TITLE: Misconceptions about Blogs AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 19, 2006 6:26 PM DESC: ----- BODY: When I first started writing this blog, several colleagues rolled their eyes. Another blog no one will read; another blogger wasting his time. They probably equated all blogging with the confessional, "what I ate for breakfast" diary-like journal that takes up most of the blogspace. I'm not sure exactly what I expected Knowing and Doing to be like back then, but I never intended to write that sort of blog and made great effort to write only something that seemed worth my time to think about -- and any potential reader's time to think about, too. Sometimes my entries were lighthearted, but even then they related to something of some value to my professional life. The one exception is my running category, which is mostly "just about me". But even then I often found myself writing about the intersection of my thoughts on running an my thoughts on, say, software development practice. My colleagues' eye rolling came to mind again yesterday when I heard one of my university colleagues from the humanities give a talk on the use of video essays in his courses. A video essay is just what it says, an essay in the form of a short film. He tried to help us to understand where the video essay sits in the continuum of all film works, as it injects the creator into the process the way a written essay does but unlike a video documentary, which should present a voice independent of the filmmaker. In the course of his explanation, he raised blogs as the the written equivalent of something that is too personal, too much about the creator and not enough about some idea with which the creator is engaging. To him, blogs were -- by and large -- trivia. Writing my blog doesn't feel trivial, and I hope that the folks who take the time to read it don't find the content trivial. Were I writing trivia, I could and would write far more often, as I could dump whatever frustrations or uneasiness or even joy I was feeling at the end of each day right into my keyboard. Even when I write a short entry, I want it to be about something, reflect at least that I have done some serious thinking about that something, and use words and language that I've shown at least a modicum of effort to polish for public consumption. Nearly all of the blogs I read have these features, usually more of each than mine. I'm honored to read the professional and personal ruminations of interesting minds as they try to learn something new, or teach the rest of us something that they have recently learned. As the speaker told us more about the art of video essay, it occurred to me that the word "blog" is used to describe at least two different classes of on-line writing, and that the kind of blog I enjoy -- and aspire to write -- is not what most folks think of when they hear "blog". This sort of blog is really an essay, and the bloggers in question are essayists, much in the spirit of Michel de Montaigne himself. The web makes it possible for us to share our essays more quickly and more broadly than older media, and it allows us to show more or our work-in-progress than is feasible in a print-dominated world. But these blogs are essays. So, next week, when I make my annual pilgrimage to the conference currently known as OOPSLA, don't expect me to "blog it"; instead, I'll be writing essays. Speaking of OOPSLA, I'll be in Portland, Oregon, from Saturday, October 21, through Friday, October 27. If you will be there, too, I'd love to meet up over a break and chat. Drop me a line. Oh, and to close the loop on my colleague's talk... He showed some of his students' video essays, and they were remarkable. Anyone who doubts that today's students think deeply about anything would have to reconsider this stance after seeing some of these works. Could I use video essay in a CS course? Perhaps not most, but that thought probably says more about my imagination than the possibilities inherent in the medium. I haven't thought deeply enough about this to say any more! -----