On May 30th, 2017 this blog turned 10. A decade of blogging about education technology, open education and assorted bric a brac. This ol’ blog has hung out with me over the course of 3 jobs and a Masters degree.
It wasn’t my first. Geez, I had completely forgotten about that Make Your Own Media blog, from back in a time when the online alt-media label was a leftie commie hippie pinko thing. This hasn’t been my only one. At one time I had a regular little blog network up and running, talking about bikes, being a Dad and Canadian soccer. But this is the one that has stuck through the years and has professionally defined me.
WordPress was at version 1.2, although I think the first instance of the blog might have actually been on b2 or b2evolution.
Things looked a bit different then. Circa 2007.
Actually, not bad. But I was like a kid in a candy store, trying on different themes each day. This one I landed on for a long time (2008-2012).
And then had some fun switching again in 2012. Pretty sure that is Scott Baio.
My first post? Remember that viral video sensation A Fair(y) Use Tale? The subject of post #1 on May 30, 2007. If you go to that blog post, the DotSub video embedded there no longer works (this one does, though).
I imagine there are more than a few broken links in and among the 392 published posts. That’s 39.2 post per year. 3.26 post per month. About one per week for 10 years. That makes me feel good, although the one per week metric is likely skewed by the prolific output early on. Things have slowed over the years.
There are also 119 draft posts.
Top 10 posts (although, I only enabled the WordPress stats package 6 years ago, so likely skewed a bit to newer articles)
You have left 1058 comments (thank you). Spammers have left 13,930 (thanks Akismet).
I could keep going on and on with numbers and screenshots. But those are only the tip of the iceberg about this blog.
Yes. Onto the qualitative.
It is pretty hard to fully grasp how important this blog has been in my professional life.
It began as a way to keep my technical skills up. As a web developer, I was interested in the technology and getting that to work. Setting up my own sites gave me a playground to test, try and learn. Having my own blog, maintaining my own digital identity and taking on the technical maintenance of a domain of my own helped me understand how the web works. I not only played with WordPress, but also cPanel, WHM, DNS settings and a whole host of other technologies that go into maintaining your own site. Yes, it has been frustrating and maddening at times, but I am a better technologist because of it. I gained numerous technical and digital literacy skills by being a participant and not merely a consumer of the web.
It also forced me to learn how to learn using the web as my primary resource. Google problems, find solutions, post in forums. When I had blog questions, you have often been the source of many of the answers.
It was thanks to my first stint at BCcampus from 2004-2006 where I worked with the fantastic Scott Leslie that I was introduced to the EdTech blogsphere inhabited by people like Scott, Brian Lamb, Sylvia Currie, Martin Weller, and D’arcy Norman. Here was a community that I wanted to join & I wanted to participate in. These people were talking and (more importantly) doing really interesting stuff, and blogging seemed to be the natural way to connect with them. This was still very early social media days. Twitter wasn’t really a thing yet. Blogs were where people connected.
In those early days, there weren’t many people reading this blog. There were few comments. Little traffic. But it felt good to have an outlet. To develop a voice. To feel connected to a wider edtech community.
In the fall of 2007, I had my first big a-ha blogging moment. I wrote a post about using Yahoo Pipes to create a D2L widget that pulled in numerous RSS feeds. That is when I discovered the (predominantly Canadian) D2L community as that post got shared and passed around. D2L noticed, and asked me to write an article in their newsletter. Professional win. In the years I was at Camosun, I wrote a few posts about D2L, including some on the infamous Blackboard lawsuit. It was those D2L posts that connected me to the D2L community.
When I started working at Royal Roads, I started writing quite a bit about Moodle and connected with the larger Moodle community.
In 2008, I got a first notice from Stephen Downes (via a blog post from Alan Levine). I was like – whaaaaa? I mean. It’s Stephen friggin Downes who has written a thing or two about blogging. I had articles from my other blogs go viral (as viral as things could go in pre-social media days), but having your work noticed by someone you respect is a validating feeling, especially for someone who felt imposter syndrome at not having the same level of academic credentials as some of my peers. And that was a really fun Lamb mash to make.
It wasn’t my only encounter with EdTech mentors and thought leaders. A real network learning moment happened in 2009 as I was beginning my Masters program. I wrote a post fishing the network for ideas about what essential readings should be on my edtech reading list. I mentioned that one of our assigned books was Tony Bates & Gary Poole and was looking for more suggestions. Who responded? None other than the author of the textbook I was using, Tony Bates. Having someone who literally wrote the book about the field I was a student in respond to my blog post…well, that was pretty special. And illustrated what I still think is one of the most powerful reasons to have learners engage in open networked learning activities. Even though that first interaction was rather transactional, it did make me feel like I was becoming part of the profession – that I was beginning to connect with the peers in my field.
Things have changed in the blogging world in the decade since I began. In the early days, traffic came mostly from referral links – people commenting on their blog about something I had written on my blog. Even today, there is something extra special about writing something that moves someone else to respond and write their own post. To either validate, or push your thinking. It still happens, but not as often as it did a few years ago. Today, most traffic comes from Twitter or LinkedIn.
The act of blogging is also an act of meaning-making. To be able to take these disparate strands of ideas rolling around in your head and create something cohesive is an exercise in the creation of knowledge. Writing forces you to think. And writing in public forces you to think differently. Forces you to be clearer. There are times when a post may take me days even weeks to write. The topics can be a reason to research something deeper. I make a statement, then question myself – is what I wrote true, or just an assumption I have? I often get pulled into research, or down a rabbit hole and blog posts that may have started as one thing morph and take on a different life.
Responding to comments is also a meaning-making activity. While the affirmative validation is nice, I’ve found the ones that gently nudge and push back often help me dig deeper into what I’ve written, either questioning my own perspectives or working hard to validate and defend. You have helped clarify my thinking, probably more than you realize.
Writing this blog has helped me think long and hard about audience. Sometimes I write for a general audience, sometimes for an edtech audience, sometimes for the MOOC audience. Sometimes for the open education audience, and sometimes specifically for friends. Sometimes I write to show gratitude, give thanks and recognize good work and good people. Sometime I write for an audience interested in copyright and Creative Commons. And sometimes I just write for myself. Ok, I write a lot for myself. But rarely do I write something without someone in mind.
This blog has allowed me to promote ideas that are important to me, like the idea of supporting what you use and helping youth develop media and digital literacy skills. And has allowed me to be a bit silly and have some fun (somehow it usually involves something Alan is involved in).
I’m pretty sure this blog has gotten me hired at least once. And I used it as evidence of my work in EdTech for my application into a Masters program.
I guess the wider grand narrative is that this blog has been a central component to my professional digital identity for the past decade. But more importantly, this blog has connected me to a network and to numerous different communities with people who have progressed from commentators to collaborators, mentors to peers, from colleagues to friends. It has been my living proof that the internet is more than Perez Hilton and snark, bad YouTube comments and angry spew. This blog has connected me to much of the good of the internet. It has connected me to you.
Thanks for 10 years.
Note: This’ll be the last EdTech’ish post here. I’ll be moving much of my professional life to EdTech Factotum. This site will have more of some of the other stuff I used to blog about mentioned above. Likely some politics, a lot of soccer, parenting, media criticism and bikes. So, stick around if that is up your alley. Still like to have you here. But if it is mostly EdTech, OpenEd, online learning and that stuff, EdTech Factotum is the spot to be. On Twitter, Facebook, weekly newsletter and, yes, blog.