Finishing My Homework as The Comment Challenge Comes To An End

30 days has September, April, June and November. Today is 31st May which means the Comment Challenge is coming to an end. Trouble is I’m still trying hard to complete my homework and would love your help!

Could you please share your “Top 5 lessons you learned from the Comment Challenge” — from anyone regardless of if you participated in the daily challenges.

Day 19: Respond to a Commenter On Your Own Blog

Responding back to comments on your own blog posts demonstrates you value your readers’ input and encourages further conversation leading to increased learning. How Tony Karrer responds back to comments on his Reframing Conference Social Tool Participation post is an excellent example of its benefits.

Day 20: Three Links Out

This task was based on Dave Ferguson “three links out” method to explore blogs that aren’t as familiar to you and hopefully on the third link a post that you want to comment on. Dave included his example of following the link from Cammy Bean post to Cathy Moore post ended at Tom Kuhlmann. Dave says “Often three links out will take me to unexpected places, like the surprisingly engrossing conversation you can have with the right stranger during a long flight”.

I’m sure Dave will understand when I say I decided not to do this task. My blog subscription is high already plus I visit blogs “new to me” and comment on them on a weekly basis. Definitely a great way to explore and find blogs if wanting to increase your blog subscriptions.

Day 21: Make a Recommendation

As Michele says “we’ll often recommend another blog, a post or a resource that we’ve read in our blog posts but we may not always do that in comments”. A common reason why people don’t recommend is they aren’t sure of how to add the link.

It’s easy when writing a blog post to add a link because you can use your visual editor but for comments to helps if you understand how to write the HTML code for the link.

Here is how you write the HTML code to add a link in a comment:

<a href=”http://theedublogger.edublogs.org/”>Welcome to the Edublogger</a> produces Welcome to the Edublogger. Most blogging platforms allow you to use HTML code to insert links (TypePad maybe is the exception?)

Day 22: Highlight a Favorite Comment

Just as I couldn’t give an award (for Day 15 task) to one or a few of my commenters I can’t highlight a favorite comment. I’m grateful whenever anyone takes the time to comment because each comment inspires me in different ways.

Day 23: What Makes a Great Comment?

Once again I’m just happy when someone does take the time to write a comment — that in itself makes a great comment. However Ken Allan’s 10 points for writing a great comment and Kirsti Dyer’s Thoughts on Being a Great Blog Commenter for Day 23 do provide some excellent tips. I’m also looking forward to reading Miss W. students thoughts on what makes a great comment.

Day 24: Comment on a Blog Written in a Foreign Language

I suggested this task because I have several readers that English is not their main language. As English bloggers we don’t realise we are being very English centric; expecting others to read our blogs in English while not reading their blogs written in other languages.

Fortunately Google translator is expanding languages translated so am now able to read

Day 25: Take a Break!

🙂

Day 26: Exploring Other Ways to Comment

I confess! I cheated on my homework!

Our task was to consider whether or not you think multimedia is a better option and how it might impact learning. I already had my own views on video and audio commenting but wanted to hear a range of thoughts so I asked my twitter network for their input. Here are their thoughts:

For

  1. Benefits those whose typing ability is limited but speaking ability isn’t – Lisa Parisi
  2. Video comments are fun to do. Audio not so much – Kathryn Greenhill

Against

  1. Bandwidth takes longer to get and absorb comment – Gary Barber
  2. Written very fast on uptake of comment. Easier to reply to written commentsGary Barber
  3. Text of what you say isn’t indexable/searchable thus findable – Kathryn Greenhill
  4. Not every one has the hardware – James Kingsley

Video comments were popular during the Comment Challenge and you can check out participants thoughts on video commenting on these posts:

  1. Kate Foy’s Words and/or Moving Pictures
  2. Greg Schwartz’s New Feature Video Commenting
  3. Kevin’s Comment Challenge Video

What I liked about the video comments was it gave me greater insight into each person.

I also really loved:

  1. Kevin’s Comment Challenge as a SketchCast
  2. Claire Thompson’s Enough Texty Already (a reflection of what the Comment Challenge has meant to her using SketchCast)

Day 27: What Do You Communicate About Your Personal Brand Through Comments

Personal branding made some Challenge participants feel uncomfortable which lead to a great conversation about branding, online identity and voice. I’m very conscious of the need of personal branding and having a recognisable online identity.

Developing our own unique identity is an important part of being online which we don’t always appreciate when we first start setting up our online accounts. Personal connection is really important for interacting online. The better others can visualize you as a real person the more likely they will be to want connect and network with you. Tips for creating online identity are covered in my Is Your Photo Avatar Making You Look OLD? post.

