Monthly Archives: September 2005

How a Problogger can be a Community Asset

Just for today, let me acknowledge the existence of probloggers. I was led to Darren Rowse of Problogger via Shai Coggins, and echoed on pinoytechblog .

Probloggers are enterprising individuals who blog about things they may like or NOT like, so they can:

a) Draw your interest;
b) Cordon you off as the target market for a product which they are endorsing; and
c) Engage you–not to have a transformational learning experience (which I hope to do!)–but to shell out your e-cash or your hard bucks.

I see that many online communities are also target settlements for pro-bloggers. No crime in that. That’s e-commerce, right?

I guess what riles me is when I don’t see a symbiotic relationship going on (in other words, pestilence). If you intend to become a pro-blogger and sell a product or service, please do feel responsible enough to contribute to the common goals of the community you’ve targetted. It’s a put off to see a blogger come in under the pretense of being interested in, say an education community, lurk in the posts, then find him posting or commenting to sell e-cash to the blog authors.

Probloggers can lead you to make informed decisions by leading you away from dud products or offers too. Or providing you with valid information, via customer education. In any case, problogging’s profitmaking potential can benefit everyone.

Would there be any probloggers who are willing to contribute part of their income to a community’s charitable cause? Please let me know–’cause I have a number of f2f communities looking for such generous individuals!

Fostering a Community of Inquiry (COI) in Developing CoP

Just to juxtapose the CoP model, I recall Garrison and Anderson’s Community of Inquiry (COI) framework. I thought of how the CoP model may share elements of COI , while maintaining the more informal, unstructured development inherent in building a community of practice.

In the informal learning set up, developing cognitive as well as social presence are core elements in fostering learning communities. The strategy for facilitating the knowledge creation process slightly differs, and rather than promoting ‘teaching presence’ I would think it would foster ‘mentoring presence’ . Looking at adult continuing education context, the role of the facilitator is to coax higher-level thinking via projects and team work. pinoytechblog is a great example of how blog authors can provide mentoring presence. Their tag line: the Philippines’ premier technology blog. The blog authors are presented as experts (note the section “About the Team”, listing their credentials) in their defined field. People would leave comments, and authors would engage them in snippets of discussion. The challenge is how the authors can take advantage of this blog feature to lead readers to transform their newly acquired knowledge into real learning–without sounding preachy. However, if you’ve read a lot of blogs (I’m sure you have), you would notice that many blogs wish to maintain a light-hearted tone even if the subject is a thousand kilos in seriousness. It gives this aura of approachability to the blog and the blog author.

Projects (even online ones) would allow participants to practice and crystallize their tacit knowledge in a group set up. Shai Coggins at About has pretty good blog projects to share.

Do share your project here if you feel it helped you build a Community of Inquiry/CoP.

Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying and Sustaining Sense of Community (SOC)

Anita Blanchard in Into the Blogosphere writes why it’s important to identify if a community is a virtual one . Virtual communities can’t substitute for the real ones, but they can extend social relationships. Creating an ambiance of emotionally positive feelings helps sustain participation. Through web survey of readers in an active blog, the Julie/Julia Project, she delineates virtual settlements from virtual communities.

Not all virtual settlements are virtual communities; check out how you felt about your participation in a group and see if you have that Sense of Community (SOC), as identified by McMillan and Chavis (1986):

    1) Feelings of membership: Feelings of belonging to, and identifying with, the community;
    2) Feelings of influence: Feelings of having influence on, and being influenced by, the community;
    3) Integration and fulfillment of needs: Feelings of being supported by others in the community while also supporting them; and
    4) Shared emotional connection: Feelings of relationships, shared history, and a “spirit” of community.

In exploring the Julie/Julia project, Blanchard identifies a key element of community development: the way lurkers participate in virtual communities. Lurkers in most other virtual communities participate by reading others comments. Thus their feelings of community remain strong. However in blogs, they can bypass other participants comments and stick to only the author’s blog posts. When the blog author is gone, is there a big enough group in the Julie/Julia project to continue to interaction w/ one another? Blanchard’s survey reveals readers failed to put up a fan club for the blog, and confirms suspicion that the sense of community was weak.

Without enough engaged, connected, and attached participants the blog settlement won’t make the transition to a blog community. And this limitation may be inherent in the blog tool’s collaborative features.

Blogrolls and interaction between other blogs via the RSS tool reduces dependency on an individual to sustain the community. Thus, we can see here that a single blog clusters people with like interests, and links and RSS leads them to a bigger community in the blogosphere, where the interactions are both cooperative as well as collaborative. Or a team blog would be a convergence of several like minded individuals, where the sense of community may be sustained due to the availability of multiple discussion leaders. I saw this in pinoytechblog .