It’s all gone a bit Affleck

I was reflecting on this blogging lark the other day. It is something I enjoy doing, but in terms of academic return it's been hit and miss. The big hit is that it has connected with a global network of peers, who I wouldn't be able to engage with if I didn't have a blog. It's like being able to talk the same language.

The miss part is that I feel occasionally like I am shouting into the void, or typing eruditely into the void more likely. I write what I think are interesting, well crafted posts – not a link, not a comment. I write a mindless, quick review and it gets link-love. I don't get it, and maybe that doesn't matter. It is like a child – you can have all these great ideas about what you can do and how they should react, but they remain their own person, and that unpredictability is the joy.

There's a bit of fragile ego in here I suspect, when I set out I probably had in mind being an edu-blog heavyweight. I've done okay, I get a reasonable number of subscribers, my Technorati (if it wasn't so broken) authority is okay, I get a decent range of comments, etc. But I feel my blogging career hasn't quite panned out as I'd hoped. If Downes is the De Niro of edublogging, Warlick the Hoffman and Ewan McIntosh the Di Caprio, then I've gone a bit Ben Affleck: I've done okay, my output is popular enough, but you know, it's not quite what I had in mind when I was started out full of artistic dreams and lofty ambitions.

So, maybe this year is the time to push on and reclaim those ambitions. Or should I just be happy with my Affleck status? It could be worse after all, I could be the Ewan McGregor…


  • gminks

    So, are you only blogging to be famous? I know sometimes I don’t comment on people’s meatier posts because I have to think on them for a while. It doesn’t mean I don’t email the link, or just talk about the concepts raised in the post. Sometimes I don’t comment because I get so busy, and it takes me weeks to catch up on my blog reading.
    I blog for the connections. Just putting my ideas out there and seeing them come back (some times months later!). Writing forces me to reflect on the topic, and there is usually much discussion with people I interact with IRL before I write a meaty post to help distill my thoughts. That in turn strengthens my connections to them.
    And, just what is wrong with Ewan McGregor? He’s smart, funny, and HOT! I think so anyways.

  • Martin Weller

    No, definitely not just to be famous and like you I get the most out of blogging from a personal perspective. But, as a Prof of Ed Tech I treat this like another academic output and I would want somebody to read a journal article or value research I had done, otherwise there’s a ‘what’s the point?’ element. This is purely a personal take – just trying to be honest. 80% of the time blogging is the best thing I do, but just ocassionally one has doubts.

  • Gary Lewis

    Interesting post, Martin. Not one I would have expected from you.
    The pecking order issue seems irrelevant. Rankings and the like are symptomatic of what is wrong with higher education (at least in the US). Pursuit of prestige has gotten colleges and universities into a fine pickle. It does the same number on people too. You have no way to know what impact your blogs have on people, on conversations, or on programs, policy, and the future. The cult of the personality may be widely prevalent these days, but that should be more a source of sadness than ambition. The world would be better off with more of the “effortless action” (wu wei wu) of Laozi.
    However, you do obliquely touch on an aspect of educational blogging that has confused me in the 18 months I’ve been blogging. I call it the absence of a Welcome Wagon. When I was just a small tyke and my parents would move to a new community, someone would invariably show up at our doorstep with a smile and a basket of small offerings (fruit, maps of the area, etc). I naively assumed that bloggers had a sense of community around common interests and that there’d be some manner of welcoming newcomers. I now think that people are just too busy to do this kind of thing. And are also too busy to comment on posts, even ones that are “interesting, well crafted posts.” I suppose it’s also possible that edubloggers are not really a community, but I have no basis for making that kind of judgement one way or the other, so will prefer to assume the best.
    Forget the Ben Affleck crud, ok?

  • Martin Weller

    @Gary – I think my metaphor is a bit misleading as it emphasises the fame aspect. That wasn’t _really_ what I was getting at. One of the motivations one has for communicating is to get feedback – if we reframe the being famous thing as ‘being engaged in conversations’ then maybe it feels better.
    This was a personal reflection, rather than an observation on blogging per se. The reason I chose De Niro etc is not because they are famous, but they are famous because of the quality of their art. So, what I was trying to get at was not that I need to be more famous, but I need to be _better_.

  • Martin Weller

    @Stephen – ah, of course, everyone wants to be Bogart. My point though wasn’t about fame as such, but about the quality of their craft. De Niro will be happy with the content of his output (at least his early career anyway), but I don’t think Affleck will. And I have that vague dissatisfaction about the blogger I’ve become, I’m not as good as I should be.

  • edublogger

    I’m feeling the same way as you, at the moment. It’s amazing how many times people have referred to my blog as a ‘media’ blog because I changed jobs three months ago. It’s astonishing how, while the number of readers has only dipped a tiny amount, the number of comments has plummeted. People disengage when they feel the person is no longer relevant. You are hugely relevant to a vast number of people, and I think the point above on time to comment is true, as well as the desire not to add comments along the lines of “what ‘e said.”
    Sometimes, a post doesn’t invite comments because it sums up how we feel. Far easier to write to disagree than to say: “Yes, I felt that, too.”

  • Chris

    Martin, I find your blog particularly useful for me. I work in primary and secondary ed but your higher ed perspective on issues gives me a different magnifying glass to look at my own sector.
    I’d echo gmink’s comment about responses to thoughtful posts. I’ve had to be careful to stop evaluating my own posts by the comments I get. I usually get the comments for recommending cheap kit or when I post a poorly thought out piece of opinionated garbage.
    Anyway, if you’re Affleck I must be Brian Dowling.

  • Marty Feldman

    Hey there Ben! You’ve explained all so much to me, why many blog-actors I once saw all the time lighting up my RSS readers have gone dark! I suspect many of them are checked into rehab at the Betty Ford clinic with addictions to the crack cocaine of microblogging, who’s quick hits feel good but have sapped of them of their lost energy to practice their craft on the stage, on the blog.
    Yeah, Humphrey Downes, he “coulda been a contend-ah”
    But Ben, Ben, Ben…. we don’t act for what is written in the tabloids or what people say to our agents! We don’t act to serve some general good for The Audience, the reason is much closer. Just go in the bathroom and look for it in the mirror.
    But you cannot gauge your audience for whom you get fan mail- more of them watch your craft then you see, through video, through word of mouth, through pirated clips on the net; the audience you don’t see dwarfs the few crazies who decide to leave flowers at your door.
    Keep on acting! Keep up the craft!
    Always a fan (loved you most in “Clerks”!)
    Marty Feldman

  • Martin Weller

    @Ewan – that’s interesting – maybe you’ve been too successful in establishing your identity as a, indeed one of the, edubloggers that it is even harder than it is for most people to switch. Not that I think the boundaries are meaningful – particularly in a digital world.
    @Chris – yes I think this is key – we don’t have the type of feedback online that we do in real life so we look at imperfect measures which don’t really tell us the important things .
    @Marty – I know, I know, I should just trust my instincts. BTW loved your work in Young Frankenstein. For me it all went wrong with J-Lo…

  • Martin Weller

    &Chris Yep that’s pretty much the way it goes with links and comments. The trick is not to get influenced by it and start doing posts you think will get links – it never works that way does it? Thanks for the compliment

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