My tips for creating online identity when commenting are:

1. Have one online identity across all accounts

Using one online identity makes it easier for others to connect and relate to you. When starting out we often feel nervous about using our own identity but it is much easier to relate to real names. My username was originally dswaters — which is rather meaningless and if a person wanted to respond they had to work out who I was (and what gender). My solution has been to:

  1. Set my Edublogs account to my preferred name i.e. Sue Waters
  2. Use NAME/URL option, if available, when submitting my comments on blogger blogs
  3. When NAME/URL option isn’t an option on a blogger blog I sign the bottom of my comment with Sue Waters, add my blog name below and have edited my blogger profile to link to my blog.

2. Ensure consistent voice in writing posts and commenting

“Voice” is the emotions, imaginary and feelings we convey mainly in the text we write. Blogging is about creating our own unique, authentic voices that distinguishes us as who we are and what we stand for. We do need to be very careful with our voice because:

  1. The visual image people have of us will depend on the level/types of interactions and whether it is based solely on text
  2. Written text can easily be misinterpreted (as can what we don’t say can be misinterpreted). For example what we think as humor may be wrongly interpreted.

When you write comments remember to make sure your voice is consistent with how you post. Try not to let yourself down by saying something inappropriate in a comment that you wouldn’t say in a blog post.

Challenge we face is over time our readers build a picture of who we are and what they believe we stand for. This a gradual process that happens as a result of them interacting with our blogs. When we write comments on other people blogs — the blogger and their readers don’t necessarily have that image already created so it is easier for them to make erroneous decisions on who you are based on your comments.

Day 28: What’s Your Blog Commenting Strategy?

Okay this task made me feel uncomfortable. I don’t like to think of commenting as a strategy rather a very important part of my daily routine for two main reasons:

  1. It’s an important part of my personal learning; my learning is enhanced by reading other people’s post and interacting through commenting.
  2. Over the years people have supported and mentored me so I like to pay this back by supporting others especially new bloggers.

I comment when:

  1. I agree and want to extend
  2. I disagree and want to share my opinion
  3. I want to support a blogger (especially a new blogger) but try to do it in a way that extends the conversation
  4. I want to thank a blogger when they link to my posts

Day 29: Write a Commenting Guide for Students

Since challenge participants have worked hard of creating Commenting Guides for students I decided that I would tackling this task by listing their resources for others to check out:

  1. Kirsti D. Dyer Commenting Guide for Online students (College and Graduate) based on her Six C’s on Being a Great Blog Commenter combined with her current Discussion Board Guide and Grading Rubric.
  2. Kevin shared Youth Radio Blog Netiquette developed by Gail Desler which has some great suggestions for writing comments. He also highlighted Paul Allison hyperlinked document to use as a template which allows students to get a feel for commenting.
  3. Ines Pinto explains how she has talking to her students about the “concept of brand” and how shocked they were to realise what they share online in their youth can impact their adult life. She’s considering inviting some ex-students to talk her current students in the form of a series of recorded interviews. From this the students could work collaborately to create their own Commenting Guidelines.
  4. Ken Allan created Homer 8 Comment Tips and U Comment 5 Ways — I think the younger students will really love Ken’s guides (especially Homer) .
  5. Dani’s Commenting Guide for College Students – Dani’s a librarian and archivist at an academic library.
  6. Sue Wyatt’s created an online survey for her students using Google Documents so the students can share their ideas on comments and what makes good ones. She plans to use the results from her survey to create her Commenting Guide for Students.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s almost a wrap 🙁 . And would like to complete my final post by sharing your “Top 5 lessons you learned from the Comment Challenge” — from anyone regardless of if you participated in the daily challenges.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Can You Use Aids To Help Conversations?

Oh I just love it when someone shows me a cool tricks that makes life easier (and interesting)!

So I’m very pleased Christy Tucker showed me how to do a Quick and Dirty Comment Analysis using aidRSS. More importantly aidRSS is actually designed to help people like Ann, Confessions of an Oversubscribed Reader, find the “best posts” from blog feeds to reduce information overload.

What is aidRSS

AidRSS monitors a blog feed by creating PostRank™ for the posts based on the amount of conversation generated (combination of number of comments, del.icio.us links, tweets, Diggs and Google trackbacks). The higher the PostRank score the better the post is considered in terms of conversation.

PostRank score is used to sort the posts into Good Posts, Great Posts, Best Posts and Top 20 Posts. The idea is you make your RSS subscription manageable by subscribing to the AidRSS feed for the “best posts” from a feed (e.g you may choose to limit your subscription to the “Great Posts only”).

Example of AidRSS conversations

Using AidRSS to Analyse Your Posts

Image on the right shows the different ways aidRSS analyzes a conversation.

