Blogging General

blogging is the new calling card

 38 111689342 854066F7D1Back in January, the press was warning bloggers to be careful: blogging could get you fired. But now it’s spring, and reports are claiming Blogs ‘essential’ to a good career.

”It’s the new public relations and it’s the new home page. Instead of a static home page, you have your blog,” [Phil van Allen] said. It’s a way to let people know what you are thinking about the field that interests you.

And, in the obligatory List of Reasons to Blog (“Blogging creates a network,” “Blogging is great training”) is this mention of a professional who posts love letters in the form of occasional essays, vignettes, observations:

Dervala Hanley writes a quirky literary blog that got her a job is at Stone Yamashita Partners, a consulting firm that ”tries to bring humanity to business.” Hanley says the firm was attracted to her ability to put her business experience into personal terms on the blog.

Looks like we’ll do a week on Blogging for Dollars: Freelancing for the Online Professional in Weblogs and Wikis next year.

And how about about this for an image of the online writer (from “The Wishing Chair“).

Blogging General New Media Wikis

gpacw conference

Good time at the Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing conference this weekend.  Kevin Brooks and NDSU were great hosts.  Food was great.  And the sessions were spot on.  Here’s a rundown.

  • Keynote Madeleine Sorapure presented on autobiographical construction on the web: step or six beyond the typical autobiography or memoir.  She hit one of the notes we’re going to work with in E-Rhet in the fall: Self-representation in Facebook and MySpace.  Her work opens up ideas on how we create online identities both intentionally and by social interaction and accident.  Google your own name, for instance, and ask who is the you represented by the hits.
  • Melissa Vosen, grad student at NDSU, struck a similar note in looking at student use of Facebook.  She noticed that students spend a lot of time and energy creating and tweaking an online identity, an online representation of a self, emphasizing those features they want to.  But the representations seem to be superficial because it’s one-dimenstional.
  • Dan Weinstein, DSU, discussed a CW II course involving repeated passes at a select body of source material, and centering on collaborative work using writely.  The course culminates in an Ophra-like performance: each student group presenting, a vocal audience responding, and a moderator … uh  … moderating.
  • Matt Barton on wikis cleared away, for me, much of the flotsam and jetsam that had accumulated in my thinking about wikis this semester.  He nailed down a useful definition with nice socialist overtones: “an online community sharing means of production.”  He presented the work that his SCSU students are doing with meta-wikis – pages or portals that provide an organized entry into a body of wiki-knolwedge.  He never once mentioned the word “refactoring,”  but he did buy me lunch at the Jade Garden.
  • Mike McCord, MSU Moorehead, looked at new media argument, how the Writer becomes more than a writer; more a designer of a message who now makes rhetorical choices in not just text but in multiple media.  We had a close look at the way argument is presented in The Meatrix.
  • Elise Lozano, a grad student at SCSU,  presented on her work with blogging in her FYC course.  She positioned the blogs not as diaries or journals but as alternatives spaces for academic writing, which demands academic decorum.  The prompts and tasks she gave for blogging demanded that students had to create an appropriate response; they couldn’t simply read a speech by Bush and rant but had to compose something more appropriate to the task, more appropriate to the rhetorical situation.  Doing so shows students that a blog can be something more than a rant bucket, widens the rhetorical possibilities of blogging – and widens the rhetorical possibilities of public response at large.
  • I had to miss Sybil Priebe’s “Oh, Do-It-Yourself then, punk”: Punk Creation in First-Year Composition.
  • Lee Tesdell covered how MSU Mankato is supplementing use of D2L with other media: linking out to blogs and other writing and chatting spaces.  It’s good to see Mankato is bumping into the same D2L walls we are, and that they are addressing the limits in similar ways.
  • Then there was the Podcasting Workshop, with Nem Schlect, one of NDSU’s network tech, who’s been publishing Geek Muse for six months or so.  Good stuff on both the technical end and the scripting/preparation end.  His podcast is spontaneous: a discussion at the bar between three geeks.  He prepares for recoding with a short intro and outro and a list of topics and transitions.  In post-production, he edits out the slips, ums, hesitations, and adds chapters to make the podcast more than just three geeks at the bar.  He set up a three-way audio link between NDSU, West Fargo, and Mexico Texas.

