Saturday, May 31, 2008

What Do You Think Of It So Far?

This month has been action packed for me. Restructuring at work at the beginning of May meant not only relocation and installation of new workplace facilities, desk etc, but also new strategies to do with regionalisation. As well, we got new email software and the toilet blocks were being refurbished (I’m not sure what was more inconvenient, the new email application or the lack of toilets!)

A month of analysis

It has been a month of analysis. I’ve constantly been analysing and reviewing my job at work. I applied for an e-lead teacher position last week – if I get it, I may not find much difference in what I do day to day but it will provide me with something different to think about and learn.

The Comment Challenge was different and actually helped me cope with all this disruption. But it too came with its fair share of analysis and reviews. In fact, it was analysis and review from day one. Here’s a list of the reviews about the Challenge that I wrote on my blog:

branding through comments
my commenting strategy

how may it change my teaching?

writing a comment writing guide
more on how it may change my teaching
my top five lessons in the challenge

Peripheral observation

As you can see there was no end of thinking going on. One or two things that I noticed, but didn’t write about, were the peripheral observation of things that amounted to collateral phenomena - things that didn’t really impact heavily on the tasks, aims and strategy of the project. Things like the weekly decline in activity on blogs in the blogosphere over the period Friday through to Monday.

For me in New Zealand, the lull was from Saturday through to Tuesday, due to time-zone differences. But it is significant that activity on the Challenge seemed to be directly related to the working week. I spent as much time on the project at the weekend as I did through the week, for this was when I could catch up on all the things I didn’t manage to get done Monday to Friday.

A knot of people

Then there was the knot of people in the blogosphere who were not too keen on the Challenge taking place at all. I became more aware of this group nearer to the end of the project, but had suspected their existence earlier. I guess being a skeptic about the Challenge myself made me more likely to be aware of the possibility that others may not see any point to the project. They may even have been against the principles that lay behind its reason for being.

My original skepticism was not over what the project could offer. It was more to do with Michele Martin’s recent post on how the Internet was making her stupid and reasons she gave for owning that opinion.

What next?

Sue Waters asked on Bonnie Kaplan's post what the next challenge was. I think it should be something around the lines of involving those online capable people who read blogs but never comment. For me it would be an interesting challenge to find out their opinion of what the blogs bring to their lives. After all, they are the silent majority. What a wealth of things we could learn if even half of them came to the party and joined the commenters.

Ka kite ano
Catch ya later

My Top Five Lessons - Day 31!

Tēnā koutou katoa

to you all

I've just completed the 31-Day Comment Challenge, masterminded by blogger gurus Kim Cofino, Michele Martin, Silvia Tolisano and
Sue Waters.

In some respects it was easier than I expected, in other ways it was more difficult. But that's only because I really didn't know what to expect and some of my guesswork in the beginning was sheer fantasy anyway. Michele has asked us to answer a few simple questions:

What did I personally gain?

I got some satisfaction out of starting a project, following the guidelines and completing it on time. I feel that it was challenging on my personal time, but I found that I could set aside time for such a demanding project. At the start I didn't think I would complete it. In fact, I was quite skeptical about even beginning the Challenge. I'm glad I chose to get into it for myself, and though I received some brief counselling from Michele before I plunged in, she in no way tried to persuade me to get started.

What did I gain professionally?

As an e-teacher with a passion for elearning I found there were many rewards. It has given me knowledge about blogs and blogging that I will be able to pass on to others who are interested as I am. There was the software, the range of which I haven't had the time to review properly since I took the advice given in the first moments of the challenge and just got started with these. I now know what comment tracking is and what an RSS feed does. I didn't know either of these software types before the beginning of May 2008.

Is this something I'd do again? If not, why not?

I don't think I'd participate in the same challenge. I got a buzz out of learning about things I knew nothing about. That was one of the main motivators for me. I just love to learn about things that are useful. But if there was a similar challenge on some other avenue to do with working with community e-groups, I think I would participate just the same.

What are my top 5 Comment Challenge lessons?
  • Learning to use the software. CoComment and Google Reader were the software I chose in the beginning. I was impressed with what they did and glad I'd taken the time to find out on advice from Michele Martin on RSS and Sue Waters on comment tracker and how to install them and use them. When I found out what the reader and the comment tracker could do for me I was stoked!

