Thursday, September 15, 2005

Last Update

This blog is in essay format, and structured to be read from the top to bottom. Other than this particular posting, the dates are just a convention used to order the elements of this site. Elements of this blog site were last updated September 15, 2005, 3:13 pm.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Blog Thinking

Blog thinking provides a radical simplification of web publishing & communication. How radical? Raw beginners to the Internet can have a blog site running in minutes and updated and extended with ease. Experienced web designers were shocked when they discovered how simple it could be. Are you able to use email now? Blogging can make email look hard.

Though this blog site focuses on explanation of blogging, blogging is also just one of the conceptual elements that is driving a new grand scheme for cyberspace, a direction that has been titled Web 2.0. This change is more akin to a movement, a sweeping transformation to a second generation conceptualization of the Internet. Once you've gained an understanding of blogging, push on to its sister applications within Web 2.0.

A Brief Introduction to Blogging

All kinds of problems are headed off and advances made by timely presentation and discussion of ideas and events. Blog is short for web log, a largely automated way to post information to the Web. Blogging is one of the latest communication innovations that speeds up the sharing of information and the formation of community. The nature of blogging must also be seen as a concept that has built on deep and largely hidden philosophical roots (Deflem, 1996; Dewey, 1916; Habermas, 1984), roots that seem unconsciously contributing to the ongoing nova of blog invention (

The best blogs have developed writing and communication styles that are honest, conversational, colloquial, and interactive which builds loyalty and mutual trust. This page will explore the blog concept, provide examples, build a blog, discuss search tools and new developments, and consider their values and limitations. Blogging is not only the simplest and quickest way to manage communication with a larger and widely distributed group, it is truly simple and quick. This is equally true for blog communication using text, images, audio or video.

Sharing and reacting to information is one of the most basic communication skills. Using blogs to facilitate this invokes all four major problem solving functions of computers and the Web. All kinds of news needs rapid distribution. Doing this personally with those standing around us is simple and quick. But most of us must deal with a much larger group of individuals who cannot reach us when we are available and we often cannot reach them when they are. For example, teachers are busy in their classrooms and parents are busy at work. Communicating with these larger widely distributed groups is seldom simple and never quick. Most blog systems not only make posting simple, but provide links for comments or replies, which can be made visible or invisible to other readers.

These blogging features have numerous advantages for educators working with a classroom full of children and their families for months at a time. The concept also has the same general application to any group and one individual might manage a blog for each of their major social groups. That is, an entrepreneur might have separate blogs for communicating with business partners and customers and while a company team might use a blog to track ongoing project activity. Despite the advantages of blogs, the 2005 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project showed that more than 62% of Internet users do not know what blogging and its related terms such as RSS mean.

What are some examples of a Blog?

If you had never seen a book, hearing a description of a book would be useful and yet lead to a very limited understanding of books. Nothing beats getting your hands on a wide variety of books to better know their value. Knowing that a blog is a kind of online journal with date and time stamped postings of information to a web site suffers from the same problem. Consequently, use the links below to jump into a few of these blogs and give them a skim. Millions of blogs are currently available on the Internet for searching and browsing. Some are actually worth reading. To find a blog site for your interests, search Google for "blog" and add subject of choice. Make your own judgments on this set below. News of more highly rated blogs in these and other categories is always welcome.

Social Studies: ; ; (business)

Books and Reading: You have to scroll this page a bit before you realize its a blog; Waterboro Library Blog

Blogs for Kid Writers: BlogMeister

Technology: ; Weblogg-ed ; ; ; edtech insider

Teaching: Blackboard Jungle; Edublog Insights; Hip Teacher; Ms. Frizzle

Educational Administration: Teacher of the Year - Curriculum Director ; ; Tim Lauer's blog, principal of Meriwether Lewis Elementary School in Portland, Oregon ;
Eduwonk ; Number 2 Pencil

Multimedia Blogs: image, audio and text: iThink Blog (by Bob Houghton)

Science: ;

Writing: Education Bloggers Network ; (college freshman) ; ; Teaching Blog Teacher's point of view

Mathematics: ; Blog of a Math Teacher

Instead of blog categories, another approach would be to explore the top 100 "power" blog writers voted most influential. If use of a blog site goes beyond professional needs to be used for school classroom needs, examine it for thoroughly to determine if the writer covers topics or uses titles or language inappropriate for younger people.

What are free/fee ways to get started making a blog?

To blog requires blogging style software running on your local networked computer of your own or a hosted service. Long lists of web hosting services or blogware applications themselves are readily available. Some users have taken the time to provide annotated reviews of blog services and make comparison tables of blogware options but choices and features change frequently, so doing your own research is essential to having current information. Free services include free hosting services and free blog server software, in contrast to paying a fee for more features or buying blog server software.

The quick approach is to use one of the free big three blog hosting services which includes Blogger, MSNspaces and Yahoo 360. I've tried all three and find it easiest to start people using, a company recently purchased by Google. Their procedure for creating a blog is clear, simple and fast. Unless you browse the Tour and explanation links extensively, the setup and first posting takes just a few minutes. The opening web page of the site reviews the first steps:

  1. Create an account. This means working out a username and password.
  2. Name your blog. Is your name related to its content?
  3. Choose a template. This can be changed easily at some future point without starting over.

After these 3 steps, all that is left is to post a first comment. Use this link to get started and get your first comment posted.

Blogger has major competitors and detractors. Walter Mossberg's Wall Street Journal column on blog creation (2005) ranked MSN Spaces first, Yahoo 360 second (not publicly available until July 2005) and put in third. The two major factors in his ranking were control over private viewing and ease of photo management. Weighing these services for educators and adding in two other factors, I rank as first, MSN Spaces second, and Yahoo 360 third. Mossberg perhaps did not have the space to tell the rest of the story in setting up private or protected blog site viewing. From my perspective, he took a too narrow viewing of photo management for blogging. I also add in the factor of simple podcasting support, that is the potential to add audio to a blog posting, which MSNspaces and Yahoo 360 do not provide at all. Most important for beginners, blog design templates are not provided by Yahoo 360.

