Alice Bell is working on a research project with the Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology “exploring communities of education blogging.” She’s posted a questionaire on her blog, and I’m posting my answers below. (Deadline for responses is June 15).
Blog URL: http://hackeducation.com
What do you blog about? Broadly, I blog about education technology. More specifically, I write about developments in the ed-tech industry; startups’ products and services; technology usage in and out of the classroom; how technologies (could) change the way we teach and learn; conferences and events I attend.
Are you paid to blog? I am not paid to blog on Hack Education. I freelance elsewhere.
What do you do professionally (other than blog)? I blog professionally. I’ve started doing some public speaking recently too.
How long have you been blogging at this site? Two years. I have been blogging elsewhere since 2005.
Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?) My work has appeared in ReadWriteWeb, the Huffington Post, O’Reilly Radar, School Library Journal, Edutopia, KQED Mindshift – among other blogs. Once upon a time, when I was in grad school, I had several academic articles published in books and journals too. (See my CV for details.) I have an article forthcoming in a real live print magazine this fall.
Can you remember why you started blogging? When I started in 2005, I was a grad student and at the time, I blogged pseudonymously. I wrote about personal, political and PhD-oriented topics – dissertations, teaching, cancer, death, parenthood and other struggles.
What keeps you blogging? Writing helps me organize my thoughts. I consider Hack Education my own personal-yet-public notebook of ideas and analysis. I choose topics to write about because they’re timely, important, interesting – but mostly it’s because I want to spend some time thinking through them. What I love about blogging – other than just the good habits that it cultivates in prompting me to write regularly and write often – is that there’s an audience that gives me immediate feedback. In other words, blogging is a first stab at working through ideas, and when I hit publish, I can bounce those ideas off of others. Plus I’m getting old too – if I don’t write things down, I forget them. Also, if I bottled up all these rants, my blood pressure would go through the roof.
Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How? I have Google Analytics installed on this blog, but I don’t really pay much attention to pageviews. I really don’t like the way in which a lot of online publications chase pageviews. But based on Google Analytics numbers, my blog gets about 50,000–60,000 pageviews a month. I also have about 11k Twitter followers (on @audreywatters, but less than 2000 on @hackeducation) which I see as part of my blog/writing audience. Who exactly this audience is – I’m not sure. Educators mostly. Entrepreneurs, I think. The Department of Education, perhaps. (Ha.) My mom.
What’s your attitude to/ relationship with people who comment on your blog? I think I spend more time engaging with my audience via Twitter than via blog comments. It’s not that I don’t value commenters; it’s not that I don’t squeal out loud when folks like Nicholas Negroponte comment. It’s just that some of my most popular stories tend to bring out the trolls. After a while, I don’t even read the comments on those posts. I just can’t bear to.
Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology) Sometimes I feel like I’m part of the education, ed-tech, and/or tech communities. Sometimes I feel like I stand on the outskirts of all of them. The question of genre is an interesting one. I don’t know how my writing fits in generically. I don’t write that many short, newsy posts. I avoid list posts. I write a few product reviews, I guess. But I tend to ground my stories in personal experience and opinion. That’s one aspect of the blog genre, and one of its earliest expressions. But as blogging has become more accepted, I’m not sure if that personal style of writing is as common.
If so, what does that community give you? I learn a lot from what others say, do, and write online. I appreciate it when folks say they like what I’m doing as a writer. I think about the education community in particular as both the audience and the reason that I do this.
What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations? The advantages: Blogging has given me a voice and a platform that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I write. People listen. People pay me (elsewhere) to write. I love the immediacy of of blogging – writing and publishing and sharing my thoughts, then hearing responses and seeing the retweets immediately from my readers. It’s also incredibly important to me that what I write on my blog is freely available and openly licensed, indexed by search engines, and much more discoverable than what I’ve published in print. The disadvantages: I haven’t found the time yet to develop my ideas into a book-length format, probably because I’m so busy writing short pieces on my blog. Also, I’m not sure people take me seriously as a writer, a journalist, a social commentator or an analyst. I’m “just a blogger.” Also: Screw you Ivan Tribble. I’ll never stop writing publicly about academia.
Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss) I describe myself as a writer. I’m not sure I use the term “blogger.” Sometimes I say “journalist.”
Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked? Well, I have questions that I’d like to know about other education bloggers: where do you syndicate your work (me, I post to Twitter, to Facebook – a fan page for Hack Education and to my own profile, to Google+). Do you offer RSS and/or email subscriptions? (I offer both). Do you have an email newsletter? (I just started offering one). And mostly, I’m hoping the results of this research are made available as I’m really curious about others’ answers to these questions.
Photo credits: Nils Geylen