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Blogging Conferential

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It's been a remarkably unconferential spring for me--I bailed on CCCC this year, am not going next year, and currently, RSA and C&W are happening without me, and doing just fine, I imagine. But over round Blogora way, Rosa asks, "who is livebloggin RSA in Seattle?" and the answer would appear to be no one. I've seen a couple of entries, and a handful of tweets, about C&W, but nothing steady. So I'm breaking prose silence to offer up a modest proposal, one I think I may have talked about before...

If I were hosting a conference, I think I'd see about raising money in order to have a bunch of folk blog the sessions. I know that there used to be something similar for CCCC, but I think that that was strictly a volunteer effort. So here's my proposal:

Offer 5 travel stipends to graduate students at $1000 apiece. To earn that money, they must commit to blogging at least one panel during the majority of sessions during the conference. (I can't be more specific, because it would depend greatly on the conference format, breaks between sessions, keynotes, etc.) For the sake of argument, let's say that that number is 10. So $100 per session.

In an ideal world, the organization would provide the laptops. That is coming closer and closer to becoming a reality, financially. My ultra set-up cost less than $300, and the prices on these things will only drop as Intel gets further into the game. But for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that most would have their own or one they can borrow.

Also, lap desks. They don't need to be from Levenger or anything. You can get a good one at B&N for $30. It's worth it.

Also, a lounge/room set aside for them to store coats, bags, gear, laptops, with Wifi, cable hookups if they need, and bottles of water and bagels/muffins. Also, if they prefer to type up handwritten notes, they could do that here as well.

Someone from the organization would coordinate with them, so that all 5 aren't blogging the same panel during a given session, of course. But otherwise, they'd just be turned loose on the conference.

The upside? It'd be awfully nice for the majority of people in any organization who don't come to the conference, yes. But it would also provide a means of archiving what is now our #1 source of almost completely disposable scholarship. I've given some interesting papers now and then, and the only record of them outside of my hard drive is the paper title in the program. It would give all of us access to a largely untapped area of our disciplinary scholarship.

I'm not talking about posting the papers themselves, although I sometimes will do that for myself, so it wouldn't be an issue of a pre-print threatening those who want to publish longer versions later on. But a good blog summary of a panel would be enough to let researchers know if they'd like to follow up and email a presenter for a copy of the paper.

Or, imagine that you're putting together a panel on X for a future conference. It'd be nice to be able to do a search for folks working on that topic. Or to gather some ideas about possible folk for an edited collection. Or to get some idea about whose work you might want to follow up on for an article of your own about X.

Right now, the scholarship we do for conferences vanishes into the ether for the most part. Blogging the conference in a semi-systematic fashion would mitigate against that, and it would make all of us who don't attend every single conference feel a lot more connected. That wouldn't be a horrible thing, either.

Let's say that we have 1000 people in an organization, which is probably an overestimate for some and under for others. But given 1000 dues-paying members, it would take and extra $5 a year to pull this off, and the result would be access to a cumulative database of 150 presentations per conference (5 bloggers x 10 panels x 3 presenters/panel).

Finally, it would be a nice way to support our graduate students and it would be, I imagine, a really valuable introduction to the breadth of our discipline for those who participated. At conferences like RSA and C&W, the majority of the panels could be blogged. It would be a little more of a drop in the bucket at a conference like Cs, but that's the organization most capable of scaling this up beyond just 5 bloggers, too.

Seriously, I'd pay $5 or $10 more a year if a database from each year of the conference was the result. If someone could get on that for me...heh.

That is all.

Shakin loose

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[Flickr: rogergreenpig]


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[Flickr: Dylan]
[Style: A Softer World]


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The design doesn't exactly float my boat, but I think that I've reached the point where I don't need to rebuild, at least for a while. It's going to take me a little while to learn the new MT syntax and page styles--it took me way too long to figure out how to swap the positions of recent entries and recent comments on the sidebar, but I did eventually figure it out. MT4 is much widgetastic than MT3: a lot of the templates are basically paragraphs of includes, and little else, which necessitates drilling sometimes 3 or 4 layers deep to find the places I've needed to edit.

First blush, though, is that this is a much sharper version than any that I saw with MT3, so I'm looking forward to messing about with it. That may change once I dip into the style sheets, but we'll see. I can already see, though, how some of the workarounds we developed for CCC Online are going to be supported as features in MT4, so I'm pretty happy about that.

Oh, and commenting. I've enabled anonymous comments, along with a default captcha, so commenting will require clicking on the "comment anonymously" link, and puzzling out a handful of letters. It's a little extra burden, but the tradeoff it represents (no more greenlists, no more junk drawer purges, no more picking through 100s of pending comments to find the few that are legit) should be substantial.

And the auto tag cloud, I'm hoping, will inspire me to be better about tagging my entries as I write them, and to slowly work back through the opening 1000 entries, tagging on the way...

That is all.

My ultiMate roMan nuMeral

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If my MT interface is to be believed, this would be my 1000th blog entry. I am only a little stunned by this fact, although it makes sense, considering that I've been at this for almost four and a half years now. This is the final roman numeral milestone, and so I offer three forms of celebration, in likely order of their achievement:

First, I present to you similarly roman numeralled entries, bolded for your clicking convenience: D C L X V I

I'm warning you now: it's a motley bunch of posts.

