Getting My Moose On: Blogs as a Web Publishing Framework

OK, so I am gonna have to earn my keep during my stay up North, for the folks of Northern Voice have been nothing but golden thus far. In particular, I want to give a gigantic shout out to Brian Lamb– who has bent over backwards to make sure that everything runs smoothly during my stay, as I am sure he is for the 250 other folks attending. He is redefining the limits of hospitality -and I will be sure to try and push those boundaries even further upon my arrival;) Thanks for everything, Brian!

So I finally got around to thinking about the Moose Camp and how I might be able to share some of the fun work we have been doing at UMW. So, I wrote up a rough proposal in the open NV wiki , that originally focused on WordPress as a Content Management System. About an hour after I posted this to the wiki Alan swept in and helped me re-frame the proposal by leaving key links to other blogs (not just WordPress) that have been re-purposed for various uses above and beyond the blog (I particularly like his More than Cat Diaries as well as the NMC Virtual Worlds site. So, an hour after posting my rough ideas I already have resources, and an ongoing collection of del.icio.us links via Alan. But that’s not it, soon after D’Arcy stops by and says the following:

Jim – I’d be happy to demo some Drupal stuff. Should we expand the title to not be so WP-centric? This ain’t your fathers blogging platform. 🙂

So not only have I been given key resources on the topic I proposed, but soon after that the CMS gauntlet is thrown at my feet. D’Arcy calls me out for being such a WordPress groupie, and promises to keep me honest. How cool is this? So, I go back to the wiki today -because that’s what I do now- and I see that Candace, who has proffered a topic on distinguishing between wikis, blogs and CMSs, has struck her proposal in order to integrate it more directly with this one. So, now there are four of us involved in thinking through blogs, wikis and CMSs more broadly than I originally imagined, while at the same time each of us can draw from the specifics of our own varied experiences with each of these tools. This is the promise of social networks in living color. Four people, separated by thousands of miles and a million and one other things to do, are cobbling together the framework for an informal presentation at an un-conference that is embedded in the very process that we are working through. Even if I get hit by a bus tomorrow (luckily there are no buses in Fredericksburg), I could still say that NV has lived up to its ideal of fostering the possibilities of these small, meaningful connections between people and ideas.

This brings me to my next point, I am a bit worried that my over zealousness about using WordPress as a CMS to re-frame teaching and learning may focus too much on the technicalities of WordPress. Originally, I thought it would be cool to create a WordPress Multi-User install, and have the participants work together to create their own website/youtube/flickr-like spaces using a few hacks, K2, and some widgets. But after reading a few comments on the wiki and looking at past NV conferences, I think the genius of this conference is its focus on the human, rather than the technical, element of blogging. It has already been humanized further by three people’ contributions that helped me re-think my insistence on a specific application or tool. I believe, for my part, I need to focus on what makes working through the particulars of WP or K2 of any value to the larger questions surrounding blogging. What does such a proposal offer the folks who will be participating? Is this an opportunity to re-think the limits and possibilities of the blog? Or, maybe it’s way to understand the human forces behind blogging as part of a larger, more powerful movement to re-define publishing more generally? Do we need to re-conceptualize blogs within a larger framework of individuals publishing within several mediums with overlapping modalities as key to tracing the radical changes in the realm of authorship and publishing we are witnessing all around us?

“Can I get a witness?!!”

What do you think about these questions? Too much? Too little? Just right? More importantly, what would you consider an essential part of the “human element” (sorry for this term) of thinking through wikis, blogs and CMSs? I really would like to know -for I don’t want to miss the forest for all the beautiful WordPress trees.

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10 Responses to Getting My Moose On: Blogs as a Web Publishing Framework

  1. Rule #1: Do what works for you.
    Rule #2: There are no rules.

    Don’t worry too much about being a WP fanboy 🙂 The main thing is that you’re doing something that works. If that means funneling a bunch of students into WPMU, then so be it.

