Blogging About Blogging

I have been blogging for some time.

This WordPress blog dates back to June 2008.

I have Blogger, Tumblr and Posterous blog accounts too.

This week a friend, Darrell Cobner, asked me to write about blogging. He is an accomplished blogger and I was delighted that he asked me.

Darrell’s request was for me to address:

  • What is blogging?
  • Why blog?
  • What is the impact?
  • What are the rules of engagement?

I started drafting this blog post just after I had read John Kessel’s delightful Celebrating Together post on the USA Volleyball blogs site. His opening paragraph addresses implicitly Darrell’s questions:

Just finished our annual meetings in Salt Lake City, where all the USAV leaders come to share their season’s experiences and best practices and plan ahead to grow the game anew. This being an Olympic Year, our CEO Doug Beal shared a special powerpoint at the Congress, celebrating the achievements of volleyball in the USA, aka USA Volleyball in his State of the Game.  It is shared here, since so many of you reading this blog could not be in Salt Lake, yet you are growing the game so well in your part of our nation – we wanted you to celebrate too.  CLICK HERE to download and read it, you will learn a lot about how the Team behind the Team, which is all of us, are doing at USA Volleyball.

Explicitly, here are my thoughts on Darrell’s questions.

What Is Blogging?

Wikipedia has a very clear description of blogging:

A blog is a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Blogs are usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often are themed on a single subject.

Stephen Downes adds that:

Though blogs are typically thought of as personal journals, there is no limit to what may be covered in a blog. It is common for people to write blogs to describe their work, their hobbies, their pets, social and political issues, or news and current events.

The uptake of blogging was accelerated by easy to use blog platforms like Blogger and WordPress. Both provided and continue to provide ways for the uncomplicated upload of content. This makes blogging a very personal activity.  The author creates, uploads and monitors content of the blog.

In recent years Twitter has made microblogging an everyday activity that enables the exchange of short sentences, web links, and pictures.

Why Blog?

I mentioned John Kessel’s  Celebrating Together post on the USA Volleyball blogs site earlier. I return to it here to help explain why blog.

In the paragraph I quoted John makes the following points:

  • Just finished our annual meetings in Salt Lake City, where all the USAV leaders come to share their season’s experiences and best practices and plan ahead to grow the game anew.
  • Our CEO Doug Beal shared a special powerpoint at the Congress, celebrating the achievements of volleyball in the USA.
  • It is shared here, since so many of you reading this blog could not be in Salt Lake, yet you are growing the game so well in your part of our nation – we wanted you to celebrate too.  CLICK HERE to download
  • You will learn a lot about how the Team behind the Team, which is all of us, are doing at USA Volleyball.

John’s post exhibits two fundamental aspects of the why blog discussion:

  1. There is an unconditional commitment to sharing experiences and resources.
  2. The topic is of the author’s choice and narrative style.

I see blogging as a voluntary contribution to a community. Whenever I attend a conference or workshop I blog live so that those not attending can access information if they wish.

An example is my blog posts from the Computer Science in Sport Conference (Special Emphasis: Football) at Schloss Dagstuhl, Germany in 2011.

I blog to share my interests in performance and this leads me to share data from my research activities.

An example is my blog posts about performance at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

What I find particularly exciting about this approach is:

  • There is no expectation that anyone will read any post.
  • Occasionally people comment on the posts and this leads to thought-provoking exchange.
  • It contributes to a world that flourishes through reciprocal altruism.

What Is The Impact?

Blogging offers an immediate way to share information or discuss ideas.

I have posted 619 times to my blog since June 2008. This is a rich record for me of items of interest to me and a cloud resource I draw upon when meeting others interested in learning, teaching, coaching and performance. To date I have had 112,000+ visitors to the site.

I saw a big spike in readership during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Thereafter searches on Google yield some of my posts.

The availability of alerts to blog posts on topics or by a particular author has transformed the impact of blog posts.

