04 April 2013

A Brief History of the Edublogosphere

If you're viewing this post via RSS, you won't know that I've made few changes at my place. I've refreshed the template a bit and added some pages to collect some of the bigger ideas of Ye Olde Blog. I still have a few bits of code to work out, but things are shaping up.

I've been overdue in giving this space a refresh. I was reminded of that recently after reading Tim's post, What's in Your Backlist? For me, that means 1626 posts (including this one). It's not the biggest backlist in the blogosphere, but it's hefty enough for me to manage on my own. One of the things that I didn't realize when I started this whole thing is just what a job basic maintenance and curation of content would be. Let that be a warning to you kids.

Even though it is easy enough to see the template changes here, what you probably won't notice is that within the last week, I went back through all of the posts and did some clean up work. The coding changes Google has made in the background have not been kind to the oldest pieces in the collection. And, I wanted to swap out images for Creative Commons licensed ones, and assign credit (where possible) to others. I know, it's kind of a George Lucas dick move to go back and rewrite the past in that way, but I didn't change the substance of the post. I've just made them compliant with current expectations.

I didn't read all of the posts word-for-word. But as I scanned them, I couldn't help but think about how edublogging has changed over the years. So, in case you're (relatively) new to this arena, here is a brief history of the edusphere---at least as I know it.

When I started blogging in 2004, there was just beginning to be a small critical mass of teachers who were blogging, too. Maybe there was a critical mass forming in other arenas as well---politics and science, for example---because the lines blurred more easily. Starting in early 2005, there was a weekly Education Carnival hosted at a different blog. The "Carnival" was a collection of posts submitted by people. Sometimes, it ended up on blogs with only tenuous links to education, but again, there were some blurry lines as we all figured out what we could do with this space. The Carnival was a good way for us to find one another and build community. But it started dying off as soon as Twitter started gearing up. It's last incarnation was about a year ago over at Bellringers.

Speaking of Twitter, when I look at my backlist, I see what an impact that tool has had on the way I use this space. Before microblogging, everything went here. I was much more likely to share an article, a fun link, or resource than I am now. My archive has many posts that aren't much longer than 140 characters. There are just a few sentences to point readers to something. Those are now the sorts of things I toss into Twitter, while this space has evolved into more sporadic, but intensive, reflection. I don't know that that's true for other "old-timers," but it would be interesting to find out. Many people who had blogs I followed have quit blogging---but they're going strong on Twitter. Nothing is more delightful (for me) than rediscovering them in that space.

Way back when, nearly everyone had a pseudonym. Originally, anonymity was of value because of all the unknowns about how this whole blogging thing would play out. For the most part, the edusphere was comprised of teachers---it was rare to spot an administrator or someone in another stakeholder role. It wasn't until several years later that principals and superintendents started finding their voice online.

Lighter 1 by Alan Klim CC-BY
Now, no one is ever really anonymous on the Internet, but I wish I knew where so many of the early bloggers have gone. Maybe I am following them on Twitter...or have found them elsewhere and just don't know it's the same people. But Graycie, Mr. Lawrence, Ms. Smlph, Athena, and the rest---I haven't forgotten you. I really wish you hadn't deleted your blogs. Your stories are still important. It makes me sad to see so many of my old posts full of conversations with ghosts. Fifteen of us were interviewed by USA Today in the fall of 2006. Four of us are still regularly blogging.

I started noticing the rise of edtech bloggers in 2007. Some of them were no doubt blogging all along, but they were never part of the Carnival or conversations of any of the blogs I engaged with. It's a lot like now---they're still off in their own little self-important world of toys while the rest of us wrestle with the meatier ideas in education. 

The purpose of blogging has changed a bit, too. There are still those teachers who use their space for sharing what happens in their classroom and then engaging in some reflective practice. I have to admit, those are my favourite blogs. In the old days, nearly every teacher blog was like this. I also think that these blogs are the ones with the most stamina. The whiny blogs---the ones used to piss and moan about administrators/kids/colleagues---tend to lose steam in a short time. Meanwhile, I see an increasing number of blogs that are blogs in name only. By that, I mean that the people who write them are "big names" and can say they have a blog, but they post there only a few times a year. Blogging has stretched from a place to put the stuff in your head to a label you can add to your Twitter bio.

In this era of instant gratification, I'm not sure how many people care about the historical aspects of this space---and I can only present my view from here. No doubt other longterm bloggers have a slightly different take on things. I hope they'll post their memories, too. As for me, I just re-upped my domain registration for another nine (!) years. This space may change, and I may end my contribution to it at some point, but I plan to let it live on as long as I can.

If you'd like to see some of the old blogs, you can use the Wayback Machine to see cached copies.
I think I will start a "memorial" page on this blog for extinct and zombie (live, but no longer updated) edublogs. Let me know if you have one (or more) to nominate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reflection, SG. Nice refreshment of the layout. My RSS is the alert. I prefer to read you, as always, right here, even though I'm not always talking back! :)