Blogging Network Musings via FOC08

This week in the Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) course, our assignment is to consider blogging networks. What an interesting idea, blogging communities. I can’t say I ever thought about this before, though if I did it would have been about 2 years ago or so when blogs seemed to be the main social media technology.

Picture by LaDonna Coy, coyenator, on Flickr http://flickr.com/photos/coyenator/2315033839/ A blogging network is a community of blogs. Nice and simple (seemingly) at first, until I start to think of some of the implications. I usually think about the blogs as extensions of the authors, though some blogs that I regularly read and find very valuable, such as Mashable and CogDogBlog, I think of in an impersonal way and without thinking about the authors. Not quite sure why; perhaps larger than life or because I do not know the authors well (only meeting F2F in passing)? With those two (as examples), I read and follow, but think it is mainly in a one way direction (I do not think they read my blog, for example).

Whatever the case, I never really considered a blogging network as the Blogosphere. I always thought of the Blogosphere as the place in the giant network in the sky where all the blogs lived. Of course, social media and Web 2.0 are so much more complicated now that it is not even completely simple to even define a blog any longer, much less to speak about the Blogosphere as if such as a (stable) community could exist any longer.

Regardless, many of those in our online course (FOC08) do follow and comment on one another’s blogs. However, I am not sure if this happens enough to consider their blogs a community. While my first thought is that something such as this could never have a facilitator, I am beginning to think that the vastness of the Internet makes it easy to get distracted and lost and overwhelmed and thus behind or distanced from one another (ironically, as the Internet is nothing if it is not distance!). Perhaps blog community facilitation is a new area of inquiry and practice?

What to do about this? Dedicated RSS feeds or field trips or commitments to comment or even set due and comment deadlines? I am now wondering if there is any research out there about this . . .

Let’s see how well this works; I wonder what my colleagues think?

13 thoughts on “Blogging Network Musings via FOC08

  1. Hi Jeffrey,

    I confess I’ve fallen dreadfully behind on FOC08. I have every intention of picking it back up again very soon – but I’ve gotten lost in the reading for CCK08 the last while. Much of it is new to me – particularly the learning theories – and I’m trying to get a handle on many of the foundational concepts.

    That said back to Blog Networks…

    As far as our FOC course is concerned, I’m with you on your statement:

    “many of those in our online course (FOC08) do follow and comment on one another’s blogs. However, I am not sure if this happens enough to consider their blogs a community.”

    I do think that communities, or at least quasi-communities exist in the course on a smaller scale – I just don’t think it exists at a unified scale – at least not yet.

    I believe a variety of factors need to be present before a network – and particularly community – emerges amongst bloggers, which can or might include common professional or personal circumstances, belief or value systems, technical comfort levels or usage preferences, personal learning objectives and in particular interactivity and dialogue between members of the network.

    Based on the discussions that took place early on during the introductory phases it seems pretty clear that we are a very heterogeneous mix in FOC08. This isn’t to say that diversity precludes the development of networks, but I do think that the interrelationships need to compliment one another. I think there are some areas of philosophical discord amongst the student populous in FOC08 that would arguably prevent an aggregated network from forming.

    For example, those who argue for centralised management of learning via an LMS and those who advocate devolved learner-led models. I’m not trying to say that one has more merit than the other, merely that after a point the two are mutual exclusive viewpoints.

    I also think networks take time to develop – especially when they’re very organic in nature as they are online. Just because networks aren’t (or may not be) clearly apparent now doesn’t mean they won’t emerge over time. I suspect your point about the vastness of the Internet might tie in here.

    Thanks for the post, it’s motivating me to get back on track here 🙂

    Cheers,

    Mike

  2. @Mike Bogle

    This just goes to saying what I was musing upon regarding blogging networks (communities). I had no idea you read (or started to read) my blog. Perhaps that is one of the functions of commenting?

    Interesting how you and I are so far apart regarding geographical distance, yet that is meaningless online. It seems that online communities are indeed helping us bring people together and make the world a smaller place. It must be an interesting perspective for young people today.

    When you said:
    “I do think that communities, or at least quasi-communities exist in the course on a smaller scale – I just don’t think it exists at a unified scale – at least not yet”
    it makes me wonder about communities and communities of practice, a topic I know we discussed in FOC08 already. However, it also raises the issue of peripheral participation and learning styles. Some people learn by reading and reflecting, and while they may not appear to be “active” members of the community, I am now wondering what may entail “active community involvement.” This is an issue I am struggling with regarding my online class syllabus, where several people have suggested I get very specific with what it means to blog or comment on the blogs of others (one post / comment week, one comment on everybody else’s blogs, etc.). The more specific, the more everybody is clear as to expectations and norms.

