Seriously...

Thank you to all those who read and commented on my blog post on April 1st.  I'm not really going to stop blogging. Some may have found it funny, others less amused. It wasn't merely a 'joke'.

There was a serious side to this. I used April Fool's day to explore many of the issues that confront educational bloggers. Hopefully I succeeded - albeit in a tongue in cheek way - to illustrate that blogging is never easy, but it can have great rewards. Challenging as it may be to sustain writing at a high level of quality (most of us don't succeed!), the rewards are that your ideas are quickly 'out there' in public, and can be discussed, built upon, challenged and otherwise explored by your professional peers, your community of practice.

Of course blogging carries with it the risk of misunderstanding and even rejection, and some bloggers are the targets of those who overstep the mark and who are aggressive or even abusive. No matter who you are, there will be people who oppose you. Some bloggers do indeed suffer from depression and may even resort to alcohol or other substance abuse to escape from the pressure of sustaining their writing. Others are profoundly affected by harsh comments on their blogs. It's not always a bed of roses. Anyone who is a public author must try to come to terms with such issues if they are to make any progress with their writing. Most of the comments I receive on my blog are very constructive and even those that disagree fundamentally with what I have written are generally presented in a firm but polite manner. Discuss: Is a 'joke' like this a valid way to promote discussion?

Blogging does indeed raise your professional profile. It gives others in your wider community of practice a clearer view of who you are, what you do, and most importantly, what you think. Engaging with your community at this level and especially at a global level is incredibly powerful and completely valid as professional practice. My remarks about some university hierarchies undervaluing or even rejecting blogging as a valid academic practice are true in many respects. Anything that is considered 'grey literature' (i.e. not peer reviewed) is seen as inferior to those articles that appear in highly rated journals. Yet somehow, I feel this is a huge mistake, because many academics who write in those 'high quality' journals also blog. Peer reviewing is performed on blogs by those who read and comment, and publishing is instant to a worldwide audience, so peer reviewing can be much more extensive. I often counsel my fellow academics that if they really want their ideas to get out there quickly, and to a potentially huge audience, then blogging is definitely an option to consider. Publishing your work in a highly rated closed access journal may be great for the Research Excellence Framework or other funding rounds, but how many will read your work? This blog has gained me more than 4 million views. What academic journal could promise me that kind of audience? Discuss: Will academic blogging ever replace peer reviewed journals in the future?

The argument about lacking time and energy is often one used by those in the professions who simply aren't interested or who can't see the point in blogging. They think that time spent on blogging could be spent more productively elsewhere, but I say to them that blogging for me has improved my professional practice to such an extent that I really can't place a value on it. It has pushed me to think more creatively and this has emerged in my professional practice in the classroom. Believe me, it is well worth the effort and time to sit down occasionally and write something that relates directly to your teaching (and of course your personal learning). Are you thinking about blogging? Try it and see.

So there you have it. I'm back. In fact I never went away. Thank you for all your wonderful, supportive comments. I value them greatly, and apologise to anyone who may have been offended. I take blogging seriously and I promise I will continue for as long as people want to read.

Photo by James Clay

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Comments

Grumpty said…
I have to say Steve, I look forward to your blogs and you briefly ruined my day yesterday!
If we actively promote the use of blogs with students as a form of assessment, how can some people not see the benefits of blogging.
If academic blogging can generate a bigger audience, it makes more sense to replace peer reviews. Asr as yesterdays joke goes, if it generates discussion, why not.

Steve
Sue Beckingham said…
Phew! So pleased to read this! :-)
David Hopkins said…
A sigh of relief all round. It's good to know you're not stopping blogging (I almost said 'giving up' but that would have been wrong and unjust as to why, if you wanted to stop, you were going to - as you say it's hard to blog and keep you chin up in the face of adversary and sometime ridicule) and that we can continue to have the benefit of your insight.

