Reflection on Sentences About

This week one of the biggest steps I took in my research of Wikis was creating my own name page. After attending class on Tuesday and becoming familiar with the assignment, I created a new page within this – something else I’ve only recently learned how to do – and organized it into two headings. These were “Pages I Created” and “Pages I Contributed to”.

Which led me into Sentences About. The general goal was to write on a wiki, so this is what I focused on. My additions and contributions were rudimentary, at best, but that was the point of this week. To get an idea, to begin, to dip our toes into the waters. We were instructed to select three links, do research, and write about it.

So I chose “The Audience“, “Collective Writing“, and “Audience as Family“. I actually created the first one, since no one else had yet. After briefly exploring what the term itself means, I researched the various strategies to reach that audience and found examples of successful blogs utilizing these. I certainly learned more about the meaning of “audience”, but I’m not sure that was the point of the exercise. More importantly, I learned how to format a wiki page and the freedom involved in creating one.

The other two I was simply a contributor. For “Collective Writing” I did research on the topic and added to the disadvantages involved with this. I also found examples of sites or platforms supporting the idea. Since “Audience as Family” was largely set up as a discussion rather than a set of notes, I added my own thoughts and insights into what it means to view a wiki audience as family rather than a target. I also added a link back to the “Collaborative Writing” page since the two topics were so closely related.

While I don’t think my notes were thorough, I do feel I was successful in achieving this week’s goal. I’m much more familiar with what it is to work on a wiki and collaborate on one.

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Notes on Preparing for Wikis

Notes on the assigned reading

Thoughts and highlights on Common Craft video about Wikis:

  • One of the strengths of a Wiki page is the ability to coordinate.
  • Two essential buttons are “edit” and “save”.
  • Can add pages with “link” option.

Thoughts and highlights on Wiki’s own definition of Wikis:

  • “A wiki is an application, typically a web application, which allows collaborative modification, extension, or deletion of its content and structure.”
  • A change to the text or page is called a “wiki markup” or “rich-text editor”.
  • A Wiki is not a blog.
  • There is no author or owner for a Wiki.
  • There are different kinds of Wiki software.
  • “Wikis can serve many different purposes both public and private, including knowledge management, notetaking, community websites and intranets.”
  • There are different levels of access for certain pages.

Thoughts and highlights on Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not:

  • Fundamental principles: anyone can change anything, they use simplified hypertext markup, page titles are mashed together, and content is ego-less, time-less, and never finished.
  • “What’s unique about wikis is that users define for themselves how their processes and groups will develop, usually by making things up as they go along.”
  • There is a wild variety of uses for a Wiki page, from creating a job board to documenting research.
  • One of the biggest concerns for a newcomer is the fact that anyone can change their page. However, “wikis save copies of successively edited versions; thus, work that has been deleted or defaced can be recovered with a couple clicks of the mouse. Changes are readily detected, and deleting flames or unconstructive contributions is usually easier than creating them” and “an open environment also encourages participation and a strong sense of common purpose”.
  • Open-access encyclopedia Wikipedia is the biggest and best-known wiki project.
  • The “recent changes” list and the search box are extremely important tools.
  • An issue that might slow the use of wikis in higher education is the specification of IP rights by contributors. Three common IP schemes are Community Copyright (allows individuals to assert rights over their work while allowing their contributions to be modified within the wiki), Public Domain (dictates that any contributor to the wiki space surrenders all copyright), and Copy Left (allows anyone to use the content of the wiki for any purpose and to make derivative works, under the condition that all copies and derivative works are released under the same license as the original).

Thoughts and highlights on Above and Below the Double Line: Refactoring and That Old-Time Revision:

  • “Thread Mode is a discussion.”
  • It is not an opportunity to preach and it has a more open-minded nature to it with its use of first person. It is also signed, typically.
  • “DocumentMode is an exposition.”
  • It is more active and formal in its use of third person. The ideas are the center rather than the author. It is usually unsigned.
  • “Refactoring is something like revising” and “less opportunistic. It is a conscientious technique for developing a page, for moving it toward document mode”.
  • It is important to use double lines and page patterns! (These are pages born of discussion.)
  • Being a contributor to a wiki involves not only continual additions and changes but also returning to the page and keeping track of the changes that have been made by others.
  • “WikiWord is a… potential to be filled.”