  • Creating my blog. I feel proud that this was something I chose to do for myself, before it became obvious during the challenge that it was really a necessary thing to have, at least as necessary as the other freebie software. That's another payoff - all the software was free! (Scottish people are resourceful, not skinflintish - they simply say why part with money when you don't need to).

  • Learning blog etiquette and protocol. I knew a thing or two about the etiquette (not unlike netiquette) but it was good to confirm what I knew.

  • I learnt a strategy for commenting, most of which I worked out for myself. The application of a few available tools like Word and Notepad in executing that strategy was easy to work out.

  • I learnt that you're never too old to learn new tricks. I had my ##th birthday during the challenge. I thought that it would test the old neurons. I wasn't wrong, but I feel that they would have been tested the same way had I done the challenge 45 years ago, provided of course we had computers, Internet and the software in those days.

    The nearest thing I operated to a computer when I was 18 years old was a traditional Facit pinwheel calculator, which was an entirely mechanical device that could afford answers to 13 decimal places. You'd to be able to operate all its handles with unerring accuracy or it turned to mush, quite literally.

What will I now do differently?

I will never spend countless hours sifting through the sites in my bookmarks (favorites) looking to see what's new on them and not being able to remember if I'd read the article before. Hooray for the RSS! I will never spend countless hours looking for the site that I left a comment on last week, wondering if anyone has replied to it. Yay to coComment!

What do I still need to learn?

Apart from a heck-of-a-lot, I haven't a clue what 'links' are about.
I couldn't tell a link from a bar of soap.


I offer my sincere thanks to blogger gurus Michele Martin, Sue Waters, Kim Cofino and Silvia Tolisano, who masterminded the Challenge.

I also offer thanks to my wonderful blogocolleagues. In particular I thank Kevin Hodgson, Andrea Hernandez, Britt Watwood, Bonnie Kaplan, Christine Martell, Dave Ferguson, Kate Foy, and Christophe, who gave me so much support and encouragement.

Thank you friends. I've learnt so much from working with you all!

Ka kite anō
Spot ya

Friday, May 30, 2008

Having said that p 2 – Day 30

Tēnā koutou katoa

to you all

The Day 30 task is to analyse how you can use what you’ve learnt about commenting to change your teaching. In a previous post I summarised the differences between the environment of the blogosphere and that of the classroom.

There is a lot I have learnt by simply being a commenter. It has helped me to understand the environment that the commenter is in.

Useful reflection

In my first week in the Challenge, I reflected on what I had learnt as a commenter. The subsequent weeks have simply provided confirmation that my initial reflections need little adjustment to express more of what I now know about being a commenter. How I can use what I’ve learnt and apply it to my work in the ‘classroom’ is a matter for deep consideration.

My classroom

I teach about 200 distance learners - if they can be considered classmates. I don’t happen to have an online classroom at the moment, though I provide many of those students with elearning resources. So there is always the potential for them to participate online when that occasion arises.


Working with online learning communities has been a study of mine for a number of years, as has elearning. I have been possessed by the interesting fact that over 90% of all online students tend to be non-participants. By persuading a significant proportion of those to become participants, there is the potential to expand the sphere of online collaboration
many fold within a group. The Challenge has not helped me find techniques to do this.

Help for participants

What it has done, however, is to provide me with insight as to how I can help students once they become participating members of a group. Part of being a participant lies with the confidence that one has in feeling that what one offers is worthwhile. This comes with knowledge and experience of being a valued participant. I believe the similarity between a valued commenter in the blogosphere and a valued participant in an online learning group is very close in many ways.

The findings I’ve gathered in working with the Challenge will certainly help provide some leverage in assisting students with their participation and the techniques they may use to do this.

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later

Commenting Guide p 2 - Day 29

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

Day 29 task is to write a
student commenting guide.

This is a follow-up to the flyer Homer's Comment Tips. It is a guide to the student who has learnt to write a comment against a post.

Tamara has posted a page on her blog. Here are tips on
5 ways to write comments on Tamara’s post.

But first:

  • You may not be first to comment so you need to signal who you are speaking with. If you are commenting to Tamara, start your comment with @Tamara - .

  • If Matt has written a comment that you’d like to speak with him about, start your comment with @Matt -

  • If Matt and Jacob have both put comments on Tamara’s post you may want to say something with both of them.

    Start your comment with @Matt @Jacob –

  • Plan your comment. You may like to use a pencil and pad to do this.

1 Put your point of view

You don’t always have to agree with the post or any comment that’s there.