In contemplating the impact of blog posts I am mindful of Todd Sieling’s advice about slow blogging.

Slow Blogging is a willingness to remain silent amid the daily outrages and ecstasies that fill nothing more than single moments in time, switching between banality, crushing heartbreak and end-of-the-world psychotic glee in the mere space between headlines. The thing you wished you said in the moment last week can be said next month, or next year, and you’ll only look all the smarter.

I am conscious that if we are to use blog posts as an indicator or reach and impact then we must engage in slow blogging.We must think too about the tags we use to point to the slow blogging outputs.

I think microblogging with Twitter offers an alternative for the immediate response to events.

What Are The Rules Of Engagement?

It is a public space

Back in 2007 Tim O’Reilly suggested that “I do think we need some code of conduct around what is acceptable behaviour, I would hope that it doesn’t come through any kind of regulation it would come through self-regulation.” One of his seven recommendations was:

Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.

Kate Carruthers’ advice

In my own blog I have an About page. On it I say:

This is a personal blog. Kate Carruthers has a great guide to rules of engagement for personal blogs. I try to follow her rules.

Kate’s rules are great!

  • This is my personal blog and I write it for my own personal satisfaction.
  • Readers are encouraged to comment, debate and discuss.
  • I moderate all comments and publish most, unless they appear (to my totally subjective gaze) to be defamatory, spammy, hate-mongering, not particularly constructive, or just plain rude/crude.
  • It’s fine to disagree with me, but I’m unlikely to publish your comment unless you display a modicum of style and intelligence.
  • if you do not provide a real name/identity/email I may choose not to publish your comments.
  • Real people who stand by their comments are cool!
  • This blog discusses ideas but does not purport to provide formal business, technology, psychology or finance advice.
  • Readers should seek (and probably pay for) advice of that nature from a professional source.
  • The content on this website is provided “as is” with no warranties, and confers no rights.
  • The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent views of any clients or employers in any way.
  • Nothing posted here should be considered official or sanctioned by any of my clients or employers or any organisation I am affiliated with.
  • Feel free to quote liberally from this blog if you want – please link back in the best web tradition if you use any material provided here and give credit for material used.

Sharing openly and open about sharing

Richard Byrne has a helpful post from 24 May 2011 that contains some detailed advice about:

  • What to do when you see your blog posts being stolen
  • What to do if you want to reuse someone’s blog post(s)

In Conclusion

I have written this post from the perspective of a person who seeks to share through blogging. I recognise that there are other motives to blog.

I am excited by the reflective potential of blogs in education and sport settings.

I facilitated a Sport Coaching Pedagogy unit at the University of Canberra last semester. One of the requirements of the unit was to develop a blog as a journal. I have compiled a list of the 60 blogs produced by the students on a Wikiversity page.

Perhaps the next discussion with Darrell will be about wikis … but not before some more of John Kessel’s post:

The final night of meetings before play begins, is the “Boyce Banquet” in honor of Dorothy C. Boyce.  Dorothy joined USAV in 1952 as a consultant on women’s volleyball and took on many leadership roles over her 22 years of involvement, including being USAV Vice President for a decade.  Traditionally, I sit at the banquet with Mike Hulett, who, if you don’t know of him…well dang it you should. I knew what was coming, as I had contributed a lot of photos of Mike, having been with him for decades as he helped head coach in our USA Paralympic programs. So take time to read the link award below, and watch the video ( CLICK HERE to watch) that I took of his surprise in being honored with USA Volleyball’s highest award, the Frier (named after the USAV leader who almost singlehandedly got volleyball into the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, just one of those things that we all should know and celebrate too…).  Mike’s achievements are something we ALL should celebrate in volleyball.  Just another thing USA Volleyball does to help volleyball for all, including the disabled of all ages.

http://usavolleyball.org/news/2012/05/25/mike-hulett-selected-as-usavs-2012-frier-winner/48119?ngb_id=2

Thank you for finding time to read this post. There are some other posts about blogging here.