He notes that is the exception in not providing the possibility of private access to view a blog site. As that is a longer story, it will require its own heading for the details. The short answer is that the approach to private-view blogging provided by Microsoft and Yahoo should not be used by K-12 educators, making this factor irrelevant in the rankings. As to whether others will find the complexities of the privacy process worth negotiating, the market will decide.

He also felt that's approach to photos was a hassle. There are points to quibble with in his review: he was misleading in his observation that one cannot quickly and easily add narration to a photo; he left out mention that this is easy when editing with Blogger's editor just not provided with the application used in uploading images. What he concluded was a problem of's design for uploading photos using the Picasa photo editor, I find a powerful free application whose features are essential to effectively editing a photo before sharing it. It is rare that a photo does not need some retouching before public display.

It should also be noted that within 8 days of the Mossberg article, Blogger had provided added an icon to its editor page for putting pictures in blogs. See picture on the right.

Further, Mossberg's comments failed to discuss audio uploading and podcasting for beginners, which only Blogger provides for free and in a design of great simplicity. That said, Mossberg's review of the big three blog services will stimulate important debate about features for those getting started with blogging.

Private or Protected Viewing of a Blog Site

Private or protected viewing and commenting for a blog site has many valuables uses. All three of the majors,, MSNspaces and Yahoo 360 provide features to control the leaving of comments on a posting. As of June, 2005, only MSNspaces and Yahoo 360 have a blogging feature that allows blog owners to set up private viewing of a blog, but controlling who views your blog site, as with controlling who leaves comments, comes with an annoying but unavoidable catch.

The unavoidable catch is in the registration process. In order for someone to see a private blog page at all, whether they wish to leave comments or not, anyone that you wish to allow must follow the links provided in an invitation email and register or sign in for an account at Yahoo 360 or with Microsoft, whether they want an account or not. Every time your students or friends choose to view this view-protected blog, they will have to login with this username and password. It will not be enough to remember and enter the blog's web address. In order to see the blog, they will have to remember to use a special web address to register so that they can then see a different web page, the blog site itself.

The first time they register, the MSNspaces or Yahoo 360 blog account owner will receive indication that they are now officially registered. With Yahoo 360, they are recognized but placed in the blog owners account under Uncategorized. You will next have to move them from this un-category to the category name that you created when building the list of those who can have private viewing and commenting.

This forced approach to building Microsoft or Yahoo membership will have two negative effects. First, many of those who do register to see a friend's blog will not create a blog of their own or use membership features further, grossly inflating the numbers for company membership. They become members in name only. They will be potentially confused by many offers and invitations to other things that will appear on their registration screens. Second, once educators realize that others will be forced to go through multiple step account registration that provides Microsoft or Yahoo with their students' email addresses, they will be unlikely to set up private viewing.

This process will be a significant problem for K-12 and post-secondary educators who should set up private viewing and commenting for a class of students, but will be unwilling to put their students and families through these requirement wringers. Further, some students will get tripped up in the registration process, generating email support questions for the educator.

For K12 educators, this erosion of teacher and parent control will be a show stopper. Every time their child has to sign in, in order to see a classroom's blog, Microsoft and Yahoo who will throw up screens with numerous invitations at them to do other things not on the teacher's agenda. It seems likely that these screens will also come with advertisements, with nothing to prevent them from including salacious commercials such as those that appear in the sidebars of my wife's Microsoft hotmail account.

If nothing else, this will spur school districts and educators to buy control for these problems. They might do this by buying their own blogging software and running it on their own servers. They could also do this by buying network access to online blog software designed for schools, such as Adding control always comes with management overhead headaches.

Which search engines hunt content in blogs?

A specialized blog search engine is not always the best first approach to finding the hot blog. For example try a web search with something like best book blog or best technology blog or best science blog and explore your results. On the other hand if you wish to search the content of what folks are writing in their blogs, blog search engines are essential. These specialized search engines update their search databases at least daily whereas large search sites such as Google are updating just once a month.

Blog search engines include: ; ; ; ; ; ;

What makes a blog of value?

Why blog? Thousands of pieces on "why blogging" have been written. A greater contribution might be made by considering how to make a blog a valuable one.

What makes a blog of value? One might also ask why do we read. We do so to be informed and stimulated. This implies that the author is writing about something that they are knowledgeable about, poses opinions and ideas that shake up the standard thinking from time to time, communicates clearly, and is effective at keeping a discussion going once it starts. This also implies a group that needs to share and inform each other. This makes blogs valuable to all, from community groups to classroom groups. Blogs also are valuable for their global system of syndication, an almost instantaneous form of distribution that will be addressed later.

Those writing characteristics are important to good teaching in the classroom, and to effectively teaching writing as well. Blogs have the potential to play an important role in teaching the reading and writing process. But the publicly available nature of blogs needs modifying for classroom use. Teachers and their students need a more protected way to learn to write and to blog; they need some privacy and mechanisms for controlling who can read and comment on the blogs. Computer programmers have been creating blogging systems that meet such requirements for classroom use, systems that keep the teacher in control of approving written pieces before they appear in the student blog. The link above to BlogMeister leads to a site and blog model designed by a North Carolina educator with classroom teachers in mind.

In the classic blog format, blogs vary in the degree of connectedness of their postings. Some stay close to their overall theme and others are extreme ramblings related to the spark of the moment. But blogs have value because they can be re-invented. Instead of a series of disconnected thoughts in diary style spread out over time, they can also represent a coherent essay. Each heading in the blog can represent a different heading in an composition. The headings are put in order by the date, so editing the date changes their place in the sequence. The essay you are reading has been duplicated as a blog to demonstrate this. By turning on the comments feature, writers can gather comments about each section of their composition. These comments can be further edited within the section or posting itself, creating a kind of continuous modification system until such time that the sections of the composition might be copied to a word processor or web page for further publication, whether in a magazine, refereed journal, or web site. The blog might remain as the "live" publication with the journal or web publication just a snapshot in time in the life of the blog. The web page could then updated from the blog as frequently as the author chose. I've coined the term partner blog for this concept in paring a blog with other forms of sharing. The blog might also be closed down once the journal article was published, a one-shot blog approach that somehow seems out-of-date with the 21st century.