If you agree or disagree with something someone has said, it’s okay to say so in your comment. Often it is useful to refer to the person who wrote it.

So you might write something like, “@Tamara - I agree with Matt when he said that . . ."

2 Be polite

It is too easy to get offside with someone in a comment.

Be polite even when you disagree. Remember that you may have misunderstood what was meant. It is often more useful to ask for details.

3 Asking direct questions

A question can be put to the person who wrote the post or to one of the commenters.

Make sure your question is clear. Read it through several times
before you submit it. If it needs changing, fix it first.

4 Ask for clarification

It could be that you are not sure about something. It’s okay to ask someone to explain without asking a direct question.

You may write something like “@Jacob – I’m not sure what you meant when you said . . .

5 Asking the company

If you wish to ask a question and your not sure who to ask (poster or commenter) you can always use @Everyone - .

It might be that you say “@Everyone – Does anyone know how to . . .

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later

The 31-Day Comment Challenge - Day 30

Tēnā koutou katoa

to you all

The Day 30 task is to analyse how you can use what you’ve learnt about commenting to change your teaching (technique). The findings of this study are to be analysed with a view to considering what can be applied to classroom teaching.

I have problems with this task in relating it to a classroom environment. This is because the classroom and the blogosphere are two entirely different spaces. I have similar issues with applying Lev Vygotsky’s research findings to the chat-room environment. They are poles apart.


My experiences in commenting tells me nothing about the people who sit and read all the posts and comments but never venture to make a comment. This is different than any experience I’ve had in the classroom, for I am always too able to identify those people who do not participate.

Through identification of the non-participants early in any classroom lesson, I can move my attention to them and perhaps entice some to contribute. Though this is not always met with the desired success, it nevertheless allows me to be aware of the existence of these people in the classroom environment. Hence there is always the potential, over time, to gain some success in encouraging those would-be non-participants to become participants. I cannot do this with the blogosphere per se. I can do it on Facebook to some extent and also in a learning management system that permits me to know who has logged on, when they logged on, and who is visiting (or has visited) the chat-room.


Having said that about the non-participants, it is a strange environment that I’ve now been given to analyse. Strange because the only experience I have is with those who participated. I am aware that they probably make up less than 10% of all observers.

So I begin to feel like the director of a play with about 9 people in the cast and about 90 in a very quiet audience. All I can say about the legitimate peripheral participants (LPPs) in the quiet audience is that I know they are there. So any findings that I may have can only be based on my interaction with the few.

Participants are different

The participating people, as a group, are necessarily different from any ‘normal’ distribution of people that I may have before me in a classroom (I use the word ‘normal’ in the statistical sense). Furthermore, there is a quality that makes a person a participant and I believe that it is a fundamental distinguishing quality.

I know that I am a died-in-the-wool participant, and so I am quite different from many of the LPPs. I could name a few blogocolleagues who are like me. They probably already know who they are, and may very well have identified themselves as being in the same category.

Classroom experience

How can I use this awareness to change my teaching (technique in the classroom)? Frankly, I don’t think I can. But my experience in the classroom has taught me that by simply identifying the non-participants, I can then move to attempt to entice them to become participants.

To translate this to the blogosphere, I would need a whole new awareness of who was logged on and who was visiting the blogosphere – a momentous accumulation of data no doubt – before I could make any use of this experiential knowledge. I would then require some non-confrontational way of communicating with the individuals in that group so that I could persuade each to participate.

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Homer's Tips - Day 29

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

Day 29 task is to write a
student commenting guide

Here's a view of my sheet:

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Day 28 task - My Commenting Strategy

Tena koutou katoa

to you all

The task for Day 28

Write a post on my commenting strategy.

Like a lot of people who I’ve commented with in this Challenge, I am new to commenting. The long and the short of it is that most of my commenting was done in the last three to four weeks. Have I a commenting strategy? Well, it sort of became one, though I wouldn’t have called it a strategy.

A pot-shot commenter

I suppose what there was of a strategy evolved from me being a pot-shot commenter in the first week to something less random. Though during the first few days, I felt a bit like Robert Redford in the film, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid - ready to shoot a comment at any blog that moved. But the trigger-happy approach would have become boring if it weren't for fun in meeting new bloggers.

Blogging as part of my strategy

That’s when I decided to start my own blog. I might have given up if I hadn’t made that very important strategic move, for there was little pay-off (if that’s the right word for it) that I could see other than when I got a reply to a comment that I’d put on someone else’s blog.

