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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Diversity in Blogosphere?

I've run into the question of how diverse the voices are in the blogosphere before. In Blogs vs Discussion Groups someone said that blogs - “felt so … old white guys club." Janet Clarey's - Women’s Voices in the Edublogosphere points out that we have to think about who the women bloggers are - there are some really great women bloggers, but it would seem they are the minority.

I thought that was true in the Edublogger realm as well, but take a look at: Who’s Coming to Dinner - Survey Says! which suggests that there's actually better gender diversity than I thought - but not very good racial diversity.

Still when we get together for Beer Tasting at ASTD TechKnowledge, Boston, Beer - Bloggers - - it is definitely still feeling like a lot of middle age white guys.

Oh, and it's definitely middle aged NOT OLD.


Christine Martell said...

Hi Tony,
I'm the VP Outreach for ASTD-Cascadia serving Oregon and Southwest Washington. We're actively working on diversity in our chapter, and have recently started a blog as a part of that initiative. I do believe cross cultural effectiveness and Learning 2.0 are mandatory competencies for learning professionals if we want to stay employable. We hope to leverage our work in these areas to encourage more voices to emerge. It's not easy, but we are dedicated to doing our little piece.
Christine Martell

Clive Shepherd said...

I've been concerned for a while that blogging may be a little bit competitive, in the 'I'm cleverer than you', 'I'm more connected than you' manner. If this is true, then blogging will (and this is a terrible stereotype I know) be less attractive to women, as well as our less self-confident colleagues. I'm not sure how this can be avoided.

Anonymous said...

...blogging may be a little bit competitive...

Given the right people, anything is competitive; that's what juices their lives. There's also the reality that ranting (sincere or otherwise) is often more entertaining to read (and more fun to write) than either calm musing or I'm-not-sure-what-to-make-of-this.

And some of it may have to do with your own perception of blogs. I used to see them as "hey, world, ready for more from me?" Voluble as I am, I didn't really think I had a Thought For The Day that everyone needed access to.

Thanks to the example of others (Harold Jarche comes to mind), I decided that the main reason for / beneficiary of my own blog would be... me.

Dave's Whiteboard is a personal incentive to think out loud about things that interest me (learning, the brain, harnessing technology while staying somewhat rational), which in turn nudges me to go after more input. (If you're going to rely on pull, you need to be pulling.)

I do remember an exchange on the old TRDEV-L list, when a new contributor, a black female, commented that most of the posters sounded like middle-aged white men. I replied, "Damn, I didn't know I even typed white. Does it help that I'm neither Anglo-Saxon or Protestant?"

Anonymous said...'s definitely middle aged NOT OLD...

Middle age: when you can't remember the name of the person you couldn't live without.

Cammy Bean said...

So Dave, are you implying that male bloggers are more prone to ranting while female bloggers tend to "muse calmly" or state things like "not sure what to make of this?" Cuz I can start ranting! In fact, I take this as blogging challenge to rant more.

Clive does make a good point (and it is an awful stereotype) -- the whole attempt at appearing pithy and clever and wryly sardonic is a blogging phenomena of which I am certainly aware. It is intimidating.

Blogging is not yet for everyone, but is that changing? I certainly am aware of more new e-Learning women bloggers of late. But I have been making a conscious effort to find them.

Quintus Joubert said...

Interesting topic Tony! I read an interesting blog post a little while back that made the argument that women don't blog because they have a social network in place i.e. women talk to women about their ideas/problems etc. In A blog is a bloke thing Peter Friedman makes the argument that blogs are safer, in a very masculine way. Blogs are a discussion with yourself outside of a ‘real’ social setting. In Peter’s words a “blog is one-sided, introspective – what I did, what I saw, what I heard and what I thought about today.” Wow, pretty interesting stuff, definitely worth a read!

While I was looking for the link to Peter's post I found another interesting angle to the question this time written from a female perspective. In There's a good reason why women don't write blogs Mary Dejevsky states that “Men seem to take it for granted not only that they have something to say, but that the rest of us should find it worth hearing - or, in the case of the blogosphere, reading". I had to laugh when I read this. I think contrary to Mary's assumption, most of us (men and women) often wonder whether people are interested in our musings on our blog. Tony I know that you always argue that blogs are not for the reader, but rather a tool for personal growth for the writer..... Personally I still have moments of self doubt about people wanting to read my rants, raves and occasional musings on topics that may only interest me. Anyway, great topic, great blog, keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...


I think (and I think Clive might agree) that, as an overgeneralization, men compete more obviously, and seem to enjoy it more, than women do -- compete in the sense of working for higher status.

Ranting's just one way to do that, and certainly not gender-linked. And not all ranting is necessarily competitive; some of it's recreational (I'm guilty of that), some of it's venting.

Will blogging become something for everyone -- in the way that driving a car tends to be, at least in the U.S.? Maybe, though I kind of doubt it. Look at current email users (and think of the millions who don't use it): you could segment email users and find people for whom it's a necessary evil, others for whom it's a neutral tool, others for whom it's the primary channel for contact-at-a-distance.

