Category Archives: Blogging

week 6 in e-rhet: project: the use of links in personal weblogs

A couple weeks ago, we started the second project in this semester’s E-Rhetoric course: how bloggers use links in personal weblogs. Myers introduces the idea and does some preliminary work on the question in Chap 3 of The Discourse of Blogs and Wikis. Bloggers link to material and websites outside of the blog; the link is one of the features that defines weblogs as weblogs (Myers, chap 2). They use blogrolls as a way of positioning their blog with respect to others – identifying a sphericule – but they also include links in their posts. And, of course, they don’t just write,  Here’s a link!, or copy and paste urls into the post. A cursory glance at a weblog illustrates that bloggers use links rhetorically – to “more or less intentionally influence social attitudes, values, beliefs, and actions,” in S&P’s all-purpose definition of rhetoric.

Myers is not just describing what bloggers do but analysing what they do – and that’s where his work fits in with S&P’s chap 5 on analysis:

In this chapter we help you learn how to do analysis by showing you two parts to this thinking process: (1) naming the parts of a message and (2) looking for rhetorical patterns within and among messages.

To do this, we start with a search model:

Search models are derived from theories about rhetorical communication that identify different rhetorical properties or components of messages (e.g., visual style, type of argument, language style, or parts of a story). Each search model causes you to take a particular point of View when analyzing a message, leading you to focus on particular rhetorical properties and not others. So, different search models will enable you to see different rhetorical properties in a given message, somewhat like sunglasses with different colored lenses. (71)

Our search model is the one that Myers uses in chap 3, in which he starts to construct a taxonomy of how bloggers use links. A specialized vocabulary and specialized concepts mark a search model as a serach model, so the taxonomy will look a little technical at first. For our work, I adapted and organized his taxonomy in the project page Rhetorical Uses of Links in Personal Weblogs. With this taxonomy, we can build on what Myers has found, add to it, and modify and refine it –  according to what we see, using the same lenses that Myers used.

Myers uses another search model inside his own (not uncommon. S&P do it too). Myers discovered that some of the bloggers he was looking at were using links in ways that involved more than straight-to-the-point communication. Bloggers were making jokes with links, misleading readers, and seemingly playing with links, So he drew on Grice’s theory of communication to define a way of working with flouts. Myers covers Grice in chapter 3 but I gave you a link to some more detailed explanation of Grice on flouts so we can use the same search model in our work.

And, finally, I added a category to Myers’s developing taxonomy, What is the link doing rhetorically. Myers noticed that bloggers were using flouts in their links, but other rhetorical critics and casual readers have noticed that bloggers also use rhetorical figures in links. More concisely, they use the link text and the link target to create a rhetorical figure or trope.

For example, I’ve seen an interesting way bloggers will present links in an argument about the value of taking notes:

Don’t believe me? See here, here, and here.

What’s going on here? The links lead to three different quotes each of which gives evidence for the argument. But the “Don’t believe me?” is a rhetorical question, and it’s followed by three links that repeat the same word – a figure of repetition called an isocolon.  (I came, I saw, I conquered). The argument behind this figure is something like this: “There is plenty of evidence available that support my claim. Here are three obvious, self-explanatory examples. Support is so easy to find that it doesn’t warrant doing more than gesturing: here, here, here …”

So, in addition to using Myers’s straightforward categories of what’s being linked to and how the link is interated in the text, we are also taking a focus on the rhetorical moves we see.

This sounds like a lot but because we’re using a method, it’s not. What you need to do is make multiple passes, being methodical in your notetaking.

In the specific blog posts, look at

  • What the rhetor links to
  • How the rhetor incorporates the link into the text
  • How we can characterize the relationship of link context to target
  • What the link is doing rhetorically

And outside of links in the posts, look at blogroll and other links on the page: Are they present? What sites are linked to? How is the sidebar collection titled?

Two more elements go into analysis, and they are here to make the task easier and more robust:

Watch for patterns. Patterns in analyses are detailed in S&P, chap 5, and I also list them on the project page. It’s patterns where things become interesting and signficant.

