Blogging as dialogue is interesting

May 16, 2008

I received a comment on my last post from PodTech and it was quite interesting how this impacted on me. When I re-read the post I felt a bit guilty as it did quite ‘lay into’ PodTech a little bit and, actually, my grievance wasn’t even about them, it was about WordPress’s hosting setup and issues around the possibility of embedding audio in hosted blogs without subscribing.

In their comment, PodTech clarified that their service is essentially a kind of content-sharing site for commercial purposes rather than a site that hosts the content of individuals, so that was useful to know and also helped me to make more sense of the setup of the site, in that it’s more like a media channel than a hosting service. As a media channel, the layout isn’t, then, as ‘unruly’ as I suggested. *grin*

I also realised that I must have read WordPress’s commentary on audioblogging incorrectly as they can’t have suggested you ‘upload’ your audio as PodTech doesn’t offer that feature to general users. Just goes to show, you should read the small print more carefully before you rant and rave! *chuckle*

And, to be fair, on a revisit to PodTech, they do actually have some interesting content. I guess I got caught up in my rant and saw only what I wanted to see. There’s this interesting clip from the Scoble series, for example, on the Meosphere:

[podtech content=]

I really like the graphical meosphere, sounds pretty cool. I think I’m going to investigate this site a little bit more. The graphical element reminded me a lot of a cool book I read once about the interconnectivity of things and ways of mapping them: Total Interaction.

So, I almost feel like an apology is in order… you know, a bit like those you get in the physical media… sorry, we got it wrong… *wry grin* So, apologies, PodTech, you’re not the culprit and you’re not as ‘unruly’ as I thought at first glance.


Whose content?

May 10, 2008

I decided, today, to check out PodTech, the site that WordPress recommends you use if you want to embed audio in your blog. It was really rather an interesting outing. It’s true, as they say, that there’s no such thing a s a ‘free lunch’… in reality, then, it seems, there’s no such thing as ‘free’ hosting either. I found this set of aggregated news on PodTech over at the tech news company VentureBeat – it really made me think about the rationale behind ‘free’ content hosting on the web and what companies true intentions are, the underlying activities linked to the user experience that they employ to generate profits, because, let’s face it, truth be told… a company that’s not in profit eventually is dead in the water… as can be seen from VB’s tracking of PodTech and it’s financial/content construction troubles.

I wanted to find a solution because, although I can do what I want blogwise, hosting my own solution and mixing and matching related services pretty much as I please, because I have the technical know-how… others whom I help to use blogging in their teaching don’t have that option and need something easy, flexible, quick, reliable and so on.

This whole thing around content aggregation and embedding content and the application of rules to that activity have really got me thinking, though… and it’s the first time, really, I’ve come up against this use/subscribe dichotomy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think people should receive payment for their work and we couldn’t use these online services if someone wasn’t generating the technology to enable us to do so… but I do object to being forced to participate in certain ways… for example, I don’t even like the content on offer over at PodTech, so why would I want to go there? The site is unruly, difficult to follow – it’s not even clear if they allow users to host their own content there… Weird! I would be happy to subscribe to a secure online space that only I control… from which I could embed content onto a blog… I hate the ‘acquisition of content’ rules hosting services embed into their Terms and Conditions… in which the user basically rescinds pretty much all rights/control over content they host in these spaces. At the moment it seems to be pretty much balanced in favour of the host rather than the owner… and whilst I understand that the hosts need freedom to distribute/share content… the fact that many of them also want the right to chop it/repurpose it, etc. makes me nervous!

I think there’s a very real tension here between a company’s need to generate profits and to retain flexible control over the content they host and the user’s need for privacy, security and control over their own content.

Playing with the interface

May 6, 2008

I continue to find myself intrigued by the hosted WordPress interface and the machinations that go on ‘under the hood’ as it were. Using the drop down tabs again, I discovered a facility called the ‘tag surfer’ today. Made me laugh. Basically it’s a facility that allows you to link in to other posts which share the tags you use, on the premise that these will be of interest to you. All in all, as you might expect, it’s pretty much a hit and miss affair… I found the array of photographs from the Bellingham community blog (reflected in my ‘community’ tag) completely irrelevant to my own blogging interests but weirdly interesting. I do find the ways that WordPress offers features designed to get you to go beyond your own portal quite fascinating… I’m not quite sure why as yet. Need to think on that some more. Has something to do with audience, captive activity and time flying out of your hands!

Addendum… adding tags for this post… had me wondering what the automatic tag surfer was going to throw up… especially in response to ‘audience’ – *grin*


May 3, 2008

I’ve been trying for half an hour now to embed some audio into my WordPress hosted blog. I don’t want to upload my audio files to WordPress as I’d rather retain control over them, so I uploaded them to my own server. I am able to link to my WordPress blog but I can’t embed a media player on the blog page.

In order to upload audio files to your hosted WordPress blog, you need to purchase an upgrade… well, that’s not really the issue for me, because I just don’t want to host my audio on WordPress, I want to host it on my own server. They suggest that embedding is not possible because of security issues.

