Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Graham's Learning Network

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jul 05, 2006

In response to Graham Wegner's request for feedback from his learning network:

What I have found over the years is that online writing, including blogging, can't be something special you set aside time to to, but instead, must be something you do as part of your everyday activities.

What that means, in practical terms, is that whenever I am reading - and I do the bulk of my reading online - I have a blog window open, ready for a quick comment of summary.

I find this is especially important for the type of blogging I do. The bulk of my posts are short item summaries and commentary. This is because my blog is also my resource library - if you look at my resources page you can find about 10,000 items I have posted over the years.

But for a summary to be accurate or a comment insightful, I need to remember, in fair detail, the item I just read. This means that the best time to blog about it is as I read it, or at the very least, as soon as I have finished reading it.

Over time, my reading and blogging time has fit into the routines of my life. For example, when I get up I like to watch the news and read my email while I have breakfast. This is done with a couple of blog windows open, one for my news blog and one for my regular blog.

Another big part of my method is that I do my other work online. For example, I write various research reports, essays and other articles as part of my day-to-day work. I post almost all of these online, and they become part of my blog. Or I'll post links I dig up doing the research, and they become part of the blog.

When I was learning Ruby on Rails, for example, instead of documenting my experience in a private or internal paper, I blogged it, turning my efforts into a four part article. This way I could describe my work, inform others curious about Ruby, and best of all, provide valuable feedback to the Ruby development community (some of whom were dismissive, but the majority of whom were appreciative).

Some of my most popular articles have evolved this way. When I was writing a background paper on RSS for a group of university and commercial partners working on the eduSource project, for example, I took my article and posted it on my site. An Introduction to RSS for Educational Designers.

Blogging isn't just about blogging. It isn't just about writing some stuff online. Blogging becomes most effective when it becomes a way of doing other things, when you take some of the hobbies or work you would normally do in the privacy of your home or office and share the writing - yes, in its raw, natural state - with the world.

It becomes, in this way, not an extra thing that I do, but rather, the way I do the things that I do.

This comment, for example, began as a comment, but is now a blog post. Why? Because I was reading my RSS feed after my evening walk and just before getting ready to listen to the ball game, Graham's post caught my eye, I found I had something to say, I took a few minutes to type it up, and now I have something to share.

It might be a little nothing. But then again, it might be just that something that inspires another article, a day's work, or a career.

Who knows? It has certainly happened to me.

(Oh, and in the best tradition of blogging, this post may be used for any purpose whatsoever - readers are encouraged to reprint, rewrite, repurpose, fold, spindle, mutilate and pass forward this bit of writing.)

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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