I'm reposting this article that was originally posted on 12/16/02. This article is the most cited of all the writings that I've done over the past 8 months, since I began the EduResources Weblog. My opinions about the value of academic weblogging haven't changed although I believe that the comment route for feedback tends to be less active in most blogs than I originally expected. (I'm reposting to make the article easier to locate since it was dropped from my client-side Stories when I had some problems with the Radio client in May 2003.) JH
This is how the weblogging multiplier effect works: 1) you read something at an online site and post the resource URL plus a commentary in your weblog; 2) then I read your weblog, visit the recommended resource site and put a comment response into your log; 3) next I re-post your item to my weblog and add my own commentary about the resource; 4) then others read my weblog and others continue to read your weblog and continue to add their own comments and do their own re-postings. Within just a few multiplications there are multiple comments, critiques, ideas, observations, and jump outs to additional online resources, print resources, and other information. The multiplier effect can go on and on, depending upon how much attention the postings attract and how often they are rolled along from blog to blog.
What gets multiplied in these postings, re-postings, and cross-postings to multiple weblogs? Ideas. Information. Opinions. Contacts. Networking. All of these exchanges multiply and re-multiply and exponentially extend the original posting.
I posted my first item in EduResources on Nov. 13, 2002 and have been contributing something every week since then. After about a month I have a useful record of comments on my postings from others, citations of news from other webloggers, and news postings from my own reading of online resources, books, and articles. (I'm up to 32 subscriptions to other weblogs in the Radio News Aggregator that I check every day and I also read another dozen or so news feeds on a weekly basis from News is Free. Many weblog postings lead me on to books and articles that I get in print form or online.) I can tell already that the weblogging tool is a perfect fit for what I want to do with EduResources--learn about online resources, share what I learn, and share in what others are learning.
It seems to me that the multiplier effect that occurs in weblogging is at the center of what learning and scholarship are really about. Being able to share thoughts, share readings, share online resources, and then get the boost that comes from one person multiplying what is shared into a network of unpredictable connections and responses is just what every teacher wants students to learn about learning, i.e., that it's exciting to learn and exciting to share what is learned. This boost of interconnectivity is also exactly what every scholar wants to achieve when searching for new ideas, new observations, and new connections.
Of course keeping journals, diaries, and lab notes has been a staple of learning for hundreds of years. Anyone who aspires to write will be advised to keep a writing journal or diary; anyone who aspires to do scientific research or theoretical work will be advised to keep a thought and observation log. The BIG difference is that the WWW and weblogging now allow journals, diaries, and notes to be shared electronically. The sharing can take place within a class that is set up to get RSS feeds from all the class members' blogs, or it can extend to the school or university, or out onto the Web. (See Sebastian Fiedler's Seblogging News for more specifics about the use of weblogging in schools, http://seblogging.cognitivearchitects.com/; also consult Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed, http://www.weblogg-ed.com/. Weblogs can also serve as the front end for ePortfolios for students and faculty; see the overview article in Syllabus about how ePortfolio use is expanding, http://www.syllabus.com/article.asp?id=6984.)
The booster or multiplier that occurs when a person writes about what she or he thinks, observes, and reads, and then receives comments from others within a few hours or days makes an incalculable difference--the difference between private and public writing. This difference multiplies what can be learned and also multiplies the responsibility for thinking through what is said. If a writer's greatest tool is a large wastebasket (as, I believe, Hemingway remarked); the next greatest tool is a real audience.