Celebration #2 is that I'm going to finally upgrade here to MT4, and I'm hoping that a new suite of antisp4m will cut down on the crap round these parts. I had to clear out close to 600 junk comments this weekend, and it's catching legitimate comments from new folk way too often. Maybe I'll slap a captcha on there too. Anyway, that's coming soon.

And coming a little later is a redesign. I need to redesign the CCCOA too, and that has priority, so it may not be until later in the semester. But look for that...

Wow. 1000 entries. Mmmmmm good. That's all.

I started the week with an idea for an entry, but not really the time to deploy it.

And as the week has progressed, ideas have come at me from all directions, but I've held back, waiting for the time to draft my early-week idea.

But now, I think I've mostly forgotten the original idea. Maybe I'll have a little time tonight to reconstruct it. Here's a tease: it's tangentially about the possibility of Welsh rhetoric.

More anon.


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I shall return. Soon.

Year Five, Day One

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Seems a little disingenuous to pop on after a long disappearance, and announce my blog's birthday, but here we are. It was four years ago that I posted for the first time, and the voice of me then is not the voice of me now. I think it's a TMBG lyric that goes something like "I was young and foolish then, I feel old and foolish now"?

So happy blogday to me.

That's one reason to return. The other is that a few days ago, I actually had a dream where someone dropped me from their blogroll, and I initiated a huge blogwar to get back onto it. There's no law says my dreams have to make sense. But if you've dropped me recently, watch out!

It may take a while for me to get back into the swing, and I still want to run out some autobio posts, in the interest of achieving quadruple digits post-wise and rolling out a new design in celebration.

That's all for now.

And the winner is...

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Donna! After sitting on 1999 comments for almost 48 hours, I was about ready to comment myself and just buy a book for me. Then I remembered that nothing stops me from buying me books anyway. (Daywatch anyone?) At long last, though, Donna contributed the following:

By the way, hasn't anyone made comment #2000 yet?

Yes, yes someone has. Thanks to that comment, Donna will soon receive an undisclosed item from her hastily assembled wish list, delivered to her door by the fine folks at

It's a little anticlimactic, I know, for the 2000th comment to be a meta-comment about the 2000th comment. But them's the breaks. The next milestone round these parts, if I can get off my butt and post more than once a week, should be my 1000th entry. It's a ways off yet, but I daresay you'll know it when it happens.

That's all. Have a lovely weekend.

In an episode that demonstrates where my media preferences and habits lie, I caught a post of Kathleen's today a couple of hours in advance of the digested email list to which she refers.

Anyhow, in this conversation, a senior scholar raises the question of whether or not students should be blogging about people who may one day be their colleagues. In short, this scholar has a Google alert set to inform him of mentions of his name, and he wonders about the ethics of allowing students to post their initial forays into his work publicly ("While I am happy that folks are reading my stuff, I am aghast that their entries are on the web for all to read.").

It's an interesting question. Like Kathleen, I don't think it's "unethical" per se, as long as it's made quite clear to the students what the potential drawbacks are should they choose to make themselves identifiable.

But I do think it's a question of ethics in the sense of ethos, which is what I take Kathleen to be talking about. It's important (for different reasons at different points along the academic spectrum) to understand the ethical consequences of blogging, the ways that it may help to construct an identity that potential employers and colleagues may one way be able to access. That's one of the lessons that emerged from the whole Tribble flap.

I think another point worth raising is that, soon enough, these same people (in the case of graduate students) will be writing articles that are in the journals for all to read. It's not quite the same thing, true, but there's one thing about the comparison that does work. It's easy in graduate school (and beyond) to imagine that scholarship, particularly in the humanities, is a matter of moving around quotes and citations, almost treating our sources as chess pieces in our various writerly gambits. It's easy to forget that the proper names that appear on our books and in our articles are more than simply functions. They also signify real people, who will react to our work and our citations in various ways. In other words, it's easy to forget that we are often writing about real people with varying levels of investment in the ideas and quotations that we patch together with our own writing.

I'm not always good at it myself, imagining how the people whose work I draw on would themselves respond to my appropriations. But I think that many of us have to undergo the transition where we write dissertations that challenge "the field," only to realize eventually that we ourselves are "the field," that there is no objective field-out-there but instead networks of colleagues, each of whom tries just as hard as we do to get it right, to advance our understanding, to contribute to knowledge.

Transforming one's self from a student to a scholar is in part a matter of coming to terms with the fact that your audience as a scholar is in fact real, addressed rather than invoked. And I don't mean to make it sound as though my transformation is complete--I think it takes a long time to shake the temptation to treat the field as a reified, monolithic whole in need of correction, revision, or enlightenment. I struggle with this myself.

But one of the things that blogging can do, particularly if one does it in the context of a community of scholars, is to make that transition easier. I'll be spending time with a lot of other bloggers in New York next week, some whom I've known (and I know) pre-blog, but many of whom became "real" to me first through this space. And in a lot of ways, that community has become the audience that I write to, even when I'm not writing in this space.

Not everyone who keeps a class blog is going to have the same experience as I have, certainly, but the potential rewards are substantial, I think, if they develop some sense of the ethos they must develop and the audience they may one day address under more formal circumstances.

That's all.



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