28 September 2011

Virtual Road Trip

One of my favourite parts of each day is sitting down and working through the posts in my Google Reader account. Like many of you, I subscribe to a number of blogs, news, and websites. An aggregator, like Google Reader, can be a real timesaver---it collects the information.

What I don't like about Reader is the sterile environment. You get content, but you don't get to see the actual sites. You miss the bigger experience---the colours, format, changes, and additions. I don't see what's on the blogroll or the comments others leave to discuss a post.

So, every once in awhile, I like to take a little road trip. I work through the blogs on my sidebar and perhaps a few others from my Reader. Here's what I found on my most recent trip:
  • I like how many of you are using the pages options in Blogger and Wordpress. This looks like a great way to showcase other parts of your (working) life. Most of us are little multimedia moguls these days. We contribute to more than one site, may be active on Twitter, and have a voice in the real world beyond our classroom. Using pages allows the blog to act more like a website and host a variety of content. I'm definitely going to steal this idea.
  • There continues to be a very healthy variety of templates. Sure, a lot of bloggers use default options, but I see a lot of mixing and matching of plugins and backgrounds. Nearly everyone has moved over to the standard idea of content on the left and navigation on the right. I have set up my new blog that way, but this blog is set up with a special template. It's old school...and I kinda like it that way. We'll see if I feel like catching the next wave of web design. The most unusual among the blogs I frequent is Chalkdust 101. Patrick's three-column template with the post tags on top invites you to spend a little time looking around.
  • I try to keep my blogroll stocked with people who post regularly. I know, I know, I'm one to talk after taking some time off this summer---I didn't kick anyone off who's posted at least once in the last three months. But I'm looking for some new stuff, too. Frank, over at Action-Reaction, has a fantastic collection of standards-based grading blogs, as well as science blogs. Jason, at Always Formative, has a nice category of Deserves More Traffic. What a great idea for getting new bloggers some attention and notice. In the early blogging days, there weren't very many of us. It was a lot easier to get attention before Google smart search, Twitter, Facebook, and everybody-has-a-blog. And now there is (thankfully) a lot of diversity in the blogosphere. It makes me smile every time I think of the range of voices out there---ones that didn't have an audience at all a few years ago. The nice thing about the web is that there is room for everyone. However, we still have to work at building community. Suggestions in my Google Reader help, but seeing what you all suss out to add to your blogroll is vital, too.
  • Nearly all of you are using full feeds for your RSS. Thank you! I expect short feeds for sites like Education Week, which just offer headlines. But, I'm not someone who "clicks through" on blogs with this type of feed. So, if you're hiding content, I hope you'll reconsider. Unless you have a good reason for needing a level of control over who accesses your blog or are counting on ad revenue from click-throughs to feed your family (and most of your readers are probably using an ad blocker, anyway), you might be losing a lot of readers/commenters. Put your content out there!
  • Blogs written by men seem to get more attention than ones written by women. I don't know that I have anything empirical to point to. I just find it interesting to see which ones get the most follows/reads/mentions. For example, I've seen any number of retweets from Solution Tree about a book a man wrote or a workshop provided by a man...and not a single one related to ideas from a woman. And for another example---reread this post and see who I mentioned. Apparently, I'm just as guilty as anyone else. I'm not complaining. Good ideas should stand on their own merit, regardless of gender. And I won't say that women deserve special consideration or treatment. When it comes to schools, women far outnumber men (especially at the elementary levels). Perhaps the voices of men are more important in this space because they have less representation. Whatever the reason, I notice an imbalance more now than when I first started writing. Either it was always there and I didn't see it...or it's not there and I'm just imagining it. Or, maybe it doesn't matter at all. Feel free to tell me I've gone around the bend.
 Do you blog or have a website? When was the last time you clicked through your blogroll or other links to see what's happening (or find ideas to steal)? What have you noticed in the edusphere?

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