Happy 9th birthday! (a few thoughts on blogging and online learning)

9th birthday cake

Today is Dangerously Irrelevant’s 9th birthday. That’s a long time in blogging years (sometimes I feel ancient even though I’m not that old yet). Most of the educators whose amazing voices inspired me in those early days are no longer blogging. A few of us continue to write and, of course, new voices have joined us. And left us.

Over the past nine years I’ve learned some things about blogging specifically and about social media generally. Here are a few random thoughts that strike me this morning…

  • The death of the comment. Blog comments used to be the ties that bound us together. It was not uncommon for us early education bloggers to receive dozens – and occasionally hundreds – of comments. That deep, rich discussion was exhilarating and spurred us to think and write even more. Today we’re lucky to get a few tweets. The growth of different writing and sharing outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Medium, tumblr, YouTube, etc.), the overall greater number of voices that have diffused online mindshare, and the rise of both shorter-form feedback mechanisms (likes, tweets, shares) and large, well-funded corporate and/or group blogs all have reduced the on-blog interactivity that many of us individuals used to see. I don’t lament this state of affairs since my work is arguably shared more than ever but I confess that I remain extremely grateful for every comment that I receive and do my best to respond to as many as possible.
  • Lack of attribution. My stuff gets ‘stolen’ all the time. I had a dustup last year with a very prominent writer / speaker whom I discovered had used my material almost-verbatim in numerous paid presentations and a published book, including proprietary material for which I had gotten special copyright permission to use. There was no possible way for the use to be accidental since it was clearly modified ‘just enough’ in a few places to be slightly different. We had a few exchanges on the matter and I moved on. On a smaller scale, I see things that I have said or written all over the place, often without attribution or credit. So I was sympathetic to Shelly Sanchez Terrell’s recent post calling out a prominent online educational leader for improper attribution (and Doug Peterson’s excellent concurrence). This individual is fairly notorious for playing fast and loose with attribution so it was good to see the person being called to account. Shelly was kind enough to do it anonymously – even though the person didn’t necessarily deserve it – and I’ve already seen some attempts by this individual to both remedy the specific instance in question as well as be more thoughtful in general. Personally, I decided long ago not to worry too much about this (with the exception noted above), figuring that I had bigger things to worry about than whether a few of my ideas and statements – which I want out there floating around – were properly attributed. That’s a personal decision and I completely understand others’ desire to take a different stance. Hopefully we all will remember the importance of proper attribution and will model for other educators and students this important linchpin of the Internet. 
  • What’s important. Voice is important. Passion is important. Authenticity is important. Helpfulness is important. Trust is important.
  • Kindness. Despite almost a decade in this social media space, I continue to be astounded by the kindnesses that educators extend to each other on a daily basis. Our sharing, our support, our willingness to lend a helpful hand or a critical eye or a sympathetic shoulder… all are commendable. Despite the occasional hiccups and bumps in the road that inevitably occur, our online sharing and connection spaces generally are serving us well. Keep learning from, helping, and encouraging each other!
  • Refusal. Numerous educators still refuse to participate in our online, networked communities of practice, even as lurkers. The belief that one can be an adequate educator these days without tapping into the vast resources that are being shared by role-alike peers continues to confound me. A few magazine subscriptions that rarely get read, the occasional conference, and usually-useless professional development sessions are insufficient for the demands of our times. We must do better at getting our refusenik peers on board.

I continue to be grateful daily for this blog. It has opened up uncountable opportunities and I have learned incredible amounts from our dialogues and resource sharing. Thanks for all that you contribute to this online space. Thanks for being loyal readers. And loyal commenters.  😉

Image credit: Cake, The Parasite

14 Responses to “Happy 9th birthday! (a few thoughts on blogging and online learning)”

  1. Congratulations on reaching this milestone.

    I read your thoughts each time you post thanks to RSS. Your “random thoughts” resonate with me so much that I wonder if we are doppelgangers in mind!

    Keep on keeping on!

  2. Happy 9th birthday. That’s a lifetime in blogging.

    I think blogs have declined, in competition with other posting formats like Facebook and Twitter, because blog posts take longer to write, require thought and editing to be effective, and time and thought to read. People can read a tweet instantly and most Facebook posts in a few seconds, and composing them is only slightly slower. They can slap out a sound bite response equally quickly, and everyone gets the illusion of communication and community because such posts generate 30 instant responses. The blog format requires more work because it is more thoughtful. For myself, I would rather read fewer thoughtful blogs than a hundred tweets about what someone had for lunch….

    That people steal one’s ideas is annoying, especially (as sometimes has happened to me) people quote my theory back to me. But I’d rather have my ideas win the field and become common sense than worry too much that people know I was the first one to say it.

    I always try to attribute things I say in print, but I confess I sometimes forget to do so in casual conversation. The problem is, after I’ve had that conversation 12 times, I mention it in class, and after using that in my lecture for five years, I think that was my idea all along. So am a bit sympathetic to those forget when ideas originated. It’s usually easy to tell the people who slip up from those who are outright stealing….Just as it’s pretty easy to spot who downloaded their paper from the internet.

    Anyway, I love this blog. Like Ashley said, it’s often like you’re reading my mind, only in my case you generally say things more articulately.

  3. Congratulations on the ninth birthday, Scott. I enjoyed reading this post, as I do with all yours, to which I subscribe. Your first point about the “death of the comment” got my conscience on overdrive. I felt all kinds of guilt knowing that I’m not a frequent replier. I’m more of a nodder, retweeter, and mover-on. But, you’ve nailed the state of the nation in that observation.