Engines Running: Reflecting on David Crawford's Review of Australian Sport

Introduction

This has been a fascinating week for Australian sport. It started with Tiger Woods’ victory at the Australian Masters golf tournament and is ending with visceral debate about play, games, physical education and sport in Australian society. Although I have written two posts about the Independent Sport Panel’s Report I have been mindful of Todd Sieling‘s manifesto for slow blogging. He suggests that slow blogging is “an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly, and that many thoughts are best served after being fully baked and worded in an even temperament”.

Slow blogging is an art at a time when the immediacy of the Internet offers the opportunity for “daily outrages and ecstasies that fill nothing more than single moments in time, switching between banality, crushing heartbreak and end-of-the-world psychotic glee in the mere space between headlines”.

David Crawford’s Review of Australian Sport has offered remarkable opportunities for comments and responses. I have taken some time to read the Report and in this post I would like to explore some of what I consider to be the important issues raised. Before I do so I need to declare some interests.

Personal Interests, Private Troubles

I have had a lifelong interest in sport and physical education. I have played, taught and coached a variety of sports and have been fortunate to have been involved in international sport since 1980. I qualified as a teacher of physical education in 1975. My own pathway in sport has been enriched by a profound sense of the educational value of physical activity and a passionate, personal, intrinsic commitment to sport from a very early age. I completed my PhD (a sociological account of teaching physical education) in the late 1980s in England at a time when teachers were withdrawing from after school activity in state schools. I witnessed at first hand the break of the umbilical connection between teachers and pupils. I believe this had immense implications for the organisation of sport and the loss of an educational ethos in physical activity. From 1978 to the present I have had a profound interest in the social and cultural aspects of sport and for over a decade taught courses in sociology and cultural studies.

My academic life gave me access to the work of Norbert Elias through Eric Dunning’s sociological approaches to sport. Elsewhere in this blog I have explored themes of play and playfulness and these aspects were nourished in me by Ione and Peter Opie‘s work as well as by Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois. Some of the early sociologists of sport encouraged me to reflect on play, display and spectacle and I was particularly influenced by Gregory Stone, Allen Gutmann and Fred Inglis. Like any student in the 1970s and 1980s I had access to many of the writings of leading Marxist thinkers. I was fascinated by John Hoberman‘s work too and much more recently by Andy Miah.

This passion for sport has infused much of my life. I am a product of sport providing a social inclusion opportunity and I hope I have not forgotten the importance that sport can play in life changing experience. Whilst at the University of York (1973) I completed what I believe to be one of the first undergraduate studies in Apartheid and Sport. This fascination with the power of sport as a form of expression continues today with my enchantment with the possibilities midnight basketball holds.

I came to Australia in 2002 to join the staff at the Australian Institute of Sport and have had remarkable access to elite sporting environments and cultures in Australia. My sport journey started standing behind the goals at Buckley Wanderers trying to save the heavy leather laced balls missed by the goalkeeper, through thirteen years of school physical education to working with the Welsh rugby team to coaching on river banks in Australia. Recently I became a member of the Board of Australian Canoeing.

I am hopeful that these private troubles (as C Wright Mills called them) have some bearing on the public issues raised by David Crawford’s report.

Public Issues

Just before I read David Crawford‘s report I came across Nikolai Bohlke and Leigh Robinson’s (2009) paper Benchmarking of elite sport systems. I did not have access to the full paper but noted from the summary that their research “used semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis to investigate the elite sport services offered by two successful Scandinavian sports”. They found that “a number of the services that led to the success of the two investigated systems are strongly context dependent”. they propose that “benchmarking is only appropriate as a tool to further understanding of elite sport systems if it is approached as a way of learning, rather than copying”.