For those with more developed writing skills and those with sufficient experience to have something to share, blogs start out with an inherent advantage over many forms of information distribution. Their easy to post and comment qualities allow fast response to thinking, events and news. Because good blog posters add their information daily or even more often, blogs are one of the most current forms of information available, faster than all other news sources. Further, some blog search systems update their indexing data daily. This means the information you search for in blog sites has the added value of being as current as the last few minutes.

Audio Blogs - Podcasting

Blogs are not limited to sharing words and text. Blog sites now also routinely share audio files, including telephone messages, voices and music. Terms like audioblogging, audblog and more recently podcasting have been coined to describe a new form of radio station, an online on-demand source of audio (Google search for audio blog). The term Webjay has replaced DJ as the person who selects the audio files to be shared at a given web site. The growth in the number of people in the U.S. using computers to listen to radio has grown to over 50 million people, showing 18% growth in 2005 while traditional radio listenership, though huge, fell 4% (Hesseldahl, 2005), a total hovering around 200 million people each day. Experience an audio blog by putting headphones on or crank up your speaker volume. Click the listen button at NPR or click the image of the audioblog site from The Nation site below.

Click image for larger display.

Audio blogs are creating a new form of radio. The term podcasting (, 2005) was coined to describe the process of going one step further and using blog sites to send web-based audio files to Apple Computer's ubiquitous player of mp3 files, iTunes, and then passing these files on to their portable player, the iPod. This way, the listener could download and listen anywhere to a wide variety of audio files from music to specialty news, corporate reports, lectures, comedy and other entertainment shows. Making an audio file be heard on a web page, an audio blog, is easy. Getting that audio file to automatically download through syndication for playing requires RSS 2.0 coding, sometimes referred to as a wrapper. This takes another step or two beyond just saving the audio file.

Podcasting has quickly moved from amateur experiments to marketplace impact (Nesbitt, 2005). On June 28, 2005 Apple made version 4.9 of iTunes available for download that included audio feeds via RSS syndication. In the first two days after it was made available, their iTunes audio play system logged over 1 million podcasts downloaded out of a pool of just 3,000 files (Podcasting News, 2005). Thousands more are still available.

The podcast term later took on a more generic meaning. Podcasting now refers to moving audio files to any portable digital audio player or to any computer and cell phone player capable of downloading and playing audio files. A podcast is then any audio composition created and made available for Internet sharing using blogs and other Internet communication forms. Users can register or subscribe to the postings of many blog sites, and very quickly receive the files or receive notice of the availability of the podcasts. This subscription process, called syndication, will be described in greater detail below. Sequenced in whatever fashion listeners would like on their own hard drives, each user becomes the organizer of their own personal radio collection.

The collection of sites offering podcast syndication of their content is diverse and significant. It includes major radio broadcasters, TV network broadcasters, major newspapers, and more. A partial list of major providers of podcasts as of May, 2005 included Clear Channel, NPR, Rush Limbaugh, ESPN, ABC News, NBC News, TV Guide, Sundance, BBC, Yahoo, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Washington Post, Denver Post, Seattle Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Disney, Warner Bros. Pictures, Ford, General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and General Motors.

A rush of companies has emerged providing a variety of audio blogging and podcasting services. These include: [free] Telcaster (& article); AudioBlogger but need SmartCast to put audio files in RSS enclosures for syndication; Odeo (which can talk the talk of online creation but not walk the walk yet, their blog & screenshots); [fee] BlogMatrix Sparks!; Liberated Syndication ;; AudioBlog; [tools] EasyPodcast ; Poderator; MixCast Live; CastBlaster ($50); Podcastrigs Forum; DopplerRadio. Expect further rapid growth of such options.

Standard tower based radio stations have taken notice of the availability of the thousands of these podcasts. As an example of the appeal of the podcasting format, Infinity Broadcasting, a radio operator of more than 180 stations in the United States, has converted its San Francisco AM station, 1550 KYCY, to the world's first all-podcast format as of May, 2005 (Jardin, 2005, May). The station requests and screens digital audio files from their broadcast and Internet audience and plays them. It also makes these compositions available for download from their web pages The satellite radio service called Sirius is also offering a podcasting channel. Your podcast might be playing on someone's car radio.
Always wanted to have your own radio station? This required some "out of the box" thinking from net innovators but it now works. By thinking about audio distribution in a new way, blogging makes it not only possible but easy for entities and individuals to leverage both the concept and the power of radio in a way to fit their budget.

Podcasting IS Ready for the Masses

Podcasting IS ready for the masses, contrary to the Wall Street Journal's first look into the subject by Mossberg (2005). Though misinformation about easy to use tools might appear to slow down development, new podcasts already arrive faster than the iTunes Podcast Directory team can screen and add them to this free online library. In fact there is no homogeneous mass of users, rather a very wide range of experience. There is a gradient from very easy to professional resources that provides a great set of stepping stones for all ranges of those interested making their own podcasts.

The most elemental approach is to let someone else do it. For those who never want to touch the technology but have something to say or share, entrepreneurs are opening businesses that provide drop-in services or bring a portable studio to your home or office. One example is Palegroove Studios, found at They will not only produce the podcast, but see to it that it appears online. Will we really see a proliferation of podcast stores and delivery cars that say Podcast on top instead of Pizza? Will radio stations which have all the necessary expertise and technology create their own operations to compete, perhaps expanding their audience by creating podcast shows that play some of what they help the community produce? Leave your thoughts at the comment link below.

Beginners willing to touch a computer just need what one might call blog simple. has a bullet-proof approach which requires but a cell phone, and the capacity to discover Blogger Help's add-on features which lead one to audio account set up at I have been using this service for over a year. Dial one number, enter the phone number selected as your password, and everything recorded up to five minutes or until the pound key is pressed on the phone automatically becomes an mp3 file. The designated blog site automatically creates a post, and shows a play icon in the posting to visitors. "Look Ma, no hands!" Presto an audio blog that any user of the Web can play. Without visiting your computer and running an application, the audio blog is available, though returning later to add comments, pictures or notations can add much to the message. For example, see my post with podcast, text and picture.

