Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Enough Text Already!

Give me pictures! Give me audio! Video would be great too!

Day 26

The task for Day 26 of the 31 Day Comment Challenge is to investigate using multimedia for a richer commenting experience. I decided to follow Kevin's lead and try out Sketchcast. I had bookmarked Sketchcast a few months ago and this seemed like a good time to try it. Here are my reflections on how the 31 Day Challenge has impacted my blogging world (here's the link if your reader doesn't show the embedded Sketchcast below).

I have seen the use of multimedia in the comment section of blogs before.  Some will allow video, like this example from Dean Shareski on using Riffly.  Other folks, like Jeff Utecht, provide for webcam or audio commenting.  I've posted before on video use in blog posts and comments here; basically I find that I enjoy short, get to know the blogger videos.  Otherwise I generally prefer text as I can scan, re-read, and focus in depth on the parts of the message that interest me.  I think that talking head videos do not add a lot to the message; although you do get a better sense of what the blogger is like, which can strengthen your sense of connection with that person.

Why Sketchcast?

I haven't explored Sketchcast that much, but one of its strengths is that it allows you to illustrate your points, not just explain them verbally.

You Have The Final Word...

What do you think about using other media for comments?  Perhaps you'd like to leave your comment as a Sketchcast, or a VoiceThread, or a podcast...  I don't have any fancy media plugins for my comments, but you could do what I did on Kevin's post; I made my Sketchcast, then left a link to it in the comment section of Kevin's post.  I look forward to hearing from you in whatever you see fit!  You could cheat, like I did, and use your comment for the basis of your post for Day 26...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Is There A Late Policy? Getting Caught Up On the 31 Day Comment Challenge.

Ok, so I'm a little behind in the 31 Day Comment Challenge. This post should really be for the Day 7 Task; Reflect On What You've Learned So Far, but I'll see if I can cover all the tasks I've completed to date.

Ahead Even Though I'm Behind

So far I would say that the Comment Challenge has been a huge success for me. For the Day 1 task, I said that I probably commented on blogs about five times a week. Flash forward to today and my coComment account tells me that over the last 17 days I've tracked 23 conversations--on some of these I've left multiple comments. In addition, for the first 10 days I didn't realize I had to click 'Track' each time I left a comment (I thought it would automatically track when I commented--oops). I wish I had a better idea of how much I'm commenting, but I would estimate that I now make at least 3 comments a day, which is a big improvement for me, though I know it pales in comparison to the commenting heavyweights.

Not only am I commenting more, but I am trying to connect with the people who comment on my blog, or leave trackbacks. As a result I'm being exposed to a lot of new people and ideas.

Is It Cheating If I Peak At What They Wrote?!

I've been learning a lot by reading other 'challengers' posts on the different daily tasks. It is interesting to see how others are dealing with the Day 11 task, Write a Comment Policy. Some folks, like Kevin, didn't have a policy before this task and now do. Others, like Sarah, had a policy and have decided to change it a bit. Still others, like Sue, are wondering if they really even need a policy. I haven't written a policy yet, but I think I'll take more of a 'how to' approach, rather than a detailed policy on what I'll allow and not allow on my blog. Something to the effect of "play nice" and "spam will be deleted" may suffice for the policy part.

Homework Check Time

Days 1 - 3: done and posted here.

Day 4: Ask A Question In A Blog Comment--I've been doing more of this lately. My questions haven't been very deep, more along the lines of "how do you _____?" It has helped me to engage more with bloggers and commenters and hopefully some deep questions will start to spill forth...

Day 5: Comment On A Post You Don't Agree With--I found a post by Clay Burell; I didn't disagree with his post, but I did disagree with what some commenters to that post had to say. I really was torn as to whether I should comment or not. The post and comments were discussing science, in particular Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection, and religion. I hemmed and I hawed, but I eventually decided to stay out of that particular quagmire; in a debate like this I just didn't feel that I was going to change any minds. There are some issues that people don't just don't flip flop on.

Day 6: Engage Another Commenter in Discussion--I've sort of melded this task with Day 4's and have basically asked other commenters questions relating to their comments. Again, this has helped me to connect with and learn from others.