Come back to my pad

Having my own blog meant that my commenting strategy changed in a subtle way, for I was almost subconsciously writing comments with a view to pulling someone’s interest in what I had to say. My secret hope was that someone might want to have a look at the posts on my blog and, perhaps, leave a comment.

Commenting with a view to discussion

I enjoy discussions. Early in the piece, I found that simply agreeing with a poster or commenter, which is comfortable and nice to do and was a firm strategy for sharing ideas, didn’t really stimulate vigorous discussion.

Being the devil’s advocate was a strategy that returned some good results, though I found that it was difficult to maintain a discussion for long unless I had some empathy for the advocate. It was certainly more likely to bring forward healthy debate than one where my comment simply agreed with the poster. Contrast this attempt, being first to comment in agreement on Clay Burell’s post, which returned a feeble reaction added as an after-thought to a list of beefy replies, with this more antagonistic approach to another post by Clay that seemed to generate more energy in discussion.

Does the topic have real comment fodder?

Having enthusiasm for a topic on someone's post seemed to be a key way for me find easy fodder for a comment. Also, if I was looking for a discussion to get into, it was always best to get in as quickly as possible. I found the RSS feed useful for this. The topic also had to have some element that I could write a comment on, some thread that I knew something about that could possibly spark further discussion. Check out the reply that I got to my comment on Jeff Nugent's post.

Sometimes this happens serendipitously, and the subject of the topic doesn't need to be particularly philosophical for it to propagate discussion. Check out this comment on Tony Karrer's post that sparked a whole series of unexpectedly diverse conversations where contributors seemed to dive in to what can only be described as a commenting free-for-all.

So in summary

My commenting strategy, although it's still in its infancy, is shaping into something that is giving me a lot of fun. It's still flexing its little fluffy wings. Quite frankly, it has barely permitted me to fly the nest yet.

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Branding Through Comments - Day 27

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

The day 27 task is to write a post on the light we throw on our personal brand through comments.
Here is my post.

I chose my brand right at the start when I named my blog site, but there's a bit more to it than that.

Last year I published a book of sonnets entitled “Sonnets of Middle-earth”.

photo by Catriona Margaret Allan Dear

I thought of the name since I lived in Wellington where all the Lord of The Rings movies had been filmed, and of course Weta Workshop which is also centred in Wellington. Peter Jackson had already affectionately called Wellington Middle-earth so I thought that I’d borrow the name (after all, so did Jackson) from Tolkien.

When it came to thinking up a name for my blog, it was not difficult - Blogger in Middle-earth. I realised that there were relatively few people from New Zealand, let alone Wellington, to be found in the blogosphere. In fact it was only recently that blogging friend and co-commenter Sarah Stewart and I met - Sarah is from Dunedin, New Zealand.

I also decided to use the name Middle-earth in my signature. That caused a few comments just to ask about the name, and I still get a few now and again. I don’t always use it, but if I visit a blog for the first time, I put it in.

Māori is a national language of New Zealand. So I have made part of my branding the greetings and parting phrases of that language.

It has been good for me, for I was (and still am) not too well-versed on the Māori language. So by helping others learn something about an Australasian language new to them, I have learnt something too.

Ka kite anō
Spot ya

Saturday, May 24, 2008

On Diversity

Tēnā koutou katoa

to you all

On day 1 of the 31-Day Comment Challenge I had my Carl Sagan’s baloney detector switched on. I was skeptical. I didn't want to participate. I didn’t think there was anything useful to be gained from it.

The devil's advocate

I even sent a comment to Michele Martin’s post saying that if anything was more likely to foster homophily (a topic of one of her posts) then the Comment Challenge was it. Some may have said that I was being negative. I didn’t think so. I thought I was being reflective and I had voiced my devil’s advocate opinion - on Michele’s blog. What’s more,
I was entitled to my opinion. Michele said so.

Broadens the mind

I took an active interest in debates when at school. I wasn’t great at English, but my teacher, Mr Butterfield, encouraged me to join the debating society. He was a great exponent of ‘the devil’s advocate’.
He said that whether you believed in the argument or not, it was good to participate by taking the opposite point of view. “Broadens the mind”, he would say. He taught me that there’s strength in diversity.

Every day of The Challenge confirms this. Just look at the variety of points of view one can find on one blog about whether comments should be sent to a post or somewhere else. Or the plethora of different ideas and opinion on what makes a good comment, let alone what makes a good post. And what do we get from all this? We learn - about things that we’d never heard of or thought of before. Diversity.