But its not quite a podcast, capable of RSS syndicating with blog news readers, and synchronizing to download with mobile mp3 players. To do this, change the blog site's feed to Feedburner (as is the case with this blog site), putting the Feedburner link in a column on the page. Then, turn on linking and copy the HTML address location of the audio file into the link field. That's it.

More advanced users of have additional options. For those with HTML editing experience, the code for the icon can be pointed to any audio file stored in a web account anywhere. That is, any podcast uploaded to a personal web account can be pointed to (linked) from your blog site.

More features add complexity but also add appeal and nuance. Professional standards for audio add music backgrounds, bumpers, and other devices to monologue or conversation or add lead-in dialog to music. Each layer of music can be thought of as a track. Software can be used to do what a radio or music studio can do, bring different layers together, merge them into one file, and post them online. This "studio" software can be found as desktop applications or web-based applications. Curiously, both of them are called GarageBand.

The web site called GarageBand offers the next easiest step to creating a podcast. It plans to provide phone call-in of audio as does but will go one step further and make the call toll-free. In the meantime, it currently provides features for uploading audio files created elsewhere directly to Podcast Studio, a Web-based tool used to record, mix with already created songs found at the site and publish a podcast. They currently also offer over 40,000 music podcasts for great listening and downloading. Watching a short movie of a podcast production (click the links under stream or download) in which microphones and desktop computer applications are used instead of cell phones may provide better understanding of the process and concept instead of just reading about it.

More outfits are waiting in the wings with podcast creation tools, such as Odeo, a new hot start-up, with co-founder Evan Williams who was also co-founder of Pyra, bought by Google and turned into They too are promising soon to be ready to record, mix and publish with phone-in and audio file upload services. Would you leave a comment if you know of more competitors in this area?

At a higher level of skills, the Sound Recorder application that comes from with the Windows operating system can provide basic recording but in a format that will still need conversion and compression for web play.The application shipping with the Macintosh computer called GarageBand also provides a rich set of desktop tools for composing music, recording and mixing tracks. (The name is unrelated to the GarageBand web site, creating some confusion in the marketplace.) GarageBand offers a rich set of tools and sound loops for actually creating a song itself. Their web site provides a walk-through of the steps involved for podcasting, whether a created song or dialog. An inexpensive cross-platform tool can be found in Quicktime 7.0 which provides audio recording and conversion to the necessary formats for web play. Competitors like ePodcast Creator and Producer will work cross-platform and simplify the process.

Higher quality audio requires more professional equipment and an even higher skill level. Information on podcast setups with real microphones and other tools are not hard to find, e.g.: $100 U.S. Roadhouse design; or $200 U.S. BSW's podcast packages. More sophisticated software for multi-track audio is readily available, including: SoundTrack Pro; Audacity; and ProTools among many. See a Google search for "podcast setup" to sift for more studio combinations.

The intense focus on podcasting may be overlooking an unintended but positive long term benefit, podcasting entrepreneurship. At the highest level are professional recording studios such as those long employed in the creation of records and music CDs by orchestras, bands and others. As quality counts, the expanding horde of podcasters will generate a growing number interested in paying for audio recording done at the highest level. As use of podcasts grows, advertisers will provide commercials and sponsorships to go with the podcasts. The very highest interest and quality podcasts will be able to require a subscription.

Where to start? Even given their five minute limit per recording, I find's cell phone arrangement for podcasting to be current champion of lowest cost and least effort. There is no limit to the number of 5 minute postings that can be made. Whatever your choice, get busy and plan your podcasts.

The Blogosphere Show - Simple Podcasting Systems

this is an audio post - click to play

Click above to listen.

Only a single phone is needed to create a podcast. But what if you want to include someone on another phone or phones in the podcast? Office phones often have a Conference button, as in the picture on the left. The general procedure is to get someone on the line, tap the conference button and dial the next number, then tap the Conference button to bring all the parties together again. More than 3 can be connected in this way. Make the last one connected be the blog recorder call.

Home phones often have speakers. If your home phone services do not offer conferencing, the picture on the right shows a workaround solution. Both the speakerphone and the cell phone shown in the picture on the right are needed if someone at a distance needs to participate. a desktop phone with conference buttonOtherwise the audio will be higher quality if phone conferencing is used to make a three party call, with the third party being the audio service.

To start an audio conference with the design in the picture, I begin holding the cell phone next to my head for some initial comments of mine, then set it on the speaker phone to record others. The picture shows what this home audio-conference setup looks like for podcasting.

Here's the transcript of this 3 minute 17 second podcast.

"This is another podcast in the Blogosphere Show with Bob Houghton speaking. Welcome to this podcast on simple podcasting systems. This is a test of using my cell phone for automated podcasting. I'm using my cell phone as a microphone to record an audio conference using a speaker phone. When I finish recording and tap the # key on my cell phone, I have the option of replaying it, deleting it, or immediately posting it to one of my blog sites as an mp3 file. If I post it, when my blog site is opened, an icon for playing the audio file is visible and plays with a single click.

Here's what I'm doing right now. The current most simple set up I can think of is to open the cell phone and place it on its side on top of the speaker phone. The speaker phone is sitting on top of an upended standard size box of Kleenex to put the phones close to my lips. The microphone within a cell phone only records well within a very short distance. Within the speaker phone, I have the phone number I'm calling on speed dial so the tap of a single key will dial. This procedure will waste as little cell phone time as possible.

To test this equipment without interrupting someone else, find a local number that plays a tape of information, such as a movie theatre that plays a recording of its shows and showtimes. I'll dial that now.

[I put the cell phone down on the speaker phone. The phone rings, the tape answers, and I talk over pieces of the playing tape which forces the speaker phone to silence the theater recording until I stop talking.]

At the moment the speaker phone is still sitting approximately some 7 to 8 inches away from me. I'm going to pick it up now and put the cell phone next to my head. I'm putting it next to my face in the usual manner. You should now hear the voice quality improve somewhat. The free web posting service that I'm using is through a sign up with which in turn uses a service called Audioblogger.

