This week out CityLIS Digital Information Technologies and Architecture module comes to an end and with it our requirement to blog on topics and labs covered in class which was the founding purpose of this blog. This post reflects on the experience of blogging as a learning activity.
I have contributed to blogs before: personal blogs, professional blogs, hobby blogs and project blogs. My blogging has been sporadic driven by specific requirements or how my enthusiasm has waxed and waned. This has been my first experience of blogging where the primary purpose was to support learning. Having used WordPress for nearly a decade I was able to skip the learning curve of getting to grips with a new tool and plunge straight into writing about the many, many topics on this course that interested and inspired me.
I have really enjoyed writing this blog over the last ten weeks. My blog has been a space where I could Think Furiously!1 about the ideas the course has been exploring. CityLIS promised to overload us with information and make us think and so it has. The discipline of a weekly blog post has helped me process the information deluge and meet the challenge of thinking critically about it. I have also got into the routine of writing a certain number of words each week, practice that I hope will help make the step up to the more formal academic writing required next for our end of module assignments.
Using the blog and interacting with classmates on twitter using #citylis has also encouraged me to to think about online and social media profiles and behaviour for researchers and professionals looking to share ideas, get their work known and participate in discussions and debates in their field. We have all engaged in different ways and at varying levels but for all of us using social media appropriately and authentically will be an important part of our professional toolbox going forward.
I haven’t really changed the information architecture or design of my blog during the course. I’ve mostly experimented with small stylistic conventions like specifying shorter, more meaningful url slugs, referencing featured images, placement of images within text, adding metadata to images in my media library and publicising posts using Twitter and Google Plus. I tried and rejected the integrated ‘Publicize’ function preferring the control of posting to social media myself.
I’ve tried various authoring workflows. Most commonly I wrote a first draft offline in Markdown using Byword and then pasted or published the text to my blog before adding in images and post metadata. I did also successfully try posting by email using Evernote to write posts that used hybrid markdown/rich text markup and uploaded inline images and controlled metadata using WordPress shortcodes. I’m not convinced I’ve found my perfect blog authoring workflow yet but I have a better understanding of the options and their strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve tried to think about writing for reading on the web: using headers to structure posts and writing short paragraphs covering a single point. This is an area I can definitely improve on and will continue to practice I fear my weakness is my appetite for the subject and in my enthusiasm my blog posts have overflowed (I averaged 1442 words per post!). Like this one, my posts have been on the long side for blogging. I would like to think more about focusing on smaller topics, pagination or breaking posts into series of linked posts in future.
Of course blogging is not just about writing. I have also enjoyed reading everyone else’s posts across the DITA blogsphere each week. Everyone has brought their own visual flair to their blog’s design and their own perspective to each week’s topic which has encouraged discussion about interpretations. There has been a healthy mix of optimism and scepticism with liberal doses of pop culture references and a fantastic soundtrack.
Many #citylis bloggers have never attempted blogging before and it has been great to see them get to grips with WordPress and evolve their blog architecture and writing styles. I have huge respect for what everyone has achieved and I have been really proud to be part of this course and blogging community. Thank you all!
One issue I realised is that I tend to read blogs in my RSS reader Feedly. This means that my reading of people’s blogs using the syndication ecosystem rather than going to WordPress directly doesn’t make the headline stats in WordPress. Additional tools are needed to track syndicated stats. So I apologise if my reading preference has been depriving my fellow bloggers of some ego boosting visitor stats.
Our last DITA session discussed eValuating: using digital tools to measure activity (easier) and value (harder). There are a lot of ways we could eValuate our activity on DITA and over CityLIS Term 1 as a whole and this is something I may dig deeper into if time (into my unanalysed Twitter stats).
For now, with essay deadlines looming, I’ve just covered a few headline metrics from my CityLIS experience so far:
- published 12 blog posts containing over 17,000 words and classified using 96 tags and 1 category and viewed 908 times receiving 25 likes and 29 comments
- my blog is followed by 29 people
- the most active day for my blog was Wednesday, October 8th
- my 206 visitors came mostly from the UK but also from 12 other countries: the United States, Spain, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, India, Argentina and France
- most of my referrals came from Twitter
- Ali and Steve commented most on my blog
- Mixtapes and Mashups was my most popular post (78 views and 7 comments)
- my shortest post was about 300 words and my longest was about 2800 words
- my favourite word was data, closely followed by web and information.
You can also take a look at my blog as a corpus in Voyant Tools.
I will certainly leave this blog published as a memory of this course. I also hope to continue blogging though I am not sure how frequently I will post to the blog going forward particularly as first assignments and then Term 2 courses will take up my mental bandwidth. Certainly if I continue posting the blog may will undoubtedly evolve in style and content though always focused on the core themes swirling around digital technologies and information architectures from a LIS perspective. It’s just possible I may write my dissertation on a topic encountered from this module in which case it will continue to be a useful place for limbering up and stretching ideas before putting in the hard words.
I also created a new general blog for my work and ideas just before I started the course. The aim of this was to consolidate various work and study writing spaces into a single blog for writing about the full spectrum of my professional and intellectual activities from information science through analysis and design to the digital humanities and cultural history. The DITA blogging requirement has diverted most of my blogging energy from that project but I may now start writing more there going forward and experiment with re-blogging between the two blogs where there is a topic with a particular focus on DITA.
So please do continue to keep an eye on my DITA blog and also follow or subscribe to 16Blue if you are interested in my research themes. I hope to keep writing and I hope just maybe people will continue to find my posts if not useful then at least enjoyable to read.