Mind bloggling

Have you ever counted the different looks that you see in blogs as you spend a while reading posts and writing a comment or two? It is mind bloggling the different colours and types of templates and formats you come across even from the same blog provider, never mind all the different blog site providers that are out there. That's sheer diversity.

I read a few posts recently written by people who had just started the Challenge. Here we are into week four and you read about what people, who have just started, are saying about the Challenge. Are they enthusiastic about what they see? Are they ever! For them, it’s a strength to have the opportunity to read about what others before them have or have not done. Did everybody do it the same way? Hmm? That’s diversity.

Is it okay to peek?

So the late starters are not short of opinion about how to do something. Sometimes I tend to work in a vacuum when given a task – often that method works but occasionally it wastes time while a wheel or two are invented. Some people look around to see what’s going on in other workshops. In one post I came across, Claire Thompson asked if it was cheating to look at what others did in writing a comment policy. Of course it's not cheating. If I'd done that I could have saved a lot of time! It's smart - it's benefiting from diversity.

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later

Friday, May 23, 2008

Frustrations of The Challenge.

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

Please don’t get me wrong - I’m not posting this by way of criticism of The 31 Day Comment Challenge and certainly not of the sponsors.

Far from it! After all, the contest was put up as a challenge and it would be a poor one if it didn’t have its frustrations. I have no problems with The Challenge per se.


More by way of catharsis than anything else I've listed my frustrations over things that irked me about attempting to participate in the Challenge and finding all sorts of unanticipated barriers and problems. I’m sure most participants will have a similar list.

I’m also aware that some of these problems could well be just me, and as a few people would have it: I am the problem! Possibly. The set-up on my PC could also be a contributor, though I must admit that, until this month, I found few problems that caused me that much bother.

Here’s my list:

Share (isn’t that what it’s all about?) Fields

I had some problems initially, and from time to time these problems still arise, only less frequently now. The main one was getting the Share field to appear below the comment panel, believe it or not.

I found there were a few hocus-pocus tricks I could do to force the mercurial thing to materialise such as putting in the spam checker data (if that was required) or simply clicking the area on the screen immediately below the panel.

I also found the time that this routine took was irksome (but, since I first published this post, Christophe has kindly commented with a cornucopea of advice on this feature and other points, as well as recommendations on antispam software - great support, Christophe!)

Some blog sites simply don’t display a Share field and sit there indignantly going nya nya na nya nya!

When I come across one of those sites for the first time, I can spend a lot of valuable comment writing time figuring this out. Until I realise, oh yes, here’s another one. I have a Black List!

BUT the most frustrating sites are those that politely show the Share field AFTER I’ve decided to submit my comment in disgust at not being able to find it. Ugh!

Server Timed Out

I get this message infrequently with blogs of a certain type. I was curious about this when it first occurred so decided to do a few experiments to throw some light about. I sent a few comments from my work PC. I haven’t yet got the message at work, nor have I had any problem getting the comment submitted, though it is a recurrent bother with those sites at home.

Site Unavailable

I use Google Reader – it’s great. From time to time I see a new post on a blog and attempt to open it in a new tab only to be told that it’s unavailable or the tab simply hangs and can remain there (while I go about doing other things . . . forever). This is usually with a new post that I’ve read all the text of in Reader and am desperately wanting to send a comment to.

Blog sites that moderate comments

Sites of this description come in varying degrees of politeness. I also have descriptions I use for those, in varying degrees of politeness. There are those that let you know beforehand. On submitting a comment, some sites respectfully tell you that your comment was successfully received and may even display it under a moderation message. That’s tolerable, though the feed through to coComment doesn’t tell me if and when it’s accepted (at least I’ve not found the signal).

Then there are the sites that just tell you to wait as the comment has to be moderated before it’s displayed. Hmm.

But the most annoying are the sites that simply don’t tell you anything. You click the Submit button and Lo! The comment disappears into cyberspace, perhaps never to return. Some even have the audacity to have the message No Comment Yet appear at the base of the post. And I think, “no friggin’ wonder!”

Ka kite anō
Spot ya

Writing a Great Comment

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

I’ve just read a great post by Skellie on blogging. She tells how to write a great blog.