So as the Crawford Report was released I was thinking about within and between sport system comparisons and the kind of evidence (and time) one might need to understand a sporting culture. I liked in particular Nikolai and Leigh’s point about learning. I found Chapter 1.1 (Defining Our National Sports Vision) of Crawford particularly interesting in setting a context for me to read the report. I was drawn to some points made on page 8:

In all, we need to consider what we can afford to invest and how we appropriately balance this investment to support a broader definition of sporting success. This will mean more explicitly defining elite sporting success in the context of prioritising those sports which capture the country’s imagination and represent its spirit and culture. These are the sports where our performance on the national and world stage is important to our sense of success as a nation.

There should be debate about which sports carry the national ethos. Swimming, tennis, cricket, cycling, the football codes, netball, golf, hockey, basketball, surfing and surf lifesaving are among the most popular sports in Australia, a part of the national psyche. Many are team sports and are the sports we are introduced to as part of our earliest education and community involvement.

If more money is to be injected into the system then we must give serious consideration to where that money is spent. If we are truly interested in a preventative health agenda through sport, then much of it may be better spent on lifetime participants than almost all on a small group of elite athletes who will perform at that level for just a few years. (Emphasis is mine.)

These three small paragraphs are the essence of the debate for me and appear to have been a raw nerve for some people’s sense of the world whilst reaffirming others’ core values. I have tried to capture the range of responses to the Report in an earlier post (Engines Started …) This introductory section (1.1) led me to think about:

  • 21st century approaches to fitness and health
  • How a nation state defines priorities for the allocation of the public purse
  • Whether funding is a right or a privilege
  • Whether history is destiny
  • The imperatives for ethical sponsorship
  • The advantages of a common wealth approach to social capital

I have combined these into three themes: insatiability, connectedness and deference.

Insatiability

For some time I have been concerned that it is possible to have an insatiable appetite for funds to support elite sport. In fact my arrival in Australia in 2002 coincided with a major dilemma for the Australian sport system … how do you progress after a successful home Olympics that was the focus of enormous investment? I still wonder if 2000 was a justifiably proud high water mark for Australian Olympic endeavour. Thereafter we had to compete with the energy of new host nations and the growing presence of the United Kingdom with significant financial resources at its disposal. Australia shared its expertise with the United Kingdom post-Sydney Olympics and many other nations warmed to the Australian model of success. It seemed to me that the only way to compete with these nations was to assume all Olympics were home Olympics so that Australia could resource a small demographic with sufficient long-haul training and competition opportunities.

I believe the Crawford Report provides an opportunity to debate these issues in a transparent way. I think the Report makes a strong case for “a nationally agreed plan for sport which encompasses all relevant areas of government and engages all tiers of government” (Summary of Findings 2.1 point 6). What interests me in particular is the timescale is required to agree and operationalise a plan that impacts on our lived (rather than aspirational) experience of sport in Australia. The development of a national policy requires stability of political will. This is exactly the problem facing young scientists in the World Economic Forum … how do you develop an ecologically sound energy policy for 2030 when there will be multiple changes of government in that time scale?

Connectedness

I believe fervently in a sustainable sport system that is funded ethically and that has an educational vision. I believe that the essence of sustainability (as an alternative to insatiability) is the family and the local community. I live in a rural community near to Braidwood in New South Wales and am becoming more and more aware of how a community can include and support its members. Local communities have local heroes and these have enormous influence over behaviour.  Successful communities are connected and grounded.

I take another key message from the Crawford Report to be how Australia wide connections can be made. If we are to have a vision for a healthier Australia then it must start in the family and at school. Any policy must deal with rural and regional Australia as well as urban and metropolitan Australia. These issues were at the fore of the recent SEGRA Conference in Western Australia. I think there are very important messages in the Crawford report about capacity, educational policy, access and inclusiveness that should stimulate our discussions about connectedness.

There is enormous sense in having a national service for elite sport as there is for having a national approach to voluntary effort. I do believe that one of the major (unintended) consequences of resourcing full-time positions in sport has been for volunteers to think that paid staff can deal with all eventualities. This is a time, as Charles Leadbeater suggests, to think of working with one another and thinking of pebbles rather than boulders.