Record your thinking in notes. Again, this is detailed in S&P. chap 5 and elsewhere. You’re not writing an essay but collecting examples and considerting them. Use the categories and the bullet points in the taxonomy as a starting point, until you can start adding other examples. See a link? Copy and paste the link and surrounding text into your notes page and consider it. Seeking different ways of integrating linktext into the post? Add those to the taxonmy, with a sample to illustrate. You’ll know you’re enaged in the method when you start to add to the options in the taxonomy. Any single link may show up in more than one area, as you consider what is linked to, how the text is handled, the relation of the linktext to the target, and what the link is doing rhetorically. So, make multiple passes as you identify patterns, come across interesting moves, and add to the taxonomy as you work.

In making multiple passes with this search model, you’re doing analysis. This is what it looks like when you’re in the middle of it: messy at first, but becoming more and more refined as patterns start to surface, and as you start to refine and adapt the taxonomy.

Later, when we all have sets of notes, I’ll ask you to refine your ideas by composing a few extended paragraphs from your notes on what you have found so far, a kind of overview, so we can compare findings and prepare to interpret them.

—-
This post was adapted from the presention I gave in class 16 Oct 2014.

notes on reading posts for week 4 in #en3177

I ran in to some interesting comments and comment threads this week.

And a well-used sets of lists

And a prime example of taking a creative approach to a thread in the reading. This post is significant because it shows how to isolate something to work with further, and that the problem can be approached as something broader than academic essay. Not sure what genre this is, but it fills a functional niche: John and Paulo « Weblogs and Wiki Reviews

My comment:

This gets me thinking about genre. It’s not an essay, really, and it’s not a narrative (or maybe it is). It’s like notes, but not just rough notes. Maybe “student notebook” notes? It works on two levels, too. It gives sense to Dewey’s and Freire’s ideas of education, by looking at the two of them together, in comparison. But it also organizes links to other material about them and their ideas. Those are both functions that essays and notebooks are designed to fulfill. So, essay-by-notebook?

Process: Start with a list

Collective Notes on Ch. 9 & 10 | Musings From My Keys

Use a post to come to understand. Rather than stopping with

>mostly because I understood nearly nothing from chapter 10

post anyway! Posting is a way of coming to understand. Have a look at chapter 11: Havalais quoting Doctorow (p. 119): trying to make an idea clear to an audience is a way of coming to think about it. That’s what blogs can do, because while blog posts are public, we don’t expect them to be polished, complete, perfect.

Weekly summaries

Summaries needn’t be thin. We now expect links, images, extended reflection. Set your sites a little higher on those. When you race by the chance to reflect, or turn it into a stand up comedy routine, you blow the opportunity to gain something from composing the reflection.

Its also an audience thing: If you treat the reflection like a blow off, you suggest I should treat it that way, too. So I do. This isn’t a matter of length – although you need to give yourself length to develop the insights – but a matter of attitude towards your own work.

Here’s a well done summary: Week 4: Comments, Use of Blogs Extended, and Manifestos | Jack in the Box – right down to including and placing an image that suggests something is going on. (I don’t know what to make of the image in the context of the post, but I’ll figure that out later.) The summary is detailed enough that Jack places all his work for me and suggests why what he has done is significant, for him, for the class, for now. It’s not a defense of his work, but a consideration. Jack’s comments on posts of other students will influence how I read and evaluate them.

Links: If you don’t link to it in your weekly summary, I may not see it and can’t credit it.

Tags

Not sure what to make of these yet. Tags place the post with others, but also create a curious cloud of suggested, hinted at, relations.

The storm of online learning. « Mineshaft Mind Categories: #en3177 | Tags: 2 Comments

#en3177 Watching the Gatewatchers | BSU Blog Sauce Tagged 

 

 

 

blogging workflow rusty at best

Image by Patrick Ng

Getting back into the habit of regularly posting to this weblog and The Daybook means re-developing a workflow that I have let sit to rust. A workflow I’m think of here is the the pattern of steps (which are recursive) I take as I work through preparing a post and publishing. The idea is that the output of one step is the input for the next, but the focus on input-output sidesteps the processing that goes on during the step, which is the interesting part. I’m stepping back to consider my workflow with the hope that the reflection can help me discover process hangups and better options.