I’m hoping GPACW will push for a higher profile, bringing in even more presenters from Iowa, Nebraska, and points west.  The sessions were substantive, the accommodations excellent (wireless everywhere), and most of the presenters stayed for the entire conference, which keeps discussions going and opens up even more points of study.  Mankato’s the next host in fall, and I’m already making notes for a proposal.

Listening to The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades by Timbuk 3


summer reading (prelim)

IBooks200Px started this when I was a junior at SCSU: Get a summer reading list together and order the books from the SCSU bookstore.  I would stick to reading them all by piling the unread ones on the corner of a desk, a reminder to keep going. Back then, the list looked something like this:

  • Kenner, The Pound Era
  • Pound, Personae
  • Joyce, Ulysses
  • Gilbert, James Joyce’s Ulysses
  • Eliot, Four Quartets
  • Fielding, Tom Jones
  • Janson’s History of Art
  • Stoppard, Travesties, Jumpers, New-Found-Land
  • McGough, Summer with Monika

This summer, the pile next to the phone looks like this:

  • Ebersbach, et al Wiki Web Collaboration
  • Gillmor, We the Media
  • Scoble and Israel, Naked Conversations
  • Richardson, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts
  • Landow, Hypertext, v 3.0
  • Welch, Electric Rhetoric
  • Bolter and Grusin, Remediation (second reading)
  • Hocks and Kendrick, eds, Eloquent Images
  • Kress and Van Leeuwen, Multimodal Discourse (second reading)
  • Jewitt and Kress, eds, Multimodal Literacy
  • Howard and Jones, Society Online
  • Schirato and Webb, Understanding the Visual
  • Gauntless, ed, web.studies

A few textbooks

  • Ramage, Rhetoric, a User’s Guide
  • Graff and Birkenstein, They Say, I Say
  • Baehr, Web Development

For evenings, the stack in the loft:

  • Honoré, In Praise of Slowness
  • O’Hanlon, Trawler
  • Darlington, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne
  • Gayford, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles  (If I can wrest it away from Viv)


  • Summer with Monika

Listening to Hideous Towns from Reading, Writing and Arithmetic by The Sundays

General New Media

one sense of expression compliments another

A poll by the BBC – E-mail and text ‘replace writing –  found a shift in the means of written communication from handwriting to keyboarding:

It suggests that half of written communication is by e-mail, 29% by text message and just 13% by pen and paper.


those aged 15 to 24 who took part showed only 5% of their communications were by pen and paper.

But the shift in mode brings with it a shift in the means of meanings, a change in affordance.  Handwriting can be read as expressive of the writer in a way that keyboarding may not afford.  But keyboarding – email and txting and IM – makes possible means of expression that handwriting doesn’t.  Remember this from 2002?

I left my pictur on th ground wher u walk

so that somday if th sun was jst right

& th rain didnt wash me awa

u might c me out of th corner of yr i & pic me up

This puts an extra twist on the opening exercise in E-Rhetoric next September.

Listening to Talk by Coldplay


open access news from the ou

OU announces £5.6m project to make learning material free on the internet | eGov monitor, which is going to be interesting to watch come fall. Need to talk to Gillian about how this changes their work…

General New Media

the end of history as we know it

A Chronicle article – No Computer Left Behind – by Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig of GMU (requires an account), discusses how access to Internet information makes multiple-choice tests redundant, and in that addresses the issue of how to trust information on the web.

Computer scientists have an optimistic answer for worried scholars. They argue that the enormous scale and linked nature of the Web make it possible for it to be “right” in the aggregate while sometimes very wrong on specific pages. The Web “has enticed millions of users to type in trillions of characters to create billions of Web pages of on average low-quality contents,” write the computer scientists Rudi Cilibrasi and Paul Vitányi in a 2004 essay.Yet, they continue, “the sheer mass of the information available about almost every conceivable topic makes it likely that extremes will cancel and the majority or average is meaningful in a low-quality approximate sense.” In other words, although the Web includes many poorly written and erroneous pages, taken as a whole the medium actually does quite a good job encoding meaningful data.

