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Monday, October 09, 2006

The LCB Big Question Reframed: Should More Learning Professionals Be Blogging?

Out of the original October 2006: Should All Learning Professionals Be Blogging?, we've seen some pretty amazing discussion. But, we've also reached an interesting point. As Peter posted (The Learning Circuits Blog: Community Net Worth):

Now that the first wave of bloggers and blog-readers have read the initial results both in the form of serious utterances, straw polls and comic reformulations (thanks, Tony for that refreshing exercise), whither go we? Do we know more about our marketplace or do we simply know more about the individuals who have so far participated?
I would claim that I know a lot more about both the individuals out there and their perspecitves and also I know something about perception of the marketplace (but its skewed because people participating obviously have a built in bias towards blogs). More on this in a second...

Separately, Dave Lee (The Learning Circuits Blog: Throwing a Big Community Net) has provided a couple of interesting follow-up opportunities including keeping track of conversations across various posts that relate to the original post and a poll.

Personally, I feel great about how this discussion so far. It's actually gone way beyond my expectations. A few of the things that have struck me:
  • The speed of contribution was much faster than I expected. I thought this would take 2-3 weeks to get responses in order to have any chance of going into a "summarizing" mode.
  • I found that by going through and creating my lists (eLearning Technology: Top Ten Reasons To Blog and Top Ten Not to Blog), I personally learned quite a bit about reasons on both sides. It was a fantastic exercise for my own learning.
  • Maybe I'm deluded, but I actually think the list is a pretty good representation of some of the important issues.
  • There were a few "aha" moments and some great ideas. Including the suggestion - blog for a month (Karl Kapp).
  • I've also learned a bit about dynamic of blog community as compared to discussion communities. Not sure I can capture these differences effectively - it's just a "feel" right now.
  • I also found that there was signficant Mis-Understanding Blog Reading and Blog Communities especially in the world of discussion groups.

Peter - I get the sense that you also felt you learned something by participating. Maybe not? I would assume others did. Maybe not?

One thing that appears to be different about this exercise than in a discussion group, half of the response posts to any question is a response of "Here's why you are asking the wrong question..." Now before you assume that's negative, in most cases my firm belief is that having the right question is the whole battle - eLearning Technology: Be an Insanely Great Professional Conference Attendee (at eLearningGuild’s DevLearn). On the other hand, sometimes I feel that a discussion group immediately derails the conversation by forcing you into a question you didn't want to ask.

There were many posts that did challenge the question including my own. But, I didn't feel like we arrived at the next level of questions nearly as well as a discussion group might have. Or maybe I needed to look at the posts with a different perspective.

Certainly, some of the questions raised that I remember:

  • What's a learning professional? (ASTD - that's an ouch given that's how you define your audience right?) (several)
  • Given limited time, how do learning professionals decide how to use their time for learning, research, etc.? Then, where does blog reading and writing fit in? (several)
  • Should all learning professionals be actively engaging with the current developments in their discipline? If yes, then how? And where does blogging fit in? (Bronwyn Clarke)
  • What is the role of a professional should be in a networked environment? (Stephen Downes)
  • What and how should other applications be used by learning professionals to share and learn? (Dave Lee)
  • When do you use blogging vs. using other tools? (Bill Bruck)
  • Should all learning professionals blog at least once? (Mike Oehlert)
  • Should all learning professionals be aware of the potential of blogging? (Jane)
  • How can we better invite others to be part of our thinking? (Nancy White)
  • Should learning professionals shift some of their time from discussion groups to blogging? (Tony Karrer)

But what I think was the most appropriate next question, and probably the reason I thought of the question in the first place:

  • Should more learning professionals be blogging? (Barry Sampson)

Independently, Dave Lee suggested that question as well. It would seem obvious that the answer is "Yes" - if you answer anything else, then you would have to think that there's a few who should stop blogging.

Of course, then it raises a couple of questions:

  • Which learning professionals should blog?
  • When? How long?
  • Should we encourage them to blog? If so, how?

In discussing this with Dave Lee, I wasn't convinced that this is very interesting ground to go over. I'm not particularly missionary here. I want people to understand the value proposition (and draw backs) of blogging (my previous post). And, they can make up their own mind. At the same time, it does seem like we've not come anywhere close to 1%.

So, back to Peter's point - where to from here? I feel like I found out some really interesting things, and I'm not sure I need anything more. At the same time, I didn't go into this from a missionary position (sorry couldn't resist) and so I'm open to whether any further discussion is useful, interesting, etc. Maybe others have a different perspective and expectation of where to go from here.

Left on its own, this discussion will die off. Is that a problem?

I feel great about this whole thing. Do people feel cheated?


Stephen Downes said...

This discussion wasn't going to go any further because it's kind of artificial. You have a bunch of bloggers responding to you instead of bloggers responding to events and each other.

But even then, that's the nature of blogging. It's disjointed. It isn't linear. In the sense that there are 'conversations' it is more like they see each other as part of the overall background against which they are writing - there is not so much writing 'to' or 'in ference to' another writer as you might think.

No problem with that, though.

Jim Belshaw said...

Tony, I think that this whole exercise has been a remarkable success. I also think that Stephen is right.

There are things that can be done to extend discussion, the Delphi process is a good example here and you were doing something like this with your own summaries, but it then requires someone to prepare the on-going summaries so that they can be reposted. Even then discussion will come to a natural end unless it goes in a new direction.