Care to share?

Image care of Ryancr
Image credit: Ryancr’s “Sharing”

This semester has been a whirlwind, and while it has been great in many respects regarding the work we are doing at DTLT—more faculty and students than ever experimenting with UMW Blogs, some larger recognition, as well as a more expansive network of peers from a variety of institutions around the world—I feel one crucial element has fallen by the wayside—featuring the work out faculty and students are doing at UMW. In many ways the output has become so great that it hard to keep up with, but that’s no excuse. 

In my mind, the crux behind fostering a community is letting others know you’re reading their work, and more than that giving them some much deserved recognition for the work they’re doing through a simple system of featuring. I’ve dropped the ball in this regard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the community suffers some as a result.

People joke about how much I blog, but in reality, blogging needs to be a central component of the work we are all doing, and it needs to focus on the work happening at our institutions, as well as elsewhere. I’m gonna commit to doing more of this over the next year, as well as getting back into the hacks and sharing them back—which has also suffered as of late, but I don’t mind that nearly as much because there are so many great folks out there doing that far better than I ever could, just look at the work from cats like Boone Gorges, Andrea and Ron, and Joss Winn—to name just a few.

And then there’s the inimitable Luke Waltzer whose recent four part post series that recaps the work he and Mikhail Gershovich have been doing with Blogs@Baruch (you can find all their development posts under the wpmued tag on cac.ophony.org here) and I have to say it is very impressive. Not only has Luke blogged the thinking behind the redesign of Blogs@Baruch, but he also wasn’t afraid to blog about some of the difficulties they’ve had with administering and maintaining the system, and for me that is key.

What is most important about the work we’re doing at our own institutions, is narrating the process so that others can benefit from our problems and successes. It’s time to move away from the myopic logic that we only talk about the successes and promise of this stuff without narrating the difficulties and problems. Fact is, if we are only concerned about how we look to the administration or our fearless “leaders” the less we truly realize the transformative power of the simple act of sharing all elements of our struggles by honestly narrating the work we do amongst peers within and beyond institutional boundaries. We’re not running ad campaigns that are pushing products, we are connecting with other people that want and need guidance and ideas for avoiding issues and generating new ideas. Therein is the power of sharing your work, which necessarily includes all the issues and failures accumulated along the way. Hats off to the crew at Blogs@Baruch, their willingness to lift the branding veil and openly share both the triumphs and the tribulations is refreshing and essential, and a true sign of caring.

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8 Responses to Care to share?

  1. I’ll join you in this – have a few posts about potentially instructive failures I need to write.

    Agreed that boone is great folk.

    Looking forward to the conversation.

  2. Joshua Kim says:

    Amen. Question I have is if this philosophy can be retained as our cohort begins to go up the management ranks. My worry is that we tend to get conservative. Great post. Josh

  3. Mike says:

    You are absolutely right on this:

    “In my mind, the crux behind fostering a community is letting others know you’re reading their work, and more than that giving them some much deserved recognition for the work they’re doing through a simple system of featuring. I’ve dropped the ball in this regard, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the community suffers some as a result.”

    One of the really powerful things about the Soapblox system we used for Blue Hampshire was it allowed community stuff to be either

    1) Recommended up by members
    2) “Frontpaged” by admins

    “Frontpaging” was such a powerful thing. I know it’s cool to act like we don’t do things for an audience, that somehow we just write and never even think about whether people read us, but ultimately that’s a stupid conception of language. A desire for fame, that is, a desire for recognition without purpose, that sort of thing is certainly a perversion of a desire for audience, but a desire for an audience is not perverse in itself, it’s really a basic human thing. And the conception of an audience, real or imagined, physical or hypothesized, lies behind most worthwhile analysis and self-reflection. I mean, it’s pretty core when you think about it, fundamental to critical thought.

    So when we frontpaged something, we’d invariably find one of the biggest effects was that the person front-paged would suddenly take what they were doing to a whole new level. A person who had an interesting rant here or there was suddenly going out and incorporating stats, etc. And other members of the community who saw the work suddenly realized — hey, I could do that…

    Sorry, it’s really just nice to see someone else who realizes what a huge gift to someone’s practice giving them an audience can be….even if only for a day.

  4. Tom says:

    I have felt for a while your greatest (unrecognized) talent is building community. You do it very well. You make people feel good about what they’re doing and that does inspire fresh doses of action and effort. Audience matters. Promoting good people makes a difference.

    The idea of speaking honestly is also interesting to me, simply because I tend to be too honest at most times. EdTech has come of age. There’s been enough swilling of kool aid. It’s time to look at things more realistically. Being “transparent” includes talking about the things that have failed. I know our stuff fails all the time.

    Anyway, I have to return to the tropical sunshine. Go get Tess on a sled.

  5. Luke says:

    Gratzi, papi. You are the wind beneath my enduring failure.

    The openness question is a difficult one to deal with, and I struggled a bit with that post… while philosophically I’m completely for it, my job exists in a tenuous political context, not a philosophical one. Finding a balance between those two is hard, but necessary. I’d like to think that the answer to Joshua’s question is “yes” in my case (assuming I ever get a bump); but in reality, it likely will be a delicate struggle since openness sometimes might reveal too much and impact negatively your ability to keep pushing down the road. The reality is we only had the downtime we had because I’ve been forced into a position to do something– manage a server– I’m not equipped to do. To a certain extent, it’s a credit to us and to the WPMu community that we’ve been able to scale and produce models in such a situation. But at the same time, it’s a bit embarrassing, since, you know, I do have some pride.

    As Mike notes, it’s reassuring and invigorating to be actively read and understood in the way that you do, Jim. I might not have blogged that downtime if not for our chat in the midst of it. And Tom is right in that this builds and propels community. So, bravo, Bava, bravo; keep blazing trails.

  6. dandam says:

    As someone who has only recently gotten buy-in from the organization I work for to create a community for blogging that is already going on within our student body and staff, I can’t tell you how valuable it has been to find the WPMU Ed posts, posts here, and elsewhere. It has provided me with solid stats and examples for the people controlling the purse strings here as well as helping me articulate what more we can do with technology. Not to mention finding solid technical advice for configuring WPMU, domains, etc.

    When even corporate behemoths like Google can wax rhapsodic about the power of ‘openness’, then I think it’s even more important that those of us working in education walk the walk.

    “education – the activities of educating or instructing; activities that impart knowledge or skill”

  7. Andrea_R says:

    Yes yes yes. It’s partly why both Ron & I talk about the screw-ups, for other people will likely encounter it and need a hand out. 🙂

    Also, I find there’s a bit of pedestal-putting going on sometimes. The gurus & people we look up to as experts are indeed slobs like us, wondering if they have food in their teeth. Or forgot to run that backup script. 😉

    And take a bit of time to enjoy those little ones, before you’re in our spot and half of them tower over you and whip your ass during family game time. (speaking of failure… 😀 )

  8. Ron says:

    I’ve found most people learn far more from problems/mistakes than they do from successes. Problems and mistakes require a lot more thinking to work out a solution. There is definitely value in sharing those as well as successes.

    PS. There’s a typo in our link.

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