As Christy Tucker points out initially your blog’s analysis is limited to recent activity whereas she has used previously so results display back to July, 2007.

Here is the analysis for All My Posts for my Mobile Technology in TAFE blog:

Image of All Posts Analysis

Compared to Good Posts:

Image of Good Posts

And Great Posts

Image of Great Posts

Finally Top 20 Posts

Image of Top 20

When aidRSS Top 20 Ranked posts are compared to Google Analytics data for Top Content (shown as GA Rank for 1 Dec, 2007 to present) you get a slightly different picture of your top posts:

Image of Google Analytics comparision

My thoughts are:

  • Google Analytics is good for showing how visitors to your web page interact with your content — as it provides information on the number of people who visit your web site.
  • AidRSS provides a different view from Google Analytics by showing readers responses to your content
  • Feedburner is important for knowing how many people are subscribing to your blog

What I’ve found interesting (but not necessarily surprising), especially when I analyzed The Edublogger, were some posts were popular in terms of bookmarking but not generating comments. For example, How I Use RSS To Make My Life Easier was bookmarked 16 times in del.icio.us but only received 7 comments. Why? Because it was mainly sharing information. Whereas my Share Your Blogging Experience & Tips For Participants of Open PD post generated comments, with thought provoking conversations, because it contained very little information and instead asked readers to share their experiences.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Plenty of food for thought for me and thanks Christy for the cool tip! Meanwhile I going to say Comment Challenge Day 18: Analyze the Comments on Your Own Blog can be ticked off 🙂 .

What are your thoughts on AidRSS? Are there any other similar type tools that I should check out?

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Comment Challenge Week 2

This is my weekly report on an online blogging project I am participating in and I’d love to get your thoughts on these aspects in particular:

  1. Comment Policies for blogs – Are you for or against? And why?
  2. Comment Moderation – Are you for or against? And why?
  3. My belief is posts where you hand the post over to readers by asking questions are probably the hardest posts to write. What are your thoughts? Can you give me examples of bloggers who do this well?

If you are looking for other posts I’ve written this week how about Embedding Jing Screencasts Into Blog Posts or Are You Making Your Life Easier By Using A Personalized Start Page?.

Day 11: Write a Blog Comment Policy

Definitely this task provoked similar response to Kate Foy who said “Today we’re to write a comment policy for our blog. No, I don’t think so … not for me.” But the scientist in me needed fully investigate the pros and cons.

PROs

  1. The articles which Michele Martin recommends we read provide logical reasons why bloggers should have comment policies.
  2. Michele included Create A Comment policy as a task because from experience she knows there are still a lot of people who don’t know how to comment. They need some concrete instructions on where to access comments, how to leave one, etc which you can cover in a comment policy. If you check Michele’s policy you will see it’s extremely friendly and is more about how to leave comments.
  3. Ines Pinto’s idea on involving her students to provide their input in forming a comment policy for student blogs is a very sensible way of educating her students on appropriate online behaviour and minimising the occurrence of inappropriate commenting.

CONs

  1. Couldn’t find any top edublogger who does have a comment policy (used Aseem Badshah Education Blog list) – the closest was Scott McLeod’s “Note that when you leave a comment here, you are agreeing that your comment also falls under the terms of this Creative Commons license.” Also I checked other top bloggers and many of them didn’t have comment policies.

Mutter, mutter my Vulcan-like nature can’t ignore the facts that the Pros way out balance the Cons (I’m sure Ian McLean who’s a Star Trek fan can relate to my dilemma). So thinking I have added creating a Newbie Guide to my To-Do list — which will focus on the friendly instructional approach Michele’s taken.

Day 12: Make Sure Your Blog Technology is “Comment Friendly”

My personal belief has always been it’s better not to moderate comments. I’m glad that readers challenged this belief when I wrote Are Your Comment Settings Making It Harder For Readers To Comment? because they provided very valid reasons why a blogger might moderate comments (check out the comments here).

Day 13: Write a Blog Post Using Comments

Comments often contain “hidden gems” that readers miss unless the blogger elevates them to a post. Writing a blog post from comments is a good way to:

  1. Share these conversations with all your readers and show you value readers input e.g. Beth Kanter is excellent at writing these types of posts (check out this example) as is Michele Martin (check out this example).
  2. Increase your own learning e.g. Comments by Alan Levine and Chris Betcher on my post on Animoto lead to Job for Saturday! Road test of online video creators! and Sunday Job! Road Test Some More Online Video Creators! — where I learnt a lot about online video creators.

These aren’t necessarily the easiest posts to write so definitely worth checking out how people like Beth Kanter and Michele Martin write them.

