Blogger iOS fix

Blogger was once my goto blog tool (and then service). Google seems to have lost interest in Blogger, but I still want to use it for special purposes. I have a travel blog I use to post images and comments on recent trips I want to keep separate from this and other more general-purpose blogs I maintain. I usually write blog posts from a computer to speed text input, but when I travel I often want to use my iPad. There used to be an iPad Blogger app. This was discontinued. Then, there were other blog tools (some specific to younger users that would allow an educator to moderate before posting to a Blogger account) and these stopped working and were discontinued. You could kind of make due if you used Blogger adding content using a browser. However, this approach had the annoying problem that you could not access your iPad photo library. What good is a travel blog without photos?

I have found a fix that works. The iOS app App for Blogger or App for Blogspot (these are really the names) still works. The cost is $3 and the app seems a little crude and is missing features I would prefer (I can add images, but I cannot align them as I want). I use a combination of browser access and this app to generate the posts, but for the time being this works fine.

On blogging

I have had an active blog since 2003. This must place me among the old-timers committing to this form of public writing. In this time, I have not really taken the time to comment on why I have made this a personal priority. The back to school season has prompted others to explain why blogging is a worthwhile activity for education. After reading a few of these posts or podcasts and after making a blog an assignment for my own grad class, I thought I would offer some comments based on my own experiences.

I try to personally explore social media recommendations for educators and their students. I do this as a matter of developing my own credibility. I cannot try everything I read about, but I have probably registered for and tried out a couple dozen “production” services. A few of these services have stuck. I wonder why I have persisted in some of these services for so many years. For example, why do I blog and not podcast. I lectured to hundreds of students at a time for nearly 40 years so recording audio and video might seem natural. I guess for me I find more personal benefit and satisfaction in writing. Writing (planning) can be an important initial step in real-time presenting and I think I enjoy this discovery and externalization process more than the presentation itself. I would rather write and discuss than present and discuss.

I enjoy the challenge of sitting down with only a vague idea and trying to create something concrete. There is some magic in this process. I am not usually certain where what I write will end up. The process itself interests me. I know others do not write in this fashion and my approach may violate certain tenants of planning. Blogging allows exploration in a way that other products I write do not. Blogging is likely a productive first step that shapes my position on things and provides a background for other things I do.

The concept of “externalization” has become important in my thinking about learning. Writing is a form of externalization. So is teaching. My work investigating the role of metacognition in reading comprehension and studying have convinced me that the evaluation of personal understanding tends to be lazy. We tend to be satisfied with a certain level of vagueness and can easily gloss over blank spots in understanding. Having to put knowledge into action reveals the limitations of vagueness. I know educators like to promote “reflection” as a way to test and build personal understanding. Reflection is one of those educational terms that should be made more concrete. I recognize that reflection can be accomplished without externalization, but I find it more personally productive to make such processes more concrete. Your written product is pretty concrete – it either exists or it does not.

Is blogging worth the time required? This is difficult to know. I have engaged in the activity while I was working and also now that I am retired. Blogging is a by-product of things I do anyway. I still spend a lot of time reading and considering the value of content for my teaching or writing. The time I spend blogging is usually related to these exploratory activities so the additional time to generate a post is not completely independent.

What blogging for me is not.

Blogging is not a daily ritual. While there is a great deal of inertia once you have made a multi-year commitment to a process, I blog when I have an idea I want to explore and when I have the time. I once made a commitment to a 365 photo project (take and post a photo each day). I completed the personal commitment because I tend to be very stubborn when I make a commitment. I did not make the commitment to do another 365 project.

I do not look at blogging as a way to generate income. Google ads do appear on my blogs. I do this more for reasons of curiosity and principle. I am curious about the return on public scholarship and whether ad revenue is a credible way for professional educators to generate income. For me, it is not a meaningful way to generate revenue. I might do better if I spent more of my time focusing on tutorials and ideas for the classroom. I write about a wide variety of things because I have a wide variety of interests. Strangely, my youtube efforts while few do generate more income. Most of these are tutorials.