Day 7: Reflect On What You've Learned So Far--this task asks for three lessons learned. Lesson #1, check out the blogs of the people who take the time to comment on or trackback to your blog. Lesson #2, try to engage the blogger and other commenters by asking questions. Lesson #3, remember to click 'Track' when leaving a comment :-)

Day 8: Comment On A Blog Outside Of Your Niche--ok, so here's where the wheels start to fall off the bus. The thing is I like my niche (and I don't even mind if you say it neesh or nitch). Having said this, I have written about stretching my world view. However, it has been much easier to add a range of news outlets to my iGoogle page than it has been to find a blog outside of my niche and comment on it. I do comment on a triathlon blog, and I am not involved in the sport. Is it cheating if the blog is my sister's? Ok, must work harder on this task.

Day 9: Should We Be Commenting On Blogs?--done and posted here.

    Report Card

    Claire needs to learn to apply herself. She tends to focus on those tasks which appeal to her, and minimize the importance of the tasks which put her outside of her comfort zone. Yes, she is commenting more, but at this rate it will be July before she is done.

    The Wrap Up

    For most of this post I've focussed on the commenting aspect of this challenge, however, I'm finding that my posting is improving as well.

    Prior to the challenge my post mode was 3 posts a month; this will be my fourth post this month and it is only just half over. My writing is also improving. I'm trying to convey information in an organized, thoughtful and sometimes humorous way. Knowing that there are 126 other people doing this challenge, I've tried to make my post titles enticing. No straightforward 'Day 7: Reflect on What You've Learned So Far' titles for me--I need a title that draws you in. But beware! My first post It's Day 1 Baby! got me my second only spam trackback and it was to Pregnant Celebrities (or some such thing). The celebrities part must have been all the fabulous bloggers I linked to in the post ;-) The pregnant part must have come from my title. Lesson learned--no babies in titles.

    So yes I'm behind, no I'm not stressing, and yes I am learning.

    Final Question

    If you are doing the challenge too, which task have you found the most difficult, or the one you've dreaded the most? Thanks for reading!

    Images: Crossing the finish line with my sister, Homework by Gollygeedamn, Albert Bowles report card E. St. Louis Juniour High by Liz Castro
    Blogged with the Flock Browser

    Tags: , ,

    Saturday, May 10, 2008

    Comments On? Comments Off?

    Have you ever gone to a new blog, read a really interesting post, and wanted to comment only to find that comments were not allowed? Well the task for Day 9 in the 31 Day Comment Challenge is to consider whether we should be commenting on blogs.

    external image comment_challenge_logo_2.png

    The Argument Against Comments

    The first time I came across a blog that did not allow comments I was aghast! On my blog comments were my riason d'etre. What was wrong with this guy? If only I could give him a piece of my mind...

    After cooling off a bit I noticed that the owner of this blog (Charles Nelson) had clearly articulated why he does not allow comments. The gist of his message, which you can read here, was that he, like most people, likes comments. The problem is when they simply agree with him he feels he is not really learning. And when people disagree, "they are likely to dash off their disagreement without chewing on it and thinking it through. So, I might learn a little, but not as much as I would from a thoughtful and measured response." So Mr. Nelson prefers to use trackbacks.

    I've just given a brief summary of Mr. Nelson's reasons, and I really suggest you read the whole thing. He also has a whole series of posts on this topic.

    The Argument For Comments

    For me, the comment section of a blog is a place to meet people. It is like the staffroom of a collegial school where you can hammer out ideas, enjoy some laughs, and occasionally (depending on the blog and on the staffroom ;)) agree to disagree. Sometimes commenters head off in a different direction, and that's interesting too. Relaxing in the Staff Room

    It is interesting how some posts really touch a nerve and generate a huge number of responses. This one by Will Richardson has garnered 68 blog reactions and 166 comments to date. What could someone possibly add to the conversation at comment 166? I don't know, but they must feel pretty stongly to add their 2 cents worth.

    Where Do I Stand?

    I understand Charles Nelson's points about not wanting to just have people agreeing with what you write and about wanting thoughtful responses. Even if a person were to take the time to write a thoughtful blog post, in lieu of a comment, how often do you check out the trackbacks? If the trackback is on one of my blog posts-of course I check it out. If I go to the comment section of someone else's blog it is rare that I click on the trackbacks. Now maybe that's just me and maybe I need to change this behaviour, I don't know. I also find that though a lot of times commenters agree with a post, they often bring a new perspective or can offer some information so that I am still learning from what they have to say.

