Reflection: Why I’m stopping daily updatesPosted: February 15, 2016 Filed under: Education | Tags: aesthetics, authenticity, beauty, blogging, design, education, ethics, higher education, learning, reflection, teaching, thinking 4 Comments
I’ve written a lot in the past month and a half. Now, because I’m committed to evaluation, I have to look back at all of it and think about some difficult matters:
- Is anyone reading this?
- Are the people reading this the ones who can make change?
- Is the best way to do this?
- Should I be doing something else?
There are roughly 1,000 people who see my posts, between direct subscribers who read in e-mail, Facebook and the elusive following community on Twitter.
Twitter shouldn’t count, as I know from direct experience that the click-through rate from Twitter is tiny. (My posts have been shared by people with 5-10,000 followers and it has turned into maybe 10-20 more people reading.) Now I’m down to maybe 4-500 readers.
Facebook shares a longer fragment of my ideas but the click through is still small. Perhaps this brings me down to the roughly 200 followers I have, who have (over time) contributed about 1,000 ‘Likes’. However, almost all of these positive reinforcements stem from a different phase of the blog, a time when I was blogging conferences and being useful, rather than pontificating on the nature of beauty. My readership used to be 100 people a day, or more. I can’t crack 80 today and the way that I’m blogging is unlikely to reach that larger audience, yet it’s what I want to do.
The answer to 1 is that a few other people a day are reading what I write. I’d put it as high as twenty on a good day but most days it’s under ten.
2’s a tricky question. We can all make change; that’s one of my firmest beliefs. However, there is making change and then there are change makers. I know several people in this area quite well and they read me occasionally but it’s not something that they dedicate time to do. I have people that I always read but I can’t make the changes they need. It’s frustrating. No doubt, my ideas appeal to some people but change takes will and capacity to change, not just a sympathetic ear. I don’t want people to read this and feel trapped because they can’t make change. The answer to 2 is, probably, ‘no’.
3 follows from 1 and 2. If my readership is small and my ideas have little influence then this is not the best way to do things. We face enormous challenges. We need effective mechanisms for sharing information. If I am to make change, I have to invest my time wisely. I am not a large-scale player or a change maker. I need help to do it and if that help isn’t coming from this avenue, I have to choose another.
4 is easier. I can focus on my scholarship, practice, and research, rededicating the time I’ve been spending on this blog. People read papers where they don’t read blogs. Papers drive recognition. Recognition gets you the places to speak where your voice can be heard. There is no point having written all those words in a blog if it’s rarely read. This has been a highly rewarding experience in many ways but you have to wonder why you’re doing it if very few people read it or remember what you’ve written.
I wanted people to think and to talk about the ideas shared here. For those of you who have let me know that this worked, my thanks!
I’m tempted to keep going with the daily blog but the aesthetic argument traps me here. Spending time on something that isn’t working and insisting that it’s valuable is self-deception. Investing energy into an avenue that isn’t achieving your goals isn’t good. I cannot deprive my students of the hour or so a day that I’ve been spending doing this unless I achieve more for them than I would by doing some other aspect of my job.
Students and teachers: the true focus of any aesthetic discussion of education; the most important aspects of any discussion of what we should be doing because they are people and not just machine parts. As for us, so for them.
There are more discussions to be had but they’ll show up in more formal places, most likely. I’m always happy to talk to people about ideas at conferences. I’ve already started a face-to-face discussion about taking some of these ideas further in a more traditional research sense and I’m very excited about that.
But perhaps it’s time to let this blog go, listen to the numbers, reflect on the dissemination of knowledge, and accept that I would not be following my own advice if I were to continue. I love the beauty argument. I think it’s great. I stand by everything I’ve written this year. I just don’t think that this is the way to move people towards that agenda.
Thus, the daily updates stop with this post. I’ll still post things that interest me but there’ll be fewer of them.
I’ll leave you with the message I wanted to get across this year:
- Educational philosophy is full of the aesthetics of education. Dewey and Bloom just scratch the surface of this. The late 19th and early 20th century were an incredible time of upheaval and we still haven’t addressed many of the questions raised then. To the libraries!
- Fair, equitable, well-designed and evidence-based education is at the core of any beautiful system.
- Every day, we should ask ourselves if what we are doing is beautiful, good or true, taking into account all of the difficult questions of how we balance necessities against desirabilities, being honest about which is which. If we aren’t managing this, we need to either seek to change or accept that what we are doing isn’t right.
- We should leave enough time for ourselves in all of this, as there should be no sacrificial element to beautiful education.
- Change is coming. Change is here. Pretending that it won’t happen isn’t beautiful.
I hope that you all have a fantastic learning and teaching year, with many amazing and beautiful moments and outcomes!
This year, I hope to be at several conferences and I look forward to talking to anyone about the ideas in this phase (or any other phase) of the blog.
Have a great year!
Thanks for sharing. One of the great things about blogs is that you can go back and read. I’ll be doing that as many of the ideas are still floating around somewhere for me.
I blog for lots of reasons. The most important is probably because I can’t help myself. I like to write, and I write in order to transform my thinking.
I like to think that a value of my frequent blogging is that it creates a corpus for the future. It may be just a rationalization. I do see from statistics that many of my older blog posts are discovered later through Google searches. Things I’ve written about constructionism and teaching professional development appear weekly in my top hits lists.
I can’t blog daily — it would consume too much of my time. I have occasionally blogged daily, and I enjoyed it, but I can’t sustain that. Whether I blog daily or not, I try not to let the page views drive what I do. I don’t want to be driven by the audience (or lack thereof).
I appreciate your posts this year, Nick. Thank you for doing them. I haven’t read them all in depth. But I know that they’re there, and they’re influencing how I think about education.
I think you should write a book on your ideas! I know I would buy it and read it.
I’ve been blogging for a while and my daily readership is down also—I think that readers move on, and unless there is a serious effort to capture new readers, then readership declines, particularly if you have an eclectic blog with lots of different topics, so that there isn’t a dedicated one-topic fan group.
Many of my readers are finding my blog via search engines, and reading some really old posts. My most-read post in the past month is one from 2012, four years ago. So putting things out there may have longer lasting effects than you expect.
I will confess that I have not yet read 17 of your more recent posts—I found the musings on the aesthetics of education rather tedious and put them aside for “later”. What resonates for one person may not for another. But blogging is largely a matter of thinking out loud—one benefits partly from just putting the ideas down in writing, and even more if others join in and start a conversation.
If you were trying to find a solid intellectual base for your ideas, that would help you decide which changes to pursue and which ones were just fads, it may have been enormously valuable (even if no one reads it).
If you were trying to find out whether talking about the aesthetics of education would motivate a lot of people to pursue education the way you think it ought to be done, then I’d say that the experiment was useful, even if the results were negative. This doesn’t seem to be a mechanism that fires people up and makes them want to overcome barriers to do things your way.
I don’t know where you got the idea that more people read papers than blogs—I think that the evidence points in the opposite direction.