The Tragedy of the Stream

I think on my most popular day on this blog I got about 14,000 hits on a post. Most posts get less than that, but getting 600-800 visitors over the first week is pretty usual, and the visitors are generally pretty knowledgeable people.

Yesterday I got a lot of hits on my post asking for examples of the best blog-based classes in higher education that people could look at, with a caveat that I’d love to get beyond the usual examples we use — I’m looking for variety over innovation in some ways. The result was crickets.

I just need a list that I can show faculty that describes the class, the methods used, and links to it. I want to share it with faculty. I’d like the list to be up-to-date. I’d like someone to have checked the links and make sure they are not linking to spam sites at this point. Maybe someone could also find the best example of a student post from the class and link to that. Maybe it could be ordered by discipline.

Does such a thing exist? I don’t know. Maybe. I sure as hell can’t find it, and I’ve been a part of this movement a decade now.

Do individual pages on these these sorts of experiences exist? Absolutely. I’ve read blog posts for the past ten years on this or that cool thing someone was doing. But as far as I can tell, no one has chosen to aggregate these things into a maintained or even semi-maintained list. We love to talk. Curate, share, and maintain? Eh.

This is the Tragedy of the Stream, folks. The conversations of yesterday, which contain so much useful information, are locked into those conversations, frozen in time. To extract the useful information from them becomes an unrewarding and at times impossible endeavor. Few people, if any, stop to refactor, rearrange the resources, gloss or introduce them to outsiders. We don’t go back to old pieces to add links on them to the things we have learned since, or rewrite them for clarity or timelessness.

And so it becomes little more than a record of a conversation, a resource to be mined by historians but not consulted by newbies. You want an answer to your question? Here’s eighteen hours of audio tape. If you play it from the beginning it makes sense. Have fun!

There are some things which survive better than others: Quora answers, Stack Exchange replies and the like.

But in our community at least I see a whole body of knowledge slowly rotting and sinking back into the sea. Perhaps it might be time to focus less on convincing and more on documenting our knowledge?

12 thoughts on “The Tragedy of the Stream

  1. Thanks so much for this Mike. I am currently working on revisions with co-authors on a paper that looks at the impact of using Facebook in a MOOC. l have been quite pre-occupied with the pros and cons of blogging vs Facebook group and in my thoughts blogging seemed better for curation but now you have focused my attention on the limitations of blogging. But let me offer you my insight in return. The limitations of the blogging stream pale into insignificance compared with the implications of using Facebook for learning.

  2. In some isolated cases, search engines allow older content to remain vibrant. Even today, one of my most popular blog posts is one that I wrote several years ago about oven temperature sensors; people encounter this specific problem, search the web for an answer, and find my post.

    However, I’ve run across instances in which even I don’t remember something that I wrote a few years ago. I’ll start writing a new post about something, and then find out that I previously addressed the issue in 2010.

    But there’s an even bigger problem – what about the content that has been lost to history? One example – everything that I ever wrote on FriendFeed may be stashed away in some wayback machine somewhere, but I haven’t the slightest idea how to access it or search it.

    P.S. I got here via a Dave Winer share on Facebook, if you keep track of such things.

  3. Hi Mike,

    Every example that I’ve been involved with in the last six years is lost in either an LMS wiki that I don’t have access to or my wikispaces log-in is connected to my former state-issued email account that I no longer have to. I searched for what I remembered, and it’s gone. I’m wondering how many of your other readers are in a similar situation. Changed jobs? Graduated? Your access to your garden and stream disappears unless you had the foresight to change all of your passwords. Or you save all of the links. The blog aggregator for ETMOOC (via Couros and Levine) http://etmooc.org/hub/ still brings together posts, but I don’t think that’s what your looking for as an example for your teachers. There are still very active folks on Diigo as well from ETMOOC. Alan may have more to say on the ETMOOCers.

    Most community college teachers are advised to work within the LMS. With huge course loads they don’t have the time to take on the role of supporting students with technology outside of the LMS. If we could get teachers to embrace that kind of exchange with one another, then [maybe] they will promote that kind of exchange with their students. Again, I need teachers with a network and support from multiple institutions. Sound familiar? I’m pitching some thoughts at upcoming conferences, so I’m watching what you’re up to here with great interest. It’s my hunch that the WA State CC system is perfect for this type of professional learning and connection. I just have nothing to share at this point other than some self-deprecating jokes.