I feel lucky in that I have not had the displeasure of overly negative comments on my blog. I often write something that then gets deleted as I know it'll be seen by some in the wrong way. Often what I delete is more likely to be about a frustration at or about work, therefore I don't want to antagonize my employer or work colleagues. I am aware that this does not stop some people, but that is not my 'style'. I am not someone who does well in arguments or likes scenes of confrontation (you might say I avoid them to my own cost) so am careful to not put myself in a position (in RL or online) where I might illicit the situation. This is frustrating as I so often want to rant or complain or moan about something (or someone), but know that whilst they don't engage with me online, they are reading/watching/lurking.

I personally don't see how someone could be offended with your approach to raising the profile and difficulties bloggers have, but that's just me. Well done.

All the best, David.
Steven Verjans said…
You could have fooled me!
... Oh yeah, you did fool me ;-)

But still, I recognise most of your concerns about the amount of time and effort it undoubtedly takes. I personally never found the stamina to be a real blogger, but I find curation tools like scoop.it to be a good compromise.
Simon Ensor said…
Seriously.
"Some bloggers do indeed suffer from depression and may even resort to alcohol or other substance abuse to escape from the pressure of sustaining their writing. Others are profoundly affected by harsh comments on their blogs."
That is not funny.
I think that 'personal disclosure' is a very important part about establishing relationships with readers and learners, and it is inappropriate to play around with that with people who clearly can not have the frames of reference/digital search skills/code-breaking skills to know that what one says is 'with tongue in cheek'.

Nevertheless, the Aprilfools did raise very important questions as to the place of blogging, the importance of PLN to check validity and raised ethical questions in its crossing of emotional boundaries/investigation of attachment.

Your blogging work has had an enormous influence, long may you healthily continue to inform, inspire and make people think. Memorable April 1st post, not necessarily the most amusing...

PS.A tweet that suggested I had completely deleted my blog as a result of reading your tragic article was untrue.
Mark said…
I think you gave enough clear hints that it was a April Fool, specifically referring to the fact that April had arrived for example, but used it as a great vehicle to raise serious issues. That is the point. In my humble opinion that is what the best stand up comics do as well - use comedy to raise important issues - and the same in Sci Fi and other fiction writing - use a fiction to raise critical issues. I really enjoy your blog and style. I also know not everyone will feel the same. Question of taste, connection and context. As someone who left the UK nealrly 2 decades ago and became an international educator I am aware things get lost in translation and lost in cultural context. Thanks for the time and effort Steve.
Dan Bowen said…
Realised why you had done it. Thought provoking as ever sir
Steve Wheeler said…
Yes, it has certainly generated some discussion, as I intended. Not everyone took it in good humour, but I didn't expect everyone to do so. Blogging has a very important place in academia, and I will continue to fight for it and raise its profile, with whatever means I have at my disposal. Thanks for stopping by.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments as ever David. I expected there to be a bit of a backlash, but I can understand why some people are opposed to this kind of approach. I'm prepared to own the post and be accountable for it, and although it has offended some people (which I regret), I feel that a lot more people have received the clear message that we should value educational blogging a lot more than we do, because it does exert a heavy cost on many. If people understand that, then I have succeeded.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comment Steven. Curation is indeed a very valuable contribution to the development of our community's learning and I encourage you to keep going!
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comments Simon - I truly respect your opinions. I agree that there were parts of my blog that were 'not funny', but I was attempting to depict the darker side of blogging for an audience, and although it may have seemed that I was manipulating emotions, I was actually trying to make a important point about the pressures I know some bloggers suffer. I have written previously about this in relation to popular speakers also. Your point about frames of reference is taken on board.
Anonymous said…
I don't think blogging will replace academic journals - rather the two forms are intertwined http://www.francesbell.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/comparing-two-publication-channels-academic-journals-and-blogs/
Robert Schuetz said…
Good to have you back Steve! You have a creative way of making essential points. I contend that every learner should have a digital portfolio that shares the stories of learning. My blog has evolved into my professional / learning digital portfolio. My bias enters the picture - blogs make terrific ePortfolio platforms. Your efforts are not wasted Steve - you are showing people the way! Bob
Steve Wheeler said…
Nice link - thanks Frances
Steve Wheeler said…
Really pleased you 'get it' Mark. I tend to think long and hard about such posts and weigh up the benefits against the threats - I wanted to raise serious issues through maximum impact. It has prompted others to blog their opinions, so I guess I am succeeding.
Steve Wheeler said…
Good call Bob. I firmly believe learners will be empowered if they share their experiences and learning by these means.
Steve, I read your April 1st post after i picked up the shockwaves on twitter and I was very relieved when the rumours about this being date related proved to be true! I think there was a very valuable point made by your post which deserves fuller exploration. Those of us who do spend time writing up and openly publishing our work in order to engage with the wider community (personally I am not a great blogger but I tweet, publish on scribd and share on slideshare etc.) do so because we understand the value of such sharing both personally and professionally, it is rarely an "ego trip". It does indeed take time and energy to participate mindfully in online discussion and sharing. Our engagement is often ignored by our institutions and is for many invisible on the career front. This lack of "official" recognition can indeed impact on our self esteem and lead to poor health. If the age of the digital scholar has really arrived as Martin Weller tells us, the recognition of engagement needs to be addressed.
Steve Wheeler said…
Absolutely true Teresa, the age of the digital scholar is here, but poorly recognised by many. Thanks also for picking up on the issue about 'ego trips' too - especially when one blog post has accused me of being 'enamoured by my own popularity'. Clearly they don't know me that well :)

