Blogs as Personal Presence Portal Revisited
Stuart Henshall reflects on how he will move away from 'traditional' blogging in the coming year. This triggered some comments by me in his blog, but also this longish post, which is largely unorganized thoughts and assocations. Just a first step in sensemaking.
I'm seeing signs that blogs are declining in usefulness and utility as they are pushed into activities they are not suited for. [...] Going Blogging was one of the most rewarding things I've done in the last few years. It has connected me with wonderful people all over the world. It's brokered many a new introduction. Still I'm planning on giving up my blog in the new year. I'm migrating away from being just a blogger.
Stuart thinks the format is becoming too solitary for him, and he plans on being a more collaborative contributor. Oh I want to own my own words, and I hope create and nurture new pages to life. However, they shouldn't stop there. For the most part a blog is a static repository while the world is a living organism. I want to breath life into change. Thus I need to open source my approach to writing, sharing, and becoming part of a broader collective intelligence. (For more on Collective Intelligence, please read George Por's weblog)
A lot of what Stuart says rings true to my ears. I have seen my blogpostings become less frequent, in my mind as a result of spending a lot of time and energy in what Johnnie Moore calls the in-between spaces. In relationships, in collaboration etc. However this has been largely blog-induced. Blogs are great to think out loud and thus to trigger new conversations and relationships. That's why I think Elmine Wijnia's communicative definition of weblogs is hitting the nail on the head. Blogs are far less effective though in feeding and sustaining those relationships and collaboration it helped trigger, except as placeholders at which they are very good again. This is a point Denham Grey is repeatedly making.
Blogs aren't evolving enough
Stuart says Blogs remain static in structure, they haven't evolved much. I think I recognize what he means. Blogs not only give individuals a voice, but by the sheer number of them can also put people at a distance. Stuart notes I think that the large number of blogfeeds together form a filter, my community filter, of what is going on and what is thought to be important. Then not the individual posting as such draws my attention but the aggregate patterns I see in the info-soup. (See also Every Signal Starts out as Noise) The fact that individual bloggers to me are not only worthwile as conversational partners themselves, but also parts in the Early Warning System their collective rss-feeds form, is not something that is reflected in our blogs. Blogs haven't adapted to their new additional role as aggregating piece of a wider filter/pattern.
Personal Presence Portal, revisited: Two directions in which to evolve
This brings us back I think to an earlier conversation on blogs as Personal Presence Portals. We have started our blogs as soapboxes, triggering conversations, which turned into relations and collaboration. At the same time your blogs created new horizons for me, making me aware of much more events, information and stuff than before. Putting all that together created a new filter to view the world with (and made magazine and paper subscriptions superfluous for me). If our blogs need to evolve than this should be in two directions I think. The first direction to serve us better on an individual level, the second to serve us better as part of the aggregate filter, as pixel in the pattern.
Evolving into full-blown on-line personae
One direction is to enhance value on a personal level, creating loads of more context. Not by only being an outlet channel for thoughts, but the on-line hub of my life. This could mean (more) integration with my other personal information tools (think private and public wiki, yasns), providing not only personal intellectual context (books I read etc.), but especially more social context. I feel my blogroll does not serve my purpose as an indicator of my network well. So being able to share information about my networks (localized yasn? Feeds from LinkedIn, OpenBC?) would be an option. But once I share that, I want to be able to determine who sees what on my blog. My network consists of circles, with different shades of intimacy and trust. I want the access someone has to my blog to reflect that, much like real online portals are able to do (or forums with their reputation systems for instance). If I work with you, our work should be accessible through my blog/wiki. Others should only be able to see what we want to share about it (nothing, the fact that we collaborate, some of the results, some of the work, everything). Also access to multiple communication channels falls into this category. Or I could think of things like a section "people I have been in touch with today", showing us more of the in-between spaces.
My blog evolving into an effective part of your filter (and yours for mine)
Another route for evolution, to satisfy the role as filtering part of the whole, would be turning to microcontent a la Marc Canter more (who by the way talks of digital life style aggregators in the same way I think of presence portals). If I am part of your community filter, I should think about how to feed that filter better and more effectively. Only part of what I filter myself becomes visible in my blog. As I write this, dozens of links/articles/pages come to mind, which I won't all mention, but are nevertheless important. You could benefit if I had a channel where I did open them up for you. Martin Roell's Newsfeed sort of serves that purpose I think. De.licio.us, my bookmarks feed (rss), does as well. How about if I opened up those feeds right in my blog, adding the wiki-changes, feeds of comments I made elsewhere, etc. Or all the feeds I read myself. There is no need here for me to organize all those different info-particles or make some sense of them, just a need to show you which info-particles I encounter and pick up. It's about leaving trails really, as Steven Johnson writes in his book Emergence.
