Yesterday I held a workshop about blogging at the innovation.tank in Zurich. After the last advisory board meeting in July, Marco Gitermann had asked me about this possibility and I was delighted to accept his offer because I am of the opinion that while active blogging may not be for everyone, not knowing about blogging is like not knowing about the printing press. In addition the “innovation.tank” is a project that has earned my full support for years because I am convinced that this kind of project is the kind of humane business and cooperation that will make life on earth as we know it more sustainable from the social point of view. If I go a little further along the sustainability path, the only motivation and basis for sustainability must be a social one. After all, what good is it to have nice clean environments and beautiful green luxuriating meadows and forests when social chaos and desolation abound?
While in my view blogging is extremely simple to do, a comprehensive overview of blogging is nothing that I am qualified to deliver. I can at best deliver, and did, a very biased view of the blogosphere. Parallel to the developing ubiquity of the personal computer, there is also a whole array of complex technology and web enabling protocols that one must have no intimate knowledge of before one can start either reading blogs, or writing one. In fact with only one email address, a connection to the internet and any old personal computer, you may set up your blog within minutes. This was also what the participants in yesterday’s workshop experienced in the afternoon when they returned to their desks for some hands-on the keyboard searching, reading and creating blogs. One does not need to know how trackbacks, pings, permalinks, and RSS work in order to either use them or create a blog. For those interested in what the freaking vocabulary used around blogs is, I do recommend a look in wikipedia. If one wants to find out how a blog works, the best is to indeed create one and if your barrier to enter the public domain is too high, then keep your blog private, this is indeed an option within several of the blogging web applications.
A word or two about wikipedia and wikis: My rule of thumb for using wikipedia as a reference is that when it comes to internet and ICT, it is fairly reliable. For any other subject matter I am more careful with the information within wikipedia. Clearly, when it comes to learned subject matters like quantum physics, this and the Encyclopedia Britannica are not my first choice source of knowledge, and you should keep in mind that a wiki contains pages that are being edited and updated as time goes by. Wikis are like books, however the pages are updatable and editable, thus whenever citing from a wiki you need to include the date. What makes wikis really powerful collaboration platforms is that you can on the “back-end” of the wiki follow the discussions associated with each page and its history in addition to the options of keeping pages private and secure or of making them public all within the same wiki.
In my preparation I used freemind (opensource software for mind mapping available for both mac and windows) to create a mind map for the whole day and intended to use this as a presentation tool. Nonetheless I prepared myself for the eventuality that something between my PowerBook and the beamer might not function, and had an alternative “light” presentation in PowerPoint format (prepared with OpenOffice Impress) ready where the most important line is the link to the collection of bookmarks that I created on delicious especially for this workshop. Although I had the necessary adapter at hand, I had forgotten to reset my power book to mirroring displays and for whatever odd reason unexplainable to me now I could not find the “arrangement” tab on the big screen when all my windows were sent off to the screen. At that point I decided to switch to the PC in the room and used the material that I had on a memory stick and could not make use of the mind map. I am still puzzled by the fact that I can not export the mind maps that I create on freemind as a clickable image and the jpeg ends up as a black page. I wonder what I have done wrong in my installation of freemind or what it is that I am doing wrong when exporting the files.
What I learned while doing this workshop is that at least anybody should be able to search for material of their own interest or use within blogs and that google will not find everything that is out there. My recommendation for finding the needles in the hay stack of information overload is clusty. This clustering engine does include the option of searching just within blogs as a meta-search engine using the results of several blog tracking services.
“to blog or not to blog” is not even a question. Not all feel the desire to write a book or to become a politician although the possibilities are available to all, so it is with blogging too.