Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Wood's Lot to Lurkers and BlogWalking - 8 February 2005

If you have been here before and are wondering why this post keeps changing, it is simple: the links are notes. I come back to fill out the gaps as and when I feel I am getting some notion or other. This post has two changes [ today 10 Feb 05].

It is simple. All good stories usually are. Switch on, log on and wonder what to do. A post, a Google or a Blogdex? No, today it will be checking blogroll sites on one of my weblogs, Moleskine Modality. Strangely, and satisfyingly, it only required one, Wood's Lot - which itself has a mostly untapped blogroll - for me to go on another one of my famous journeys of discovery, which are slightly more than a surf, for one reason: after a while a definite pattern or direction of search goes on. Surfing is a bit like a journey on an ever increasing spiral. What I do seems like juggling a set of Venn diagrams moving around, increase and decrease in size, linking and unlinking, according to the emphasis put on one or other, till there is a small set of interlocking circles which I know will lead me to something worthwhile when I go back to it.

Ton Lijlstra's
Interdependent Thoughts caught my eye because of the word lurker. The piece goes:

Lurking and Social Networks

The most obvious characteristic of a lurker is that he’s at the fringe of a group, listening and observing. Being at the fringe may seem like a bad place from the core, but in fact is a good position to build bridges to other groups, and be aware of other groups in the vicinity.

Someone's using an ordinary word as terminology again, I thought, which is bound to completely confuse everyone. Better check this out. Dictionary definition has some negative connotations: "linger furtively or unobtrusively". I wonder what the technical definition is? And anyway, why would anyone see this as worthy of study?

Can often see where projects are leading before I've even finished reading about them. There are masses of people concentrating their little grey cells on comparisons of internet behavior, related to weblogs in particlar, with other social networks. The problem with all this is the necessity for researchers from all sorts of areas to blur the boundaries in order to get some of the action. If you are trained in some ICT area of say in Communications Studies [whatever they are], how are you going to work effectively on such comparisons in what to a large part is the domain of social psychology and/or sociology?

Ton gives a definition : "Lurker" - someone who reads your site (usually a weblog) but doesn't comment, therefore doesn't "join in". A further suggestion that the "lurker " might be only two or three nodes away. In a sense therefore the lurker is the opposite of a troller.

Lurker seems the wrong word to use because it is vagely reminiscent of "stalker". It hints at exclusion. I read a lot of other weblogs without leaving comments and I don't consider my self to be lurking so much as learning. The suggestion is implicit in the lurker usage of hanging about where one is not wanted. The notion that public access sites are the territory of a certain "clientele" specified by the type of site, or what it contains, is madness. If you only want a certain category of response [commenting or lurking], make your weblog an IntraLog (I just made that word up).

Certain weblogs do become the domains of certain types of people. But this is no different from saying certain pubs, clubs or university departments are where certain types of people hang out. The differences come when someone designs software that allows a different type of interaction than existed before. Many researchers say that weblogs and other types of social software are allowing this to happen. The debate on social software clogged by the opacity of academic and technical language. Instead of answering questions terms are being coined, which are deemed necssary to make further progress.

The current journey I am taking goes on through
Mathemagenic the personal weblog of Lilia Efimova. Lilia is rare amongst academic types in explaining what she is up to in simple words. Her January 28th post mentions (a) that she had been chatting with Ton. Curious about what she had said to Ton (and of course who exactly Ton was) I went to his weblog at Interdependent Thoughts (Ton Lijlstra). With a very quick scan down the page, seeing the word Blogwalk as I did so, thinking I ought to go back to try to find out what it meant (my mind seems to be keyword orientated and always on the look out for something new), I find Ton's 30 December, 2004 entry is a sizable cut and paste of a 29 December 2005 post by Stuart Henshall at Unbound Spiral on Giving up traditional Blogging.

At last I seem to be in territory that (a) I understand (b) can contribute to, and so, do less lurking about in.

On 1 June 2004 in Baghdaskies2
I had gone over some of this ground (all bloggers get to it in the end) in a series of separate pieces. One section refers to psychological research reported by Daniel M Wegner under the tile The seeds of Our Undoing (1999) which deals with what he terms ironic processes in mental control.

Wegner's earlier article, Pink Elephant tramples White Bear: the evasion of suppression (1994)
runs through the idea more simply.

At this point it seemed important to backtrack to find out what this neologism was. Below are the raw links and a couple of pastes which I will flesh out later.

The Gurteen Knowledge Website

Under the title:

Hosting grassroots conversations between knowledge activists

BlogWalks are very small scale, practically zero-budget, gatherings of twenty-odd people, who may or may not know eachother from on-line encounters (in this case usually through our weblogs).

