About Blogs (weblogs)

Weblogs (blogs) are personal websites which make it easy to record daily entries. I blog to learn. Blogs let me read content from a single individual, unadulerated with corporate claptrap. On the outbound side, my blogs stick memories in my head -- the teacher always learns more than the student. Blogs are gut-simple to set up. Go to Blogger to see for yourself.

I recently shifted some material from BloggerPro to MovableType because I want an easy way to set up comments and categorize topics. (Blogger's API has made it possible to swap content between the various blogging tools.)

My main professional blog is

And my personal blog is at

My "blogroll" (blogs I frequent) is at

I moderate the Learning Circuits blog.

If you read lots of blogs, you'll become interested in syndication.

Blogging was arcane when I started in mid-1999. Now (2003), a million people have registered with Blogger alone. Once the realm of individuals, corporations are joining the blogosphere.


Learning Circuits
TechTools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . April 2002
By Jay Cross

Blogs

Learn to blog, blog to learn.

Blog stands for Web-log, an informal personal Website. Thousands of people blog every day. (Blog is both a noun and a verb.) I’ve blogged for 18 months, and I’m convinced that blogs are destined to become a powerful, dirt-cheap tool for e-learning and knowledge management.

A blog is defined as a Website with dated entries, usually by a single author, often accompanied by links to other blogs that the site’s editor visits on a regular basis. Think of a blog as one person’s public diary or suggestion list. Early blogs were started by Web enthusiasts who would post links to cool stuff that they found on the Internet. They added commentary. They began posting daily. They read one another’s blogs. A community culture took hold.

In 1999, blogging software arrived on the scene, enabling anyone to post content to a Website. Generally, blog software comes with a personal Website for those who don’t already have one. The software captures your words in dated entries, maintaining a chronological archive of prior entries. In the spirit of sharing inherent to Net culture, the software and the personal Websites are usually free. Currently, blogging is one of the fastest growing trends on the Web. Nearly half a million people have downloaded blogging software.

But what’s so special about this way of posting text to the Internet? Blogs are personal and unfiltered. Real people, rather than corporate PR departments or ad agencies, write them.

"Imagine Hunter S. Thompson writing about the new Mac operating system," writes Carlyle Adler in Fortune Online. "That's the wacky spirit you can expect when you check out the online narratives known as Weblogs. While these sites represent both the best and worst of Web self-publishing (the virtual tour of ugly couches wasn't for us, nor were the angry ex-girlfriend sites), several of the technology Weblogs are worth checking out."

Blogging to learn

Not long ago, a blog pointed me to Chris Ashley's article "Weblogs: A Swiss Army Website?" He writes, "Weblog software and the Weblog model of content production and platform interoperability are proving to be increasingly useful and powerful, pushing and inspiring innovative developments for, and uses of, the Web. These areas include content, information, and knowledge management; community building; publishing and journalism; teaching, learning, and collaboration; and course management systems.… Weblog software, interfaces, and workflows are helping to realize a Web of increasing organization and interoperability, ease of production, improved and flexible information flow, and interlinked accessibility…."

After reading this, I asked Ashley to discuss the role of the e-teacher, meta-learning, and more. Our conversation revealed a half-dozen ways that blogging can support learning. Essentially, blogs are a personal writing space to organize our own thoughts and share information with others.

Blogging pioneer Peter Merholz adds, "the power of Weblogs is their ability to immediately put form to thought. I can get an idea in my head--however [half] baked it might be--and, in seconds, share it with the world. Immediately, I get feedback, refinement, stories, and so forth spurred by my little idea. Never before was this possible."

Also, blogs are easily linked and cross-linked to form learning communities. A few days after we met, Ashley emailed, "It was interesting how the next day you posted on your blog about our talk, about which David Carter-Tod commented on in his blog. One of my colleagues, Raymond Yee, noticed it after we had lunch, and I told him about our discussion. Then, Yee wrote a post about our circle on his blog. Of course, then I had to comment about it on my blog. It's all an interesting little Web that blogs make happen so quickly."

In another setting, innovative teachers are encouraging students to maintain class and personal school blogs. Enthusiasm grows as students take ownership of the content. They write, edit, review, and publish content. They also critique each other and present different viewpoints. Teachers make articles available to read electronically. Blogs maintained by individual students enable teachers to assess their students’ thinking patterns and depth of understanding. In the future, students may learn by assembling personal digital portfolios.

