TITLE: Misconceptions about Blogs
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: October 19, 2006 6:26 PM
When I first
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
to the conference currently known as
don't expect me to "blog it"; instead, I'll be writing
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.
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!