English 420 - Writing for the Web    
     

 

Relections From a Blogging Rookie

Today, Michael glanced at me during study hall, I thought I would die! I wonder what that meant?! Oh my goodness what if he likes me? Oh my word what if he doesn’t like me? Knock-Knock; Who is it, you ask - as you franticly hide your diary in its secret spot! Gone are the days of concealing your Bon-Jovi or New Kids on the Block diary under your bed and praying that your nosey brother or sister did not find it! And if they did, you would like totally die if they found out that you secretly loved Michael! – Circa 1984.

In 2008, anyone can have their own personal blog, diary, or journal on the Internet. Online blog’s allows users to communicate with sometimes faceless and nameless people that they would not have otherwise met.

A blog is an abbreviation of the term web log. Blogs are websites where individuals write their day-to-day experiences, social commentary, complaints, poems, and any other content that might be found in a traditional newspaper, magazine, diary, or journal. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.

Today, interactive diaries, journals, personal blogs and group blogs are integrated into the daily lives of many teenagers, college students, and average individuals. Some professional bloggers have taken offence to sites like blogger.com and livejournal.com. The professionals are of the opinion that blogs originally had purpose when few people had access and the content being posted was interesting and/or informative. Now anyone can call themselves a blogger regardless of mundane nature of their site. Technorati, a blog search engine, reports that as of December 2007 there were more than 112 million blogs in existence with topics ranging from entertainment to conservative politics and everything and anything in between.

My rookie season into the world of blogging began in early January of this year after I enrolled in English 420. For me, the first day of class is always distressing; I suppose it is the fear of the unknown. Also, the sparse course description a student is provided, prior to enrolling, does not aid in calming my fear of the unknown.

As class commences, I feel my heart begin to palpitate as Dr. Kearney addresses the class with a welcome. I listened as Dr. Kearney described the goals for the semester, I thought to myself - this is ridiculous! How am I going to learn DreamWeaver, develop a web site and create a Blog? I’m not one-hundred percent sure I know what a Blog is. . .

Dr. Kearney quickly acquainted the class with the blogging assignment and she presented us with her requirements. I was relieved to find that many free blog hosting sites were available to everyday users, like me. She left the subject matter for our blogs to the discretion of each student.

Soon after our first class meeting, I began to explore the many “free” blog hosting sites that Dr. Kearney presented. On January 15, I logged my first, of many entries in to my blog Moose on the Sidewalk. My Blog was intended to be Seinfeld like. In what regard you may ask? My blog Moose on the Sidewalk is dedicated to nothing in particular. My goal was to highlight the places I've traveled, the beautiful and sometimes funny experiences I’ve have, and to reveal the people and ideas that are important to me.

As I continue on with my reflections from a blogging rookie, I must admit, my attitude toward this assignment was a smidge poor, in the beginning. There was a bit of resentment that I was being asked to share myself with the world. I tend to be a private individual so this assignment was difficult; difficult in the sense that I did not want to disclose a lot about myself to my readers.

More than not wanting to reveal information, I suppose I was also intimidated by my classmates. In the University’s eyes I am a non-traditional student. A non-traditional student is an individual that is over 24 years of age - the label alone causes me to feel different. Blogging was an unfamiliar concept to me and not to most of my peers. I grew up in an era that encouraged people who were frustrated or wanted their opinions heard to write their congressperson, send a letter to the editor, or call a local talk radio station, not post a blog for the entire world to read.

Even deeper still, was the question was “Could I do it and if I could what would I say? What could I offer on my blog that would possibly be of interest to the masses? I realized that my age and experience were a benefit to me in this assignment. My fifteen plus years in the workplace meant that I had a large pool of experience from which I could draw. Additionally, my personal and professional activities have assisted me with developing an appreciation for the clear articulation of thoughts and concepts.

Some may see my statements as a deficit. Being conditioned to present information clearly did not allow me to write using a stream of consciousness. I was continually concerned with how and what was being said and not keeping the readers interested. I believe I lacked focus.

Maybe one of my short comings was not thoughtfully planning out my blog. In retrospect I should have developed a list of things I wanted to write about and a list of things I wanted to share with my readers. Simply stated, I lacked a plan. I know now that if you attempt to sit down and write everyday for your blog and do it from the top of your head, you will fail. In no way do I think my blog failed. I only make that point because I believe that I could have done a better job with a bit more planning. This assignment is a case of live and learn,

I suppose. In spite of the laid back nature of blogs, I recognized that discipline was needed to ensure I’d post routinely. If I didn’t discipline myself into regular posting, chances are I would have neglected this task until the end of the course.

At first, I thought reading other people’s blogs was going to be a bit of a bore. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Chris’s blog. His short story style of blogging is excellent. I looked forward to reading his posts; they were quirky and that’s what was so intriguing. My next statement will seem very hypocritical, but… reading my classmates blogs gave me a sneak peek into who they are as individuals, what makes them tick. So yes, the very thing I disliked about writing my blog, I enjoyed about the others. Is that normal? Maybe it is simply me being self centered, expecting others to take the time to share, but I am not willing to do the same.

Time is a significant factor in properly maintaining a blog. I must acknowledge that I did not routinely think about posting to my blog, unless I was completing homework for this course. Again, not being accustomed to the blogging concept, I found blogging to be a chore and not something that I looked forward to completing. If I viewed it as “writing a paper” maybe my attitude would have been different. But I still hearken back to not wanting to expose myself to my classmates and the world. I am not fond of the idea that the world can read and critique my thoughts. Furthermore, at the end of an eight hour work day, and after three hours of instruction at HACC, the last task I wanted to do was develop a clever entry on my blog, only to receive a minimal feedback. I must consider that the younger generation is conditioned to being plugged in 24/7 and obtaining and sending information instantaneously. For many students their writing is composed in short and concise snippets and they are moving at warp speed and their news and information needs to as well.

Additionally, I must reflect on the point that writing and reading on the web is much different than writing and reading print based text. A good web writer writes for their audience. Writing for your audience allows the reader to quickly scan through information. Scanning allows readers to search for relevant materials rather than reading through a document word by word.

Am I a blogging convert? Probably not… Although this assignment has broadened my experiences. I don’t believe that in the near term my habits will be altered. However, I am pleased that I had the opportunity (i.e. was required) to complete this web-based assignment.

Commencing with the first entry to the completion of this reflective essay, I have seen my blog entries improve. Also, I have noted growth in my ability to analyze information using theoretical concepts. Furthermore, my appreciation has increased for those individuals that blog professionally. Now, I have a minute understanding as to what it takes to keep a blog current and vibrant – it is truly a copious amount of work.

Overall, this assignment has been interesting. It has caused me to reflect on how far I’ve come as an individual and professional and how each assignment is preparing us for the next. The small building blocks I learned as a child, lead me to where I am today and I am grateful for each step.

I believe that anytime an opportunity is presented – take it, you’ll never know where the journey will lead you. Maybe one day you will have the delight in saying “Holy crap! There's a moose on our sidewalk!”