Former MTV-vj Adam Curry is working with teacher Peter Ford to offer free school blogs and advice on how to use them. They note that "Children are vain, just like adults. They desire and require an audience for their thoughts and achievements." they add, "The simple intuitive nature of SchoolBlogs is precisely what's required to allow students to express themselves on their own terms. Children's involvement with Websites has to be more than a posting of a few pieces of their work on a third person's static Website for a non-existent world to see. There's no ownership in that. School Blogs can give children their own soapbox, their own voice. They become habitual writers. They are in control." (See Weblog-ed for additional accounts of the power of blogs in schools.)

Although everyone would like to learn a craft by apprenticing to a world-class master, it’s not always possible. Workshops held by master craftsmen don't scale. By combining blogs and digital storytelling we get the next best thing, a virtual apprenticeship. The Center for Digital Storytelling believes that "in the not distant future, sharing one's story through the multiple media of digital imagery, text, voice, sound, music, video, and animation will be the principle hobby of the world's people." Imagine learning to teach by observing and learning from stories told by a world-class instructor.

Sample blogs

Build a Blog
To start your own blog, go to blogger.com. A blog account is free! Here are instructions for building your personal, company, or team blog.

The best way to understand blogs is to visit a few.

ElearningPost. Maish Nichani’s blog deals with corporate learning, community building, instructional design, knowledge management, and so forth. Every weekday Maish links to four or five interesting articles. Sample sources are Wired, Chronicle of Higher Ed, Syllabus, First Monday, Training, PBS, and CIO. Maish writes a brief paragraph to describe each link.

I no longer read three-quarters of the magazines I once felt obligated to, but I do read e-learningpost religiously to find out what I need to read. It’s also more fun to read from a variety of voices--an article from Fortune, a story from Learning Circuits, or a white paper from IBM.

Research on Learning and Performance (now the learning category of www.internettime.com/blog).This blog began as a personal tool to capture ideas that I would later add to the e-learning page of my company's Website. As more information about e-learning became available, keeping that page up-to-date became a burden. Now, every couple of weeks I harvest worthwhile entries from the blog to post. What sort of content do you find on this blog? Whatever I found interesting at the time. Essentially, the blog is a clipping service. Love me, love my blog. Some sample content includes

  • photos and impressions of ASTD TechKnowledge in Las Vegas
  • notes from a Centra press event (posted during the session)
  • poetry about meta-learning
  • a pithy quote from Cisco’s Tom Kelly
  • notes from a meeting with Chris Ashley at The Interactive University

My blog contains more than a year’s worth of items like those. The content comes in small bites. How do people retrieve needles from this haystack? Most use the Google search box that appears atop each page.

Bottom line?

For me, blogs highlight useful information that I may never find on my own--or think to find on my own. Cameron Barrett's blog has taught me more about Web design than any course. David Weinberger’s blog mentors me on knowledge management, and often it has me laughing out loud. Chris Pirillo keeps me abreast of Windows' developments. Recently, Stephen Downes began augmenting my understanding of how people learn.

I know what you're thinking. Why couldn’t I get the same insight from reading a book or a magazine? Let me count the ways. First, the informality of blogs makes them engaging. Second, they're a time management tool. Because bloggers read one another's stuff, the best of the best rises to the top and eventually appears on the handful of blogs I read. In addiiton, blogs offer personal and even contrarian viewpoints. Third, blogs are current. For example, and unfortunately, I first learned about the World Trade Center disaster on DaveNet rather than CNN.

Basically, blogs work.


Learning Circuits
December 2002

Visit the New Learning Circuits Blog

by Jay Cross

Blogs (short for weblogs) are informal Websites where people publish stories, opinions, and links--often on a daily basis. The most recent entry comes first; old entries are relegated to online archives. Originally personal diaries and lists of recommended links, blogs have blossomed into tools for knowledge sharing, public education, customer service, journalism, community-building, and marketing.