“Good enough” is good enough for multiple-choice tests.  Now what we need is a way of comparing all that information to get a good enough answer.  Google does it for translations.  And George Mason is experimenting with it with H-Bot, a historical software agent.  Give it a historical question, it uses a set of algorithms to compare documents concerning the subjects embedded in the question to return an accurate answer.

Right now H-Bot can only answer questions for which the responses are dates or simple definitions of the sort you would find in the glossary of a history textbook. For example, H-Bot is fairly good at responding to queries such as “What was the gold standard?”, “Who was Lao-Tse?”, “When did Charles Lindbergh fly to Paris?”, and “When was Nelson Mandela born?” The software can also answer, with a lower degree of success, more difficult “who” questions such as “Who discovered nitrogen?” It cannot currently answer questions that begin with “how” or “where,” or (unsurprisingly) the most interpretive of all historical queries, “why.” In the future, however, H-Bot should be able to answer more difficult types of questions as well as address the more complicated problem of disambiguation—that is, telling apart a question about Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor (1500-1558) from one about Charles V the French king (1338-1380). To be sure, H-Bot is a work in progress, a young student eager to learn. But given that its main programming has been done without an extensive commitment of time or resources by a history professor and a (very talented) high-school student, Simon Kornblith, rather than a team of engineers at Google or MIT, and given that a greater investment would undoubtedly increase H-Bot’s accuracy, one suspects that the software’s underlying principles are indicative of the promise of the Web as a storehouse of information.  (Web of Lies)

My first thought was to the state of knowledge underlying the algorithm.  Wouldn’t it take a discerning expert to determine the accuracy of the response?  Sure it might.  H-Bot provides the target that can be checked by the expert.  But after a while, even the expert comes to trust the algorithm.

Cohen and Rosenzweig finally argue that once we trust the factual accuracy of look up information, we can set aside multiple-choice tests and move on to more interesting – deeper and more significant – questions.

Now that newer technology threatens the humble technology of the multiple-choice exam, we have an opportunity to return to some of the broader and deeper measures of understanding in history — and other subjects.

I’d look forward to this because it means we’d have to redesign exams.  Change the form of the exam and you change what’s taught.

Listening to Dancing Shoes from “Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I Am Not” by Arctic Monkeys

General New Media Wikis

corporate wiki melodrama

The End of E-Mail presents a melodramatic take on wikis for content coordination that will interest professional writing students in E-Rhetoric and Weblogs and Wikis.

The simple act of writing a press release, for example, can require as many as five people trading e-mails over the course of a week, often sending attachments of newly edited versions. It leads to lots of confusion. Which document is the current version? Who has made changes? Who still needs to weigh in? For the managers, keeping track of it all had become a time-consuming nightmare.

The hero enters (and note the name and his specialization):

Tom Biro joined the company as director of new media strategies in August 2005 and was shocked at the mess the company’s e-mail system had become. Fortunately, he had an answer: wikis.

And here are some of the virtues reported (with the stock hyperbole): doubled productivity, slashed meetings.

By eliminating the need to use e-mail to trade project updates, creative teams have been able to double their productivity, Biro says. The wiki also has slashed the number of meetings and conference calls: Anyone can simply pull up the wiki on his or her Web browser and get a full progress report at any time.

In this story, the wiki is positioned as The Fortunate Answer to a Pervasive Problem, a usurper which foretells The End of E-Mail. It’s a melodrama.

Listening to Destiny from “Simple Things” by Zero 7

General New Media Wikis

watching business sell wikis

My Google Alert for wiki is telling me that more and more businesses and organizations are discovering wikis and blogs and rss, and more software developers are creating systems to manage them. The latest is Stellent’s Wiki, Blog, RSS Organizer.

The Stellent Universal Content Management helps customers integrate wikis and blogs in multi-site Web content management.