Day 14: Turn Your Blog Over to Your Readers

Look I’m really interested in your OPINION!

My belief is posts where you hand the post over to readers are probably the hardest posts to write. I’m in awe of Chris Brogan‘s skill with these types of posts (check out Power of Comments, How Does Your Blog Relate to Your Business).

Day 15: Give a Comment Award

As Michele says “We all like some recognition!” but this is definitely one task I can’t complete. I can’t give an award to one or a few of my commenters — it’d be like having to choose between my two kids 🙁 . An alternative method of thanking commenters is how Danielle does it.

Day 16: Go Back and Catch Up on Something

Love it when we have Days off to go back and catch up — tonight has been busy doing exactly that!

Day 17: Five in Five

The idea for this came from Tony Tallent’s post called “Five in Five” based on doing 5 comments in 5 minutes.

What can I say? It’s late! I just wanted to finish the tasks and go to bed! I’d read Tony’s post previously so quickly worked on trying to do 5 comments in 5 minutes. I managed 3 comments in 5 minutes 🙁 .

Then read all clauses on Michele’s post (reminder to self always read clauses!):

  1. No scrimping on quality.
  2. If you’re going to read 5 posts and leave reasonably thoughtful comments on each, it will probably take you longer than 5 minutes (Tony ended up taking 28 minutes to comment on 8 posts).

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s time for bed and the best news is I’m up to date!!!! 8-).� � You can check out the daily tasks on Michele’s blog here.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Comment Challenge: Day 5 – 10

Sorry still trying to catch up on the Comment Challenge!

While I’ve written my reflections for the Challenge for Day 1 – 10 on the same day I’ve broken it into two posts to make it more readable.

Day 5: Comment on a Post You Disagree With

Michele’s tasks for Day 5 was to comment on a post I disagree with.

Most Challenge participants haven’t enjoyed commenting on posts they disagree on. I think this is a reflection of human nature that we don’t like to be disagreeable in a public setting — most of us don’t like to rock the boat.

Ok, I have been know to be pedantic and outspoken (I rather not say disagreeable). So it wasn’t hard to find a post were I had be a tad disagreeable.

1. What happened as a result of you disagreeing with the blogger?

Tony Karrer is well known in corporate elearning and his posts (Social Conference Tools – Expect Poor Results and Reframing Conference Social Tool Participation) were in response to David Warlick’s Reaching Out With Your Conference. Tony questions the value of social networking tools because of low participation rates in conference attendees using them.

I was a bit outspoken (as were others) as I’ve seen social networking tools like Skype, Twitter, Ustream opening up conferences to global participants. Results were:

  • Tony did an excellent job interacting with the commenters.
  • We both expanded our conversation using Elluminate — I showed him how educators are using the tools and Tony told me more about the corporate sector.
  • Tony has even joined twitter now (that’s weird somehow my twitter account unfollowed him by itself — I’ve fixed it now).

2. What do you usually do if you find a post with which you disagree?

I prefer not to be too disagreeable in public, so if I totally disagree I may move on without leaving a comment. If I do disagree and leave a comment I try to explain my position and ask questions to understand their position more.

3. How do you feel if people post comments where they disagree with you?

No issue because most let me know that I’ve made a mistake (which helps with my learning) or explain their position to give me insight into how they feel.

Progress = Completed 😛

Day 6: Engage Another Commenter in Discussion

Michele’s task for Day 6 is to engage another commenter in discussion because as Michele says “Conversations can become richer, though, if we also respond to other commenters”.

Yep I do this (sometimes too much). If you read comments on Tony’s posts Social Conference Tools – Expect Poor Results and Reframing Conference Social Tool Participation you will see this in action.

Mmmm Brent feeling definitely neglected re-twitter (ROFL)

Progress = Completed 😎

Day 7: Reflect on What You’ve Learned So Far

Michele’s task for Day 7 is to reflect what I’ve learned so far. I’m pleased that this was one task I completed on time and here’s my response — Online Participation, Commenting and The Comment Challenge.

Progress = Completed 😀

Day 8: Comment on a Blog Outside of Your Core Niche

Michele asked us to comment on a blog outside of our core niche as our Task for Day 8 but I’d argue that I already do it. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Progress = Completed 😎

Day 9: Should We Be Commenting on Blogs?

Michele’s Task for Day 9 was to reflect on the value of commenting on blog posts compared to writing posts in response.

Some bloggers disable comments preventing readers from adding their comments to the post as they would rather their readers respond by writing their own posts. The most important aspect of blogging for me is the conversations. My belief is disabling comments limits conversations (like going to a conference presentation and not being allowed to ask questions).

