Substantive, Superficial, Libelous

Three observations — one substantive, one superficial, and one libelous — on Scott McLeod’s recent ranking of the edublogosphere, and the ensuing fracas.

Libelous

We all get this right? Whenever Scott feels his Technorati ranking slip a little, he issues another Technorati-based ranking of the edublogosphere and watches his inbound links explode. Here’s another link, bud, but I’m on to you.

Superficial

Eduwonkette notwithstanding, do any of the top fifty blog anonymously? Most feature an author bio, an author photo, and — bonus! — a unique voice.

This strikes me as the darkest dividing line between a well-written well-observed edublog and a well-written well-observed edublog on Scott’s list. Gotta pin it to a compelling voiceWhich is the challenge facing Educatorblog, barely a week old and already a sharp, prolific addition to our little set. Its readership will grow in spite of its indistinct title and anonymous author..

Substantive

I have seen two very right-minded disputes with Scott’s list (thrown into the comments for brevity) and two very murky ones which I’d like to clarify:

  1. The bloggers at the top of the list have attained their position artificiallyFull disclosure: I’m on the list. You can decide if my midshelf ranking represents a conflict of interest..

    A representative response:

    The trouble is that it’s human nature to kind of hero-worship people. We all know who the ‘rock-star teachers’ are (to quote something that came my way by email recently…) and it would seem that, unfortunately, they run the show.

    I’m not saying that they necessarily try to run the show. It’s just that because of extra time (they’re no longer teaching, they’re consultants), motivation (they’re this close to effecting a long-awaited change) or energy they’re the ones who are read the most.

    This response suggests an edublogosphere stocked with idiots, each one duped of their subscriptions and trackbacks by a cabal of energetic consultants. Somehow, post after post, these rubes never wise up.

    A less sinister, less unhinged explanation would note these bloggers’ consistent, prolific, and quality writing, their interesting ideas, artfully written — in short, the objective quality of their output.

  2. The quality of a blog’s output is entirely subjective.

    Truly, it’s impossible to account for taste, and in any other corner of the blogosphere, I wouldn’t even bother with this one. But these are educators, and I worry when educators dismiss even broad objective standards of quality for blogging / podcasting / vodcasting / whatever, or when educators confuse interesting ideas, artful writing, and a compelling voice for extra time, motivation, and energy.

    This dismissive stance squanders one of the Internet’s coolest promises for our students:

    You are your output. You can rise, fall, and affect change solely on the strength of what you submit to a blog, irrespective of age, gender, race, status, or disabilityI mean, how would these critics rationalize the success of Students 2.0, a group of bloggers who aren’t first-movers, consultants, or otherwise endowed with vast stores of free time, who are, instead, just good writers with interesting ideas?.

    How can we promote the blogosphere’s meritocracy to our students — the fact that no one knows you’re a high school freshman on the Internet, that your ideas can go viral just as fast as anyone’s — but deny it in our own blogging?

About 
I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.

15 Comments

  1. Here are two other disputes with Scott’s list, right-minded, only tough to handle at their extremes:

    1. “Technorati is too blunt a measuring stick, one which has inadvertently stricken some great writing from Scott’s list.”

      They’re right, of course, but I’ve gotta wonder if I wouldn’t rather maroon myself on a desert island with the upper percentile of Scott’s list than the lower.

    2. “Don’t sweat the ranking or the readership or affecting change, just write what you love.”

      They’re right, also, but given the finite hours in a day, I’d rather two people read my writing than one; I’d rather more trackbacks than less.

  2. Thanks for the kind words. I’ve thought about adding a photo and my real name to the blog. It would be an interesting experiment to see how the experience of the reader and blogger change when identity is added to the mix.

  3. Hello, Dan,

    When I saw the list, I had a pretty similar reaction.

    But then I forgot about it, as the list was one of the more inconsequential things I had seen in a long time.

    Man, I would love to have the free time to cull through technorati rankings. But then again, I’d probably use the time to do something interesting.

    I’m crazy like that.

    Cheers,

    Bill

  4. I don’t see how you say Students2.0 “aren’t first-movers, consultants, or otherwise endowed with vast stores of free time”
    because they are all those things you claim they aren’t.

    They are first movers. What other kids are on the internet writing to adults about how to do their jobs?

    They are consultants. From their “about us” page: “This blog is an attempt to give students a voice in where the future of education is headed.” Sounds an awful lot like a consultant’s pitch.

    Free time? I have never been freer than when I was a student.

    C’mon, Dan, don’t kid yourself.

  5. @Darren, here’s hoping the echo chamber can deal with some dissonance.

    @Bill, just so I haven’t misrepresented myself, yeah, there are a lot of ways that list-making is trivial and irrelevant to the actual aims of blogging, but the idea that those at the top of these lists aren’t worth emulating to some extent (whether their writing or depth of thought or community leadership) that they’ve merely gamed some system is an blithely irresponsible stance for educators to take.

    @Jethro, your definition of “consultant” needs work, but you’re probably right about “first-movers” and right, to an extent, about free time. The exception doesn’t make the rule, though. How would the cynics explain the presence of garden variety, single-credentialed, workaday teachers on the list? How have they gamed the system?

  6. @jethro: Consultants are professionals who give advice in a specific area of expertise:
    1) we don’t purport to be experts in any way
    2) we’re certainly not professionals
    3) who are we “pitching” to: we’re students, writing so our dissatisfaction isn’t bottled up and so we can possibly affect change

    You are partially right about us being first-movers. Almost all of the student bloggers at Students 2.0 are some of the first edubloggers out there. But none of our individual blogs enjoy anywhere near the same level of popularity Students 2.0 has, despite having been around almost 2 years before Students 2.0 was founded. And we certainly aren’t the first teens to blog. :P

    I would say we have some degree of free time. However, I wouldn’t say it’s any more than anyone else on the list (the edublogesphere for that matter). We have almost exactly the same “work” hours as other edubloggers, except we’ve got 3 hours of homework, sports, extra-curriculars, and part-time jobs which cut into that free time.

  7. Thanks for crushing my already damaged sense of self. Apparently, this blogging thing has been just as effective as therapy.

    Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

    But at least I’m a gas at parties (here’s hoping you didn’t mean ether).

    I’ve never been one to equate blogging with some sort of pseudo-fantasy baseball statistical orgy.

    I’m just gonna go teach.

    Rock on, you high-ranking writers. You’re in my emotional blogroll.

  8. I don’t think that Technorati is an absolute measure of quality. There are many quality blogs with few links. Other is is a factor of the audience they are trying to reach. What matters to many is not how many (in raw numbers) they reach but how many (as a percentage) of their target audience they reach. Technorati is not a good tool for that.

    It is not going to pick up the subject matter expert – the math teacher, the AP English teacher, the physics teacher or the teacher who is just using their blog to communicate in a personal way with their student’s parents. For big picture policy or big picture ed/tech bloggers perhaps it has some more value. The audience is larger and the number of people in the space is larger.

    Scott’s list is interesting but may not really be important. Sure he gets more links when he posts such a list but I think the real value, if not to him but to the education blogosphere in general is the discussions these lists generate.

  9. Terry, I’ve been unclear. There is a crowd, a member of which I have quoted, that would chalk (eg) Warlick’s readership and reach to the free time offered by his job as a consultant. I’m saying: this is unfairly dismissive. I’m saying: consultant, tech specialist, classroom teacher, whatever. The only currency around here is interesting ideas clearly written by a compelling personality.

  10. Dan, I’ve re-read your post and you were not unclear — the fault is entirely mine, for which I apologise. I am now reinstating my golden rule: never write emails or respond to blog posts at 3 in the morning!