For better recording quality, plug a headphone set with microphone into your cell phone. This allows you to experiment with positioning the speaker phone and your lips further away from the cell phone and still have decent recording quality. However, it does require you to remember to carry around a headphone set to carry this out.

This is the Blogsphere Show and Bob Houghton. Check for other broadcasts." END OF PODCAST

Listening to this piece may raise questions about both cost and quality. Assuming you have a national cell phone calling plan, the cost of calling's California number is just in your cell phone minutes. If your podcasting is official company work, then there is no additional cost to be the "host" of a podcast. is planning to offer a toll free number for podcasting to further open the opportunity for participation. Audio quality varies greatly with the quality of the microphones and related knowledge and software. The audio quality of a recording is not as crisp as a live phone conversation because it is compressed in making it an mp3 file. The above design in the picture on the right is further lowered in quality by using a cell phone microphone to record the sound from a speaker phone.

Higher quality audio requires more professional equipment. Information on podcast setups with real microphones are not hard to find, e.g.: $100 U.S. Roadhouse design; or $200 U.S. BSW's podcast packages. See a Google search for "podcast setup" to sift more, but such approaches require much more web editing skills.

Even given their five minute limit per recording, I find's cell phone arrangement for podcasting to be not only the simplest and most efficient approach, but low-cost and mobile as well.

Unimedia: Merging Text, Image, and Audio

One can also combine all three, so that one could create a class blog site where each posting displayed student work such as photographs, paintings and drawings which could each have a button for the student's voice talking about the picture. Text annotations could just as easily be included if students are able. That single Internet connected computer in most of American's classrooms could serve as the loading station for a class web site collection of rich media, easily and quickly generated by students, almost irrespective of reading ability. (These free resources for information sharing are the best gift the wealth of global corporations has ever indirectly given to public schools. Now how do we get the digital hardware onto the digital desert of student desktops so that all can use this free gift?)

If net innovators would now merge audio blogs and photo blogs, a compelling and never-seen-before form of communication, photo-radio, could emerge. But wait, offers this capacity for free today. For a very basic media- merger example, see my iThink Blog for a unifying of text, photos and cell phone audio. Automated tools made available through automatically inserted the media into the posting. As each media posting whether image or audio drops into its own separate posting. My role was to make a quick copy and paste of the HTML media code that Google creates with each photo or audio posting and paste it into its matching blog posting with its other media elements.

In time, such unimedia designs will include video. Because of the huge files sizes required for quality video, this development is in its early stages of problem solving.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Photo Blogs

Fortunately for photography, photography blogs have not been abbreviated to phlogs or phlogging. The term photoblog has been coined to describe a new form of near instant image uploading and viewing, an online source of photos, graphics and imagery (Google search for photoblog). The site Photoblogs ( notes thousands of photoblogs in over 80 countries in over 35 languages. (See also;,, and Yahoo's photoblog service directory.) At such sites each click of the next button brings up image after image. Visit the photoblog site by clicking this link or the screen shot below. Once there, click the small pictures (thumbnails) to see their larger versions.

Click image for larger display.

Videoblogs and Moblogs

The very small file size of compressed video coming from cell phones, PDAs and digital camcorders stimulated the idea of moblogs, vlogs and videoblogs. Moblogs are focused largely on the low quality small file size video and still images coming from cell phones, clips of no more than 20 to 30 seconds and which can also be played back on cell phones. Others focusing on video appear to expect viewers to watch through computer displays. These sites, and, compete as hosting sites for those that wish to video blog. Each site will have its own patterns to follow to actually reach video that can be played. This may require clicking on text or an image as appropriate.

Click image for larger display.

Examples of individual sites include Video Link Japan and Steve Garfield's Videoblog while Demand Media - A Collaborative Video Blog is an example of a team effort. The site MoBuzzTV is extending the moblog concept to a news and documentary format. Perhaps the most advanced vlog service is which automatically detects microphone and webcam or other digital video device. This site allows up to 10 clips of 10 minute duration to be created for use in any web media, clips which are then streamed from the Userplane servers with a copy of code that can be copy-and-pasted into your own web-based media.

Google co-founder Larry Page also reported plans by Google to follow their own lead with photo blogging at with a new service on video blogging (Kapustka, 2005, April 4). Given past practices, it would be logical to presume that Yahoo and MSN will follow with something similar of their own.

Those who want to focus just on finding video can use ANT, a feed-reader or iPodderX, which use RSS or syndication service to find and download video directly to your hard drive shortly after their creators post them to their vlog, moblog or video log or whatever they will be called in the future. Though ANT and iPodderX are also feed-readers (video player of material from subscription service), it is also a video aggregator along with that provides sites to which one can subscribe.

Always wanted to have your own TV station? Once again, if you adjust to this "out of the box" blog thinking, it's yours today. Will TV stations start a vlog channel and someday play your video blog, as standard radio stations are now doing for audio? It is as inevitable as sunshine.
To learn more about video blogs, online video and tricks of the trade, visit and; ; and Comments appreciated that point to other new video hotspots.

News Feeds-Automated Broadcasting

There is more to blogging than just quick web site posting of text, images, audio and video. Blog sites can choose to allow their own specialized form of automated and global distribution, a process called syndication. This syndication system enables instant distribution of content updates to syndicated readers. It also makes a quick review of a large number of sites possible.

Syndicated sites are also called news "feeds" which feed data to those who want to know. Fans of different blog sites can set software to watch for updates of those blogs allowing syndication and grab and download postings for immediate display on their own computers. Readers subscribe to a blog and receive updates automatically by using a reader or feed aggregator, also called a news aggregator. At this time there are multiple standards for syndication, though a merged standard of RSS and Atom is appearing likely (>Chen, 2004; Festa, 2003 ; Festa, 2004).

RSS means Really Simple Syndication. It has many uses that go far beyond blog syndication. One example is Basecamp, a web-based project management tool which passes all communication instantly across the web to all on the project, including latest updates, communications, deadlines, and other activities. This could have internal uses or used for student and client projects too.