Learning Circuits was there first. The Learning Circuits Blog kicked off in April 2002 with commentary from Peter Isackson, Tom Barron, Clark Quinn, Bill Horton, Kevin Wheeler, Ellen Wagner, Margaret Driscoll, Allison Rossett, Richard Clark, and me. Six months and 18,836 words later, this starter blog sputtered to a halt, a victim of overly long postings, advances in technology, and other priorities. Today we're re-starting the new Learning Circuits Blog with the ability for you to make comments and an enthusiastic team of contributors.

Bloggers have always linked to one another; it's how one gets known. Lately, blogs have begun to accept comments. Many blogs are "syndicated." For example, my blog entries are automatically swept into a consolidated blog published in China. Comments, cross-referencing, and syndication connect bloggers.

For example, I just posted this comment on George Siemens's elearnspace: George, at first, your piece on blogging made me angry but now I'm growing to love it. You see, I sat down twenty minutes ago to write a progress report on blogging for Learning Circuits. A link from Dave Winer's blog to Phil Windley's blog led me back to elearnspace, where I found that you'd already written a lot of what I intended to say. But then it occurred to me that the true spirit of blogging is sharing ideas. Passing along a meme can be as powerful as originating one. After all, most bloggers gladly point to other sources they like. So now I'm happy, for instead of writing something original, I'll just quote you extensively. Thanks.

Discussing the implications of the tremendous expansion of blogging, George says: "As a disruptive technology, blogging is altering (or perhaps responding to?) many aspects of information/content creation and use. These changes are not without impact. What are some of the implications of a tool that functions at the same speed as the medium
it serves? Here are a few:

  • Content creation and consumption on the Internet has finally caught up with the Internet. Traditional content suppliers (publishers and news organizations) will face substantial pressures to respond appropriately or they'll cease to be relevant.
  • There's decentralization of content and distribution. This is a trend well underway on the Internet. Napster capitalized on it, and blogging is the "canary in a mine" reacting to (and reflecting) it.
  • The user is in control. The end user of a service or product has acquired a central rather than fringe role. If you disagree with a blogger you can tell him or her via comments and links and initiate a dialogue with the author and other readers.
  • People expect conversation rather than lecture.
  • The pipe is more important than the content. By various estimates, bloggers number between 750,000 and 1 million. The ecosystem of blogging is more important than the content being generated. The content has a set life span but the process for content acquisition--blogging--stays fresh.
  • There's an increase in shared meaning and understandings. Knowledge is acquired and shaped as a social process, which results in spiraling effect. I say something, you comment on it. I evaluate your comments, respond, and present a new perspective. Then, the process repeats until a concept has been thoroughly explored.
  • Ideas are presented as the starting point for dialogue, rather than an ending point.
  • George concludes, "The simplest innovations are often the most effective in responding to ground swells of trends and change. The potency of the blog phenomenon is two fold: perfect match for its medium and ease of use."

Please drop by the new Learning Circuits Blog. Post a comment. Join the fun. And visit again.

Published: December 2002


THE BLOGGING PROCESS (July 2003)
"A pretentious and presumptuous attempt to document what bloggers have learned, without any formal instruction, to do every day. And then a description of what's needed to make blogs a medium for real conversation."

The blogger is no longer the solitary writer, detached from the real world. Today's blogger spends quite a bit of time reading, commenting, researching, recommending, and promoting. She may be part of a community of bloggers.


"A Weblog (also known as a blog) is a personal Website that offers frequently updated observations, news headlines, commentary, recommended links and/or diary entries, generally organized chronologically. Weblogs vary greatly in style and content." from Triumph of the Weblogs by Kevin Werbach.

Blogs about blogs

Blogroots index of sites, pointers, books & more

BlogDex (MIT) "blogdex is a system built to harness the power of personal news, amalgamating and organizing personal news content into one navigable source, moving democratic media to the masses. at current, blogdex is focused on the referential information provided by personal content, namely using the timeliness of weblogs to find important and interesting content on the web."

BlogHop "About BlogHop! Your friendly neighborhood blog portal. Bloghop was made with one thing in mind -- to help readers find good blogs. It's all about the readers, man. If you find a blog you like, rate it, and it'll float to the top for the next reader."

the complete guide to weblogs "This resource is intended to contain as much information as possible about weblogs." And they do it rather well.

Keep Trying "Mike Sanders Looks at Life Through The Blog"

LinkWatcher aims to "supply linkwatcher users with much more powerful tools for searching, monitoring, and discovering new blogs."