Then, oh my God, someone has set up a Wiki for Blogwalkers! Here it is:

Collective space for all Blogwalkers

and there is a a Blogwalk channel in

At this point I veered off to a site called Knowledge Jolt (which I noted had a lot of Business related blog topics which might be worth visiting another time). Then seemed to arrive at something more interesting:

Coniecto ==> Gabriela Avram's weblog on weblogging & social software, etc, which again, though full of terrible jargon, I thought might have some nuggets of useful information.

There are links to Sematic Web, the brainchild of Berners-Lee, which I take to be trying create an automated metadata system, going by the flow chart Gavriella has posted.

Remind myself to re-research this: remember reading some months ago there were those who considered the dream of the Semantic Web doomed and there seemed to be echoes of the false dawns of Artifical Intelligence research. I have a feeling the remnants of AI groups slid into Social Software! And who could blame them? There are plenty of ways to get grants and the work is quite simply endless. All you have to do is make sure the person giving you the money has no clue at all what you are trying to find out by using lots of terminology.

Gabriela's resume
I am not saying her work specifically come under this category but this text gives idea of where this sort of stuff originates [ a far more interesting area of study in a way] from and how people can earn a living doing it, when at a first glance it seems to be 80% guff and waffle.

Need to come back again to check through what I have written after a bit more reading around the topic.


At 11:50 AM, Blogger Gabriela said...

"There are links to Sematic Web, ...flow chart posted" - I am sorry, but I don't recognise myself in this. Could you be more precise?

Just for the record: I'm not an AI person, even if sometimes I was commissioned studies in the field.
When I got my research grant, I was supposed to work on integrating knowledge management with elearning. Social Software is a sort of violon d'Ingres.

80% guff and waffle - want to bet it'll be the Next Big Thing?
Just have a look here .

At 6:52 PM, Blogger Ton said...

Hi Andy,

Just for the record, my name is Ton Zijlstra, not Lijlstra.

Anyway. BlogWalk is the name we have given to a series of workshops throughout Europe (and 1 in the US).

The article you cite from the Gurteen site was written by me. The Blogwalk wiki you mention is a space where people attending the workshops can prepare and continue work, as well as the place where organisation of events takes place (as the organizers are all in different places). The Topicexchange channel aggregates the blogpostings people who have attended the workshops write.

The name BlogWalk is derived from the two international conferences BlogTalk in Vienna in 2003 and 2004 (and in 2005 in Australia)and is meant to complement the conference with smaller scale get-togethers. During each BlogWalk workshop an extended walk through the city it takes place is part of the programme.

I have also seen the word blogwalk used for "surfing from one blog to another" and for a group of bloggers doig a pubcrawl somewhere.



At 4:06 AM, Blogger Andy said...

Apologies for not replying to you both...[Sat 20 May 05]

Mind been on other things and in other places (sunny beautiful, unlike UK) of late.

Strange - unable to sleep, cut losses, got up (3.30am GMT), checked weblogs after a few weeks away - to find comments which make me realise unless you keep this thing up - Googling, reading weblogs, writing about what you think you have understood, and joining in the debates where you think you might have something useful to say - the whole thing becomes rather other-worldly. It seems a bit arcane right now. Soon get back into the swing of things.

Re-checking what I wrote about you both, getting a quick frisson of embarassment (if that is the right expression: maybe a leap, jolt better) makes it clearer than ever that professonal weblogworld type of people are literally iving in another world. That is not to say it is bad or wrong. Just that the time away from the webworld has brought this realisation into focus: a 'jolt of recognition' that in this world people are trying hard to understand what is going on but at the same time, in their efforts, trying just that little bit to hard to find something new and interesting to say about what, when looked at with another eye, are often no more than commonplaces wrapped up in jargon and academic-ese.

It is unfair in a way to make it seem as if this is directed at you two - it isn't. I honed in on you because there seemd something interesting to learn from you. Despite being inexpert in these social technology fields, I have been educated enough to discern most peoples' drift, however expressed. Is not that the meaning of being educated? The grasping of cores, essentials and expressing the graspings as clearly and interestingly as possible.

I promise to get back to reading you both and learn what I can on behalf of the rest of non social software humanity!

My guiding principle will always be the old saw about re-inventing the wheel. Though sometimes you have it re-invent one yourself to demonstrate that someone else is also guilty of doing so. Quicker or more efficient is not necessarily significantly different, an improvement, or in the words of another set of jargon, progressive.

Two catch-ups yesterday were reading about the CISCO and Lexis scandals. These sorts of things do make me wonder if we are not being sold a lemon....maybe the simpler questions about what we should - can, ought - be prepared to divulge to others (an eternal set of questions) by whatever means, technical or non-technical, are ones we ought to go back to more often and examine more closely.




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