I think a connected system that has a scalable collaborative ethos can achieve remarkable outcomes. In a sustainable sport system it will be the aggregation of effort that makes optimum use of human and financial resources. This necessitates our whole sport system accepting that there is an alternative to zero sum models of sport success. This alternative goes beyond the social traps identified in the tragedy of the commons.

Deference

There are numerous descriptors for the behaviours of voracious individuals and groups. I believe the Crawford Report invites us to reflect on possessive individualism and to contemplate a non zero sum approach to the flourishing of the sport system. Robert Wright has written about non zero as the logic of human destiny. He shares insights into reciprocal altruism that resonate with ideas developed by Peter Singer.

This to me is the ultimate challenge in the Crawford Report and the Prisoner’s Dilemma for our sport system. What if we can transform all the energy we invest in sport to enable all Australians to flourish? What if we take this one step further and have a global approach to sport as an ethical domain in which activity flourishes and that our part in it is to contribute to sport as a form of mutual recognition. What if sport will be about the triumph of the human spirit and its continuation as a life choice possibility throughout the twenty first century when we will face much more important challenges than whether we win gold, silver or bronze. Some years ago, Bill Clinton observed that:

The more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions. That is, win-win solutions instead of win-lose solutions…. Because we find as our interdependence increases that, on the whole, we do better when other people do better as well – so we have to find ways that we can all win, we have to accommodate each other.

Conclusion

I have really enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on David Crawford’s Report. Over the last few days an editorial comment from The Age has kept intruding in my thoughts.

Australians will celebrate any gold medal won in 2012, even if it is in a sport they never think of between Olympics and even if it is won by someone they have not previously heard of and might never hear of again. Nor can anyone begrudge individual athletes their success. But, as the report notes, the present system funds such success at the rate of $15 million per gold medal. The nation’s self-esteem is surely neither so low nor so brittle as to require this level of investment, and it is money that in some instances could be more wisely spent. A shift to funding high-participation sports at grassroots levels might not result in the same surge of collective euphoria every four years, but it would contribute in a more sustained fashion to national wellbeing. (My emphasis)

I am hopeful that the educational possibilities contained in the Report, the suggestions about using existing facilities more effectively, and the valuing of local heroes are celebrated and ultimately accepted by the Government. Late in the evening here in Mongarlowe I am wondering if we have found something in the Crawford Report rather than lost something.

The aggregation of our efforts in Australia is possible and I do believe it is our pathway to sustainability. We can be a non zero sum sport system if we have the collective courage and the political will.

Accidental Connectivism and the Impulse to Write

Writing has been on my mind a lot lately. Perhaps because I have been thinking about writing I am finding stimuli everywhere and everywhen. I realise that it may be that I am an ‘accidental connectivist’.

The most recent stimulus was George Siemen’s blog post Teaching as transparent learning. In the post George explores the idea of learning by sharing:

My work on blogs, articles, handbooks, and so on is an invitation to engage in conversation, not a proclamation of what I absolutely know.

He adds that Will Richardson (see, for example, New Reading, New Writing), Terry Anderson, Stephen Downes, Grainne Conole, amongst others, “seek not to proclaim what they know, but rather to engage and share with others as they explore and come to understand technology and related trends.” (Stephen Downes picks up on this point in his OLDaly post. Stephen notes that “When I write, and even when I speak, I am basically thinking aloud – and readers and listeners are able to follow along.”)

George adds to his list Alan Levine, D’Arcy Norman, Janet Clarey, Brian Lamb and Alec Couros as examples of writers who decide “to share their thoughts and ideas in a transparent manner” in doing so “they become a teacher to those who are observing.”