    Your other point about refusal is incredibly significant. I don’t know how a non-connected educator can even think about making a claim of being on the cutting edge without the strength of an active learning community behind them.

    Kudos on hanging in there for the first nine years and I hope that you wisdom and insights continue for at least another nine.

  4. Congratulations on 9 years and thanks for all the wonderful posts over the years.

    I have had a rash (well for me a rash) of comments on recent blog posts of mine. Most of them from other bloggers. Regardless of who leaves the comments I really appreciate them because the add much value to the post, to the conversation and to me personally.

    I do wish more people participated though. We need to share to learn and grow.

  5. Hey Scott,

    Thanks for your modeling over the years! I appreciate all of the efforts you take to share your thoughts and learning with your fellow educators. I value your blog and our friendship! Looking forward to staying connected for nine more years…

    Best Regards!


  6. Congratulations Scott on being one of the “old folks” in the edublogosphere (at least as we used to call it..). My roots go far back as well and I’ve been thinking some of these same thoughts as you. This is especially true around commenting. I have to admit, that this has never been a strength of mine. Years ago I made a commitment to myself that I would try to leave 1 comment a day. That lasted about a month. The loss of comments to drive the conversations deeper are definitely a loss.

    I struggled to write long form on my blog last year, beginning to see the space as becoming more irrelevant. But I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking over the last few months and have recommitted myself to writing. It’s where I think best and where I can dig the deepest into other people’s heads. I’ve rebuilt my RSS reader (instead of solely relying on twitter for referrals) and have been more active.

    9 years from now, I’m curious to see where we’ll all be. (retired?)

  7. Congratulations. I discovered your blog only this past year, when I started my own and discovered social media for teachers. I will 2nd your thoughts on those who refuse to participate in social media. I began teaching before Twitter and blogging, and I see how helpful both can be especially to beginning teachers. But also how energizing social media can be for teachers who are “burnt out,” or fed up with their students or their districts. Engaging with others online can help.

    I also really appreciate what you said in particular about comments on blogs. Since beginning my own–and getting precious few comments–I have begun commenting more on others’ blogs when something really strikes me. I feel that a comment should be used to (1) show appreciation for what the author has written. (2) continue the dialog by offering another point of view, asking a question or sharing a related resource. So I suppose this comment falls under #1. I do wish more would comment on blogs, because I feel this helps the blogger engage more with a specific audience. And for those who don’t blog themselves, it’s a way to get ideas “out there” without the tremendous work involved with creating a blog. Thanks again for your thoughtful work and congratulations on 9 years. I am almost done with year 1 and the thought of 9…wow!

  8. Thanks, everyone, for chiming in here. It’s always great to get a few comments when you blog about the general lack of blog comments! 😉

    Let’s keep sharing with each other. And dialoguing with each other. And pushing each other to be different and better. I don’t think Twitter can do that in the same way as longer-form blogging/commenting can…

  9. Happy 9th birthday! It all gets back to why you blog. Twitter and Facebook are good (sometimes) for quick answers to questions or tips but don’t provide the same extent of reflective learning you achieve by publishing posts and leaving comments.

    One of my most commented posts was a post about comments (Comments Count) from 2009. I’m not sure if I wrote that same post today if it would achieve the same number of comments.

    Here’s to the next 9 years!

  10. The death of the comment, indeed.Your mention of it reminded me that I haven’t been commenting on teaching blogs much; more on Maker blogs and magical/occult blogs lately. I got tired of waiting for the teaching community to hang out with me, really.

    My blog has received over 10,000 comments since 2009. But when I look at the stats, I see that ‘internal comments’ — that is, links from one article on the blog to another —and that those comments are essentially ‘me’ commenting on my own stuff. That amounts to about 2/3s of all of the comments on my site.

    More realistically, I’ve averaged about 20 comments a month from outsiders… which amounts to about 1400 comments on my WordPress site over six years… except that about 1/5 of those comments come from the LiveJournal import years from 2003-2009. 1400/5*4= 1100-ish comments in 6 years, or under 200 a year, or under 20 a month. As opposed to spam advertising, which amounts to thousands of comments a day.

    Yeah, good commenting is dead. 🙁

  11. Congratulations on 9th years of thoughtful commentary! Thanks for all of the thought provoking posts. While I very much enjoy reading the comments on educational, and they never fail to enhance my learning, I must confess I rarely submit them. Shame on me for only sharing my thoughts with my husband who occasionally nods his head and comments “if you say so”. My goal is to share more, question more, learn more!

  12. I’ve been thinking about this a little more since I left my first comment on here.. (and subscribed to all of the other ones). I’m wondering if we need to teach teachers to leave comments just like we teach kids how to leave comments. I keep a list of comment starters in my classroom for my students to use. I wonder if we need to do the same for teachers to get them back into the habit of leaving comments. How are we teaching this skill to students when we seem to have lost it ourselves?

  13. Just stumbled onto your blog from twitter; looks like I’ve got some catching up to do! What you said about the refusnik educators resonated with me. It’s tough to convince colleagues to go outside of their .6 of an hour daily prep time. They refer to me as the techie, and some think that somehow edutech know-how just magically appears, not that I work on it. Others caution me to not go outside of paid prep time (union rationale…won’t get into that here!). I’ve been blogging for some time now, (not 9 years – congrats by the way), and I rarely get comments.

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