The intentional marginalization of blogging in the corporate learning sector

Longtime blogger Jim Groom, an Instructional Technology Specialist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington, wrote about giving credit where credit is due (in traditional academic journals) when it comes to using ideas authored in “unconventional academic media,” i.e. blogging, etc.

The catalyst for Groom’s post is an article in the EDUCAUSE Quarterly about the post-LMS Era, a topic he has written about extensively. (There’s actually a lot more to his post – and the comments – than “credit” and well worth a read.)

I came upon Groom’s post at first via a Skype conversation with my colleague Gary Woodill who was pointing me to a George Siemens re-post from 2006, A Review of Learning Management System Reviews, which George wrote while at the University of Manitoba. (He re-posted it to maybe “give it a bit more of an existence.”)

Many of you may not have read Jim Groom’s 4+ year-old blog bavatuesdays before because it doesn’t focus on corporate learning & development however, many of the issues he dives into are the same issues we face in L&D and it’s been valuable reading to me – it’s like an ongoing free education. George Siemens too although, he does write (blogs and journals) about corporate learning – in addition to academic topics – and is always involved in setting up the annual LearnTrends – The Corporate Learning Trends & Innovation Conference. Hybrid George.

Lest you think I’m only talking about bloggers writing about their favorite topic – blogging – this background info provides the type of “implied credit” that exists among a network of bloggers working through contemporary issues.

L&D has a blogger network where generally a first name is all you need to  recognize someone – Tony, Mark, Brent, Karyn, Jane, the other Jane, Harold, Gina, Marcia, Cammy, Dave, Stephen, George, and many others. Those names mean little  to many in L&D and I’m going to guess are not even recognizable for most. Among corporate L&D types, I think reading blogs is still new.

To tell the truth, when I was working in the corporate environment – and even when I first started blogging 3+ years ago – I thought it was like this secret world of narcissistic people who just linked to each other and theorized. I didn’t have much use for it when I was up to my eyeballs in creating Captivate recordings to demonstrate how to use an antiquated mainframe system that still permeate the corporate world due to their tentacle-like properties. Shame on me.

I digress.

The entire ‘credit where credit due’ issue made me think about corporate learning periodicals. I read them less often than I used to but did this morning while my PC was going through some sort of Windows upgrade that allowed me the time to make a freakin’ omelet.

Of course, those that write in L & D periodicals do not have the same issues as the academic/ journal “game” where tenure and 16 pages of citations are the rules. What is a game but rules right?

However, in L&D periodicals, I do think there’s the same “marginalization of blogging” (Groom writes about) and the failure to give credit where credit is due. There’s (still) a certain respect associated with corporate learning periodicals (and many are very, very good and include those that blog) but I often get the feeling that when something is written on a blog (vs. within an article) it’s not taken seriously.

It’s everywhere.  Just the other night I was watching House and the actress Laura Prepon, forever known to me as Donna Pinciotti on That 70s Show, was playing a patient who was a professional blogger. (She looks nothing like Jim Groom : ) I thought they made a joke of her blogging on  the show even though she had a pretty good explanation (the psychological issue of not seeing people aside) of the feeling one gets when writing in an online public space. In my opinion, blogs are frequently viewed as a joke because of the author’s attachment to them and the whole idea that one cannot have a true social connection with online “friends” (quotations are theirs).

I digress again. (This post is long enough be a chapter in a book or an article in a training periodical ; )

Anyway…back to Groom who said, in part, of blogs…

“…we all know that these ideas [like the post- LMS era] have been vehemently discussed and hashed out on the blogosphere, where credit is often and necessarily inconsistent and erratic, but somehow implied–and given we are all working for bigger idea…”

I won’t call anyone out publicly or name the periodical but there’s an article by someone who (best I can tell) does not participate in the “work for bigger ideas.”

Within the article there’s a reference to “subject matter networks” with no attribution. I choked on my omelet and immediately thought of Mark Oehlert’s Subject-matter Experts: The Origin Post. (This same author later speaks about Twitter and I’ve yet to find them on Twitter.)

While the ’subject-matter networks’ term can be found in  articles that pre-date this (primarily articles about professional development and teachers, see Google Scholar) in the  context of the L&D article, it should have been attributed to the person (Mark) that spent “almost three days of non-stop talking about social media and how it can impact learning” framing it.

What to make of all this? It’s a helluva lot easier to write a static article that outlines the ideas of others than to actually have (and to write about) the ideas. If you think everything on blogs is crap and that content should be cited and vetted like a professional journalist, you’re marginalizing the author’s work being done for the greater good of the industry. And shame on those trying to attain L&D celebrity status at the expense of bloggers.

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