A powerful lot of the contact is sending pictures of the kids, passing on jokes, exchanging news and gossip among members of a small circle. Not to disparage that -- it's its own small social network, just not one that'll be talked about at Technorati.

I think you were right on target talking about the whole attempt at appearing pithy and clever and wryly sardonic. It's hard to find your natural voice (in person, in print, or online), and part of the search is the imitation of those voices you admire. Sooner or later, I think the best communicators move on to what they want to talk about, and why they want to talk about it.

...though I do see wisdom in the notion that for some people, "be yourself" is very bad advice...

Tony Karrer said...

This has been some really, really interesting commentary.

Christine - thanks for chiming in - your blog is an interesting thing with multiple bloggers from an local ASTD group. I'll be curious to watch it's progress.

Quintus - fantastic links.

Although - I'm not sure I'm quite as ready to believe the hypotheses being presented - "women tend to be less confident than men that the rest of the world wants the benefit of our opinion" - "women simply do not have the time"

Is that really it? Is it competition? Is "trying to be clever"?

I wonder if there's anyway to know - or to know what's actually true here. And, I just realized that there may be a parallel ...

Does anyone know if speakers at training conferences skews male or female? Keynote speakers I believe skew male. Do conference organizers pay attention to that when they select speakers, i.e., strive for diversity?

I've recently discussed with several people that for folks who speak at conferences, blogging is a very natural extension. I wonder if this is simply that there's been a natural extension for speakers to have blogs?

Wow, this is curious ...

Anonymous said...

Speakers and blogs:

I think there's some logical also correlation. For example, many speakers I've seen are vendors or consultants; for them, speaking can be a form of marketing, even if they're not shilling. (You know the difference, and so does your audience.)

Regarding gender:

I just looked at the "sessions and learning activities" at the 4/06 eLearning Guild gathering in Boston. (Picked them only because I found them first.) I counted based on name, checked the photo when unsure:

Presentations by:
-- One male: 57
-- One female: 15
-- Two males: 9
-- Two females: 6
-- One male / one female: 10
-- Larger groups (3 or more): 4, of which one was all female

My hunch was that the 4:1 ratio of men to women in the "one presenter" category is skewed more heavily male than at, say, ISPI's annual conference... so I looked at the educational sessions from ISPI 2007. No photos, so I guessed based on name:

Presentations by:
-- One male: 45
-- One female: 40
-- Two males: 14
-- Two females: 16
-- One male / one female: 26
-- Three males: 6
-- Three females: 1
-- Three or more, mixed: 6

For ISPI, I had a few singles and half a dozen pairs for which I couldn't guess sex based on name, so those aren't in the total. I may have counted a woman as a man, or vice-versa (e.g., I took "Jody" to be male), but that wasn't so often as to upset the overall pattern.

I would have said, with no evidence, the eLearning leans more to technology than ISPI does, and therefore would have been somewhat more heavily male, but didn't expect these numbers.

Anonymous said...

So much for proofreading... that should have started, "some logical correlation..."

The "also" belongs much further down ("I also may have counted..")

Ah, well.

Tony Karrer said...

I did a quick scan of speaker names at ASTD ICE 2007 - looks to be fairly split slightly skewed male.

I've become more sensitive to this issue. I was just commenting on a post by Angela White and reading the comment from Tracy Hamilton - both really good, recent female bloggers ... and I thought about this very issue as I wrote my comment.

Anonymous said...

When I was in grade school, everyone played together. In high school, separations occurred - jocks, smokers, artists, musicians, nerds, blacks, poor kids, rich kids, etc. I guess kids were trying to find their place; their identity. Danah Boyd has written an essay, (which has gone quite viral) called Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace in which she raises the issue of social class observed in the fragmentation of American teens from MySpace to Facebook. Beverly Daniel Tatum is the author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

Similarity? Space. What Tatum called affinity groups or “spaces that facilitate positive exploration where people can pose questions and process issues.” What does this have to do with diversity in the Edublogosphere?

We would have to answer the question, Why Do All the Old (sorry, middle aged) White Guys Dominate the Edublogosphere. (Except you, Tony, because you don’t seem to be ‘old’ : ) While there may be gender diversity in number based on the informal survey, the “space” seems to be one in which the ‘most read’ are white men. Links drive popularity. Men and women create the links presumably because they like the content. But that seems naïve. Technology breaks down barriers but not right away. We mostly hang with people we are like. We share a space.

Make note when you’re in a group situation. If there is separation, do you wander into the group most like you? Why would we be so naïve to think that things would change just because of technology?

Arguments on competitiveness, ranting vs. calm musings, more men in e-learning technology,
lack of time, etc. are individual excuses to justify the mirroring of society in technology and I think they’re bull. You can be dismissive when you’re not sitting at the kids table.

More on diversity in the edublogosphere
Raymond Rose discusses diversity in educational technology leadership

here and don’t miss the comments of Bonnie Bracey Sutton and others.

Anonymous said...

And what do you think about such kind of women's network?