Secrets of the A-List Bloggers: Lots of short entries

So let’s say you popped up your news aggregator of choice and have subscribed to each of those blogs. How much would you read? How much information would you get? Our little analysis shows you would have read a bit under 22,000 words. That would amount, in terms of printed pages, to 44 single spaced pages.

Your alternative? Well, on that day, you could have picked up the New York Times and read every stories on the front page. That would have netted you 12,964 words, or about 22 single spaced printed pages. You could have listened to the evening news, are about 3000 more words. Ultimately, you would have consumed more words reading blogs than going with mainstream media: 5 TV shows would have netted you about 15,000 words. 5 newspaper stories (assuming a different report on each story) would have netted you about 8,000 words. So blogs are much more prolific in terms of words. —Tristan LouisSecrets of the A-List Bloggers: Lots of short entries (

I’ve done this kind of analysis on student weblogs. Students who draft their work offline, then post it online don’t tend to create links within their text. Students who post an entry that offers a well-thought-out conclusion don’t often get comments more involved than, “Good post.”

Students who pose stark questions don’t tend to get replies, unless the question is posted within the context of an entry that shows the student is giving away the benefit of some significant thinking.

Students who are looking for comments from peers will sometimes get offended when their peers don’t write back. I have resisted requiring students to respond to a given number of blog entries. I do plan to ask students to post entries centered around their analysis of excerpts from primary sources, and to ask them to respond to similar entries posted on peer blogs. There is room for students to get credit for “wildcard” blogging — that is, an off-topic post that builds community or permits them to experiment with the weblog format. There is also room in my weblog evaluation rubric for students to get credit for the work they do to help their peer’s blogs, such as posting links to those blogs, posting followups prompted by something somebody posted on another blog, or leaving long comments on peer blogs.

But I want to preserve at least part of the “gift” value of a comment or an inbound link. I tell students that if they like getting comments, then they should reply thoughtfully to the comments left by their peers, and they should visit and contribute meaningfully to the weblogs of all peers who leave comments. The students will pretty quickly figure out who is not likely to return the favor of a comment, and they will invest their energies elsewhere. The students who put more than the usual amount of effort into their blogging will find each other. This can lead to a kind of digital divide, as knots of students who already know what their peers think about a certain text either dominate the in-class discussion or feel bored as the in-class discussion covers the same ground they covered last night.

So while I resist forcing students to comment on peer blogs, I think I might start each discussion period with a question based on something a student blogged about the day before, and/or a discussion that is currently productive. If I work that into a short reading quiz offered in the first five minutes of class, that creates an incentive for students at least to lurk on the blogs, and to come to class on time so they can write the mini-quiz. I recognize that not all students will have the time to check the blogs right before class, and I don’t want to reward the kind of last-minute blogging that involves banging out something in the computer lab across the hall from the classroom. So I’ll need to think about this for a bit.

A student has just shown up for a consultation, so ttfn.