This is such a basic html activity, I can hardly believe it! It’s extremely frustrating, annoying and, if this is the kind of thing you want to do… it really accelerates your emotive interactions with the tool (and the developers beyond the interface).

Another alternative they propose is that you upload your audio to PodTech and embed the file using their embed code, much as you would with a YouTube video… that’s all very well, but again it does not give you the added security or privacy needs you might want when dealing with, for example, speech files. Grrr.

YouTube Back Online

May 3, 2008

So, it appears YouTube has just gone back online. Interesting interlude. I’ve been collecting pics around the web for the last half-hour or so – makes for quite an amusing historiography of an online blip in service, not to mention the birth of the online myth.

No embedded movie from YouTube

Embedded YouTube video disappears from my site.

YouTube Outage

YouTube definitely offline.

YouTube outage

Fellow blogger Shane also puzzled.

CN reports YouTube down

CN reports on YouTube outage and suggests DNS issues.

YouTube outage

The beginning of an urban myth? Could it really be that Google forgot to renew the YouTube domain?

YouTube down

The discussion reaches Twitter.

YouTube DNS

Klaus tracks down the missing site using the DNS number.

YouTube back online

Just browsing and suddenly I notice that YouTube is back online and bearing the youtube URL once again. I check my ePortfolio blog just to be sure…

YouTube back online

And there it is, and so the story ends.

Commenting as social networking

May 3, 2008

Very interesting. Following on from my blog entry below. I was writing on today’s YouTube outage on my ePortfolio blog when I received a comment from a fellow blogger. It was a weird feeling, like I had suddenly, somehow, become part of the ‘news-as-it-happens’… Anyway, I was really pleased to learn more about the outage via Shane’s blog as, when I’d searched for news about it on the web, I hadn’t been able to find anything. So, commenting as a form of social networking – now evidenced. Very cool.

Blogging interactions

May 3, 2008

I’ve had some interesting experiences with this IC experiment today. I received some comments for the first time… two sets from people I’ve met personally, one spam comment. The whole activity of interacting with comments was interesting to me. The comment from Tim was work-related and useful… links to some info around a workshop on ePortfolios… and reading that comment made me think about the different ways Tim could have communicated that information to me (e.g. by email, by phone, by talking) and what, if anything, sense of difference having it on the blog as a comment made to me… The following notions came to mind:

1. The link was a ‘within system’ link – i.e. not ‘out from an email’ to the web but rather web-to-web.
2. Evidence of Tim’s metalevel thinking about the context of the message ‘this social-networking’ made me smile.
3. My reading of the message was made ‘in context’ and that made the blog somehow something more useful.
4. Having the message ‘within blog’ made it both personal and public, for me and for others.
5. I liked the idea of the blog generating a dialogue… and that’s not something, generally, I perceive through emails… and perhaps that has something to do with notions of permanency and visibility and sharing around blog comments.

I also enjoyed Lucinda’s comments which were different again and… more of a reflective/cross-contextual dialogue… exploring each other’s perspectives around blogging and the use of technology for learning. So, whereas Tim’s comment provided me with information and was, in that sense, purposeful. Lucinda’s comments made me think and reflect about my blog, about the content of my blog and the wider contexts and to think around those things ‘in the eyes of the other’… so, in a sense, Lucinda as audience amplified my thinking around the blog and it’s purpose… and instead of a representation of my thinking, it became a space for dialogic conversation which was pretty cool.

Another thing that struck me about the commenting was how these were managed and communicated within the hosted blogging environment. I received an email for all comments the blogging tool ‘perceived’ to be acceptable but didn’t receive any for those that the blogging tool ‘decided’ were spam (one of which included Tim’s comment). Looking at the two sets of comments, I wondered upon what principles the software was making these ‘decisions’… and felt that Tim’s was designated to be spam because it had multiple links within the comment and the second spam comment (which was one) had irrelevant and incoherent random wording. Lucinda’s comments, on the other hand, were coherent narratives. Another thought that struck me was the time required to deal with comments, whether that be thinking time, responding time or just management time… On the whole, to receive feedback was a positive experience… and useful… but at the same time, it does engender some work on the part of the blogger, in terms of interacting with the audience. Interesting.

Anyway, enough on ‘social’ interactions… some other interactions were interesting to me also – primarily because of my interest in technology tools and, it seems to me, that each time I log into the hosted blog, I notice new things.

So, in checking out the comments feature, I noticed also that WordPress operates a recommendations feature… providing links to posts it feels are/may be of relevance/interest to the posts you are making. That intrigued me… and made me think around notions of the semantic web. I checked the posts out and they were relatively similar areas of interest but only one was of particular interest to me and, that, only momentarily. I wondered whether the links were made through patterns within tags on posts… along folksonomy lines.

WordPress Recommendations

Then I noticed another thing (which I liked) – a drop down tab system at the top of the screen that enables you to switch easily between your WordPress hosted blogs (if you have multiple ones). Nice.

Dashboard Drop Tab in WordPress