    MooseCamp should be fun, between the “mashups for non-geeks” session, your “blogging is more than just blogging” session, and the “PhotoCamp” one, it’ll be a hard day to beat. Except for Northern Voice, the VERY NEXT DAY. 🙂

  2. jimgroom says:

    I got one witness! Thanks D’Arcy, I am looking forward to both.

    Out of curiosity, is rule #3 “Nobody talks about the MooseCamp?”

  3. ssssshhhhhh! you’re making it worse!

  4. Gardner says:

    Here’s one more rule for the list. I learned from Barbara Ganley: YOU CANNOT BE OVERZEALOUS.

    I thought I was coming on too strong about blogging until I heard Barbara speak. She put me to shame. And gave me something to aspire to.

    And as for WP, please be a fanboy. That’s the energy that gives me and my students one new cool thing every 36 hours. And if Henry Jenkins identifies himself as a “fan” (not of WP, but as a vocation), then I think the idea, once again, is passionate commitment, picking up the ball, and running for daylight. All of which you are very, very good at, Mr. Activator.

    Go Bava. Show NV what we’re all about down here. And don’t forget FRED–we do have a few busses, though you’re not likely to get hit by one. 🙂

  5. Joe says:

    Very timely! I’m just in the middle of setting up (well, the setup is almost done) a wordpress-used-as-a-CMS site for my wife and her colleague who are working on an online Art History site (http://www.smarthistory.org/site). They’ve seen over and over again that the “textbooks” for art history just aren’t engaging or interesting enough for most of the undergraduates who take art history…so they wanted to try to do something (open to all) that would work better. They wanted a site that would let them bring together lots of content–lots of formats–with easy organization. And they didn’t want to need to learn anything new in terms of tech skills–just wanted to think about what was pedagogically appropriate. WP (with some plugins–not even any widgets) seems to be working great.

    I think it’s great to use this tool for students, in classes, and I think there are also some important uses for faculty who want to do projects that go beyond a single class (or group of classes).

    Keep up the fanboy work! 🙂

  6. Jerry says:

    Please! – don’t have some sort of conversion now! You have convinced me that WP is the future of the ideal CMS (open-source, extensible, easy to use, etc.) Where will I be without my WP mentor?

  7. Steve says:

    I’m sorry I’m coming in late to the conversation. I think the questions you raise are excellent ones. If I was going to Northern Voice, I’d prefer a session focussing on the human element. That’s the way we will reach the next generation of users.

  8. jimgroom says:

    @Gardner: Thansk Gardner, you’re passion has always been contagious, but I am not sure I agree with you on the Fred -I think it can only be classified as a watered down shuttle -not a bus. For a bus to be considered a bus, there has to be more than one of them.

    @Joe: the smarthistory site is a really compelling example of the very ideas we are talking about. Excellent fodder for my attempt to take over the world with WP. I think Jon Berger would be proud -opening up the world of art one podcast and YouTube video at a time. Very, very cool. I also agree with you that students and faculty might soon find that framing their own conversations using easy-to-use applications such as WordPress may start helping us re-map the idea of projects the have a life beyond any one course or group of students -in fact a way of using student discussions, ideas, and work over time to frame a community of thinking and reflecting that moves beyond any one group of students and reflects the changing nature of ideas in a whole variety of different contexts.

    @Jerry: Just making sure you’re still reading and taking notes :0

    @Steve: Point well taken. Keeping real school real is essential, and talking tech is at times a cop out to avoid the larger conceptual importance of any and all hacks.

  9. Alan says:

    Jim, relax and go with the flow…

    No apologies needed for being a fanboy, if folks want to jam on WP. The danger of keeping a focus there is that it becomes more of a tool talk. I would think the sweet spot is the notion of using a blog-like system, be it WP, druapl, movabletype, whatever, but the affordnaces offered by a templated web authoring system, with automated search and RSS generation, comments, and the extensibility given by plugins. Why is that, as a package in several available flavors, appealing over a commercial CMS?

    And I am just plain jealous since I am not going this year.

    cheers from this corner of the country

  10. Nancy White says:

    Hey, Jim, I thought it was a great session (and I came in LATE!) You got me thinking about lots of interesting WP possibilities. Thanks

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