If you ain’t a feed, I don’t read

This post is part confession, part request, part exploration.

The Confession: If you don’t blog but have some significant ideas, learning, teaching to share, I likely may not know about your or even follow your work. Which is to say that my RSS aggregator has become the primary means by which I learn. During my time at BLC, I was privileged to listen to Marco Torres and his students talk about their work. I had heard of Marco before but only through the blogs of others. To my knowledge Marco doesn’t blog. He has great stuff, phenomenal stuff to share but I don’t tend to use his resources as much as I should because he doesn’t blog. Only when others attend a conference where he is speaking am I reacquainted with his good work. I’m introduced to books, music and ideas this way. I certainly don’t think this is a good thing to rely so heavily on my network but with RSS, I get a better sense of who people are, what type of work they are doing and am apt to use their work more in my learning and sharing. Blogging allows even authors to share their work beyond the scope of their book. Case in point is the Freakonomics blog. I loved the book and the writings of Levitt and Dubner and am happy to follow their adventures via their blog. It keeps the work of their book fresh in my mind. They continue to expand on their original ideas and of course allows me to contribute as well. I feel a part of the learning in a much more invested way.

The Request: Please blog. That means folks like, Marco Torres, Tim Tyson, Marc Prensky, (hasn’t blogged in a year never allowed for comments) and Dan Pink (he does blog but should do more and without comments is it really a blog?)….I could go on. Blog because it adds a personal touch to your work. Blog as an extension of your work. Blog to market yourself. Read Naked Conversations if you don’t believe me. Don’t tell me you don’t have time. You all spend lots of time in great offline conversations and experiences, simply bring these online. People are interested. I don’t have the time to check your websites periodically to see if you’ve got something new. I’m being selfish but you have to  come to me. That’s what RSS is for!

On a side note, do these people even subscribe to any feeds? Will they know I’ve challenged them to blog? My guess is no.

The Exploration: I had this discussion with Will on the bus and he told me that I’m in the minority in terms of where I get my learning but I’m wondering how else we can stay connected to the great work out there without blogs and RSS? If RSS is the Killer App that many claim it to be, when it takes off as email did, will that force folks into blogging? That’s maybe a reach but I’m trying to figure out how else people will be able to have the knowledge and understanding of important work or will people simply choose a small number of people and ideas to focus as they have done prior to all the web 2.0 stuff?

I’m just saying, this is how I learn. It’ maybe not the best way but I in our world, I don’t know how else.

I need you to be a feed before I read.


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  • I agree with you 100%. Susan Ohanian is on my list of should be blogging but isn’t. So is Jamie McKenzie. As a result, I don’t read their work as often.

    Take care,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner-MGuhlin.net

  • I so agree about the learning that comes from RSS (I have both a series of education feeds and running feeds to support my running habit!) My blogging has been mostly posts of ideas (and pointers to other blogs) for my teachers, but I want to encourage them to begin communicating their ideas as well.

  • And the other really good thing about RSS is that it elevates ordinary blokes like me into the conversation. Not blogging if you have lots to say educationally is a big misread of where communication and technology is these days.

  • Ditto with the above comments. I love RSS and all the information it brings to me. My frustration as a principal is that I can’t get others to buy into the RSS world. I would much rather use my blog for school news and for discussing school-related issues, but parents and teachers are not going there enough for it to be successful. I am still writing an old-fashioned newsletter to parents because if I relied solely on my blog, most of the parents would not receive important school news and information. In addition to the newsletter, I write in my blog, and often I write similar about topics which is more work for me, and wastes valuable time. The blog should be my main vehicle for communication, but if parents won’t use RSS, they will miss a lot and then complain that I do not communicate well with them!

    I think the mass-usage of RSS is still a few years away, even though it is such a great application. 5 have tried to teach and persuade parents to use RSS, but most still don’t. I can’t even convince my wife! Why are people so resistant to this, especially now that most everyone has accepted email as an effective means of communication?

  • I had this discussion (yet again) this weekend as I showed the friends and relatives of my daughter-in-law, (who’s headed off to work in an orphanage in Ecuador), her new blog. Most people seem to be afraid of the “volume” of information they might pull in. They don’t seem to be aware that your RSS reader can be almost dynamic, adding and dropping feeds as your interests change. New reading skills need to be taught, so people can learn how to manage the information flow by skimming, tagging, editing feeds.

  • Dean–My sentiments exactly!! I had always considered myself a person in the know. As a school library media specialist (teacher-librarian!), I feel it is my job to be up on newest trends in education. By reading my RSS daily, I have grown knowledge wise by leaps and bounds. So what do we do? Continue to share the wealth of information. Just today i added my blog address to my signature file in hopes of getting interest. Maybe I should also add a link to a reader?? Since many of my contacts love email, I can subliminally get them to read blogs, and perhaps subscribe to a few! Great post. I’m 100% in agreement with you.