    One other factor about blogs and community that I have started to appreciate more–avatars. I really like when I see people who use the same avatar in all online sites, as that helps those of us visual learners to recognize who is commenting and leaving a trail. Your avatar appears on my blog, and I think that helps me immediately connect your name with your online presence I know elsewhere.

    Perhaps fostering online community involves more adult education and appreciation of different learning styles than some may think?

    Thanks again for the thoughtful comment, Mike.

  3. I must admit that I am lurking in FOC08. Lots of personal and business reasons.

    However, I love reading everything!

    I have a group of F2F friends who are spread out all over the world. We communicate via blogs. Private ones on Multiply. It is our only means of communication as a group. I would consider this a network so it falls into the idea of smaller ones. A mini-network inside of the larger one.

    I too think of the blogosphere as a larger, intangible item. It’s like modern mythology. No more Zeus, now we have Blogosphere!

  4. @Christiana

    Thank you for the comment, Christiana. In this regard, you are no longer a lurker, but an active participant!

    I am not familiar with the private ones on Multiply. Can you speak more about them and how you use them?

  5. Multiply.com. It’s a standard blogging tool with multimedia, contacts, homepages, and the text. There are plenty of users who do public posting like you and I do on WordPress and Blogger. However, you have publishing controls that allow you to share the posts with just your contacts. Different types too: friends, family, business. So technically I could combine my Blogger blog and Multiply blog and just hide personal things. I don’t.

    So each of us has her own blog. So own user name and all. Then we are all friends. We post images, stories, links to news, anything we want to gab about. We all wanted to be able to speak openly to each other about spouses, work, parents, kids, politics and not worry about who else was reading.

    Here’s the link to mine: http://enidgreen.multiply.com/

    Here are two friends who go public!
    http://roatancat.multiply.com/
    http://sromary.multiply.com/

  6. Also, the core of the blogging group is 7 of us who have been friends since elementary or middle school…depending on which ones. Isn’t that coo?! We are all 36-37 now.

  7. @Christiana

    Thank you for explaining and sharing this. I am not familiar with Multiply, and it seems like it may have some wonderful possibilities. Do you know if blogs there can be shared with some people, and some posts withheld or otherwise only shared with others? In other words, are there multiple levels of privacy?

  8. Yes, the publish rights are:

    Everyone public
    Network protected
    Contacts private
    Individuals private

    OR
    Create a customized access list by selecting any combination of the people listed below.

    People who are in your Network:
    Your friends, their friends, and their friends
    Your family members, their family members, and their family members
    Your professional contacts, their prof. contacts, and their prof. contacts

    People who are your Contacts:
    Your friends who have a direct connection to you
    Your online buddies
    Your family members who have a direct connection to you
    Your professional contacts who have a direct connection to you

  9. Looks like you might have enough here to facilitate a panel or live case study on blogging network communities for the course mini conference Jeffery. It would be really interesting to look deeper into Christina’s example, especially as it has nothing to do with EDUCATION and all to do with community..

  10. I’m not sure if there are blogging communities or whether they are networks. On the whole my experience has been of networks. But when I got involved with the 31 Day Comment Challenge back in May, I felt very strongly like I was a member of a blogging COP – we’re were working together to increase our knowledge of blogging and commenting. Now the challenge is over, that community feel has gone, but I am left with people in my network I can call upon for help etc.

  11. The 31 Day Blog Challenge was devised by professional blogger Darren Rouse. The idea was/is that you carry out activities every day which will help you grow your blog. A load of people did this together last year and a lot of strong collaborative links were made. I did the challenge by myslef early this year, but was supported by people like Sue Waters and Michele Martin who had done it the previous year.

    This year, Sue & co came up with a similar challenge with regard to commenting. This time I was in the ‘know’ and did it will a whole load of people, and we had great fun and like I said, there was a great sense of community.

    Both challenges are great to work through if you are interested in blogging. But it is a lot more fun if you can do them with people. That way you share experiences, tips and learning.

    Here are my experiences both challenges: http://sarahstewart-eportfolio.wikispaces.com/Completed+Projects