The blog newsreaders, the software tools for organizing blog postings and notifying readers of blog news and information feeds, are readily available yet still innovating in their designs. Stand-alone software applications that read and display syndicated blog newsfeeds include NetNewsWire (Mac) and Newsrover (Win). Web server based designs include: My Yahoo! ; and Bloglines. criticism and evaluation of the dozens of blog readers available is developing (Blog Newsreaders Links & Reviews; Google search for blog newsreader reviews). In a blog reader, the list of blogs selected for monitoring will typically appear on the left of a window; selecting a blog puts new postings from that blog in a frame on the right.

Web browsers are also getting into the act as blog newsreaders. One method being explored is to create a browser plug-in which extends the browser's features, such as Lektora and Sage. Programmers are also building these features into the browser itself so that add-ins like Lekora will not be not required in the long run. The Opera web browser included RSS blog reader features as of May, 2004 while others are announcing the inclusion of such features in the months ahead (Hicks, 2004). As of late 2004, the Firefox web browser supported some blog reader features for all forms of RSS feeds, that is, forms of blog posting distribution. As of May, 2005, the newest version of the Safari browser for the Mac that came with OS-X included a fully integrated blog reader and browser. The forthcoming Internet Explorer 7.0 will also include RSS integration but details will have to wait until a real update is available in 2006. Downloading and installing an RSS capable browser or using an add-in and learning to use it to explore blog space is highly recommended.

Limitations of blogs?

Blogs will not completely replace newspapers, radio and TV stations or even standard web sites. But they can and do replace components of what these other forms do and do it more simply and efficiently than any of them. That is, they can quickly distribute any form of information that the available bandwidth will allow as long as the given blog form or style fits your needs. They represent one more new wrinkle invented for cyberspace. But every design form has its limitations.

Blogs are not ice cream. That is, there must be some motivation to use them, some audience that the blog authors want or need to reach or to hear from. Just asking or teaching someone to create a blog will not lead to much interesting use in and of itself. Blogs do not talk; people do once they have practice in the language or style of conversation that is needed. Blog interaction requires formal direction until new habits are acquired. Like any activity, there must be some motivation and direction (Krause, 2005) for effective practice.

Though blog design can effectively collect comments and stimulate discussion and debate, blogging style limits itself to moving on to the next posting and debate, with little follow-up to prior activity. It is rare that a blog author will edit the original posting to summarize what has been learned from the feedback comments. Blog authors could address this limitation in several ways: 1. create a new post with a link back to the previous post and put a link in the old post referring to the new one; 2. link a wiki page where the feedback on the old posting summarizes and restates what has learned yet continues to leave the discussion open to further editing by those interested; or 3. put a link in the original posting to a static web page that summarizes what has been learned from the feedback.

An effective blog requires some discipline with personal scheduling to achieve regular postings and build a loyal fan club or a strong collaborative group. Remaining persistent is challenging.

Blogs will reduce but not replace email, though blog syndication makes it possible to subscribe so that any new posting to your favorite blogs is reported to your email account or to specialized blog reader software. Blogs needs other forms of communication, such as email. For example, just because you created a blog does not mean that anyone will use it unless you tell them about it and provide its web address. Blog information will also lead to using email for private comments that you do not wish to share with everyone.

Blog authors must recognize that not everyone who reads blogs has the best interest of the author in mind. Putting personal information in a blog can be dangerous. That personal information can come back to bite you in terms of identity theft, harassment, reputation endangering mistakes in grammar and logic and more. Further, comment links open to all readers can lead to blog site vandalism by those who insert foul ideas, language and web links to trashy web sites such as pornography or hate promoting sites. However, there are a number of effective and quick defenses against the "dark side" while the personal side just requires good judgment and editing.

Teachers and younger students need password protected private blogging for limited audiences. Work teams and social groups may have reasons to be public or private, a decision the group will need to ponder. Most blog hosting designs provide options for "teams" that wish varying degrees of privacy for their work. Further, many thinking and writing needs require a totally private space where thoughts are explored without fear of any exposure. That still makes those cellulose sheets of paper a valuable technology.

Social Capital: The "Disruptive Value" of Blogging

One of the values of disruptive inventions is the way they force a re-examination of past practice. Blogging stimulated more fundamental debates about social practice. What is the best way to build social capital? What are the best ways for group or team communication to take place? How should the different tools of the communication sandwich be balanced and used?

Communities and institutions stand on their shared history. From classrooms to professional teams, shared history leads to the shared intelligence that becomes useable knowledge (Geoff, 2005; Vygotsky 1978; Wenger et al, 2002). There are many practical aspects to keeping knowledge used and useable. Much of the social intelligence of an organization is now flushed down the bit drain minute by minute with the tap of the Delete key or buried beyond community searches in email archives. A given email idea often nourishes just a few individuals who may soon leave the group or organization. The greater the turnover of individuals in a group, the lower the value of email. An email quickly becomes buried forever in institutional email archives, not searchable unless retrieved by the occasional subpoena in legal wrangling. Blogs are far more effective than email in keeping the emerging intelligence of an organization visible and useable for long periods of time.

Because so many now blog instead of email, the capacity to listen to this largely public discourse, to do online anthropology, has been greatly magnified. The major blog search engines provide key word searching and cross-link counts for free. Other more specialized tools are being honed to also listen for and provide analysis on subgroups or demigraphic subsets. This can potentially impact composers at all levels who are inspired and motivated by the expressed concerns of others, whether song writers or marketers. The vice president of a public relations firm noted that "we look at the blogosphere as a focus group with 15 million people going on 24/7 that you can tap into without going behind a one-way mirror" (Bulkeley, 2005).

A distinction should be made between emerging intelligence (real news for the team) and the formation of considered social conclusions. The process of creating and updating reflected policy, guiding philosophy, position statements and encyclopedic facts need something a bit different than blogs. These constructs require collaborative writing. The concept of the Wiki emerged as a powerful complement to blogs (Goodwin-Jones, 2003). Emerging in the same era as blogs, a Wiki site or application allow potentially anyone to edit a web page, keeping an elaborate history of developments and fast reversion when necessary. Access to a Wiki document can be as public or as controlled as needed. More in-depth consideration is beyond the scope of this writing, but voluminous explanation of the wiki concept awaits in cyberspace. Both have their advantages which has led to experiments weighing the best features of blogs and wiki sites (Tonkin, 2005), and led to a new design, a bliki.

