The Question Should be: Why Are You *Not* Blogging

Editor's Note

This was originally posted to Alan Levine's blog [] on September 1, 2012.

dog on a laptop
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo [] shared by me [] I give myself credit to modify!

I don’t really have to explain why I blog. Actually I am compelled to. I cannot stand to NOT blog. It’s easy, and as I said in my first post, April 19, 2003, on a then self hosted MovableType blog- I Blog Therefore I Am [].

It is for me, primarily, how I think through ideas, issues, and stuff that makes me want to puke. It is as much a part of my cognitive process.

In last week’s pre class discussion for the Program for Online Teaching Certificate Class [] I kind of jumped on someone in the chat who said “I do not have time to blog”. I was probably kind of rude, but I refuse to buy that as an excuse. It’s a copout.

Yes, I know people are busy. But if you give me a detailed log of everything you do in a week, a detailed chronology, I will find the time for you. What you are really saying is, “It is not important enough for me to prioritize what I do” Why not just own that? or “Although I am delighted to consume and reuse open content and information from the nwtworked world, I am not really interested enough in contributing back.”

Kids have a name for that– “stingy”.

Here is how people operate, we make time to do things that are important to us.

First of all, the thing I assure people spend a lot of time doing is email. Let’s review what to write email.

  • Spend a little time thinking about what you will write.
  • Open a piece of software (or web site).
  • Click Compose
  • Write out your email, format it, maybe paste in some URLs and/or open a file on your computer, and add it as an attachment.
  • Click Send

You know what you just did? That is the same amount of effort it takes to blog.

You what people spend a lot of time on email; doing? Forwarding links. Thats a stupid place to share. Or get this, scheduling meetings. C’mn you have seen this, or even done it yourself. It could take easily 25 emails to schedule a meeting between 4 people, when it could be done with 1 email and a tool like

But you will say, “It takes me hours to write a blog, I do several drafts, let it sit, comeback days later….”

That is not blogging. That is composing a paper. That is thinking about a blog as a highly published final piece of literature.


Blogging should be conversational. It should be half baked. Or less. It should (in my case) contain typos –because it is not meant to be (IMHO) a published journal article- it is your own personal thinking, shared out loud.

If you are spending that long writing a blog post, then you are wasting time. And you are blogging wrongly.

Let me tell you how I blog.

I don’t use a computer.

As I am driving, walking, hiking, biking, sitting drinking my coffee, I am often composiong the blog in my head. i get an idea of something I want to write about (like this), and by the time I sit down to the computer, its really a matter of dictating it (well sort of, I do a lot of rewriting as I type). But the idea, or the seed of it, is mostly done. I spend more time finding photos (actually I do not, I usually can locate, usually in much less than 10 minutes, the creative commons photo I want uaing compfight []. In fact the photo above, I searched on “dog computer” as tags, and ironically one of the photos was my own. But thats a different story.

Do you know what you were thinking about on a date, like, say September 30, 2005?

I will wait.

See if you can recall.

Are you having trouble?

I don’t because I have an outdoor brain — (wow that was a blog heavy day).

It has been a long time since I nodded when reading (maybe it was listening to) the IT Conversations podcast where Jon Udell spoke about his notion of narrating the work we do [] (I was also listening because he was talking to a colleague Hilary Mason [] who is now a big shot in the tech world).

The fulcrum of my talk last week at the Open Education Conference was observable work. I first started thinking about this back in 2002, when I included this Dave Winer excerpt in my review of Radio UserLand:

We’ve been using this tool since November, internally at UserLand. We shipped Radio 8 with it. When we switched over our workgroup productivity soared. All of a sudden people could narrate their work. Watch Jake as he reports his progress on the next project he does. We’ve gotten very formal about how we use it. I can’t imagine an engineering project without this tool.

Since then I’ve spoken a few times about the idea that by narrating our work, we can perhaps restore some of what was lost when factories and then offices made work opaque and not easily observable. Software developers are in the vanguard of this reintegration, because our work processes as well as our work processes are fully mediated by digital networks. But it can happen in other lines of work too, and I’m sure it will.

But it really has not happened (that was written in 2009, so not that long ago).

So for me, blogging is not about writing for other people (though with syndication and truly open networks, it is a benign and beneficial side product), it’s really for me. Not to be found or anything, but for mw to be working out ideas in a visible space– it just makes sense to me. Why would we not be all doing this?

One of the very first things I heard when I started as a green ed tech rookie, at a Maricopa Community College Ocotillo Retreat in 1992, was “we really want to be able to know who is doing what in Maricopa”. This was not big brother reading your email, but in a large system– but actually any size organization, it is most common that people on one branch or side of it (say in a different camps, department, etc) does not know of innovation work being done elsewhere.

How could one know? I spent years at Maricopa trying different approaches. I even built a system people loved, and we tried real honest approaches like bribery and competition [].

But if we pried free some of that time and effort we lavish on emails, and maybe did regular amounts of publishing in our own spaces, think if the potential for not only informing people in our organization, but our community, our world.

When you send someone, or a group, some useful resource, or an idea via email, how many people gain from that? Is that information easily recoverable? Addressable? Email is the black hole of information, it is where ideas go to shrivel up and die.

I never formulated this coherently, but in my time at University of Mary Washington, I saw a potential for them as an organization, because of their size and familiarity, to become a place that openly writes about all the work they do, not just classes and gung ho tech profs, in the open. Students too. Like everyone doing this.

And has it networked, aggregated, re-aggregated. It is the syndication network that people like Cathy Finn-Derecki and Jim Groom have put in place [], and they are getting closer and closer. They have the platform and infrastructure of [], but frankly, a lot of the department and office pages have a feel of static pages. Or one line posts with links to PDFs.

If you had a place where not only profs were thinking and writing in the open about the work they do, but also staff, admins -those department pages could become living, remixed flows of ideas. The technology is not the problem, it ia an inability to see, and appreciate the power of narrating the work we do.

A department page could become alive with a flow of ideas from individuals, and a school could aggregate from that, and the university as a whole could aggregate from that. It would be a beautiful machine. And I have hopes that it is going in that direction, with the energy that is already flowing out of UMWDomains []

So here is why I blog. It is foolish and informationally selfish, not to.

It is foolhardy in a networked environment, to not give back in some way to the content and information that flows towards you. And you are cheating yourself out of a gift of now only knowing what you did on a given date, but being able to track how your thinking and ideas have evolved over time.

Heck, even cats can blog.

cat on a laptop
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo [] shared by Tabbymom Jen []

If that does not convince you, I am lost.

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