Michele Martin’s Day 23 task asks us to write a post on how to write a great comment.
Not being the world’s most experienced commenter, my post is going to be brief. Here are 10 points for writing a great comment.
  1. Read the post carefully and all the comments against it before writing relevant to the post or to a relevant comment. Use the old telephone-speak technique: smile as you write – it shows.

  2. Plan what you want to say before you start typing. For longer comments, type into a word file so you can review the comment and spellcheck it. When completed, be sure to copy and paste it into a Notepad file to remove any html debris (see Sue's comment). It’s easy to copy it from there and then paste it into the comment box.

  3. Never Take care digressing from the main theme of the post or relevant comment you are addressing. Digression can kills a good comment (edits courtesy Michele Martin's comment).

  4. If your comment can be said in a few words or sentences, keep it that way. Don’t waffle to fill space. A brief comment can have impact. Brevity is the soul of wit.

  5. If your comment runs to several sentences, break them into short relevant paragraphs. If you have more than one point in your comment, examine the sequence of these - critically.

  6. If you cite any posts, comments or web articles, put them into the comment using the link formula:
    and make sure you leave spaces at the beginning and end so thelabelwon’t look like this when the comment is submitted!

  7. Praise the post if that’s your intention but take care not to damn with faint praise. If you disagree, do so politely. Exclamation marks are good for effect - don’t go wild!!!!!! One’s enough.

  8. Address the poster or commenter in a friendly way – Hi Karen - @David. Make sure you get the name right - check the spelling.

  9. If you cite a blogger, always link to the blogger’s profile – if you cite a blogger’s post, always link to the post (use the link formula given in point 6).

  10. Once written, review your comment by reading it critically as if you’re critiquing someone else’s comment. Use Preview, if available, to check the 'look' of your comment.

Ka kite anō
Spot ya

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reviewing & Highlighting Comments

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

Michele Martin’s Day 22 task is to review comments I’ve received, and highlight one or two of them.

There are so many comments that I can write about that were thought provoking and none that I can’t say I didn’t like. I've already mentioned a few in my post Using Comments . . . Let’s face it, when a blogger starts off with a shiny new blog, ALL comments are liked. Muchly!

Special comments (there are more than just a few)

However, there are perhaps a few special ones that were thought provoking – I’m going to stick to this principle otherwise I’ll never make my mind up which ones to choose.

I have had several supportive comments like this one Kate Foy sent to my post I have been weighed. . . Kate came to my blog mainly because I’d visited hers the same day. I’d left a ‘sigh’ on her post, which she had requested.

Hi Ken.

I really enjoyed this post and your recollections about that Biology class and about being learners together ... I reckon that's a great starting point for every time we gather as a group on a project. BTW you don't sound like a know it all and you have a warm, relaxed 'voice' in the blog. It's easy to read and to relate to.

Welcome to blogging and to the 31 Day Comment Challege, and thanks also for stopping by mine today and leaving a comment08
sigh' for Day 14.
Kate’s comment is special because it is the epitome of what networking is all about. I can’t even recall how I came by Kate’s site when first I visited it, but gee, it certainly gave me a buzz when she shot back to my pad and left a comment.

Starting up a conversation

Another comment that gave me a buzz but for a different reason was Christine Martell’s. This comment started a conversation between several commenters. It sparked one of the first real discussions involving more than two bloggers on my blog. I was stoked!

There are several reasons I might not comment on blogs. There are some bloggers who just don't seem to engage with their readers, so I don't bother talking to them. It terrifies me every time I comment on one colleagues blog who writes about business writing and grammar. I'm just sure I'm going to make a mistake there. Time is absolutely a factor for me. I read in my RSS reader, and it takes way more time to click over to a blog to comment.

I edit people's comments. Not for wording, but if there is an obvious typo, I fix it while moderating. I have also had people email me and ask me to fix something, which I am always glad to do.

Christine’s comment has one of the many snippets of advice that have been written in comments on my blog – I cherish those muchly.

Precious words

And one more that spiked a minor conversation from Britt Watwood in reply to my post on Should We Be Commenting On Blogs.

I have to admit I had problem with her post as well...but I suspect that she is playing the devil's advocate. I would hate to see one size fit all for blogging - it is the richness of bloggers and commenters that makes this so meaningful!

Britt was referring to Michele Martin’s Day 9 post. His words, “. . . the richness of bloggers and commenters that makes this so meaningful!"

So very true!

Ka kite anō
Spot ya

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who is in the next village?

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

aerial photograph of Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy, New Zealand

As a child I lived on the outskirts of Dunfermline, the centre of the weaving industry in Fife, Scotland.

