot, Usenet by giving authority to the idiots who yell and scream like adolescence.

We need to make sure that A-List is not a factor of being an early adopter. But to quote Marx “there is nothing outside the economy” – aka you cannot stop money coming into blogosphere. But while there is nothing outside the economy money is not everything, watch out for greed. Find an effective economic model or we risk the blogosphere turning into MacDonalds/Disney.

We can lose the blogosphere by making fun of the tail. Fun is fun but if we don’t visit the tail then the tail will disappear.

Amateurs vs professionals, is based on a bizarre basis that journalism is a profession, but it is not. Journalism is a job.

Some of Mark’s ideas on how to blog well, I missed the last couple:-
Write for reason
Write often
Write tight
Make good friends
Find good enemies
Let the story unfold
Stand up, speak out
Be sexy

Just because you are in the tail is not a bad thing, it should not be seen that you are no good or have not done your time on line etc.

You make better blogs by writing better notes, “make it easy to do the right thing”. The only way to help the tail is to help members of the tail one by one, we need better tools to make notes. Notes are not easy to write and the tail needs help.

Tinderbox is a personal content management system, see at http://www.eastgate.com, interesting tool to help manage notes and ideas that Mark has created.

Better notes do not happen with sexy tools, we need tools to help us recognise and ideas to become well ordered. We then get into information farming. Until we have blogged we actually don’t know what the categories are, we need tools to help us manage this content to help with the information farming.

Mark feels that comments build traffic but it is really not the traffic you want due to the flame war activity, something I disagree with. A really interesting discussion happened after the talk about the value of comments. Most of the audience seemed to disagree with Mark’s feeling that comments are bad. Mark highlighted the fact that a small group (say 5) of people can bring down a really good site. Instead he suggests that linking between blogs is a way to build the community. Maybe I don’t disagree as much if I look at things from a linking approach. To quote Mark, ‘having your say in your space, and others having theirs in their space”. He feels closed collaboration through comments can work, but then is it a collaborative blog?

Blogrolling A-List blogger hurts everyone in tail, because the small people don’t get the publicity and the A-List will still get the traffic. However lists in general are good as they help readers understand who you are. Make sure people can identify with you, tell your readers about you, even if it is made up identity.

One final thought, is Tinderbox just a mind mapping tool like Mind Manager Pro?
Blogrolling A-List blogger hurts everyone in tail, because the small people don’t get the publicity and the A-List will still get the traffic. However lists in general are good as they help readers understand who you are. Make sure people can identify with you, tell your readers about you, even if it is made up identity.

Updated: to clean up links, sorry.

End of day one

Just back to the hotel after drinks and dinner with many of the attendees from BlogTalk Downunder.

The general feeling from people I spoke with was it has been a fantastic day. So many different points of view and the most amazing amount of research presented on blogs and their impact on society. Couple with this has been the complete acceptance of all points of view not matter what discipline they stemmed from. Today we have heard technical, political, social, academic and business view points all of which have been accepted and discussed by the delegates, and great compliment to the organisers.

Another general feeling has been how fantastic it has been to have so many like minded people in the same place at the same time, very stimulating.

I still have several summaries to post from today, hopefully tomorrow morning.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Glen Fuller

Glenn is a PHD student focusing on modified car culture, and his paper emerged from a blog post. The title is evental (the truth of the event based on ethics) of blogs.

Two ideas, one to do with time and the other sense.

From his paper there is a very interesting quote “The distributed networks of blogging allows for a multiplicity of partial accounts that ‘make’ sense of an excess of meaning that dot not rely on the centralised institutions of the Old Media.”

Blogging centred around the concept of an event. Within the temporal series of when the event happens blogging allows the event to be covered. Hence reducing the time cycle, Trevor picked up on this same trend as well.

Glenn also discussed the whole reproduction of content and the changes made to the original content.