How to Transition from iBlog to weBlog?

Digital Bibliography needs to evolve, I think. Maybe I’m restless. Maybe I’m too ambitious about the work I think a blog can do in our disciplines. Maybe I’ve got a growing appetite for connecting people whose connections can be productive and generative and critical and human. Or maybe I sense that the best way for these kinds of things to happen is for this blog to become less about me and more about us. Yeah, I realized I don’t know who most of us are. That’s powerful to me. First, I’ll explain a little. Then I’ll offer a couple of ideas that I’m starting with. Then I’ll ask for your help. Let me back up…

I’ve been reflecting a lot, lately, on my goals for this blog. Old. Current. Future. Also evaluating some of the ways this blog functions. And some of the ways that it doesn’t. I’m not going to post here an entry about how great this blog is. I didn’t create the blog so it would be “good.” I created it to “do” things. Almost entirely, I created it to do those things for me. To help me think through some of the reading I’ve been doing online and in the stacks. I’ve wanted a chance to sort of share the work I’m doing in order to increase the chance of connecting more with people who share the same investments, preoccupations, alignments, and threads of inquiry. I’ve found this blog (from here, I’m just going to refer to it as Digital Bibliography or DB) to be useful to me in those ways. I’ve connected with some great people. I’ve run across other bloggers who are really producing great work. I’ve found people with whom I’m working on projects. I’ve found a place where I can think in front of a relatively small, but very supportive and smart audience. Everything about this blog has been great.

And now, something about DB has begun to shift a little. I’m really happy about it. The more regularly I post, the more circulation DB gets. People whom I’ve never met mention it. People email me with the most interesting questions. People challenge me to look under the rocks I keep walking right past in my entries. There’s a bit of a conversation happening, though not as much in the comments section as there is in messages back and forth. I guess that’s a little surprising, too. I guess there are lots of folks in our discipline who are pretty shy about sharing, but still feel the impulse to contribute. It’s pretty amazing. And so humble. Which is partly what this post is about.

I’d like the blog to become much less about me. Less about the work I’m specifically invested in. More about the people who come here to read my comments and those of others.

To put it most simply… I’d like to find ways of getting other people involved in Digital Bibliography. Not just as commentors, either, but as scholars who want to initiate small discussion flourishes. Short-lived threads about ideas they initiating from different people. And a place for people to watch. I’ve written about this before, but not quite in the same way. And people have been thinking about blogs as performing these sorts of work for as long as blogs have been around. I’m not trying to invent the work blogs can do. I’m just trying to brainstorm about about the types of work this blog might be able to do. Here are a couple of ideas that I have.

1. I’ve already been doing some of the leg work to get other people ready to contribute “guest” entries. I’m not sure what I’ll call these entries, but I’m hoping that I can give them a title and make them a regular feature. I’m not going to call them “guest entries” because I don’t want to imply that the author doesn’t permanently belong here… that this space isn’t theirs as much as it is ours. “Guest” just has the wrong connotation. Lemme know if you’ve got any ideas. People are busy, so I’m working slowly to get commitments out of people, but they’re coming. Some of my local colleagues here in Rhet/Comp. A Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science. A few senior scholars from other institutions. Other bloggers in Rhet/Comp. Fellow graduate students here writing about using technology in their classrooms. And I’d like to pursue some of the librarians we have here on campus. Some people as local TYCs using technology in their classes. And I’ve even, with limited-mixed success, started putting out queries to developers of different writing-software products. Among all of these folks, I’ve got a few firm commitments, and almost always some sort of interest in contributing. But nothing yet to post. That’s fine. Soon enough.

2. The guest contributors idea isn’t ideal, though. I think something better, would be to have a core group of contributors who could develop some sort of interesting chemistry and mix of orientations, styles, and investments. This would give the blog a certain sense of identity. Some personality. And it would facilitate more regular postings and comments. That would be better for the contributors, commenters, and readers. Let’s say, if there were six contributors, maybe there could be a couple authors involved in computers-and-writing, another author involved in digital editing, another author from library science, another from computer science or human-computer-interaction, another who’s generally not performing much scholarly work in computers and writing, maybe a graduate student, maybe a junior scholar, maybe a senior scholar. Maybe the simplest way I can put is this: a group of scholars who are ready to engage, encourage, and challenge toward a common goal. But this model is tough. A lot of the scholars who might be interested in this strategy likely already have their own blog or once did. The other aspect is that we’re all busy and it would take another commitment from someone who wants to make it happen. (example: GrandTextAuto. Or some CNET blogs in the past.)