On a warm summer day, from my bedroom window I'd watch the cattle grazing in fields that stretched near to the edge of the south-west horizon. The Forth River lay beside that edge like a snake. Behind it loomed the smoking chimneys and dirty flares of oil refineries at Grangemouth. Closer to home were the little villages of Crossford and Carneyhill, walkable distances from each other along the western road to Kincardineshire.

I remember the first time I walked down that road on my own. I had no fear of venturing from home. Walking by the quaint corrugated-iron cafe at Urquhart Dairy, I passed cottages that, till then, I’d only seen as roofs.

The link-roads

Crossford was hardly a village; more like a street. There was a local store that sold everything. Past Crossford, narrow link-roads meandered off to Carnock and Oakley villages to the north and winding ways led towards the villages, Charlestown and Limekilns, along the banks of the river to the south. Further along, I could see the copses that sheltered the dwellings of Cairneyhill village. The country folk were friendly.

I was sure that I’d seen most of the rest of the world by the time I’d ambled back home. But I often wondered about the smoke coming from the chimneys I’d seen near the horizon. Was there really much more to see beyond those chimneys?

A matrix of links

Working in the blogosphere is much like walking along the roads that I’ve described. The link routes from where I am take me to familiar blogs. These link to other blogs, each providing further routes to even more blogs. My perception of the blogosphere is as a matrix of link-routes, only much more complex than the network of roads that I recall walking along as a child. But there are no boundaries, unlike the roads that took me to the river and went no further.

In the blogosphere there is no edge.

Ka kite anō

Catch ya later

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day 18: Analysis of the Comments on My Blog

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

Michele Martin's Day 18 task is to analyse the comments on my own blog.

I have to admit that, strange as it may seem, the post that has attracted the most comments so far, "Reflections On What I've Learnt", has been one where I literally bared all and was quite up front about how I felt. There were several conversations going on involving 5 commenters. This gave me a lot of scope for replying.

Replying to comments

Though I thought I was going over the top at the time, I now see that my replies were what prompted others to participate. Diane Hammond commented on this: "
Good conversation happening here. Ken, I like your style of responding to commenters. I've seen other bloggers state their preference is to stay out of the conversation and let the commenters have the floor. I tend to follow your approach; I think interaction with the poster keeps the conversation flowing." Thanks for that advice Diane. It made me reflect on the worth of responding to the commenter, something I'd never really spent much time thinking about until Michele reminded me in her Day 19 Task.

Statement a disaster

At the other end of the scale, making a statement in a post seemed to nip comments in the bud. My post on the Myanmar cyclone disaster "About Suffering" was a
comments disaster in itself. I must admit though that Sarah Hanawald, in a comment on her post Can We Play Webkins, actually said that my post made such an impact on her, she was quite overwhelmed. I guess the answer is not to overwhelm your readers if you want them to send comments!

My own feeling about this task is that I'd probably get more out of having a look at others posts and analysing the comments they solicited rather than navel gazing at my own. When I have more time after the 31 Day Challenge is completed, I will do just that.

Ka kite anō
Catch ya later

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Five Comments In 5 Minutes - Day 17 Task

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

I had a long think about this activity after I'd read Michele Martin's Day 17 task.

I planned what I thought was a workable strategy. I still think it's achievable but the risk factors inherent in the Net are probably more of a problem than sheer speed of keyboard use.

Here's a summary of what I did:
  • found 5 blog sites that I'd comment on
  • opened each site in a separate tab (I use Firefox)
  • wrote comment in separate named notepad file
  • pasted associated comment & completed data in required fields
  • submitted as I went
In theory, it should be possible to get all comment fields completed with accompanying data, such as ID fields and anti-spam info in place before flicking through sending each in turn. I didn't do that.

In practice, this is fraught with difficulties since invariably there will be delays with coComment data transfers and other responses from 'the system' that tend to cause delays.

In my case I got timed-out, on Michele Martin's site as it happens, and one comment simply didn't 'go up' first time so I had to go back and send it again.

It took me roughly 8 minutes by the time I got back to Michele's site to try to fix what the problem was there. I never did get my comment to her. I'd had the same problem with her blog site and another typepad site the evening before.

So I suppose one should have a contingency plan or two, such as having an extra few sites ready with prepared comments just in case of any problems encountered with one or other of the 5 chosen sites to comment on.

But. . .