Some blog as a way to promote a secondary way to generate income. Many educational speakers fall into this category. In the early days of my blogging, I did look at blogging as a way to supplement our textbook. This was more an effort to offer updates than to generate revenue by way of promotion. We no longer write for a big major textbook provider and have more independence in how we think about the connection between a textbook and related resources. Blogging has little to do with the online connection to the textbook because we provide free resources in other ways.

My antagonism toward those who use ad blockers is an example of what I mean by principle. I believe there is a certain agreement between those who generate content and those who voluntarily consume this content. Those who make the effort to generate the content should be allowed to establish the conditions for the consumption of the content. Unless viewing of specific content is required (as it might be if assigned in a course), blocking ads seems a selfish act that I believe will have long-term consequences.

So, I am a fan of blogging. I find it a reasonable way to explore ideas and I offer these ideas with the hope I can stimulate thinking (and perhaps writing) in others.

Accidental Historian

I started this blog in 2002 and this is my 1611th post. I am certain there are blogs with a longer history out there, but these would be a very, very small proportion of those that still exist. I started blogging to explore the software itself because blogging offered an alternative to my experience creating web pages. Once the exploration phase was over I guess I continued because I have a compulsive streak and find it difficult to abandon projects. I now have several blogs, but this is the original.

I never kept a diary and my writing has always been mainly a professional activity. I seldom blog about what was my professional life as a university professor, but I have focused mostly on educational technology and issues that impact K-12 education. The accumulated content has now reached the point at which there seems to be some historical value. It is true that this is a history from my perspective, but this is pretty much the way history works. Historians present accounts based on their interpretations of primary source information. I suppose historians attempt to take a neutral stance.

Whatever arguments I have made for the value of blogging, generating primary source historical content is a new insights. My experiences with educational technology go back to the mid 1980s but daily recorded observations are likely less biased than the stories I might tell about the old days. Those of us who have lived the experience of the personal computer and the Internet may have accidentally recorded observations that chronicle the changes that we all experience but most seldom fail to recognize.

If you are curious, use the archive list to read some early posts. Use the search tool to see if I had anything to say about a topic that interests you.

My 2014 blog data

I have blogged since 2002. In recent years, I have split my attention across three WordPress blogs. My blogs are hosted on my site (not the Word.Press hosted site), but I can use analytic tools provided by WordPress. This has been the case for the past few years.

blogyeartotals

My views has declined recently and I have been trying to figure out why. I thought the issue was a user switch from RSS feeds to Twitter (I do not work hard at developing a large Twitter following which would receive notifications of new posts), but it seems more a decline in posts being located in searches. I do not understand why this would happen unless there has been some change in how near the top of search results my content appears.

learningaloud.com--blog

 

The major decline has been associated with my main blog (learningaloud). My post numbers are down a bit because I now post to several sites. but this would not totally explain this sharp drop. The Curmudgeon Speaks blog is up in numbers. Do folks want funny over serious?

Why share what you have not read

A recent article from Time presented several myths about online activity. I found the second myth of greatest interest.

The second myth is exposed by data that cross references social activity by the read time devoted to a primary information source. The data are expressed as a graph with hits organized in a 2 x 2 format. So you have articles with high and low read times by articles with high and low social activity. If one assumes that greater read time indicates greater personal interest, it is surprising that low interest articles generate the most social activity. Hence, you cannot assume that those suggestions you receive as tweets resulted from a thorough review by the tweeter. Perhaps the title alone was enough to encourage sharing.

Why? Not sure, but these data seem similar to a paper we just discussed in my grad class. The paper concerned a number of effective study techniques and then noted that college students seem not likely to use these techniques even though the strategies require no more time. One commonality of the methods is that they generated more errors and were likely perceived as more difficult. Perhaps, individuals are satisfied with a passive approach that offers the impression of doing something productive.

I wonder if a similar explanation fits here. Are many tweets that reference resources a way of feeling or offering the impression to others that something meaningful has been accomplished? I propose that tweets associated with blog entries are a better approach. Blog posts typically offer more personal commentary and I would think require a little more information from a primary source. If you cannot summarize what about a source was interesting or valuable, you likely did not get much from the resource yourself. Why offer the source to others?