Eatonweb Portal Brigitte says "this portal is a labor of love. it started back in early 1999 when there were less than 50 known weblogs-there were a lot more than that out there, they just hadn't been discovered. as more kept turning up or getting started, i kept adding them to my list. it's grown a little since then." She lists 3377 blogs.

BlogCon 2002 the first blogger conference. Vegaa, August 23-25

Weblogs and the News "Where news, weblogs, and journalism intersect. The following links provide information about new forms of personal journalism — including weblogs, collaborative news sites, personal broadcasting, and more — as well as pointers to examples of each genre."

Weblog Review "This page has been made so that people can find weblogs that interest them. Rather than just a bunch of links like other weblog portal pages, this one will actually include reviews of weblogs."

Write the Web "News for web users that [sic] write back."

12 Things No One Ever Told You About Having a Weblog

Google zeitgeist


Full article

Will businesses blog?

Jay Cross, CEO of the Internet Time Group, a Berkeley, Calif., e-learning and knowledge management consulting firm, thinks a Blogger-enhanced content management system could be a powerful business tool.

“It would allow subject matter experts to document what’s important to them, and then publish it,” Cross says. “Instead of some knowledge engineer telling you what’s good for you, which is the old style of top-heavy corporate thinking, you’d have people in the sales force saying to each other, ‘This is information that’s really worthwhile.’ So you get informal exchanges of information within the corporation.”

Cross believes that a Blogger-based content management system would help employees deal with information overload, as an editor could filter out the clutter and make sure only relevant information gets posted.

While Cross sees the potential for Blogger and other Web log software, he believes it will be a difficult sell at a time when dot-com technology is out of vogue and the nation’s economy is depressed. “I think a content management system using Blogger may be a stealth sell; people buy it because it doesn’t cost much. If you offer five seats for $1,000 and there are some early adopters, it might catch on,” he says.


Thoughts on Blogging as Knowledge Management Tool

Corporate lawyers aren't going to applaud my concepts of KM through blogging. After all, if old email that might be subpoenaed as evidence is a legal nightmare, imagine what attorneys will think of uncensored blogs. Ray Ozzie has offered a policy to keep employee blogs from violating SEC quiet period rules.

Perhaps the ideal in-house blog database will be wired to implode if the SEC or the courts try to get at what's inside:

Of course, the urge for secrecy, understandable for a Worldcom or Enron, can backfire if employees can't access their own firm's know-how:

People who have heard my call for information sharing in business warn that (1) knowledge workers won't share their know-how because it's their meal-ticket and (2) you'll never get everyone on board. The first issue is motivational; reward systems can change the balance. Secondly, things will be a whole lot better if only one person in five takes part; 100% participation is not the objective.

See Using Blogs in Business, chapter from We Blog

 

Blogs for Education

a place to write, nothing fancy, Chris Ashley

Weblogging: Another kind of website, Chris Ashley

"What is a weblog? A weblog is easy to use but less easy to explain, a technology that is becoming more widely used but still remains little known, and a writing tool that supports practicing writers and previous non-writers"

Weblogs: A Swiss Army website?, Chris Ashley

"Weblog communities are encouraged and supported by the ability of writers to use relatively simple publishing and writing environments that they can own, by the tools that help readers and writers find each other and connect over similar interests, and when readers themselves are empowered to write."

weblog-ed, Will Richardson

Weblogs in Education/School Blogs, Adam Curry and Peter Ford

Berkeley Interactive University

Grassroots KM through blogging - Maish Nichani & Venkat Rajamanickam - 14th May 2001

Blogs are a really cool way of telling stories. And because they are digital and use the Web for publishing and distribution, they have some advantages over traditional means of storytelling.

  • They are much more accessible than face-to-face mode.
  • They scale very easily across a large network, thus reaching a wider audience.
  • They can be easily archived and retrieved any number of times.
  • Providing context is much easier with hyperlinks and cross references.

Finally, as the popularity of blogs catches on, we are going to see many more twists on their use, but as we have noted, many will grow from their grassroots ability to communicate and share personal stories. In concluding this article, we take another quote from David Weinberger (he seems to have the most commonsensical approach to KM; simply can't resist quoting him):

So, here's a definition of that pesky and borderline elitist phrase, "knowledge worker": A knowledge worker is someone whose job entails having really interesting conversations at work.