  • I agree. I spend more time in Google Reader than at any other site or tool – save Twitter via TwitBin which gets equal use. Anything I read, blogs, professional development, news of interest to me (local, Major League Baseball) – all comes to ME. I also try to publish as much as I can – either directly through my blogs or through resyndicating articles I find of particular interest via Google Reader tags (for others wanting a “best of” type list) see: http://tinyurl.com/3d5s8d

    I’d like to add to your comment though – can we please STOP WITH THE LISTSERVS!!! The distribution of messages should occur through a discussion board with an RSS feed. mailbucket.org also allows email to rss – which I’ve started trying to use for a view listservs I’m on – but with tools like Ning.com that have community blog aggregator with an RSS feed and a discussion board with an RSS feed; the idea of using a listserv baffles me.


  • Oh I agree! I hate listservs – they, and all their relatives, are so static…thank you!! I concur!!!

  • Are you not the lead administrator in charge of those teachers? Tell them they must, provide the URL to parents, and be done with it. If people want to know, they will go to whatever site you use. If they don’t know and it was posted…oh well….

  • I do agree but…. we need to bringing everyone into this wonderful echo chamber we have going here. If people don’t blog, we must encourage them to join the conversation. If they have a blog, but no RSS, we must educate how to be more efficient.
    I too don’t read anything outside of my RSS. But it wasn’t always so. We were all beginners once. I am, of course, a perpetual newbie, but you knew that…
    Who did you pull into the echo chamber this week?

  • Durff (and Dean) I pulled my sister in today!! She is flabbergasted by the possibilities. She is a nurse practitioner/educator. One at a time…one at a time.

  • @Dave Sherman – Dave, I am wondering if you somehow could add a link to your blog from your school homepage. Would that generate more traffic and obviate the need for an RSS feed? The link could be included NEXT to “What’s New” and you could ditch the “Today’s Weather” link because you have the weather icon at the bottom of the page!

  • Sorry for self-citation, but this morning I got published a paper just about this (with a bias on development, but the core subject being the same): the role of blogging (and other practices) on one’s identity and knowledge diffusion:

    The personal research portal: web 2.0 driven individual commitment with open access for development

  • Devil’s Advocate

    My work environment uses email and messaging (as in messages to and from specific people, not twittering) heavily (and it works just fine too) I am on a range of e-lists, and they integrate nicely into the day, I get quite a lot of serendipitous thought out of that. I have the rest too, the whole RSS bit, but I cant pay attention day to day, the mail is enough. I catch up on Sundays, and thats what the blogosphere is to me, it is like the Sunday supplements, interesting, thought provoking, but not quite “citable”. Few bloggers argue their points right out, it is like a staffroom conversation rather than an fully worked out article, with a few august exceptions. And all credit to the importance of that kind of conversation, I read them avidly, on Sundays. But, on weekdays I can’t move away from the central role of email and messaging just yet….

  • Devil’s Advocate,

    I appreciate your views and recognize their validity. Obviously in terms of day to day or localized learning, RSS and blogs may not be all that important (yet, IBM, Google, Microsot rely heavily on blogs for their workers to build culture and learning). My post is a bit more directed at folks who already are trying to reach a large or global audience. If they don’t blog, I will likely not find out about them. That’s fine but I think the numbers like me may be growing…maybe not, I don’t have any data just perception but admittedly my perception is fairly narrow.

    Also, for me RSS and bloggers are certainly not my Sunday supplement but rather my daily news.

  • Devil’s Advocate – very narrow, esp if you don’t have the nerve to identify yourself.

  • Devil’s Adovcate,

    To me there is also a big difference in the form and content of email vs. blogs. Even e-lists. Emails are generally for quick, let’s-get-things-done type content. List-servs perhaps do have a more conversational tone but the problem is no one owns it. That’s okay for some things but I prefer to follow an person and their journey of learning over time. There writing is in context not simply interspersed among others viewpoints. Agreed, some blogs are like staff room conversations but I l like many of those conversations and people. Not all but I choose the ones I prefer. But lest you think all are not thought out, try reading Konrad Glogowski. http://www.teachandlearn.ca/blog/ I have to read his stuff about 3 times before I get it all….very deep thinker. Add to that list: Clarence Fisher, Darren Kuropatwa, George Seimens and Ewan Mcintosh just to name a few.
    The power of blogging is that ideas are often connected and expanded upon. That rarely happens in emails. And again in listserves it’s hard to break away from the discussion nicely.

    I still see your point but it’s not the way for me anymore.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Mrs Durff
    If I am playing Devil’s Advocate, attempting for the sake of the discussion to inject another discordant view into this often self-congratulatory “echo chamber”, then why should I wish to associate my name in the archives with this view. I do not espouse the views I have posted (hence the nick) and don’t wish to be associated with them, but I think they should be heard and I guess those that really hold them are busy elsewhere.
    The length of your comment is interesting, it is like a conversational put-down, and common in the comments section of many blogs.