Is RSS fading?

You may have never heard of an RSS feed. I begin with this statement because I would have assumed the opposite. I would have guessed anyone reading blogs would have heard of and be using RSS. I have learned otherwise. When Google announced that it would shut down Reader I asked my graduate educational technology class what they planned to do for a replacement and I was met with several blank looks. It is important to understand that not everyone sees the world as you do.

Following the elimination of Reader (an RSS aggregator used directly or indirectly by many who made use of RSS), there was a good deal of online commentary on the purpose of RSS (e.g., TechCrunch). The point seems to be that Google knows all and must have decided that RSS readers and RSS were no longer necessary. This was a surprise to me, but when I searched the question “is RSS relevant” I was able to find negative reactions as far back as 2006.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) offers a way to identify changes to web content. So, instead of visiting say 25 blogs (or other web content) you might follow to see if the author has generated anything new, you can make use of an RSS reader that will identify what has changed. RSS saves a great deal of time. Visit one service instead of many sites. If you were a blogger, you wanted to be certain readers could subscribe to the feed from your site. If you were a reader, RSS was about increasing your efficiency and probably increasing the number and range of sites you followed.

Sometimes we seem to tire of good OLD ideas and gravitate toward the new and shiny. This does not seem productive or efficient, but it may be human nature. We seem attracted to the changes in our environment as a survival mechanism.

I think about learning from online content as search and discovery. Search implies I know what I want to know and I use powerful tools to locate the best sources for this information. Discovery implies I admit to being unaware of information that would potentially be quite important and commit to scanning recommendations to see what invites my attention.

RSS is a good way to discover. It is like making a commitment to a news source and then reviewing what this source offers. There is danger in the biased selection of sources, but with a little self discipline a variety of sources can be identified.

What has changed in the world of information consumption? I suppose that services like Twitter, Google+ and to a lesser extent Facebook offer a source for recommendations. Individuals who you identify as trusted sources (really?) offer suggestions and you follow up. This is pretty much the only reason I use Twitter. To my taste, there is too much junk in the Twitter feed. Even with careful selection of individuals, there seems to be so much spam.

The blogs I write do send a short message to Twitter so others who do not use RSS, but who might be interested in my comments know when a new post has been generated. You may have identified this post from a Twitter link. The use of Twitter to identify your blog posts is controversial. I am not certain why. I suppose it is regarded by some as self promotion.  A one tweet per post model is fine with me. I do find it annoying when multiple tweets advertise the same blog post.

I guess the concern is that the RSS model is preferred by geeks and others have moved on. Facebook and Google+ bring a stream of content from those these individuals chose to follow and that is evidently enough. A quick scan of Twitter might be used to fill in the gaps. Perhaps Google abandoned Reader because it offered little benefit to the their business and because RSS does compete with a function of Google+.

For the time being, I will continue to promote RSS with my students. I see this as promoting the contribution of bloggers. I am concerned that the audience and hence the motivation for an active blogging community will suffer when social media moves exclusively to Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

BTW – RSS did not disappear with Reader and my recommendation for a Reader replacement is Feedly

 

Annual Report – 2011

I thought some who have viewed our content may find the following of interest. You may have noticed that we place Google ads on our content (each page of the blogs and the “index” pages of our long format content). Aside from generating a little revenue (far less than the cost of purchasing the server services we use), the ads provide some data (Google analytics). The first figure shows the total number of ad displays (not page views as indicated because not all pages contain an ad) and the number of times an ad was clicked (this is what generates the revenue). If you have ever wondered what the ratio of ad views to clicks might be, this gives you an idea.

 

The following image offers some information regarding the relative popularity of different resources (webportal and techintegration are the long form resources. Blurts, blog, apps, & curmudgeonspeaks are the blogs. The two table summaries do not match because views of individual blog posts do not show up in the second table, but are included in the total (first chart)