It’s definitely better to build community through a combination comments and conversations occurring across blogs (i.e. respond to ideas by writing our own posts). I use a mixture of both but am more likely to write comments than a post since posts take considerably longer to write and comments are easier for other readers to follow the conversation.

Progress = Completed 😀

Day 10: Do a Comment Audit on Your Own Blog

Michele’s task for Day 10 was to do a comment audit on my Blogs. I think I’m doing an OK job building a sense of community on my blogs that invites people to leave comments.

What I will say is I feel some bloggers have conflicted emotions about comments on their own blogs. Partly probably because they 1) feel others may judge a blog’s success on the level of commenting 2) know new bloggers become despondent and stop blogging due to lack of comments 3) feel worrying about whether people will comment on their posts impacts on their writing.

My response to their concerns:

  • Don’t worry what others think — we all judge our own success using different measures.
  • Don’t give up blogging because of lack of comments (I hardly had any the first few months I was a blogger). It takes time (and work) to build your blog’s community. It helps to learn to be a more effective blogger and learn about community building.
  • If you are blogging as part of your personal learning — comments and interacting with your commenters means your learning will be greater than what you gain by writing blog posts.

Progress = Completed 😎

FINAL THOUGHTS

There’s still time for you to join us for 31 Day Comment Challenge! Just go across to Michele Martin’s blog to get started with the tasks and add your name to our participants page.

Remember to follow our tagging recommendations for the Challenge.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Comment Challenge: Days 1 – 4

Oh dear! I’m way behind in recording my reflections from the Comment Challenge so it’s time to play catch-up (apologies for the long post).

But before I do I liked to thank Michele Martin for the excellent daily tasks she has created. Thanks Michele (you’re amazing)!

Day 1: Do a Comment Self Audit

Michele’s task for Day 1 is to do a Comment Self Audit of my own commenting practices.

  1. How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week? — Lets just say I’m a prolific commenter
  2. Do you track your blog comments? — I use both cocomment and co.mment which feed into my Google Reader using their RSS feed. Means I can rapidly respond to new comments on other people’s blogs if I choose.
  3. Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week?– Always visiting new blogs 🙂

While I think Gina Trapani’s Guide to Blog Comments is good I don’t agree with all her tips — unfortunately to explain why would need a blog post. However Betty Gilgoff in her Day 1 reflections suggests Gina’s guide “would actually be a good resource for students when setting up blogging with a group”– which I think is an excellent idea (with some modifications).

Do you use a Guide to Blog Comments with your students? If so, can you share the link for us to check out?

Progress = Completed 😎

Day 2: Comment on a New Blog

Michele’s task for Day 2 is to do a comment on a new blog (which I do all the time).

I try my best to visit and leave comments on:

  • Blogs of readers who leave comments on my blogs
  • Blogs that link to my blogs

While this is good practice for building a blog community, my main reasons are to thank the person and support new bloggers.

Progress = Completed 😉

Day 3: Sign up for a Comment Tracking Service

On Day 3 Michele set us the task of signing up for a comment tracking service. As Michele says “To really engage in conversations through blog commenting, you need to develop some effective strategies for managing the comments you make on other blogs. A comment tracking service is a great solution.”

Cammie Bean introduced me to tracking comments, using Co-mment, during the 31 Days To Build A Better Blog last year when I complained that leaving comments on other peoples blogs frustrated me because it was too hard (time consuming) to know if the blogger responded. I now also use cocomment because its excellent for community building and tagging (here’s my post on how to use cocomment).

Progress = Completed 😎

Day 4: Ask a Question

Michele’s task for Day 4 is to ask a Question as she says “One of the most powerful conversation starters is to ask a question. It’s one of the best ways to engage the blogger and other commenters in further discussion.” Whenever appropriate I ask open-ended and thought provoking questions for the reasons Michele highlights.

Don’t get disappointed if the blogger and other commenters doesn’t respond back — unfortunately not all bloggers respond back to comments on their posts and not all commenters using comment tracking tools. But when they do you see some amazing conversations happen.

Progress = Completed 😀

FINAL THOUGHTS

There’s still time for you to join us for 31 Day Comment Challenge! Just go across to Michele Martin’s blog to get started with the tasks and add your name to our participants page.

Remember to follow our tagging recommendations for the Challenge.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!


Online Participation, Commenting and The Comment Challenge

What an amazing week! Last month working with Kim Cofino, Silvia Tolisano and Michele Martin we created the concept of the Comment Challenge which started this month.

Why the Comment Challenge

I knew from personal experience that commenting on blogs is a crucial aspect of blogging conversations for achieving the greatest learning. Trouble is factors often limit people’s commenting practices so they don’t experience this learning and fail to appreciate it’s value.