On a laptop

I try to start posts in MarsEdit. If pressed, I’ll use WP’s dashboard, but I’ve gotten used to working in external editors over the years. Drag and drop links. Direct access to flickr, and drag and drop images. View and navigate in a browser while composing in a text editor.

And here’s where my first shot of WD40 is needed: I became rusty using MarsEdit.

But I find using two apps – a browser for searching and reading, and a dedicated editor for drafting – makes the work of aggregating and annotating easier, less clumsy, even when I’m rusty. And that’s generally what I’m doing early in my workflow: pulling stuff together and annotating it. Read, draft, check a link, maybe add the link, repeat. Stop to search a side idea. Consider incorporating an image. I use the lower half of the text editor in MarsEdit as a workspace and scrap area, dragging links, snippets of text, images to the space while I draft in the upper third or so.

And those snippets come from everywhere. The wild web, of course, but also from my Pinboard collection, from the course wikis I maintain; and there’s stuff I’ve tucked away on my Reading List in Safari and in Pocket, plain text notes stored in Simplenote, (recently acquired by Automattic, WordPress’s parent company), and images on flickr; I keep more developed drafts, links, references, and pieces of text in DevonThink on a local machine. If you’re following the bouncing ball, you’ll see that most of these notes are in the cloud – with reason: I can get at them from other computers.

Once posted, I might have to return to the WP dashboard to tweak an image alignment or padding, but that can wait until I have some time to spare.

On a tablet

I use and iPad for reading RSS feeds, reading and responding to email, even updating or editing a wiki page or two. But I haven’t found a graceful way of posting to blogs from the tablet. The constraint is the tapping and switching necessary to moving between sources and draft. Only one window is visible at a time on an iPad, so it’s read, copy, switch app, paste, edit, switch back to check that I have the context right, or to copy the link, or … and I’ve lost track and have to start again.

I’ve tried a couple of apps that include a built-in browser (Blogsy, Writing Kit), but they really don’t address the constraint: Seeing both the source and my draft text on the screen at the same time eases the cognitive burden of composing for me. Might be age, might be the kind of composing I typically do (responding to and incorporating written sources), might be habit of using multiple screens: Even before screens became ubiquitous, I would have a book open next to where I was writing, so I could refer back to the source as I moved forward with the draft. It’s not the app. It’s the screen layout. It’s an issue of modality.

So I don’t bother with apps that use built in browsers. Since I have to switch screens, I’ve found it sounder to switch between a fully-loaded browser (all my bookmarks, bookmarklets, and reading list are at hand) and a dedicated text editor or blogging editor. But I haven’t developed a workflow for mobile blogging yet. I’m still floundering. I’ve been using the WordPress app recently, but I’ve been tempted towards Poster by recent reviews. (Being easily distracted from one tool to the next is a signal I’m still trying to develop a workflow. Blaming the tools.) Some bloggers use a markdown editor for drafts, then move the text into a blogging app for formatting and uploading – mainly to overcome the design constraints of the blogging apps.

The one move that I’m working out is how to get started on a post. Typically, I start with a source – an article I read, a video I see, an email request, or a moment from a class – that drives the need for a response. Getting that first move from its source – browser or email, generally – into the blog editor, with a link, sets the stage for drafting further. If it’s too awkward and convoluted, I may not even bother but email a link to deal with it later on a laptop or desktop. And, right now, it’s pretty convoluted: copy, switch, start a new blog post, paste, switch back, copy the link, switch, paste the link. Then start …

What did I come in here for?

 

back to the WP app

20120810-141542.jpgWordPress has updated its iOS app, so here I am trying it out. So far, so good. It handles placing and uploading images a little better than before, and has better access to coding like links. There’s no fancy workflow switching, as there is in. Blogsy, but that makes for simplicity, really. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe it’s the relaxed state I’m in while writing on an iPad, but i’m finding switching between apps – browser to WP – more suited to working than a top-heavy, all-in-one app.

I’m most impressed with how straightforward it is to size and align an image. The code is clean, and the preview is helpful – but only just helpful. The preview isn’t showing paragraph breaks, and it doesn’t show the text wrapped around the image as it appears in the post. I’m hoping that will be fixed in a small update.

