digital implications,  Weblogs

The best edtech book you’ve never read was published last week

And indeed is published every week. 

I'm referring to Stephen Downes' OLWeekly, where he gives a round up of all the material he's commented on that week. Like many of you I subscribe to the email, and when it came through on Friday, I was struck by how much great stuff there was in there this week. I thought "this could be an edited book". So I decided to see just what it would be like as a book.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting it should be a book, in many ways the book is an inferior format since you lose the comments and the media. But it's an interesting comparison. We know what editing a book takes, and if someone said they were going to edit a book every week, we'd think they were insane. So, I went through OLWeekly, and copied Stephen's comments and the article into a PDF. I missed some out because they were too long or they were newspaper/magazine articles who would probably send drones after me for copying their material. If I have included anyone's content here and they want it removed, let me kow. I'm not really interested in distributing it, just the point of comparison. The resultant PDF was 252 pages long. You can have a look for yourself: Download Downes_weekly. I didn't bother with any formatting, and some images are missing, I only had an hour. 

There are two interesting things that the exercise raised for me. The first is to recognise the great work Stephen does every week. What I admire about Stephen most is his endurance. I might have had an idea to do this, would have done about three and then given up. Stephen reminds me of an artist who goes in and out of fashion, produces albums of varying interest and quality, but what you come to admire most is their durability and their resolution to keep doing interesting things. Think Neil Young. With not much more effort in terms of copyediting and layout this could be a proper book, and the range of material in there is truly impressive. And he does this every week. We recognise book editing, but web curation isn't normally acknowledged, there is no yardstick for measuring it. So comparison with book editorship is useful from that perspective at least.

The second point is that if you were to try and create a book that covered these topics it would probably take you a year or so. You'd need to organise a publishing deal, cajole the writers, sort out rights, get it through copyediting, etc. When blogging was all fresh we used to comment a lot about the freedom it gave, and make these sort of comparisons, but we take it for granted now. It's worth noting it occassionally though – this is still pretty amazing stuff, and it calls to mind Scott Leslie's classic Just Share post. It really is the most efficient way to operate.

And if all that wasn't interesting, here is a picture of Stephen on a steer:


Fort Worth


  • Brian

    Your association of Downes with another Canadian icon, Neil Young, is dead on. Not just for enduring so prolifically (Long May They Run), but for integrity (can you imagine Downes selling out? This Post’s For You). And versatility. Neil has made an album in pretty much every rock/folk/country mode imaginable, and Stephen can comment authoritatively on epistemology, theory, politics, IP, learning cultures, you name it… He’s also a formidable technologist and coder in his own right. They share a similar idiosyncratic undeniably unique sensibilities that sometimes veer into cantankerousness, but leavened by a big heart and off-beat humour.
    And somehow the dude seems to read every single piece of material published on the internet relevant to his eclectic interests on a daily basis. His chronicling of the blogosphere is an epic feat in itself.
    So among other things, your post prompted me to expend very limited unbooked time this morning to remix this Neil Young meme ( to this one:
    I rarely waste time so fruitfully.

  • mweller

    Brian – thankyou for extending my Neil Young analogy further than I had thought. You’re right about not selling out – Mind you, now Downes has his 19M grant perhaps we’ll see him driving pimped up limos and wearing bling. No, not likely is it.
    Clint – Scott took slight umbrage to that remark when I posted it so I ought to stress I really was just joking then, but I was quite serious about the Neil Young comparison. My heart will go on.

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