Kim Cofino, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and I hoped a challenge that involved a month of focused commenting would help participants appreciate it’s importance and the benefits of learning as a community.

Comment Challenge Progress

The Challenge started on May 1 with Michele Martin posting tasks daily. The number of participants is still increasing and currently there are 116 adult participants and 12 Student groups (over 200 students).

You can check out the latest posts by participants on this page of the Comment Challenge wiki or comments by participants here! Much of my time this week has been making sure it is all happening by visiting participant’s posts to check out their progress and leave encouragement, troubleshooting challenges of technorati and fine tuning the wiki.

The behind the scenes tasks have left me little time to write my own reflections so I thought today I would play catch up using Comment Challenge Day 7: Reflect on What You’ve Learned So Far but reflect the three lessons I’ve learned from my experiences so far in terms of being a coordinator of the Challenge.

#1 Commenting & Participation in Online Communities

It didn’t surprise to me that many participants response to “How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week?” was rarely. Concerns of saying the wrong thing or feeling their comments mightn’t be worthy were the main factors why they rarely commented. This surprised me because I assumed time was the main issue since majority are bloggers and use twitter.

It does have me thinking more about online communities user participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

And Derek Wenmoth’s The Four C’s of Participation in Online Communities:

The 4 Cs are an attempt to illustrate the fact that most people appear to operate predominantly in one or other of the phases in their journey to becoming online citizens, and that there is some sort of progression that characterises this growth.

Below is Derek Wenmoth’s diagram that highlights the progression through the phases. Take the time to read his post to obtain a clear understanding of his thoughts (click on this link to view the larger version of the diagram).

four-cs-small.jpg

I’ve always considered the implications of both online communities user participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule and Derek Wenmoth’s The Four C’s of Participation in Online Communities when using social networking tools with students and educators. Time constraints and not being a contributer (i.e. since majority blog, use range of social network tools and twitter) aren’t the barriers to why people don’t comment more.

Lots of food for thought with no answers but definitely a greater understanding, after 7 days of observations, of why people do/don’t comment on blogs.

#2 Technorati Continues To Mock Me

With over 100 adult participants and 12 student groups (over 200 students) , combined with the desire to encourage the community aspect, an RSS feed from Technorati was the easiest method for helping participants easily find each other and interact (we have the feed coming into our wiki). Best way to do this is to agree on a common tag term prior to the event.

Mistake #1 – Make sure the tag term is unique!

(DUH Sue!) I should have done a technorati basic search for the tag term comment08 because unfortunately test comments from cocomment’s blog were picked up with this search term.

Mistake #2 – Test Technorati easily picks up the tags prior to starting such a large project

After quite a bit of research over the weekend I discovered that technorati wasn’t picking up posts unless:

  • Participants had joined and claimed their blog’s at Technorati
  • Technorati hasn’t been pinging their blog (some of the blogs hadn’t been pinged for 90 days which meant we weren’t seeing any of the posts they were writing)

Also I discovered we had to refine the Technorati tag search to ensure it found all posts.

If we had known all this prior we could have given more detailed instructions to participants on how to tag (for each of the different blogging platforms) and for ensuring their tags were picked up by technorati.

Better late than never — Here’s my instructions for participants on using technorati.

#3 Community Learning Happens When Encouraged

True I did know this but have been pleasantly surprised, with the right circumstances, how rapidly this can develop considering it has only been 8 days. It’s impossible for me to showcase all the examples however I think what happening with video and video commenting — and the increased connections as a results — is pretty cool.

Kate Foy’s set up a Flickr Group and being using Seesmic to create video posts and use it for readers leave video comments. Greg’s being debating the pros and cons of video commenting. Kevin’s did a video tour of blogs he visited which inspired Silvia to create a video to summarise what she has learnt in the past 7 days. Apologies I’m sure there are more videos (please let me know any I have missed).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Still time for you to join us for 31 Day Comment Challenge — just add your name to the participants page. It’s okay to combine several tasks and do in one day 😎 .

Would love to hear about the connections you are making, and the community learning that is happening, as a result of the Challenge. Also your thoughts on online participation and commenting (and off course how you are going 🙂 ).

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Getting Help With My Weight Problem!

133854471_a001b79a2c_m.jpgLet’s be honest I need all the help I can get. My weight has crept up 🙁 . And like all woman I don’t like to feel fat! Thankfully I’ve got great friends in Christy Tucker and Christine Martell that decided to help me with my weight problem.

Photo from Flickr photo uploaded on April 24, 2006 by Christina007 licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0.

Cause of The Weight Problem

Apparently the weight issues happened during my blog cleaning when I changed my blog image header. (Sheesh and I thought cleaning helped you lose weight!).