Worth the upgrade, especially as it’s free.

can you get more minimal?

Alt textYes, probably, but this template and its surrounding files – svbtle by ricardorauch – is as minimal on the admin and posting side as it is on the viewing side.

it’s all markdown back here.

That makes text fast and easy to work with. In svtle itself, the editor is not visible: no visible text field, no scroll bars, just type in the white space. And that’s not disconcerting. Because it’s all markdown, I should be able to compose in a plain text editor or markdown editor, and then copy and paste without conversion. The entry page allows previewing – almost unnecessary. Idea is a draft. Public is what it says.

limitations

The limitations are minor. Can place images inline but can’t set alignment or set image size. Can’t set or view tags, categories, or manage the post with respect to other posts. Just edit and format.

workflow

Svbtle is a text editor at root. Go to the wp-svtle page, enter the text, save, preview, whatever. Even publish it to get it out there. Then, now or later, go to the standard wp-admin page to refine image formatting, add categories, tags, manage. The only trick involves saving in svtle before moving to the standard editor so that the markdown conversion is preserved.

and so

While markdown text entry is a charm, I’m used to having some post management tools close to hand – to add a tag and category as I write, to get a sense of how an image will work with a text. If I really want pure markdown, it’s easy enough to use an off-line markdown editor. And the svtle template sacrifices navigation and sidebar information, which is what I use a weblog for.

Still, it’s good to have an option for. say, a special project.

quick post on markdown in markdown: letting go of the formatting

At the opening

markdown and workflow

Now that NV and loads of other iPad and Mac apps support markdown, I’d be best learning to use it. The syntax is nothing new (except that link tag), but what is new is how to move from a markdown editor to, for instance, a weblog.

Looks like writers format using markdown in whatever app they like to write in (NVAlt, IA writer, whatever). They then move the html code generated by the markdown app to their publishing space. Some copy and paste, others email and open. Here for instance, Chase moves from Scrivener to TextMate. He basically just writes in markdown

because it’s so simple to get used to and can be converted to HTML in a click or two. I highly recommend getting familiar with markdown if your a blogger or digital note taker.

fletcherpenny starts in OmniOutliner, and moves towards markdown. Why?

I really enjoy the benefits of being able to create one master source document, with minimal, easy-to-remember formatting, and then being able to use it to create a wide range of final document types. For me, this is much easier than having multiple versions of the same document, and having to hand synchronize them. Additionally, I like the fact that I can write a complex document without paying much attention to formatting, and then let LaTeX fix it up into a nicely formatted pdf.

Rob McBroom wrote an app to convert from markdown to html. He also draws on a tool that renders to pdf.

As more apps include the ability to work with markdown, it’s becoming more and more useful to learn it – and to teach it as general markup language rather than html or xml. An additional aspect of markdown is getting a sense of how composition – and to an extent, design – is separable from production. Markdown can deepen the separation of text from formatting – for good or ill, I guess.

Dairingfireball is the source for markdown.

Looks like my workflow of choice will start in DevonThink. For blogging I would move in MarsEdit or directly into WP. For the wiki, a copy and paste will do it. For moving to rtf or formatting into Pages – I’ll need to look into that. And, of course, this post was written in markdown in NValt, copied and pasted into MarsEdit, uploaded to WP. And while writing in markdown is easy, working directly in MarsEdit can be even easier. It’s a matter of sitting down and working.

update from blogsy

Finally, a good app for blogging from the iPad. Blogsy handles drag and drop images and linking, tags, categories, multiple blogs, saving drafts locally or on the server – all the good stuff. It has a slide out browser, direct access to Flickr photostream and supports searching Google images. Looks like you still have to tweak some code, but Blogsy writes the first draft of the code to work with.

The app uses two modes articulated as sides of a flip-over pane. One side allows writing and code editing. The other shows the formatted post and provides drag and drop inserting of images and links, and heading, list, and paragraph formatting. Write on one side; format on the other. Pretty smart, and easy to get used to.

