Having just reached a major milestone birthday (I’ll leave you to figure out whether that’s 30 or 40), I feel justified in reflecting on the role that blogging is likely to play in the years to come. I’ve just made major investments in three new all-consuming hobbies – photography, video and piano playing – and I need time to make sure I get a good return on all three. At the same time, there’s plenty of demand for my services as a learning technologist (which is what I’ve recently decided to call myself) so surely something has to give.
Well, for now at least, it will not be blogging. I’ve been posting for six years now to Clive on Learning, which represents something like 750 entries and 350,000 words. That’s not to mention another 100 or so posts on the Onlignment blog. Surely there can’t be much more to say?
I’ve become more and more certain that blogging is just a new form of journalism. It breaks away from more traditional print and TV journalism in that you are not answerable to any editor or publisher – there are, effectively, no barriers to entry. But having said that, there are plenty of barriers to prevent you from carrying on once you’ve got started. For a start, you need a stream of material for new posts. That will only happen if you’re exposed to lots of thoughts and ideas (including those which challenge your own thinking) and that means a lot of reading, listening, watching and conversing. You also need to make the most of your own experiences, reflecting on the successes and the failures and looking for the patterns that will inform new ideas of your own.
Lots of people get this far, but you also need the means, the motive and the opportunity to convert this raw material into words (and, increasingly, pictures). Even then, if you fail to find an audience, you will have to be pretty determined to keep going indefinitely. So, plenty of bloggers eventually decide to call it a day. Those that are left are the ones who most enjoy being a journalist.
A problem I am wrestling with is how often to post. For the first five years I posted twice a week, now only once. But some of my colleagues – with the blogs I most like to read – have no regular pattern. Donald Clark goes quiet for months then has the inspiration for a new series and belts them out at one a day, like a part works. Others, such as Nick Shackleton-Jones, post only when they have something significant to say. Nick’s essays have the character of major feature articles.
Then again, some, like Stephen Downes, post every day without fail. They act as curators for all those with fewer sources to draw upon and less time at their disposal. While some act as a news aggregator, recycling press releases without adding value, Stephen provides his own unique take, and inevitably makes friends and enemies along the way.
So what sort of journalist do I want to be going forward? I’d say the best parallel would be a weekly columnist who takes the odd week (or perhaps even month) off. The discipline of a regular routine suits me. WIthout this, I’m sure the posts would become less and less frequent as the task of posting slipped further down the priority list.
All sorted then.
Thanks for reading this bit of introspection. With any luck I’ll be back next week as usual. Unless it’s one of my weeks off.