Tag Archives: blogging

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.

Write more about your newsroom

Last week I followed Lauren’s tweets about the Seattle Times’ move to a new building. It was fun to see the photos of packed up boxes and a newsroom in-flux. Watching all this over Twitter made me realize the opportunity something like this gives a news organization to open their newsroom up.

There are a lot of interesting questions that come up from a 24/7 operation like a metro daily moving to a new building. Here are just a few I thought of:

  • Who is responsible for tracking breaking stories while moving? What type of plans did the Times have in place if a critical story were to break while they moved?
  • In what ways does the production cycle of a news story change when a good part of the newsroom is packing and moving? What challenges is the Times having to work around in the move?
  • How could the workflow changes for efficiency made during the move be applied to the everyday process?
  • What were the goals for moving to a new building? Is the Times using it as an opportunity to re-think some of the ways they’re organized?

Times like this make me wish newsrooms had someone responsible for writing about what goes on behind the scenes. If you want your community to feel like a part of what you do then opening up information like this would be a great move, I think.

So why did you make this?

Because I’m a programmer, and this is what I do.

Some people jog away from their house every day, only to jog back. Others walk on a treadmill, expending energy to get nowhere. In both cases, it may appear to others that they’ve accomplished nothing, but they’ve chosen to do these seemingly redundant activities on a regular basis to incrementally improve themselves. And it works.

Marco Arment – secondcrack on GitHub.