So how feed the filter more? By supplying additional feeds, but also perhaps by supplying additional blogs/content streams. I write about Knowledge Management, but also (fledgingly) about alternate energy sources. A more traditional life-log could add perspective (especially if geo-tagged). Where have I been, what did I do, and not restrict it to the topic at hand (knowledge management in this case). It is through this type of info that things go click, in my mind at least, which helps me connect the dots. Stuart said his blog would have been more succesfull if it had had more focus. Even though I don't know what success in this case means, I am suggesting that for my blog to be a usefull part of your community filter it would need less focus. Or at least, different foci in different sections of my blog as personal presence portal. Important here would be to open up this stuff to you in a non-time consuming way. I don't want to write down the trails to feed into your filter, they need to be able to write themselves down.
Where to start?
The first thing that comes to mind is evaluating my current blog. What info is on there, and what role does it serve. Uncluttering the blog, and then recluttering it purposefully, you might say. A second step would be moving more traces into view, and add pointers to other foci. Change feeds for the wiki (or different wiki's I am active in) and that sort of stuff.
What suggestions do you have?4 Comments and 11 Trackbacks | Permalink
BlogTalk Down Under
Anne Bartlett-Bragg whom I met at Blogtalk in Vienna has announced that she and other Australian bloggers, such as James Farmer will host BlogTalk Down Under in the spring of 2005. (or fall as seen from the antipodes)Call for papers can be downloaded in pdf. There is also the possibility to host a workshop in parallel to the conference. Tempting. One more thing to muse about during Christmas.1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Announcing BlogWalk Chicago
In cooperation with Jack Vinson, our local host (thanks Jack!), we are in the process of organizing BlogWalk 6 in Chicago, United States. Lilia Efimova will be in the US and attend the BlogWalk.
Friday January 21st, or Saturday January 22nd, 2005, depending on the preference of the participants (so let us know early!)
We're hoping Seabury, Evanston IL (see picture), near Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan, though we don't know for sure yet.
Social software in corporate settings. We are continuing the discussions started during BlogWalk London last September, and are curious if a North-American perspective yields different insights.
Who can attend?
Blogwalks are by invitation only. If you have an interest in attending please let us know, so we can invite you. There is room for about 25 people. Get in touch with me (e-mail on the left hand side), or better yet, with Jack Vinson directly.
For more information have a look at the BlogWalk wiki.
We are also looking into organizing a new BlogWalk session soon in Europe as well.0 Comments and 5 Trackbacks | Permalink
Bye Bye Ecademy
In the last 2 years I have been a non-paying member of Ecademy, a business and social networking platform with a pretty strong UK emphasis, since that is where it started. I'm not a frequent user of the platform, and the reasons for that I wrote about earlier this year:
I have strong reservations about Ecademy as a platform, think that in general it has a approach to networking that sees contacts as prospects first, and as human beings only second at the most. (Although there are a lot of very interesting and fine people active there, in groups and communities) (also see the comments to that post, and the following discussion in Ecademy itself, triggered by Scott Allen)
Nevertheless I came across many interesting people there, and joined a few networks there that seemed interesting. Primarily I joined the Dutch Connection, a lively group of creative and openminded people, consisting of Dutch, ex-pats living in the Netherlands, and those who have some sort of interest in the Netherlands. We've been meeting regularly in Amsterdam, and slowly plans and actions are emerging from this group. The group uses Ecademy as their on-line platform, although it does not see itself as a specific Ecademy club.
This weekend while logging in on Ecademy I was forced to choose between a new set-up of memberships. I chose the free basic membership. These questions come up every now and then, and I always choose the free membership. This primarily because the extra services I get for my money aren't that much added value for me to justify the monthly fee. But now things have changed: by choosing the free membership this weekend, my possibilities on Ecademy were reduced. What used to be the free membership now costs a small amount of money "the first year" (whatever that may mean for the years after). The changes, reducing my ability to interact to zero, are:
This looks a lot like my experience with Haloscan, where I had to become a paying member to be able to export my blog-comments. The reason I wanted to export them was because I had stopped using their service....
While I have no problem with saying goodbye to Ecademy as a platform, what I do have a problem with is the sudden and unannounced (afaik) cut-off from the few relationships I built there. I think it's the community that is the added value of the platform, not the other way around. And the platform owner is not the community owner nor it's natural leader. Also networking platforms aren't exactly scarce. Now the free membership has been stripped of every possibility to interact with others on the Ecademy website, the barrier to entry has become a lot higher for newcomers I think. I am curious to see the growthrate over the coming months of membership.
So after 2 years I have just logged out of Ecademy for the last time. As soon as I have discussed how to stay in touch with the Dutch Connection with other members I will probably remove my profile from Ecademy as well. No reason to keep it there, if I cannot use it to interact with others, and the only one being able to use it is Thomas Power to boast about the number of people in Ecademy.
I wish Ecademy the best of luck, as I am sure there are a lot of people in there for whom it offers real added value. It just always had limited value for me and apparantly I am of too little value to Ecademy now as well. I am confident that I will stay and get in touch with interesting people through other channels. Bye bye Ecademy.