  4. Hi Mike,

    Not sure if this is the sort of thing you’re looking for because the courses are aimed at teachers and not at students: The Electronic Village Online http://evosessions.pbworks.com/w/page/10708567/FrontPage The sessions are now over for this year and are closed to new enrollments but you can see detailed programs and I’m sure if you contact the moderators they would give you access.

    The courses were usually run on a wiki – PBworks – plus other platforms and tools depending on the moderators and the type of course: Blogger, Google Hangouts, Google+, Moodle, YouTube, Slideshare, Jing, screencast-o-matic, Movenote, Present me, SlideSpeech, Google drive, Twitter chats, Skype, etc.

    Cheers,
    Glenys

  5. I left some stuff in your original post- finding is a lot of miss and hit. This seems to be stuff that Merlot was intended for, though I have not been at that place for like 10 years.

    14,000 hits? I can only dream that high. I cannot get anyone to respond to my evangelical rants on the abuses of Facebook. WTF? My experience is that the posts that get more traction are not the ones you would guess.

    Here is an idea. Someone needs to organize this s***

    A Hierarchical Officious Oracle, yet another?

  6. Left a comment on the other post (still awaiting moderation I guess), but thought I would chime in here: it’s not that open/connected/blog-based courses document more poorly than other courses (just the opposite!), but the problem is lack of documentation for pedagogy in general. There are a lot of reasons for that: I’d say the closed-ness of the LMS is the biggest problem; at my school we don’t even have syllabuses in the open – the syllabuses are in the LMS, invisible only to enrolled students and to those students only when classes start, and invisible again when the class is over.

    I document my pedagogy here:
    http://anatomy.lauragibbs.net/
    I do that mostly for myself, though. Given that there no real culture of pedagogical documentation or sharing at my school, there’s no real audience for it.

    But I curate for my students assiduously. I curate their projects for example; it’s one of the most important resources for my classes:
    http://estorybook.blogspot.com/
    And I also curate course content of all kinds, keeping it all in the open. I wouldn’t call that a tragedy at all. The tragedy is all the f2f teaching and learning that is completely undocumented in any way or, if digitally documented, only in the LMS, destined for the digital trash can.

    I don’t obsess about stats, but I do see activity on old blog posts from years and years ago (I’ve been teaching these courses since 2002); sometimes I even discover something I wrote myself and forgot about when I Google. So I just wish we could get everybody else’s syllabuses and course materials and student projects out in the open and see what search engines can do with all that. I’m not going to give up on convincing people to go open… although the LMS makes that a pretty Quixotic endeavor.

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  8. Perhaps also stuck in spam like the other comment re: examples post:

    Laura Gibbs
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    February 26, 2016 at 1:41 pm
    Left a comment on the other post (still awaiting moderation I guess), but thought I would chime in here: it’s not that open/connected/blog-based courses document more poorly than other courses (just the opposite!), but the problem is lack of documentation for pedagogy in general. There are a lot of reasons for that: I’d say the closed-ness of the LMS is the biggest problem; at my school we don’t even have syllabuses in the open – the syllabuses are in the LMS, invisible only to enrolled students and to those students only when classes start, and invisible again when the class is over.
    I document my pedagogy here:
    http://anatomy.lauragibbs.net/
    I do that mostly for myself, though. Given that there no real culture of pedagogical documentation or sharing at my school, there’s no real audience for it.
    But I curate for my students assiduously. I curate their projects for example; it’s one of the most important resources for my classes:
    http://estorybook.blogspot.com/
    And I also curate course content of all kinds, keeping it all in the open. I wouldn’t call that a tragedy at all. The tragedy is all the f2f teaching and learning that is completely undocumented in any way or, if digitally documented, only in the LMS, destined for the digital trash can.
    I don’t obsess about stats, but I do see activity on old blog posts from years and years ago (I’ve been teaching these courses since 2002); sometimes I even discover something I wrote myself and forgot about when I Google. So I just wish we could get everybody else’s syllabuses and course materials and student projects out in the open and see what search engines can do with all that. I’m not going to give up on convincing people to go open… although the LMS makes that a pretty Quixotic endeavor.

    • Yes, the tragedy of the LMS and of Facebook – as a librarian I’m resisting leaving the open platform of Libguides and putting my stuff on the LMS because I believe in open-ness and sharing. While I love FB groups for getting likeminded people together, once things are posted there it’s an effort to put it into Evernote or onto other platforms or to Diigo it (is Diigo dead or dying?) so actually FB is the largest waste of communal knowhow known to mankind right now – the old fashioned forums were so much better.

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