I saw an interesting blog article yesterday on the “Dangersouly Irrelevent” blog. Scott Mcleod makes some very good points on social network overload (click on link to see article). However, I think it can be generalized to more that just social networks. I have a number of blogs I subscribe to and try to read daily. Including Scott’s blog, I have about 4 other education related blogs to look at. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. I have many other interests, including photography, tech sites, music sites that I am interested in keeping up with. So all told, I have about 25 sites that I try to read every day. This of course does not include the videos and audio clips that are included or the links that the author has compiled for the reader to enjoy. This is a large amount of time, as Scott points out, to spend gazing at a screen when I have more pertinent things to attend to.
But it’s so addictive!
The problem I see is the continuation and encouraging of conversation. How can we encourage discussion or build on ideas if we are spending all our time reading. I find that by the time I am done reading all the blogs, I don’t want to spend more time responding. When I open, my aggregator and see all the blogs that have new entries to read, I’m trying to go through them as quickly as possible, not only to read them but also to keep them from piling up. On one day, I can have as many as 45 or more entries to peruse. As Scott points out, how can you respond to all of them? You can’t. This also affects the quality of responses you do have the time to make. How can we really create change and promote ideas worth discussing if the discussion remains shallow? Now I am not saying that all the discussions I have read are shallow. This is definately not the case. However, if my experience is anything to go by, by the time you have written a blog entry, you don’t really have time to spend producing well thought out arguements or ideas. When I look at a blog and see the shortness of some comments, I wonder how the discussion can continue to be meaningful and insightful.
Something else I am seeing just struck me last night as I was going to sleep. As I continued to gather blogs that interested me, I needed something that would compile them into one area that I could quickly access. I use a nice program called Vienna for Mac that has really been useful and easy to use. While Vienna is a great program, it has also taken away that personal aspect that the actual blog attempted to create. You often don’t get to meet the author of the blog, so the blog itself is your only connection to that author. How many hours did you spend creating your blog, adding pictures, videos, backgrounds, etc? If you’re like me, you probably spent a fair amount of time personalizing your blog. Why? Because you want people to get an idea of who you are; your thoughts, interests and some aspects of your personality. When a person comes to your blog and connects with your interests and ideas, they’re encouraged to respond. They want you to know their ideas and develop that relationship. Your blog has created that environment. When using blog aggregators, you lose that personality. All of a sudden, it is just a list of blogs and comments that you quickly work your way through. There is no personality to it; nothing to encourage people to connect. I find myself making more of an effort to respond when I am on an actual blog. When I use Vienna, I just tend to scroll through the blogs with new comments and move on to another task. I am more of a passive consumer of ideas rather than a producer or contributer.
As more and more information is given to us, through blogs, social networks, etc, are we actually going to regress? Are we going to use these tools less and less because we lack the time to develop meaningful conversations through these tools?