Thursday, July 21, 2005

Selling SfSchools on Blogging

I generally don't comment here on my professional life, nor on my other long term gig: I like it that way. Its not like I have any privacy here that would allow me to say anything here I wouldn't want to say at work or on the list. And if I have to be inhibited about some topic, why bother blogging about it?

So I'll proceed to make an exception here.
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I've been spending a lot of my blogging time trying to get the SF Schools Blog project off the ground. I've been thinking that it would be a good summer project. Not so much happens on the list in the summer—though there are plenty of fires burning this year. And it takes time to build up a blog.

So you can see that the pace of posts has been pretty relaxed. I wanted to put a stake in the ground to demonstrate what it might look like to the folk on the list. I figure many of them don't really know too much about blogs, so it made sense to throw something up on the wall. And it took some time to set it up, toss a blog roll together, fiddle with the template... Molding the clay into something resembling a blog.

One concept I've had for the blog is for it to be a group blog. I don't consider myself any sort of domain expert in education. I've certainly learned a great deal by moderating sfschools, but I'm a parent first, a techie next, and aside from that I play an opinionated and informed SOB on education issues on the list. I'm not the one to write an expert blog on schools, not even SF schools. I'm a facilitator, not a guru. So I want it to be a group blog.

I figured it would make sense to invite some of my colleagues from the list to sign on as members of the blog to test out the group blogging support at They join. I wait. I prod a little. And after a while they have the time and figure out the UI and—voila, they put up some posts. Cool. This should generate some discussion.

Did it ever. Oi vey.

I'm realizing that what I'm trying to do is pretty unusual. I want the schools blog to be a group blog where the contributing members hold diverse and often clashing views. Aside from the HuffPost, where there are so many voices that a little opposition just add to the white noise there, I can't think of any group blogs that feature opposing, clashing views. Group blogging is more and more common, as the pressures of successful solo blogging drive more and more solo authors to seek the help of like voices. Plenty of new blogs are forming as group blogs now. But all the group blogs I can think of feature fairly harmonious voices. Already the discussion of imbalance and fairness are roiling the list. Makes me wonder how it will be possible to simultaneously edit the blog and encourage free expression by the whole group.

The other dimension to the blog that is different is the list. SfSchools has its own fairly well established ecology. It works pretty damned well compared to most any other listserve I've been around. Very open. Very civil. The occasional meltdowns come and go without too much injury.

Now I am worried that the blog could alter and potentially endanger the list. There will be fewer contributors to the blog. The blog will be edited. Will that create a new hierarchy of "insiders" on the list? Will that harm the group? If the blog takes off, will the list be filled with people who arrived via the blog? And will that cross section of members be less cohesive or less authoritative than the current mix?

I guess we'll see.

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