Christy Tucker commented that:

Does it seem like the header image leads your image off the right side of the page though? Look at the line of the rocks and the direction the person is facing–it seems to all be pointing off to the right. I wonder if you flipped the image horizontally if it would work better. You’d have to move the text somewhere else, perhaps, but with the image flipped it would draw your eye right down to the content.

Just a thought–you might want to check with Christine Martell or someone else more visually inclined. It’s possible I’m simply imagining things!

Christine’s definitely the person to ask as she’s amazing with visuals. And I’m extremely grateful because she has done an incredible analysis of my new image header while explaining all visual aspects of what the image was saying, the messages it sends the readers and options to improve.

Make the time to read Chrisine’s Does my header make my blog look fat? post (and leave her a comment thanking her for helping me)! There is so much to appreciate when using visuals on blog sites and in posts; Christine’s excellent at making you consider the issues.

Impact of Images and Photos in Blog Posts

Images and photos enhance blog posts when used correctly but can have the opposite affect when used badly. These posts Christine wrote are must reads for understanding the issues better:

  1. Are your visuals saying what you want? Part 1 Visual Element
  2. Are your visuals saying what you want? Part 2 Color & Contrast
  3. Are your visuals saying what you want? Part 3 Texture & Pattern

Also make sure you check out Gary Barber‘s excellent post on the Psychology of Colour. Fantastic post that explains the different emotions invoked by various colours.

My Solution To The Weight Problem

Well I decided to change my image header based on her re-design of my image however Bret Treasure has made excellent comments (read his comments as he makes really good points) on Christine’s post about the image I’ve chosen isn’t relevant to the blog content or engaging. So it may be a case the issue continues to be debated as the weight issue may not be solved 🙂

Thanks everyone who has been trying to help me with my weight problem and my blog makeover. I really appreciate your help.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free

Becoming A More Effective Blogger:The 31 Day Blogging Project

betterblog.jpgAs Graham Wegner highlighted in his comment on The Edublogger –“it wasn’t all that long ago (well over a year I think!) I had a Skype conversation with Alex Hayes and your good self where you declared that you didn’t really “get blogging.” So true, I didn’t get blogging and was into podcasting! Yep, took awhile to “get blogging” and thankfully the 31 Day Blogging Project made me a more effective blogger.

For me, the key to my gain from the 31 Day Blogging Project, was completing the daily tasks while collaboratively working together within a team of 14 participants. Knowledge gain was greater working in a team, because each individual gained a different perspective from the task – giving participants greater “food for thought!”

The team aspect of the project is sooo important — which is why I pleased that a new group of bloggers have just begun working together on the 31 Day Project! Congratulations Kate Olson, Sarah Stewart, Jess Mcculloch and Andy Roberts (please drop past their blogs to provide assistance and encouragement). Kate’s explanations for her involvement are inspirational

As just anyone in the world has the power to create a blog, I feel it’s my responsibility to go above and beyond to learn all that I can. My students (and colleagues learning from me in the professional development arena) deserve to have an educator who is dedicated to learning.

Here are some tips from my experience of the 31 Day Project that will help keep you sane going:

Check Out What Others Learnt

Before I started a task I would first check out what the others had learnt! Saved time and gave me ideas! Summary of what I learnt is located on this page of my wiki with links to daily tasks you need to complete (those relating to being a problogger have been remove). Click on the participants photo on the 31 Day Project page of my blog to view what each participant learnt when we did the project (please let me know if there is a problem with any links and I will fix).

Recording The Progress of Your 31 Day Project

Personally I recommend writing posts of what you learn on your blog so that your readers can also help you with your journey. My readers provided me with sooooo much guidance, help, assistance and mentoring; thanks everyone! However as I progressed I found it was better to post several tasks in the same post e.g. 31 Days To Build A Better Blog — Day 20-26 plus posts from my journey which would help my readers e.g. Why Does Technorati Mock Me?, Why Didn’t I install Google Analytics Sooner?, How keep track of new comments on other bloggers’ posts!

As you progress it is easy to lose track and feel worn out! Ticking off progress was important – writing the task number with progress status, smiley face and the famous tick/cross all helped (especially the image of the tick and smiley face).

FINAL THOUGHT

For those that have already completed the 31 Day Project — What are your tips/advice for the new participants?

If you have been thinking about doing the 31 Days to build a better blog, or wanted to improve your blogging, I strongly recommend you join the latest 31 Day Project Team and join the Better Blog Community (so the community can supply support)! Please let me know if you are joining so I can drop past your blog to provide encouragement.

Do Busy Readers Dig Deeper Into Our Blogs?