. . . .what is the point of all this?

What's to be gained by possibly making a real swan-up by pasting the wrong comment (with the wrong name) and sending it to someone's blog for the world to ogle at and think "What the heck's Ken playing at? Has he gone completely round the bend or what?"

It goes against all the good advice I've been learning recently from posts and comments about reading the post AND reading accompanying comments before blundering in and possibly saying something already commented on. Or worse - getting the wrong end of the stick by not understanding the original post.

After I'd tried
four times without success to get my comment through to Michele's site I thought to myself, I'll never do that again!

Ka kite ano
Catch ya later

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Comment / Post Paradox

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all

I’ve just left a comment on Andrea Hernandez's post for Day 14 (which paradoxically is really her Day 16 task – Go Back And Catch Up On Something - shades of Back To The Future - oops, I haven't done mine yet!)

I was very grateful for this opportunity to leave a comment on a post that turned the blog over to the readers.
While I was writing my comment (and also after I’d submitted it) I couldn’t help but think about how I should have written it.

A comment as a post

Should I, as the commenter, write the comment as I would a post? Or should I blaze ahead and write the comment simply as I usually do when I write a comment? What’s the psychology behind how a comment is viewed by readers compared to how a post (of the same text content) is viewed?

We’ve been discussing how to write a post that attracts discussion, and there have been a number of key pointers raised, some of which border on psychology to do with how the reader views the post. Does the same psychology apply to how a reader views a comment?

Psychology of the reader

Let's say a reader looks at a post and thinks, "That’s a poorly written post and doesn’t really do anything for me; best go find a better post to comment on”?

What if the same post had been written as a comment. Would the reader’s reaction be the same? Or would it be more like “I can’t agree with that - this deserves a comment from me”?

Further to this, in the context of the Day 14 task, what affect does the post have on a subsequent comment that has a significant influence over how the reader views the comment?

I know it seems a bit like the chicken and the egg theme. But for me, commenting on a post that’s turned over to me as commenter gets me thinking about all this.
What do you think?

Ka kite ano
Catch ya later

Day 15 Challenge – Give A Comment Award

Never lost
the scent

I have to admit that I found this Challenge a very difficult one for a raft of different reasons.

But it was also very illuminating, for I realised that my compass of awareness of the blogosphere was small and I had to do something about that before I could hand over this splendid badge invented
by Scott McCleod.

Deep into the Networks

I decided to look deeper into the networks that I’d already charted, what with Cocomment and the RSS feeder that kept me up to date with the latest posts. I discovered something which I thought was quite amazing.
I found that deep within the network of bloggers and commenters there were all sorts of conversations happening that I’d no idea had been taking place, and lots were to do with the 31 Day Challenge. Complexity science came to mind with all its fractal-like intricacies, its redundancies and recursively elaborate networks. The blogosphere is a complexity system.

Familiar Trax

I discovered posts and comments of people that I never knew existed. Some eight or nine links deep (by following the link from one blog to the next via commenters) I came across a few that I’d met before.
Invariably Sue Waters and Michele Martin were to the fore, frequently together, chipping in a useful suggestion here or a searching question there.

I was also aware that every now and then I crossed tracks that I'd met before - my old friend

Meandering for Days

Yes, this meandering sniffer-dog seemed to be leaving trax everywhere, supporting someone here, making a quizzical investigation there, and pointing the way to his Day in a Sentence. I even got an email from him urging me to put in a contribution to Day in Six Words, which I did.

My Comment Award goes to Kevin alias Dogtrax. It so happens that he was also the first person to visit my shiny new blog with a comment. Like a good dog, he kept coming back to check on what I was doing.

But that is not the end of the tail (sic). While I was doing my late night research to find the trails, I learnt that I'd already been awarded the badge by Andrea Hernandez who asked that I display it on my blog. Thanks Andrea! I'm stoked!

So this is why there are two Awards shown on this post. One is mine and the other is for good ol' Dogtrax.

Ka kite ano

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Global OLPC - comment challenge day 14

Tēnā koutou katoa
Welcome to you all
I’ve been reading a lot about the OLPC project.

As I understood it, the computer (which originally was to cost $100) was for kids in the developing world.

I have often raised the idea in forums that such a computer (let’s say it is here with all its bells and whistles – forget about the software!) would be great for every kid in every school globally. Supposing some benevolent billionaire supplied one to every child throughout the globe, what would your take on this be?

Nga mihi nui
Best wishes