What blog­ging was:

A home page was a paint­ing, a statue. My blog was me. My blog was the Web equiv­a­lent of my body. Being-on-the-Web was turn­ing out to be even more impor­tant and more fun than we’d thought it would be.

Mid-week reading list

With the crazi­ness of run­ning a WordCamp last week I didn’t have much time to read through my Instapaper queue. Thankfully, I had some extra time to catch up on things tonight. Interestingly I had a lot of arti­cles that hit on sim­i­lar themes. Last week seemed to be the week to pub­lish pieces about publishing.

Scott Hanselman’s Your words are wasted was first up. It speaks to my belief in the impor­tance of open source soft­ware and own­ing what you pub­lish. As he says, “I con­trol this domain, this soft­ware and this content.”

It’s been a while since I’ve read some­thing from the Nieman Lab but I think I need to start fol­low­ing them more closely again. 13 ways of look­ing at Medium was well done. They save the crit­i­cal ques­tions for the end and there could have been more of those, but it’s an inter­est­ing look at Ev Williams’ new pub­lish­ing tool.

The Dangers of Being a Product Instead of a Customer was another good post. As Diego writes there, “I’d much rather be a cus­tomer of web ser­vices than a product.”

Anil Dash’s mus­ing on streams was inter­est­ing as a some­what higher level piece. People do read on the inter­net, they just require con­tent to be pre­sented in the right way.

Interesting stuff going on.

The prob­lem with Jonah Lehrer, like the prob­lem with Zach Kouwe, is not that he was hum­bled by the insa­tiable demands of Blog. Instead, it’s that he made a cat­e­gory error, and tried to use a reg­u­lar blog as a vehi­cle for the kind of writ­ing that should not be done in blog for­mat. Lehrer shouldn’t shut down Frontal Cortex; he should sim­ply change it to become a real blog. And if he does that, he’s likely to find that blogs in fact are won­der­ful tools for gen­er­at­ing ideas, rather than being places where your pre­cious store of ideas gets used up in record-quick time.

Felix Salmon - How Jonah Lehrer should blog.

Blogs, term papers, and a fear of what’s new

Cody Brown tweeted a link to this New York Times arti­cle ear­lier today about blogs and term papers. It’s a fairly shal­low piece with many things I’d enjoy respond­ing to, but I’ll pick one: the patron­iz­ing way the old guard por­trays newer forms of writing.

Here are two quotes from that arti­cle. The first is from Douglas B. Reeves, a colum­nist for the American School Board Journal:

It doesn’t mean there aren’t inter­est­ing blogs. But nobody would con­flate inter­est­ing writ­ing with premise, evi­dence, argu­ment and conclusion.

The sec­ond is from William H. Fitzhugh, founder of The Concord Review:

Writing is being mur­dered. But the solu­tion isn’t blogs, the solu­tion is more read­ing. We don’t pay taxes so kids can talk about them­selves and their home lives.

Fitzhugh and Reeves aren’t engag­ing with the idea of blogs from an aca­d­e­mic or evidence-based per­spec­tive. They seem to fear­ful of the new medium and seek to dis­credit it with all the tact of a gos­sip writer.

We don’t pay taxes so kids can talk about them­selves and their home lives” is a great sound­bite, but it is ridicu­lous. First, are we so sure there is some­thing wrong with giv­ing kids an out­let to write about them­selves and their home life? Second, what does it mat­ter what the out­put is if the learn­ing that hap­pens in the process of get­ting there is sub­stan­tial? I think Fitzhugh and Reeves are far too con­cerned with the poten­tial out­put of these blogs than they are with what kids may learn by writ­ing in a medium they enjoy.

If you want to say that blogs have, through research, been the cause of decreas­ing crit­i­cal think­ing among stu­dents that is fine. Merely assert­ing it does not make it so, though. You need evi­dence to back your claims, just like the term papers Reeves and Fitzhugh glorify.

If, instead, you are going to char­ac­ter­ize the only ben­e­fit of blogs as the fact that some are “inter­est­ing” and imply that “premise, evi­dence, argu­ment and con­clu­sion” are only achieved through dead tree term papers, then you are full of it.

These two would be bet­ter off tak­ing Reeves’ advice and using premise, evi­dence, argu­ment, and con­clu­sion to ana­lyze writ­ing on the web.