The "glue" of blogging conversations: RSS
Are you ready for a head-spin? This is a topic about which I am pretty passionate but I have yet failed to empassion many of those around me. Nice to see Will and others have picked up on it...
If only it were that simple.
A few weeks ago I posted a popular post on "It's not all about cliques and comments", where I pointed out that it is not the comments on a page but how many people are reading and who they are. But then a niggly point got into my head. Loic Lemeur's catchphrase is true of all blogs' aspirations: Les médias traditionnels diffusent des messages, les blogs démarrent les discussions (Traditional Media Sends Messages, Blogs Start Conversations). But how can you know if your blog has started a conversation if no-one is leaving comments on your blog?
So used are we to having linear discussions that happen in the same room, or at least on the same telephone line, MSN Messenger chat dialogue box or discussion board, that we cannot see what has been under our very noses for years: RSS.
RSS allows us to follow the conversation we began over the many other blogs and RSS-ed websites, using tools such as Technorati to find out who's talking about it.
I like what David Warlick proposes for schools, and ultimately online environments like the one I am developing in Scotland (as part of my real job):
"1. Teacher Blog Articles come from the Person. A teacher blog article comes from the person first, and the teacher second. Discussion boards are designed around topics. Blog environments are designed around people. This means:
The teacher’s writings carry with them the teacher’s identity through the template or skin they have chosen, and through their writing style.
When the writing is associated with the person, that person may be more likely to consider more carefully, and compose more precisely, their ideas before they enter the conversation.
A History teacher may be more likely to subscribe to the blog of Ms. Oren (a literature teacher), than to the literature discussion board, perhaps discovering new opportunities to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas.
2. Blogs extend beyond their primary community of interest. Weblog writings can be available to the extended education community, further ensuring more care and thoughtfulness in the conversations and more fully conveying to the extended community the growing complexities, challenges, and opportunities for preparing children for the 21st century.
3. On the other hand, making teacher collaborative blogs available to the public may also suppress valuable exchanges, so this feature should be considered carefully.
4. Blogs and other RSS content can be organized uniquely. Blog content would be received and organized uniquely by each user, through their personal choice of aggregator. In addition, news, web searches, and social bookmark content might also be integrated and organized into the educator’s aggregator. The result should be a teacher cultivated personal professional digital library.
Individual blog articles with their comments and links to related blogs can serve better as a stand-alone document and line to for other interested people."
from David Warlick
Now David calls for someone to pilot this. Institutions are always keen to create The Master Product, The Blog or, my personal cringe-maker, The Portal in an effort to get best teaching practice together. As David points out, while Discussion Boards are about topics and threads, blogs are about people.
And people are far more interesting than threads...
And in the classroom...
If we can encourage teachers and students to start writing their thoughts on blogs instead of or as well as on discussion boards, scraps of paper, hand-written English language folios, MS Word docs, school websites and classroom walls, then maybe we can start to really learn from each other.
Using our many blogging search tools like Technorati and Feedster, and social bookmarking tools like del.icio.us, we can follow a real discussion across many blogs and many continents at once. There's no need to be in the priviledged position of knowing where to look, of being that peculiar über geek who seems to know where the best bits are. Everyone can share the discussion and join in.
And the discussion doesn't have to happen on the one blog.
[feel free to leave comments notwithstanding ;-]