So despite my absence in the blogosphere I have spent more time than I care to admit in front of the computer in the last six months. That’s the problem. After spending 6-10 hours a day working on projects and tasks that I am paid to do I have no motivation or inspiration to spend my ‘free time’ sitting in front of this screen. This is significant because the learning I have acquired over the last six months has been grueling and satisfying at times but does not feed the other technically creative side that inspired me to use technology tools in the first place. What would I love to do on this silly machine? I still have two thousand photos that I would enjoy sifting through from my recent trip to Italy. I would like to find some fitness apps that I can download on my iPod touch to monitor pace and distance in running, I would like to extend my editing skills with video and dig deeper into Adobe Premiere. By this time of the day I’m tapped out. So I’m off for a run and then out to celebrate a milestone. I cherish my time away from the keyboard and the screen and I’ll try and figure out a way to carve out the creative pursuits that drew me to this digital world in the first place.
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One of my most irritating memories of Grade 6 was Physical Education classes. We had a teacher who’s idea of PE was a daily regimen of jogging and Netball. We never experienced a game of tag, dodgeball, or capture the flag. The ubiquitous metal climbing gym (that adorned all the Vancouver schools of the 1970s that were later deemed as “death traps” by risk analysis consultants) remained entombed in chains against the gym wall for the entire year of 1976.
The only thing worse than jogging in the Vancouver drizzle for ten months of the year was squinting through the sweat and freezing rain at my PE teacher who would just stand on the sidewalk in her long wool trench coat looking like she was waiting to take her seat at an opera rather than jogging herself and in turn modeling for her students how to develop physical fitness and a love of sport.
Why do I bring up this annoying memory? Well I have an opportunity to show a few people the value of blogging as a reflective, connecting, creative activity; however, if I am not willing to sustain a blog myself then I might as well don my own comfy coat find a place on the sidewalk and watch those I’m working with blog around me. Sorry Mrs R…..from 1976 I won’t be joining you. I am going to carve out the time to write.
For the last couple of years I have been part of the 90% of people who interact with blogs by simply observing the online dialogue. This is experience is contradictory to my face to face interactions in which I find myself comfortably and actively involved in small and large group discussions. I am a true extrovert and thrive in environments where I am meeting new people but in an online environment I am surprisingly guarded. I have been trying to figure out this inconsistency and here’s what I discovered so far.
Sometimes the prospect of contributing a reply or question to a blog feels like I am crashing a dinner party. This is because some blogs can appear to be cliquish if the same people are responding to the the blog posts week after week. It’s a little intimidating to post or respond if there is an ongoing pattern of communication between a few contributors. The online environment benefits specific communication styles that are concrete, direct and analytical. For those of us who are visual and relational communicators it takes an unpredictable amount of time to determine how and when to communicate ideas online because the visual parameters that provide clues about unspoken social mores are not available.
And just what are the rules?
Unlike many online bulletin boards, and forums that usually include a FAQ section that outlines the acceptable structure and content of the discussion, blogs don’t provide an introductory space for those who are reading blogs for the first time. The blog space is a much more individualized space, a little like walking into someone’s home. Some guidance about how to actively engage in the space would be more motivating for those of us who are content to just read.
How do we lure lurkers to say something?
Here’s a couple of ideas I’m going to try to integrate with my own blogs:
Frequently invite people to respond and provide several possible ways to respond. Comments, questions, jokes, best title, caption, web links or even one word.
In the “About” section of my blog I am going to provide information about how people can interact. If it is an active blog maybe describe not only myself but who a little information about the frequent contributors.
How about you? Are you more comfortable lurking? If yes, why?
What other strategies could be used to encourage active engagement with a blog?
I didn’t get the relevance of blogging. I initially judged it as a narcissistic pursuit for socially challenged people. Then I read a blog entry by Scott Leslie that resonated with me. He described an insightful model of change that reflected the challenges and cravings I faced when seeking to learn and discover new directions and broader perspectives. Change, change, change. This is the inevitable beat in life and the way in which we interact with change is what makes understanding this process fascinating. After regularly reading a few blogs I eventually started one of my own about photography. A year later I am prodding myself to go a little deeper with my public reflections about learning. Let’s see what happens.