    Sameer Vasta, in pondering whether to enable comments on his blog writes, "So I think this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to enable comments on posts where I feel there can be some good discussion. On posts where I just want to have a bit of a personal soapbox, I’ll shut them down. That way, I get the best of both worlds." I'm not so sure that the 'personal soapbox' posts would benefit from a lack of comments. I'm sure there are certain times when disabling comments might come in handy.

    To wrap up, I like commenting, I like reading comments. For me, comments are an integral part of a blog. They help me connect to others, and to learn from them.

    Final Questions

    When would you see the need to disable comments? Do you check out trackbacks on other people's posts? Why or why not?

    Images: 31 Day Comment Challenge Logo, Relaxing in the Staffroom.

    Friday, May 9, 2008

    Comment Pet Peeve

    So, you have a blog with Blogger/Blogspot/Google and you're looking forward to lots of great conversations on your blog. Here's one thing that many people overlook that could be hampering their ability to get the conversations going.

    Default Comment Permissions

    When you first set up your Blog on the Blogger platform the default setting is to only allow people with Blogger or Google accounts to comment. So when a person clicks on the comment link, this is what they'll see:

    Comment box

    A lot of people are not going to be that interested in commenting if they have to sign up for an account. Or, if you're like me and have a Blogger account, but wish to link to your blog on another platform, it is just annoying. By having your blog comments set like this you are making it harder for some people to comment and join in the conversation.

    How to Change Your Settings

    To change your settings first you need to go to your Dashboard and click on 'Settings'.

    Blogger Dashboard

    Here's what you'll need to do next:

    1. Select the 'Settings' tab.

    2. Select 'Comments' from the menu.

    3. Under 'Who Can Comment?', select 'anyone'

    Set Comments

    After making these changes, here's what your readers will see when they decide to comment.

    All can comment

    If you are concerned about anonymous comments you could enable comment moderation and put a disclaimer on your blog that anonymous comments will not be posted :-) Easy!

    Another Plug for the Comment Challenge

    Part of what prompted me to post this was that I've been participating in the 31 Day Comment Challenge and so have been visiting a lot of blogs that are new to me. Amongst these blogs I've encountered some with the 'Google only' commenting.

    Final Thoughts

    If you come across a blog with 'Google only' commenting, maybe you can link them to this post. If you think there are some very good reasons for sticking with 'Google only' commenting I'd like to hear them. Thanks for taking the time to read this!

    Addendum #1: and if anyone can tell me how to insert images so that the text doesn't get all garbled up--I'd love to hear from you too!

    Addendum #2: Thanks to the great comments by Sue Waters and Rick Biche, I've been able to fix most of my image and text wrapping problems.  Thanks you two!  Sue has since posted Are Your Comment Settings Making it Harder for Readers to Comment?  where she has some more great suggestions, especially for  WordPress/Edublogs bloggers.

    This is cross-posted on my other blog, Tech Pro-D Tools.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    It's Day 1 Baby!

    So here we are with Day 1 of the 31 Day Comment Challenge and today's task is to do a commenting self-audit. We've been asked to answer the following questions:

    1. How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week?

    2. Do you track your blog comments? How? What do you do with your tracking?

    3. Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week?

    The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

    My Typical Week
    I probably leave about 5 comments per week on average. I have about 38 blogs in my feed reader (see the blogs I read in the left sidebar), plus I subscribe to Stephen Downes' OLDaily where he gives brief summaries and commentary on blog posts that have caught his eye in the field of educational technology. Then, of course, there are all the posts I find out about from my Twitter network :-). I think the reason that I don't leave more comments in a week is three-fold:

    1. I often just don't have the time. Writing does not come easily to me, so even a four or five sentence comment is pretty time consuming. Hopefully as I blog and comment more, the writing will start to flow a little easier.

    2. Many of the blogs I subscribe to are pretty popular and by the time I read the post there are already 20 plus comments--by then I either don't have time to read all the comments (and as Gina Trapani says in her guide to blog comments, if you can't read the whole thread, then don't comment!) or I have nothing new to add.

