Brief note: I'll get back to the discussion on ancient and modern paradigms after a post or two to sort this out.
Once again I'm probably too slow, but that's one of the problems I've been thinking about. I hope some of the suggestions at the end can give a more positive and encouraging spin on some of the frustration.
Once upon a time several years ago our teenage son came home from school with this little guy. "Honest, he followed me home all by himself." Right. Never mind that Sam is a cat magnet (here's proof) and that he offered better prospects of a warm house, good food and lots of attention.
We knew little Mutlu was not a street cat because he was so affectionate and so trusting. And devastatingly cute. Still, for some reason he was apparently homeless. We already had a cat who wasn't fond of animals (she's never learned the brutal truth about herself), so Mutlu had to go. I took this photo to deliberately tug at hearts and get people to think twice before saying no to offering a home.
Little Mutlu's story is very loosely an allegory for an experience I had a week or so ago. I wrote a post, and a phrase I used in passing was repeated by a very popular edublogger, who then added some of his own thoughts. Another very popular edublogger wrote a comment there, and then carried his version of the idea further on his own blog.
Having a pretty full work week and living in GMT+3, it easily takes me 2 or 3 days to read even the A list edublogs on my feed reader. So some time after my post I had a pleasant surprise to see that I got mentioned. My emotions changed, though, as I saw how much commenting happened on those two popular blogs, while I didn't get any action on my own blog. It felt like my little half baked idea wandered off like Mutlu, looking for a better deal.
My disappointment wasn't about getting enough credit, or drawing enough traffic to my sight, or getting a better rank. Rather, I missed out on a chance to interact more directly with people, put my ideas to the test more and feel more a part of "the conversation." Since then I've had some good correspondence with both of the bloggers involved, and they've been very generous with their thoughts and forgiving of my whining, but it's my lot in life to think too much about conversations and community and emotions.
Not long after, and not at all because of my metaphorical Mutlu and me, there has been a surprising amount of buzz in the edublogosphere about blogging elites at cocktail parties, leaving a lot of people frustrated and feeling like outsiders. Wow. That didn't exactly cheer me up, and although a lot of the popular (and very good) guys had very good arguments that there is no inside and that everyone gets lonely, that you've got to be true to yourself, regain some perspective, and not let the apparent imbalances get to you -- in spite of that, I've learned through the years that if a lot of people feel like something is wrong, it's probably because something is wrong.
One thing that bugged me --and I saw it happen again just last week with someone else-- is that the conversations keep drifting to the blogs everyone focuses on. It's not their fault, it's crowd behavior. We read those blogs first, we want to write our comments there (who wouldn't?), and then we've run out of time or interest to read other blogs and write more comments. With my time schedule and slow brain (and a peripheral time zone) -- most days the read/write web is the either you read or you write web. It takes a lot of work to do both.
What to do? I have a few ideas for making the edublogosphere feel a little more encouraging, seasoned with a little doing unto others, and letting what goes around come around. You're free to add your own ideas.
- Slow down. Take maybe 10% of the time you devote to your own blog, and use it to read a little more broadly, think a little longer, comment on some blogs you don't visit very much. Shifting gears is good for the brain, so you'll benefit, and your comments will leave some feedback that those bloggers have been craving (and I'm not talking about stats here, I'm talking about engagement).
- Stop. As a variation on #1, let's all declare a blog holiday: everyone refrains from publishing blog posts for one day, and just comments, again preferably on blogs you haven't focused on lately. Face it, just about any blog --even the top 1000-- or its readership, would not suffer if it's volume were reduced by 5% or so. In return, more people will have a little more time to read what you've already got, and maybe give you some interesting feedback you otherwise would have missed. We slow thinkers actually have things to say now and then, so give us a chance.
- Don't keep every kitten that comes to your door. Encourage threads to loop back to their starting place somehow. Jon cited a comment by Vicki (couldn't find a link) that the conversation doesn't belong to anyone in particular. She's probably right, to a point. But at the same time we could gain more by giving a hearing to the new voice that goes with the new idea.
- Give one another the benefit of the doubt. Overall, people have been very patient with each other through this discussion, even though comment writing is right down there with email for being a poor vehicle for communicating emotion and nuance. We don't really want all the buzz to be about this anyway, do we?
- Cross over. Jon got a traffic spike by writing about swimwear. I thought about turning this into a cat blog, but since Mutlu left, this is all I have to work with (link).
- #5 was a joke, OK? We're all working to make a difference and blogs are just one part of that. We can go a little easier on ourselves as we try to take in the bigger picture.
An apology: I have lost track of the connection among several of the comments, and comments on comments. If I've missed a link, please add it in the comments.