3. The third way to make is happen is to open things up completely. In this way, it starts to look more like a blog-organized listserv. This, I think, would be ideal, but I’m not sure about the logistics of how to keep it organized. I’m a little leery of this strategy in that I’m not sure about how to get open permissions to people without things sort of spiraling into incomprehensibility or a lack of participation. Both are distinct possibilities, and group blogs like all organizations are susceptible to that phenomenon of participation-momentum.

I guess I’m leaning toward the second option, as it seems like a good, solid transitional move. And one that could be pretty gradually expanded as more people wanted to commit as a contributor. I guess I’ll just have to keep talking with people about it. And to see what sorts of comments and/or email messages this entry generates.

The other thing I’m thinking about doing is opening an online store for Digital Bibliography. I know that sounds kinda weird. I’ll offer some reason behind the move. First, when I get motivated about something, my salesman background really comes out. If I think it’s a good thing, I want to share it with everyone. And that means getting the word out. Circulating visible objects. And is there an audience for this sort of stuff (I mean market)? No, not really. Not one that pushes into the hundreds of people. Maybe a dozen. A couple dozen. People who wear hipster-clever tshirts. Something that implies: “Yeah, I love books. And I love writing. And I love computers. Maybe software, too. And I want you to know that. Just in case it doesn’t come up in conversation.” Something with a witty, nerd-cool, digital-hipster tagline/design. And what about the money? Well, likely, there will be very little, if any. I’m probably going to look into CafePress, but the gross is negligible unless you start really selling units. And by that, I mean like 15 shirts. But let’s say that the stuff does sell a little bit. The first $60 would go to pay for the price of the CafePress store. Then next $90 would go to the cost of hosting the site and registering the domain name. After that, I’d likely ask contributors/commentors/readers what they think. Lot’s of possibilities. I can guarantee, though, that I wouldn’t pocket the dough.

And finally, the site’s gonna need a new tagline (and maybe an icon). I don’t want my name in it anymore. I’m ready for suggestions. Something about books. About writing. About computers. About digital scholarship. About hardware. Software. Screens. About Rhet/Comp. So far, I’m thinking I like the play-on-words of writing code (which I’m slowly, slowly learning) and the codex form. “Code for the Codex” or something. But that seems a little too specific for what the blog actually covers. Maybe “Read +/- Write Blog” (too much like ReadWriteWeb or ReadWriteTeach) Read-only Blog. Random Access Blog. Quad-Core Reading. “Reading. Writing. Teaching. Technology.”

You know, now that I’m writing this, I just looked back at my blog. It really is about the future of the book. Not nearly as much about computers and writing. Hmmm. Maybe these ideas could best be served by a new blog.

I guess I’ll just wait to hear back from you all. I won’t likely be posting much at in the next week or so. I’ve got a few commitments I need to complete.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the meantime, and then meeting up with people at CCCC. Soon, then…

(image: “Stuck in the Middle With You” appears via furiousgeorge81’s flickr page; license: creative commons attribution-noncommercial-no derivative works. / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article has 1 Comment

  1. well, i have mixed feelings. I like your new blog (this iteration) and I like it’s focus, and personally I like hearing what you’re working on, which isn’t to say that I wouldn’t be interested in hearing what others are working on. I know that I’m not interested in participating except through the occasional comment, as I do now. It did seem to me that when you switched to this new format, you dropped the ‘encouraging comments’ through asking a question at the end of the post and, actually, I appreciated not having that there. I thought it was a little too needy. (Although my opinion has changed slightly since then — Profhacker does that well, but their tone is slightly more talky than yours, which is good because I read them for totally different reasons.) It seems you’ve gotten a good response to participation, and I’m happy for you about that.

    So i have to other things to say:
    (a) I will buy a T-shirt if it has a snarky hip saying on it.
    (b) how are you using this blog — and how it might change to a multi-authored blog — to write about the future of the book in your diss?! 😉


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