The curious thing from a rhetorical angle is how Stellent describes the system’s functions. This is what a wiki looks like through marketing eyes:

Stellent Universal Content Management lets wiki contributors create hyperlinks in both pattern-matching and wizard style formats, which in turn allows users to link to other topics and pages within a wiki site, as well as other Web sites.

When an author creates a new hyperlink about a particular subject, the Stellent system will automatically link to a wiki page about that topic. If the page does not exist, it will automatically create a new page.

Those are basic functions of any wiki: if the page exists, link to it (pattern-matching). If it doesn’t, create it (wizard style). And here are described, in turn, Recent Changes and Diffs:

The Stellent technology also records a history of wiki activity, so readers know who writes or changes content, how many times content is revised and if there are certain topics currently under heavy debate. A locking and revision control feature ensures only one user may change content at a time, and it also keeps an audit trail of all revisions which is then available for records and retention management purposes.

The concerns and values of the corporate world are clear: tracking who changed what, revision control, audit trails.

What interests and concerns are embedded in Ward’s original definition of wiki as “The simplest online database that could possibly work”? Discuss.

Listening to Everytime We Live Together We Die A Bit More from “The Magnificent Tree” by Hooverphonic


sunday at covent garden

I sort of miss this, typical of February in London: rain, cold rain.

Ltm 1-1

via earthcam

Meanwhile: Observed At: Bemidji, Minnesota

  • Elevation: 1388 ft / 423 m
  • 10 °F / -12 °C
  • Overcast
  • Windchill: -3 °F / -20 °C
  • Humidity: 62%
  • Dew Point: 0 °F / -18 °C
  • Wind: 10 mph / 17 km/h from the SW
  • Wind Gust: 22 mph / 35 km/h
  • Pressure: 30.05 in / 1018 hPa
  • Visibility: 10.0 miles / 16.1 kilometers
  • UV: 1 out of 16
  • Clouds: Overcast 3300 ft / 1005 m

Listening to I’m Moving to Wales by Eberg

General Wikis

notes on rap

A circuitous route (via a wikipoint presentation on Using Wikis to Empower Student Learning)  got me to The Romantic Audience Project at Bowdoin College : a report on using a wiki for collective study in a romanticism seminar.

A few interesting observations.  First, the wikiword link focuses attention:

Focus. RAP kept student writing specific, concentrated, engaged with other students. When commenting directly on poems, students were forced to connect their observations to text pre-existing in the system in order to post a new entry. The transparency of all student work, along a requirement from the instruction to comment on each other’s entries, ensured response to collateral work and multiple citation of classmates’ entries.

Next, a more speculative idea of the class as super-author, shaped by the instructor but setting purposes and directions of its own:

The super-author

Since wikis are networked and interactive, offering possible modifications of individual intention, it became interesting to think of RAP as having a collective author. This super-author might link to Keats more than to Shelley, say, or highlight more verbs in poems than adjectives, or decline to connect poems by women to poems by men.

In some ways the instructor shaped RAP’s collective identity by issuing specific posting requirements, such as the weekly posting assignment. The weekly posting assignment, for example, designated certain poems for everyone in the class to comment upon, and required responses to peer entries. Even so, posting tendencies emerged that were worthwhile for the class to ponder and could be framed as the expression of a unique group of students, using a particular toolset at a particular time, working within a particular socio-economic setting. Looking at RAP together during class, we could consider the reasons that a given discussion attracted elaboration; a particular poem went unlinked; one poet attracted more biographical elaboration than another; a student entry was cited by several other students; etc.

And finally,  a note on collaboration and collectivity, in counterpoint to Mark Guzdial’s work with CoWeb a couple years ago:

Cultivating collectivity

An atmosphere of collectivity was crucial to establish in order for RAP to succeed. Students had to feel that anyone had the authority to comment publicly on source text, each other’s work, and perhaps even the instructor’s own comments. Such an atmosphere was easier to inculcate in a poetry seminar, which lends itself to discussion, elaboration, interpretation. It would of course be more difficult to encourage open-ended revision in other pedagogical situations.

Coming in spring 2007: Lit Crit Seminar using a wiki.