[George’s post sent me off on a tangent about teaching and demonstration. Many years ago some physical education textbooks used to talk about ‘executive demonstration’. This kind of demonstration required the teacher to demonstrate a skill or an activity. The idea was that learners could observe and extract from the demonstration. Whilst looking for some links to old texts I came across a conference paper by Michael Messerole and Paul Clark (2004) entitled Electronic Portfolios: What Value Do They Provide? In it they show examples of teacher candidate portfolios. These examples include “types of digital artifacts being created by teacher candidates, including digital video, text and electronic documents.”   Michael and Paul’s paper demonstrates the transparency George writes about.]

Earlier this week (27 April) OLDaily pointed me to Clay Birrell’s post How to write timed essays that are not crap. He shares an approach to writing that  “was never possible before about two years ago – a way that allows the students to literally watch and hear their teacher read an AP Exam prompt, read the exam poem cold, and then write the exam. All under test conditions, within the 40 minute time limit.”

Will Richardson’s post on New Reading, New Writing had a fascinating ripple effect. Gardner Campbell picked up on the annotation potential of Diigo explored in Will’s post as did Melanie Jennings.

A few days earlier two car journeys in two days gave me access to Radio National’s Book Show. One of the journey’s had me transfixed with Lee Gutkind’s interview.

lgutkind Photo Credit

I was fascinated by Lee’s discussion of creative non-fiction as a genre and followed up his discussion here in which he observes that:

Although it sounds a bit affected and presumptuous, “creative nonfiction” precisely describes what the form is all about. The word “creative” refers simply to the use of literary craft in presenting nonfiction—that is, factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid manner. To put it another way, creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and, often, more accessible.

Number 36 of the Creative Nonfiction Journal took George’s transparency and Will’s Diigo annotations one step further:

During the editing process for this issue, with the permission of the writers, we eliminated the original beginnings of three essays and started them a few paragraphs or pages in. Our goal was to make the beginnings more immediate, to eliminate some writerly throat-clearing, to help plunge readers into the heart of the story—the action, the theme, the substance—from the very beginning. Did these changes in fact make this story more effective? And what was lost in the process? See what the author had to say about the changes, and join the discussion below!

One day earlier I listened to the Book Show’s discussion of Richard Brautigan and Chris Kelly‘s great idea for the Torpedo magazine‘s birthday tribute.

hawkline-bcover Photo Credit

John Barber has created a remarkable website that chronicles Richard Brautigan’s work. In a section on Brautigan’s novels, this quote appears:

One day when I was twenty-five years old, I looked down and realized that I could write a sentence. Let’s try one of those classic good-bye lines, “I don’t think we should see so much of each other any more because I think we’re getting a little too serious,” which really meant that I wrote my first novel Trout Fishing in America and followed it with three other novels.

An audio file of the Radio National program can be found here. I ended up reading some of Richard Brautigan’s poems after Adam Ford‘s observation that Brautigan started writing poetry “to learn how to write a sentence and once he was satisfied he could write a good sentence he would have a crack at writing fiction.” I liked this short poem from Wild Dog (1965) entitled The Buses:

Philosophy should stop
at midnight like the buses.
Imagine Nietzsche, Jesus
and Bertrand Russell parked
in the silent car barns.

I did stop myself pursuing poetics at this point but I did remember fondly Miller Mair‘s work.

All these opportunistic encounters add to my sense of being an accidental connectivist. By this I mean that many of the wonderful opportunities to engage with other writers in structured courses like CCK08 are transformed into a local context after such courses are ‘over’. Of late I have been participating in Yammer communities and writing Tweets. Both of these encourage parsimony. Despite the brevity of exchanges in these media I sense there is enormous transparency available too (shortly after concluding this post I received a link to Tweeting to Inform learning Space Development via OLDaily and followed up with a visit to Kate Trgovac‘s blog). There is great humour. (Just recieved a Creative Nonfiction tweet on Writing it Short.)

Blogging after shorter writing episodes is a treat. Writing about writing is a great slow blogging possibility to be open. Todd Sieling explored these ideas earlier this year.

Oh and … I realise that I must return to How to write articles and essays quickly and expertly (2006) too if I am to continue exploring witing!