The concepts of formative and summative communication can further serve as a useful lens through which to position different kinds of thinking and communication. Blogs, wikis and email systems have special value for collaborative formative activity. They gain most of their value through use of the computer networks' unique capacity for interactive communication. More static and stable concepts and policies may best appear in web pages and other media more devoted to one-way communication, including print, radio, theater and television/film. The eventual major role of a web page could be to serve as a hub to all forms of formative and summative media.

Stayed tuned to this page for new design examples of the merger of blogs, wikis, multimedia and standard web pages.

Those interested in best practices in institutional and organizational development should build functional knowledge of blogs and wikis into professional development so that they begin to take priority in professional practice over email. Experiments in the partnership of blogs, wikis, email, standard web sites and the necessary level of privacy should be underway to find the right balance. Each has a role to play, but for the good of the social group, revising the cultural emphasis on email is overdue. Is email the last place a good idea should go?

Educational Uses of a Blog

From higher education (Glenn, 2003) to public education (Carr, 2005), educators are taking advantage of the lightning fast and free way make ideas available across the Internet using text, images, audio and video. New uses are constantly being invented.

Educators (teachers, instructors, professors, administrators) are using them to: teach writing with the blog as a kind of public word processor for student assignments; teach collaboration and build a sense of audience using the comments features; support institutional teamwork and collaborative thinking activity from curriculum development to policy formation, which was discussed in the section of social capital; build reputations as they distribute what they are learning in their field of study and share what they find important to their peers and students; create instructional tips for their students and parents as a course progresses; make course announcements and make assignments; provide a collection of annotated links to important resources; offer students and/or parents another place for feedback and discussions of what is being taught; and to get out news on anything.

Student blog composition can create unprecedented attention to student composition. Students at Hunterdon Central Regional High School read the Secret Life of Bees, then used a literacy style blog to create dialog around the book. Their site, has received more than 2 million hits (Richardson, 2005). Students use blogs to: create reflective or writing journals; create blog postings as submitted assignments; engage in collaborative writing teams using comments to provide critiques of the writings of classmates; build e-portfolios using a variety of media; share their findings of useful resources to support the learning of a course; and bypass adult restrictions on their communication.

Blogs can also be re-invented for additional purposes. This set of thinking about blogs is an example of using a blog site to support the gathering of comments for different sections of a larger document or essay. Each section heading in this essay is both a blog posting and a section of a standard web page. Each blog posting is used to collect responses and feedback which is used to further edit that section. The concept applies just as well to sections of institutional documents including guidelines, planning documents, policies and curriculum development.

Richardson (2005) has used his own blog ( to collect best practices information on educational blogging. Blogs bring great power to those numerous situations in which students must construct, collaborate, and communicate, what he referred to as the three C's.

Please leave comments which point out other educational uses.

Do blogs have a future?

"At the Aspen Institute's Conference on Journalism and Society in mid-July, a question was put to executives of major news organizations: Whom do you trust in online media today?" (Lassica, 2004). Their feedback showed that a major transformation is underway. Observers are finding that "a nobody with a Weblog can build up a more loyal audience than news brands that have been around for a century or more" and that bloggers make up a large and growing number of the national top 40 attention getting sites on the web whose credibility and respect matches or exceeds major news outlets (Lassica, 2004). Not only are these audiences more loyal, in many cases they are larger, with more readers than major newspapers and magazines have subscribers.

This transformation in communication is happening at several levels. At one level it is changing whom we trust, from large organizations to individual voices. At another level it is changing the understanding of cyberspace. Outsiders and beginning users of the Web first see it as a place for random searches for information, for googling data. More experienced users recognize that blogs have given mainstream legitimacy to a long standing but often overlooked value of cyberspace, the Web as a place for talk. Through such online chat the Web serves as community builder, consensus maker, and hub for intimate social and political conversations. Decades before the phenomena of blogging made Web sharing an instant simple act, millions of email conferences were taking place within systems of communication called newsgroups and email lists or listservs. Blogs help reduce the email glut and also serve as a wedge to bring more cyberspace users into these older forms of dialog as well.

By combining intelligent and informal thoughts with this inexpensive design, blog voices are also contributing to brand and reputation building on a scale from individual writers to Microsoft and General Motors (GM). In the short time since the concept emerged, the Wall Street Journal noted that some 4% of major U.S. corporations have blogs available to the public. Blogging jobs are not only well paid but growing in popularity (Needleman, 2005). Some have found that blogging has been added to their job description and others have used their blogging skills for advancement and promotion purposes.

More importantly, by changing the nature of public voice, blogs have changed the nature of power distribution (Gillmor, 2004). Gillmor provided multiple examples of the power pyramid being inverted. Prior to the Web, society's priorities for distributing information were based on wealth. The bigger your city or organization, the bigger your media outlets from newsprint to television stations, and therefore the greater your influence. Further, the more money your institution or corporation had, the more global their reach with advertising, and "spin" or propaganda. This influence dictates public policy and consequently the distribution of wealth.

Blogs increasingly provide hope that the least powerful groups, the poor, the rural, and the public educators in public schools, have a tool to match the power reach of the wealthy. Currently Gillmor (2004) reports that only a relatively small slice of the polity have had the digital knowledge to have engaged the top of the power pyramid and to have been successful in getting heard and having an impact. A far larger portion of the population stands outside this digital conversation, unaware of this new powerful contribution to democracy. Educators at all levels should explore their free use, for the value of their contribution to culture, to professional communication and in teaching and learning to determine which of the many values of blogs makes the most sense for their educational situation.

Those who live outside a democracy have found the Internet a major tool in their fight against authoritarian regimes. On September 22, 2005 the group Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media watchdog, made available a Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents. "It gives detailed advice on safeguarding anonymity by using psuedonyms and proxy services that can replace the easily traceable IP addresses of home computers" (Naughton, 2005). Those using blog sites and other Internet tools to report the news are often the only independent and truthful voices available to citizens of oppressive countries. Unfortunately the desire for access to markets and profit has led to companies based in democracies providing technical skills and knowledge about the Internet to help dictatorships suppress the sharing of ideas that challenge their power. Dissidents that are caught face jail-time, torture and death.