    3. Some of the blogs I subscribe to don't necessarily invite comments. By that I mean that they are primarily a place to disseminate information. An example would be David Warlick's 2¢ Worth. He does a lot of conferences and live blogs many of the keynotes that he attends. I love reading his stuff, but he generally does not write posts that provoke comments.

    Tracking My Comments
    About a month or so ago I signed up with co.mments after reading a post about it by Sue Waters. It is easy to use, I just click on my 'Track co.mments' bookmark when I want to follow a comment thread. New comments are automatically sent to my Google Reader account via RSS. I use co.mments when I comment on a post and want to hear new comments. I also find it useful if I get to a post when it is brand spanking new and has not comments yet. I may not have anything to say yet, but I want to find out what others think about the post.

    To participate in this challenge, I signed up for coComment. Today is my first day using it and I'm intrigued by the groups feature. I'm interested to see what else coComment has in store for me.

    What do I do with my tracking? Not much. I mean I read the new comments, but that's about it. I'm curious as to what others do with their tracking. With coComment you can post your most recent comments on your blog. For the purposes of this challenge I think I'll try adding that feature. Hopefully it will help draw other people into conversations they might not have otherwise found.

    Do I Get Around?!
    I definitely do not comment on a new blog every week. This is not out of any sort of exclusiveness; I just am not a prolific commenter to begin with. There are a few blogs that I comment on regularly; here they are and the reasons I have for commenting on them.
    - Sue Waters (Mobile Technology in TAFE and The Edublogger ): Sue's TAFE blog was one of the first blogs that I came across that I found to be really useful as I was starting out in blogging. Sue writes a lot of 'how to' kind of posts and the way she writes invites comments. She is also so generous in responding to comments and to questions. She subscribes to my blog and I know that there's a 50/50 chance that she will comment on each of my new posts. She is a wonderful mentor and is always encouraging other edubloggers to welcome new bloggers on the scene. It is not surprising that she is one of the co-conspirators in the 31 Day Comment Challenge!

    - Michele Martin (The Bamboo Project Blog): I think the first post I read of Michele's was Six Reasons People Aren't Commenting On Your Blog. This was early in my blogging career (4.5 months ago, ha!) and I was worried about the lack of comments on my blog. Michele hands out great advice and poses thought provoking questions. She is also extremely generous in responding to comments, both in the comment section of her blog and in e-mails. Again, it is not surprising that she is another of the co-conspirators in the 31 Day Comment Challenge!

    - Sarah Stewart (Sarah's Musings ): I don't know how I found Sarah's blog--I suspect that I read a comment of hers on Sue Waters' blog and decided to check her out. Sarah is a mid-wife doing her PhD in New Zealand. Her PhD involves researching the use of e-mentoring (mentoring provided by email) as experienced by aged care nurses and allied health professionals. Though I am not a mid-wife, I am an avid reader of Sarah's blog. She is constantly trying out and reporting on her experiences with web 2.0 tools. I'll often read one of her posts and decide that it's high time that I tried out tool X, Y, or Z too. It was after I wrote this post that Sarah and I both took the Twitter plunge (after being kindly mocked by Sue Waters).

    - Clay Burell (Beyond School): Clay is an eloquent writer, he writes a lot of posts, he's passionate about what he writes, and his posts can be very provocative. He writes about what matters in education and sometimes I read and I am just compelled to comment. Clay is also is very active in the comment section; replying and adding to others' comments.

    Because I know what a rush it is to get comments on my blog, I always check out brand new blogs that I hear about and leave a comment. Unfortunately a lot of folks who start up a blog get discouraged and the first post I comment on ends up being the only post (gosh I hope I'm not cursed ;-) )

    So, if I look my commenting behaviour I think the following things become evident:

    • - I comment when I am thankful for a great tip.

    • - I comment when I know that I have something new to offer to the conversation.

    • - I comment when I know that my comment will be responded to--that I will be part of a conversation.

    • - I comment when my thinking is challenged.

    • - I comment when I want to encourage new bloggers.

    If you are new to blogging, get out there--read some blogs and start commenting. You do have something to add to the conversation. If people are intrigued by your comments they'll check out your blog, and maybe leave a comment of their own :)