Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bloggers Setting Sail

flickr - Talba in Iceland (creative commons licensed)

Already we are boldly launched upon the deep; but soon we shall be lost in its unshored, harborless immensities--Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 32, "Cetology"

In assigning my students to blog, rather than to write traditional research papers, I have launched them into an ocean of possibility with more hope than certainty.  Will these untried vessels of communication be adequate for the "harborless immensities" that await them in the cyber-sea? And now, one third of the way into our time together, we have lost sight of shore and I am taking stock. Are our blogs a leaky fleet, or are they making sail toward real destinations?

I see a few bloggers starting to take off, raising their sails into the wind. How does this happen? 

They Tap into a Personal Passion

Matt Harrison's blog is tightly focused on his interest in comics
Once students tap into something of great personal interest, the magic starts to happen. They don't have to be prodded to post regularly. They find that they have lots to say about something because they think about it all the time and the blog becomes a natural and fruitful outlet for them. Matt Harrison is already at this point. Having never blogged before, he has started with a bang, spilling his knowledge of comics and his fascination with superheroes. He has yet to discipline his blog into a focus, but I have confidence in his forward progress because he has found an actuating mechanism, a personal passion. (By the way, I have had a couple of other students find this same energy within comics, a powerful medium today. See the blog of Martin Michalek, who compared Hamlet and Batman; or the blog by Johnny Spelta, who looked at Japanese Manga).

They Tap into a Career Direction
Nyssa Silvester's blog is focused on the effects
of eBooks on the publishing industry
Meanwhile, Nyssa Silvester's blog suddenly "woke up" when she found an angle that fits her destined career in editing. Starting with this post (on eBooks and the publishing industry), Nyssa's blog suddenly got a focus that kept her blogging along even when she got sick. She has not yet created a critical mass of posts, but I have faith that she will get there because she so clearly found a way to connect her blogging with her chosen career. Go for it, Nyssa.

They actively reach out to others.
Amy Whitaker not only found, but contacted
people doing cool things with the book she is researching
Amy Whitaker's blog just spiked in its legitimacy because she not only did some interesting research about the book she is researching, Where the Red Fern Grows, but she contacted two different people involved in a recent effort to organize illustrators to create art for classic works of literature. This is fulfilling my strong recommendation (under the digital literacy principle, "connect") to do social discovery. (Social discovery is very, very powerful tool for turning casual bloggers into serious researchers who are in the game. I hope all my students will read over the many examples of this I have posted). Amy is still very much in the beginning stages of her blog, but she's got direction she didn't have before -- even if the people to whom she wrote never respond. There is just something powerful about reaching out to engage others on a topic of common interest. Try it!

I'll feature other students' work as I sense them also starting to "set sail." In the meantime:
  • Are you using your blog to tap into a personal passion?
  • Can a career ambition get you focused and active online?
  • Have you tried the miracle motivator of reaching out to others?


  1. Thanks for this. This is good, helped me find some direction for what possibilities I have and where I want to take my blog.

  2. This was a really valuable post to read as I am trying to hoist my own sails. Thank you!