For those who need to share a perspective on the conditions around them, blogs provide a quick way to get started, but they too are limited in their power. As the culture moves past the hype on blogs, a true partnership between blogs and other new ways to communicate will emerge. Blog-wiki combinations seem likely. Furl and Flickr also seem likely allies. Blogs will also become part of many earlier designs. For example, Moodle, an online class management system, is adding the blog concept. Moodle is a free, open source competitor to commerical applications such as WebCT and Blackboard. Students can blog in a "walled garden" in which outsiders to the school cannot see what is there, or also allow some blogs to be visible and interactive with the larger world.

Can we effectively spread the word about blogs? Will the lower rungs of the power pyramid also use the web to find and share their voices? Is there the will and the discipline to do so? For those individuals or organizations with a need to develop local, national and international reputations as voices of change, blogs are simplicity personified. Welcome to the blogosphere!

Blogging Bibliography

The items in this bibliography are referenced in the sections above.

Bulkeley, William M. (2005, June 23) Marketers Scan Blogs for Brand Insights. Wall Street Journal. B1, B6.

Carr, Nora (April 1, 2005). Educator blogs could boost respect for teachers--and expose classroom challenges. eSchoolNews, Retrieved April 14, 2005, from

Chen, Anne (2004). RSS Makes Enterprise Headlines. eWeek. Retrieved September 20, 2004, from,1759,1646538,00.asp

Deflem, Mathieu. 1996. “Introduction: Law in Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action.” Pp. 1-20 in Habermas, Modernity and Law, edited by Mathieu Deflem. London: Sage. Retrieved June 9, 2005, from

Dewey, John (1916). Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan. Retrieved on June 6, 2005, from

Festa, Paul (2003). Battle of the Blogs. CNET. Retrieved August 4, 2003, from

Festa, Paul (2004). Blog Format Truce Proposed. ZDNET. Retrieved March 9, 2004, from

Gillmor, Dan (2004). We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. Sebastopol, CA : O'Reilly. Retrieved June 22, 2005, from

Glen, David (2003, June 6). Scholars Who Blog. Chronicles of Higher Education. Section: Research & Publishing, 49 (39), A14. Retrieved June 14, 2005, from

Glogoff, Stuart (2005. Instructional blogging: Promoting interactivity, student-centered learning, and peer input. Innovate 1 (5). Retrieved June 9, 2005, from

Goodwin-Jones, Bob (May 2003). Blogs and Wikis: Environments for On-Line Collaboration. Language Learning & Technology, 7(2) p12-16. (ERIC EJ666342) Retrieved May 17, 2005, from

Habermas, Jurgen (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason and the Rationalization of Society; translated by Thomas McCarthy. Two volumes. Boston : Beacon Press.

Hesseldahl, Arik (2005, May 27). Radio Must Change. Here's How. Forbes. Retrieved May 27, 2005, from

Hicks, Matt (2004). Apple's RSS Embrace Could Bolster Adoption. eWeek. Retrieved June 28, 2004, from,1759,1618128,00.asp

Huffaker, D. (2005). The educated blogger: Using weblogs to promote
literacy in the classroom. AACE Journal, 13(2), 91-98.

Jardin, Xeni (2005, May). Podcasting Killed the Radio Star. Wired News. Retrieved May 14, 2005, from,1412,67344,00.html

Lasica, J.D. (August 18, 2004). Transparency Begets Trust in the Ever-Expanding Blogosphere, USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review. Retrieved January 4, 2005, from

Krause, Steven D. (2005, June 24). Blogs as a Tool for Teaching. Chronicles of Higher Education, B33-35.

Mossberg, Walter (2005, June 15). Taking the Mystery Out of Blog Creation. Wall Street Journal, D4. Retrieved June 15, 2005, from,,SB111878431732959531-Hc5m3ctbnR1Dnv4yoCiNZq71qFc_20060614,00.html?mod=public_home_us

Naughton, Philippe (September 22, 2005). How to be a cyber-dissident - handbook offers advice. Times Online. Retrieved September 22, 2005 from,,3-1792375,00.html

Needleman, Sarah E. (2005, May 31). Blogging Becomes a Corporate Job; Digital 'Handshake'? Wall Street Journal, B1, p.1.

Nesbitt, Alex (2005, June). The Podcast Value Chain Report: An Overview of the Emerging Podcasting Marketplace. Retrieved June 20, 2005, from

Pew Internet & American life Project (2005). New data on blogs and blogging. Retrieved July 22, 2005 from

Podcasting News (June 30, 2005). Apple Extends Dominance in Online Music to Podcasting. Retrieved June 30, 2005 from

Richardson, Will (2005, June). New Jersey High School Learns the ABCs of Blogging. T.H.E. Journal, 40.

Tonkin, Emma (January 30, 2005). Making the Case for a Wiki. Ariadne. 42, Retrieved June 3, 2005, from

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wenger, E., R. McDermott, and W. M. Snyder. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.'s article titled Blog, Retrieved June 16, 2005, from's article titled Podcasting, Retrieved June 18, 2005, from

Other Bibliographies on Blogging

A Weblog Webliography

A search of shows over 90 books on blogging.

Blog Help Groups

Discussing ideas, problems and techniques with others adds real value to getting the most out of a computer application. Fortunately, has a forum for trading messages in several different types of discussion themes. Check out Registering is free.

Any other forums or discussion groups out there supporting folks using MSN Spaces and Yahoo 360?

One brilliant solution the bloggerforum provided me within minutes was for making a sidebar list of post titles longer than 10 items, the unchangeable default in Blogger. I was directed by CptCanuck to for a javascript generator that has many uses, but in my cases used it to grab a list of my own headings and set the default to some number between 10 and 100. Worked like a charm when I pasted it into my template and commented out the blogger code. Gotta love communities that care. It certainly has me thinking about including fresh postings from other blog sites without confusing readers about what came from where.