  • Possibly because your ethics would demand transparency and responsibilty? Maybe it is possible to word this view differently so your doubly hidden true views are more readily seen? “If you’re not willing to lose your job, you’re not going to be able to do your job.” This quote can apply here. I do not consider myself self-congratulatory, in fact when i received an ‘A’ on a recent course, i congratulated the twitterverse because my networked earned it, not I. Please alert me if i am otherwise.
    Ever Transparent Durff

  • Devil’s Advocate

    It probably depends on the listservs you are on. They can develop a character of their own in which intense discussion ise interlaced with more conversational interaction. You get to know people with time, you participate in the discussions you want to and when the discussion is over for you you can say so:) I havent found that to be a problem. I agree with you about the blog of proximal development, it is an interesting process, as I say there are exceptions. I guess what some of those resistant to blogging are uncertain about or resistant to, is the sense that after spending half an hour reading blogs you often have the sense of four five interesting ideas, not yet followed through, and these people would rather spend that time reading a fully developed version of one of them. Agreed about following the individual over time, but we do this through their other publications too.
    I make these comments because the blogosphere often seems to think, “if everybody knew about this wonderful thing than it would all change”. It probably takes work to understand why people dont jump happily on to the bandwagon, rather than simply branding them narrow or slow 🙂

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Where is the lack of transparency? In this context I have made my view and my motivations clear, and already have an identity, that of Devil´s Advocate. Would you like a CV?

  • So, Devil’s Advocate, will you tire of this charade and reveal your name or shall I?

  • Hi Dean,
    I’m certainly not going to argue with you about your choice (or source) of reading material.

    Your exploration, however, is more open. To me, it’s just a matter of time, and RSS is still very early technology for most people. i’d say it’s far from a killer app. Even email is not mainstream, even in the US. You and I may obsessively check our email/blog reader/twitter every few minutes, but lots more people don’t. They win, because we have to meet them where they live, in the least common denominator of communication.

    People write books because people read books. If one changes, the other will too. There may be a long tail, but it’s going to be long time before a long tail can wag a far away dog.

    It’s also likely that a person who is not blogging is simply shrewdly judging their audience and prioritizing their time. The numbers just don’t support jumping on the blog bandwagon unless 1) it’s personally rewarding to you, or 2) your intended audience is a segment that’s already there. For example, blogging about using blogs is a slam dunk. Blogging about video games or video making or running a school may be less so.

  • Sylvia,

    Great point…especially in regards to books. I think you’ve hit a key point here.

    Yet, I rethink Naked Conversations and there’s still something there about marketing as well, what does it hurt to blog? It can’t be seen as a waste of time if you are one trying to get a message across…Write the book and blog!

  • One problem that I’ve only just discovered about RSS, is that it doesn’t seem to be possible to redirect it…

    I’ve had to move my blog, due to a server breakdown, and consequently the decision to move all staff websites to the same server (i.e. a new one).
    While it’s been possible for them to set up a redirection from the old blog’s home page to the new one, people who just have the RSS feed & nothing else can’t get to find the new URL. They will just think I’ve gone silent unless they try to find me.

    Had I known it was going to die, then I could have ensured that the last post in the old blog was the new URL, but I didn’t.

    Unless anyone knows of a way of redirecting an RSS feed??

  • Emma – usually people post a goodye, we’ve moved on the old blog for people to change their RSS, I’m not sure what one does if no one can access an old blog. Did you Twitter this question? I bet someone knows!

  • Hi Mrs D,
    Yes, most of what I’ve found assumes that you’d planned the blog move, not that the server keels over … and tech support rescue & move the files, & set up the redirects, but you can’t access the old material to generate that final post…

    Twitter – I’ve not got into that, so even if I were to have an account, I’d be Billy-no-mates there!

  • Let me ask for you.

  • I went to David Warlick’s blogging workshop at NECC07 this year (end of June) and I have been totally hooked on blogging! The best tool I have is my rss! I love adding and organizing my feeds! Reading them is so invigorating! I feel like for the first time since my masters program (I graduated in Dec. 2005), I am actually stimulating my brain again! I have learned so much and I can’t wait to share what I am learning with everyone around me! I’m driving everyone crazy with all the new lingo!

  • one wish granted … http://www.marcprensky.com/blog/

  • Dean, I shared this same view with a group of National Writing Project teachers at UT-Arlington this past week. As a result, we went through the process of setting up a Bloglines account for everyone present. Then they took off on their own. They went to my Bloglines list, exported my list, and imported into their own accounts. Did you notice a bump in subscribers last week about Tuesday or so? They then spent the rest of the morning moving through each of my feeds deciding on their own if they found it useful or not. It gave them a good start and a great conversation as a group. Noticing how one post gave links to other great posts by other wonderful educators really seem to light their fires with RSS.

    It is easy to sit back and think that everyone should know about this stuff already. They don’t. Our education programs in universities are not teaching them these things (some do, I know, most don’t). It is a shame. I think it should be taught in late middle school or early high school to help build and create lifelong learners. That is the type of teacher I want to hire. That is the type of teacher I want teaching my son. Maybe we should add that to the resume:

    Bloglines/Google Reader feed address: ____________________________

    When they come and ask us what the heck it means, we know where the app will reside. Harsh, I know.

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