Becoming a blogger: a short memoir

I am fascinated by the concept of personal branding and have often read and cited Tom Peters’ seminal and inspiring 1997 article on this “The Brand Called You” Nowadays, a key part of our personal brand is what we put on social networking sites. On Twitter, we can write a short description which summarises us – our personal brand as we want other users to see it.

This explains the significance of the Twitter description I posted a couple of weeks ago, which begins:

“Tutor, course designer, blogger, Chartered Accountant, MA student…”

The new, and surprising, word is “blogger”. In less than eight weeks, blogging has become not just something I do but part of my identity, my personal brand – who I am. I appreciate that I am following a well-trodden path here among educators. Steve Wheeler, a man at the top of the field, who has much more experience in this than I have, set out his thoughts in a recent blog post:

“From personal experience blogging is one of the most beneficial professional development activities I have ever engaged with. I learn more from blogging than I do from almost any other activity I participate in.”

I agree, and have discovered my own reasons why this is so for me. Maybe my new vocation is not so surprising. As described in a previous blog post, I have enjoyed writing for many years, and went through a sustained period of keeping a reflective journal (I called it a diary then) twenty years ago. I have wondered from time to time about starting a blog. But I did not – fear, lack of technical skills, children arriving, work pressures – various factors held me back.

However, my OU course (module H808) requires that we keep a blog to facilitate reflection, and it also provides a ready-made “starter” audience – my tutor and fellow students, who give feedback and encouragement, although my audience has steadily widened as I have gone on. So I was pushed into the water and learned to swim. I have discovered for myself how much I enjoy the writing, which is a spur to formulating my thoughts and reflecting. Monitoring blog statistics provides instant feedback that is gratifying and a spur to continue. Comments received, where someone has actually taken the trouble to read what I have written and respond, are a tremendous compliment. Some blog posts have led to further discussions on Twitter, where you can find all kinds of interesting people.

So, by introducing me to blogging, the course has turned written reflection into a regular habit, and brought my reflections into a dialogue that can include the world. This has been incredibly satisfying.

Along with the practice of blogging, I have had to learn the necessary technical skills. This has been an interesting learning process – technical skills do not really form an “official” part of the H808 syllabus. Instead, the course puts us in a position where we are encouraged and enabled to go out and acquire these skills for ourselves. In this, the course reflects a major shift in learning.

I am still adjusting to this. When I was growing up, you found out about things by reading a book about them, or asking an expert. So I was looking for a good book about WordPress, but had not found one that seemed right. One of my colleagues at work runs a successful blog about gaming, so I asked him if he could recommend any resources on WordPress. He clearly thought this was an odd question, but was too polite to say so. “Errr, Google?” he suggested, then, bringing up his WordPress page, thought again. “Actually, pretty much everything I’ve learned has been from just fiddling about.”

This is of course the only feasible approach. So far, by “fiddling about”, I have managed to set up my WordPress blog, choosing a theme to make it look better, linking it to my Twitter feed, adding pages about me and the blog itself, and finding out how to create private posts. I know I am only starting – further use of themes and photos are the next step. I can see others doing great things with WordPress and it should be fun finding out how.

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5 Comments

Filed under H808 the eLearning Professional

5 responses to “Becoming a blogger: a short memoir

  1. Well done on the writing of this very honest account. I think you have covered all bases with this account of your journey. My advice is … never give up, make sure you post regularly, and when you receive a reply, try to respond to it. It makes all the difference. Welcome to the blogosphere!

    • Steve, many thanks for your comments, and I will certainly follow the advice. I find your blog and Twitter stream very interesting and a valuable example. The blogosphere is a good place to be.

  2. Amanda Williams

    Hi Daniel,
    As a distraction from all the work I meant to be doing I am reading about the philosophy behind yoga – from that persective and to misquote Douglas Adams “identity is an illusion, personal brands even more so”. There is a certain amount of tension I think between media that purport to break down barriers and improve communication while at the same time forcing each of us more and more into managed, highly individuated little boxes. Increased individuation comes with a dark side (see Beck, Risk Society, 1985) – are we all taking on our own reputational risk with inept (not you – you are adept) dabbling in new media?
    Anyway, I have now clearly branded myself as a bit of an old hippy! This may also explain why I have a dreadful time describing myself on twitter…
    Amanda (hippy, chartered accountant, teacher, philosopher, knitter….)

    • You will always be beyond categorisation Amanda…

      Construction of identity in social media – wow, must be several PhDs in that. I am going wildly outside my expertise here, but surely the idea of personal branding is not new, even if the phrase is it goes back at least to the Roman emperors). There has always been a gap between how others see us and who we “really” are as far as we are concerned. And there have always been attempts to manage the way others see us. Social media gives us more channels to do this management but, by being immediate and public, also raises the stakes.

      So yes, I do think inept dabbling in social media carries reputational risk. That’s why it is vital that everyone is educated so that they can use social media appropriately, and with awareness of these risks. It isn’t innate or necessarily obvious. This is education worth investing in.

  3. Pingback: Going back to study – personal reflections on what I have learned so far | learningshrew

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