The biggest pain in blogging on the iPad and phone has been needing to switch between browser and the blogging app. Blogsy mitigates that with a minimal, slide out browser. Open the browser by tapping an icon, locate the page, grab the URL, image, or code, and drag it to the appropriate pane. Images work in a similar way. Tap the Flickr icon and palette with your account opens. Find an image and drag it to the formatting pane. Tap the image to align and resize it. Very nice.

Three dollars. The developers are polling users for features. This is one to buy early and watch it develop.

time to update blogging software

Visit 4West. We Design Your FutureI’ve been using ecto for blogging, and happily, for the last couple of years. I looked at MarsEdit the few times I heard it mentioned, but only now am I ready to move. What won me over was the multi-pane, single-widow design. Flickr integration is a plus. I like the way it handles tags and categories.

So many little niceties. Maybe I’m getting spoiled: I want the niceties.

 

update on blogging with an iPad: big cat in a small bed

I have tried and tried, and for many things, an iPad was enough – reading and annotating books and pdfs, reading and annotating rss feeds, taking notes, drafting and revising single- and multi-page print documents, some management and editing of photos, keeping up with email, twittering, even keeping a local wiki. But for blogging when drawing on multiple sources, it falls flat.

Or, better, I find the iPad limited and awkward when I try to compose a rich blog post, synthesized from a number of sources and using links.  Maybe it’s me. Maybe I have to develop an alternative workflow. A number of bloggers are hopeful about using the iPad fine for their work: The Blogging Herald, Om Malik, Ben Parr at Mashable (although Ben mentions some limitations). Nancy at WebWorkerDaily is particularly hopeful.
But there are others who try and wind up banging into the iPad’s limitations:
I have tried both the BlogPress and the WordPress apps (constantly switching in and out of the app to research and grab text), the WP dashboard (better because I can switch tabs, but coding is in the way, and drafting in a text editor, then pasting into a blog app and editing (doesn’t overcome the main constraint of fast switching between research stuff and writing stuff). Maybe I’m whingeing, but the apps get in the way of drafting (not their fault: iPad first iteration fault), and they force me to find workarounds, and that influences the choices I make … Ok, I’m whingeing.
Let’s just say that writing this post – with the multiple links and image – on the iPad would have taken me most of the morning. On the MacBook, it’s taken less than an hour. That’s not just a time saving; that’s a fluency issue. What gets written is influenced by the materiality of the writing technology. Try 500 words with a crayon. It’s not a matter of not being able to muster the resources on the iPad … Ok, it is a matter of that. They are different resources, and a couple that I want to employ when I blog to make the blogging worth it for me.  I can use the iPad to sketch something in or make a quick post with a link or two, and maybe an image, but for more extensive blogging, it becomes awkward.
What this all means is
  • I need to take a MacBook when traveling for work.
  • The current constraints shape the iPad / iPhone use as part of a PLE.
  • I have a reason buy Air Display

yet another promise to post

Paul Carr at TechCrunch makes some sharp observations on the appeal of immediacy over the hard grind of reflection in Thnks Fr Th Mmrs: The Rise Of Microblogging, The Death Of Posterity.

A decade or so ago, a new generation who would previously have kept diaries instead started to set up blogs. Sure those blogs may have been twee or self-absorbed or clumsily written or emo or just plain boring – isn’t that the joy of a diary? – but they at least required the writer to take the time to process the events of their life, and the attendant emotions they generated – before putting finger to keyboard. The result, in many cases, was a detailed archive of events and memories that they can look back on now and say “that was how I was then”.

And then along came micro-blogging – and, with a finite amount of time and effort available, the blog generation turned into the Twitter (or Facebook) generation. A million blogs withered and died as their authors stopped taking the time to process their thoughts and switched instead to simply copying and pasting them into the world, 140 meaningless characters at a time. The result: a whole lot of sound and mundanity, signifying nothing.

I haven’t been an enthusiastic microblogger, so I don’t need to back away from Twitter much, I’ve already let my Tumblr account go dormant, and I just don’t find Facebook rewarding and so rarely visit But the piece is a reminder to get something extended and thoughtful – or even trite – posted regularly. And, I’d add, posted to one place. Along with the brevity, the scatteredness of the sites to post to makes creating a record difficult.