Academic blogging is a lot more complex than mere ego, or self promotion. Those of us who do blog seriously invest a great deal of our time, energy and emotions into their writing, and yet receive very little back in terms of academic recognition. The best reward is when I see people using my content in re-purposed format to reach others I could not possibly hope to reach. I thought it was about time to make a very big statement about it, and the best way I could think to do it was to perpetrate the 'serious' joke.

These are all serious issues, and hopefully, once the furore has died down, and people stop to reflect, I hope we will all be in a better position to discuss them more extensively. All the best.
Terry Freedman said…
Great two posts, Steve, which prompted me to reflect on my own blogging. I've written about it in the form of a SWOT analysis -- writing bullet points saves having to think about writing beautifully! Anyway, my take on it is here: http://www.ictineducation.org/home-page/2014/4/3/the-trials-and-tribulations-of-blogging-as-a-swot-analysis.html

Thanks again for some great reading.
Lejon said…
Of course it is a good thing you didn't stop blogging. Still, I feel I feel like a fool believing you and I am still not sure I appreciate those kinds of jokes. It's a bit like saying that you are seriously ill and then people feel really sad, you say "I was just joking, ha, ha!" Maybe it is because I am not a native speaker of English that I didn't grasp your message. Still, you must realise there are lots of people with English as a second language.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for sharing the link Terry - interesting reading and a nice alternative take on the subject. I just tweeted the link out - hope you get some great responses.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your comment Lejon. I wouldn't expect *everyone* to understand the medium by which the message was delivered, but I fervently hope people will understand the message itself. I must admit it took me a lot of courage to post the blog, and to then stand back for 24 hours without intervening, to watch the responses (of all shades) flowing across the web, was extremely difficult. But I saw the process through to the posting of the explanation blog.

For the record, I didn't intend to 'make fools' of anyone, but I guess that the collateral is that some might be upset or offended that they were 'taken in' by the way the message was delivered. That in turn might colour their views of the points I have made.

I thought long and hard about why I was writing the blog post, and realised that there was a strong possibility that some might not view me favourably afterwards. However, I took a deep breath and then perpetrated the 'serious joke' as means of raising the issues I highlight in the blog posts. They are serious issues and I hope that after a suitable period of time, and the dust has settled, that people can see past their own emotional responses and begin to grapple with these issues, discussing them, and finding a way forward.

My best regards to you.
Merf said…
Very poignant reality check that peer review IS apparent, and direct, in blog-land comments (assuming professionals can weed out inappropriate stuff) You never fail to get me thinking. Heck...I might even start blogging again...it's been a while. Fortune favours the brave they say...but I wonder sometimes. Depression is a real illness and the negative word is also mightier than...ah well...maybe I'll just let the leaders lead. Thanks.

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