What I like about this week’s challenge at Better Blog community set by Simon Thomas (Oak Innovations Blog) on Mobilize your archives is I have already done it for my Day 4 task of the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. The task involves going back through your old posts and looking for opportunities to link to new posts mainly in the hope of driving readers deeper into your blog. As Darren says “One of the challenges that faces blogs that have been around for a while is that they end up with a wonderful collection of posts in their archives that are rarely read by readers.” The other 31 Day task aimed at driving readers deeper into our blog was Day 18 Create a Sneeze Page and propel readers deep into your blog.

Why do I like it? Well it has been:

  • 2 months since I interlinked old posts with newer posts
  • 20 days since I created my squeeze page

So is an excellent opportunity to stop and reflect, for my situation, how effective these tasks were for driving readers deeper into my blog.

Lets start with my squeeze page — what I have called my Want a Specific Article page. Readers are definitely using this page to locate posts they want to read and are using it more than my categories (the subjects in my sidebar that tells my readers what I write about).

Now Gary disagrees with Darren about squeeze pages – his comment on my post was “if people can’t find the information in a well formed index (navigational) list then how are they going to find it if it’s a click away on another page” and went on to recommend that I improve my use of subcategories. I agree Gary — especially for my blog where I am writing on a range of subject areas which must be soooo confusing for my readers — so I have set up subcategories under my main categories. I have also set to display number of posts, which makes my side menu look more cluttered but provides information readers probably want to know.

categories1.jpg

How successful is interlinking old posts with new posts?

Really hard to tell! What I can say is the posts I did choose interlink with aren’t ranking high in my top 100 content – when I did this task originally I was not using Google Analytics so based on current statistics it would appear that I chose the wrong posts for the task. As I have said previously why didn’t I install Google Analytics sooner! So may re-do the task– will think about it!

The best parts of originally doing Darren’s interlinking and creating a squeeze page was I worked through all my blog’s posts and this made me reflect on:

  • how my site looks to visitors and so I made time for improvements
  • posts I had written e.g. what I liked/didn’t like about the post and what improvements were needed for future posts
  • posts I maybe should have written
  • how easy to my blog was/wasn’t to navigate your blog

My Thoughts

Realistically it is hard to propel readers deeper into a blog. Readers are busy people.

Reflecting on my own blog reading habits when I find a new blog to subscribe to I don’t have time to go back through their old posts and will only skim read their first 10 posts that load into Google Reader unless a post grabs me. But I will go back to a person’s blog for an article on a specific topic if I know they provide great information on that topic — but are more likely to use the search their blog feature.

The 31 Days to Build a Better Blog were never for fame or fortune for me. My goals are to help others and blogging is one of the methods I share information with others so I decided it would help me be a more effective blogger.

Driving people deeper into your blog is only one way of being more effective — I strongly recommend, if you are a blogger, you make time to work through the 31 Day Project by:

  1. Working through these tasks from the 31 Day Project customised for educational bloggers
  2. Or doing the shorter 5 days tasks for people just starting to blog
  3. Join us at Better Blog community

Let me know if you plan to do the 31 Day Project as I would love to join your journey as you improve your blog!

Getting Into Blogging As An Educator!

BetterBogging There are so many reasons why I believe all educators should blog but Darren Draper expresses them better – check out his Reason #1, Reason #2, Reason #3, Reason #4, Reason #5, Reason #6, Reason #7, Reason #8)

Blogging is so valuable for your own personal learning. If you plan to use blogs with students, for elearning, you should be blogging personally yourself! Why? Increases your understanding of blogging and provides more insight on how to use blogs effectively with your students.

But trust me, I can totally relate to how overwhelming the idea of blogging can be to someone who has never blogged before.

So to help you out I have taken what I have gained from the 31 Day Project and created a stepped blogging program for you to either:

  1. Get Started in Blogging – for people who have never blogged or are just starting out
  2. Improving your Blogging effectiveness – for people who are already blogging

Realising that the key to blogging lies in effective reading of blogs I have also set up a section on how to subscribe to blogs.

While my blogging program was complied for educators, it is of benefit for anyone interested in blogging. Its aim is to progress people through from appreciating the value of blogging, through reading and commenting on blogs, to 5 Day Tasks for new blogger and eventually onto the 31 Day tasks for more experienced bloggers (based on Darren Prowse’s 31 Day Project).

Think About Personal Gain and Make the Time!

For bloggers who are feeling reluctant to undertake the 31 Day Project, due to commitments, remember you can extend it longer than 31 Days. Before you decide it is not for you read how much Michelle Martin gained from this Project!

MAKE the TIME to improve WHAT YOU DO! And join Betterblog.com so we can support you while you undertake the Project.