The characteristics of conversations map to the conditions for genuine knowledge generation and sharing: They're unpredictable interactions among people speaking in their own voice about something they're interested in. The conversants implicitly acknowledge that they don't have all the answers (or else the conversation is really a lecture) and risk being wrong in front of someone else. And conversations overcome the class structure of business, suspending the org chart at least for a little while.

If you think about the aim of KM as enabling better conversations rather than lassoing stray knowledge doggies, you end up focusing on breaking down the physical and class barriers to conversation. And if that's not what KM is really about, then you ought to be doing it anyway.

Weblogs and the News -- "Where News, Journalism and Weblogs Intersect"

"Blogs are heaps of words that stick to the water: annotated transcripts of conversations that have no sides. They are the accumulata of What We Know, of open-ended conversation with who-knows-who. And perhaps I mean that last phrase a bit more literally than I intended when I wrote it eight seconds ago." Doc Searles

Dave Winer's History of Weblogs

Tacit Docs by David Weinberger "To hell with tacit knowledge. Go for tacit documents instead."


from Netsurfer Digest: Blogging or Web logging has been around since the early days of the Web. Weblogs offer a vital, creative outlet for alternative voices. While conventional media haven't exactly faded away in the meantime, as some thought they might, blogging is an increasingly potent, credible and creative force for individual expression. It allows people to reach out beyond their immediate geographical confines and find an audience, no matter how small, on any subject under the sun. The lure of blogs is their creative freedom; no one else has a say in what you say and how you say it. And, it's becoming easier for anyone to join in with relatively simple and inexpensive tools for self-publishing. Diversity of viewpoint is another important rallying cry. There's a lot to be said for blogging, and three interesting, expressive bloggers do it well here, providing thoughtful, intriguing and diverse points of view about the phenomenon. We should shamelessly but briefly blow our own horn a little here and point out that in some ways Netsurfer is a blog, and perhaps the oldest of them all.


Still not satisfied? Rebecca's Pocket (a weblog, of course) offers this history of weblogs.

Excerpt:

    The original weblogs were link-driven sites. Each was a mixture in unique proportions of links, commentary, and personal thoughts and essays. Weblogs could only be created by people who already knew how to make a website. A weblog editor had either taught herself to code HTML for fun, or, after working all day creating commercial websites, spent several off-work hours every day surfing the web and posting to her site. These were web enthusiasts.

    Many current weblogs follow this original style. Their editors present links both to little-known corners of the web and to current news articles they feel are worthy of note. Such links are nearly always accompanied by the editor's commentary. An editor with some expertise in a field might demonstrate the accuracy or inaccuracy of a highlighted article or certain facts therein; provide additional facts he feels are pertinent to the issue at hand; or simply add an opinion or differing viewpoint from the one in the piece he has linked. Typically this commentary is characterized by an irreverent, sometimes sarcastic tone. More skillful editors manage to convey all of these things in the sentence or two with which they introduce the link (making them, as Halcyon pointed out to me, pioneers in the art and craft of microcontent). Indeed, the format of the typical weblog, providing only a very short space in which to write an entry, encourages pithiness on the part of the writer; longer commentary is often given its own space as a separate essay.

    These weblogs provide a valuable filtering function for their readers. The web has been, in effect, pre-surfed for them. Out of the myriad web pages slung through cyberspace, weblog editors pick out the most mind-boggling, the most stupid, the most compelling.


An early list from the eLearning Jump Page

Blogs

Learning Circuits
jaycross.com

BlogDex (MIT)
Blogwise
Tweeny
Paquette
Oblivio

A List Apart
Metafilter
Robot Wisdom
Weblogs.com

camworld
evhead
megnut & at O'Reilly
peterme
dave

doc

JOHO the Blog
eLearningPost
Tomalak's Realm
Slashdot
Zeldman
Kuro5hin
Kevin Werbach

Rebecca's Pocket
The Guardian
Fuzzy Blogic
Jon Udell
Steve Johnson
elegant hack

Technorati Top 100
JD Lasica/News
Rebecca Blood's links

Yahoo Groups Klogs

Six Apart Log

 

 



© 2003 Internet Time Group, Berkeley, California