Notes on the assigned wiki pages

At c2.com:

  • Amount of links is overwhelming.
  • Difficult to read because of text coloring. Very bright.
  • Seems to be in Document Mode, since first person is notably absent. The reader is often addressed as “you”. This matches definition of “pages and sections of pages become the collective property of the wiki. They are in third-person and unsigned.” (Source.)
  • However, this isn’t unsigned. Author of the page isn’t anonymous, and Ward Cunningham even offers information about himself.
  • There are no Double Lines to make things more organized on the main page.
  • The deeper I delve into the links, the more I see bullet points. Once in a while, there’s a bolded word. And finally, the author utilized double lines. Is this the work of a different contributor? How am I able to tell, if that’s possible?
  • Find Page link is convenient and makes navigation easier. There’s also a helpful link to the main page.
  • Apparently this page isn’t open to just anyone making changes. There’s a link that offers the reasons for this, but isn’t the purpose of a Wiki page making it available to everyone’s editorial whims?
  • The writers are very direct and no-nonsense in the information being presented. Not a lot of creative content visible. Is this a result of the writers or the natural structure of a Wiki?
  • Very helpful information on formatting rules. Style seems to differ slightly from the main page; it’s more list-oriented and even the layout of information is different.

At Meatball Wiki:

  • Very different feel from c2. Content is a bit easier to take in, since it’s organized beneath headings.
  • The authors have taken organization further by using numbers.
  • There is a discussion option on this Wiki. Gives the site a more Thread Mode feel.
  • Appreciate how the “Recent Changes” is right at the top of the page. Makes it easy to find the newest content.
  • However, this is also to the site’s detriment because it’s the main way to navigate through the pages.
  • The mission of this site is immediately noticeable.
  • Meatball is more welcoming toward contributors, it seems. As long as you’re a member, you can make tweaks and additions to the information.
  • Formatting for both sites is very similar, in the limited navigation options and the use of links for redirection. Is this the only option Wiki offers? Or is it just a coincidence Meatball and c2 are so alike?

On Rettburg and Blogging: Chapter Five (Part Four) (#en3177)

After a week of looking at Kiersten White’s blog and rereading chapter five in Blogging so many times that I can practically recite it, it’s easy to connect what I’ve found in addition to drawing on this when I look at blogs as narratives.

It’s obvious right off the bat that this is not a pseudonymous blog. However, there is still a version of White being presented to us. As Rettburg states so aptly, “Just as we study ourselves in a mirror, shaping our features so our reflections please us, so we create a reflection of ourselves in a weblog. At the same time, we use our blogs to veil ourselves, not telling all but presenting only certain carefully selected aspects of our selves to our readers” (243). We see the obvious sides of this person: writer and mother. But it is clear – especially in her latest posts – that she is only revealing certain parts of her life. A sorrowful event that has affected her so greatly she revisits it every year and the highlights of her literary successes.

In the beginning, we experienced both the highs and lows. From the first time she was published to how awful she found the querying process. She told us that her blog would be a place where she’d “talk about… efforts, failures, and hopefully successes at becoming a published author” (Source).

Because that is no longer true, I was on the verge of concluding that this was not a narrative blog after all. Which would be extremely troublesome in regards to fulfilling the assignment. However, I went back to our professor’s summary of the assignment and read, “The narrative is a feature of how the blog progresses, not what it’s about” (Source). With this in mind, White’s blog still holds up when I look at it. Over time, it certainly has changed. In a way, it’s gone from being a site of self-exploration to one of ongoing narration. Or maybe it’s become a bit of both. After all, “Blogs as narrative cross blog genre lines” and at the core they are “a form of life-writing or autobiography” (Rettburg 227).

I was curious if my classmates had reached the same sort of conclusion. In perusing her own narrative blog, Emmalyn Dahl aptly states that “the reader gains an understanding of the topic, and little by little, fragment by fragment (as Rettberg would say), you piece together the author’s personal story, her motives behind why she does what she does, and her project. As the life of her blog develops and as her life continues in different directions, the blog shifts as well… Even the author of the blog doesn’t really know what that overall picture looks like, until they reflect one day, maybe years away, and see the overall picture of their blog, and in a deeper sense, an overall picture of who they are too (the mirrors that Rettberg refers to). We learn that blogging is a complicated thing to explain. But that’s easy to understand, because it’s hard to fit all blogs into one simple mold. You will find that even in categories (such as a Narrative blog), you will never find one Narrative blog the exact same.”

Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

On Rettburg and Blogging: Chapter Five (Part Three) (#en3177)

One of the ideas in this chapter is how a blog is being used as a mirror or “as a way of reflecting on events”. This certainly applies in the case of Kiersten White’s site, but the story isn’t as comprehensive as some. Especially recently. Back when she began blogging in 2008, she posted consistently and had variety of professional and personal posts. They easily came together to form a narrative. Now, however, there is a lot being left out, like the author’s day-to-day life or other personal highlights that might be occurring. If I were to look for a narrative now, Kiersten White’s blog isn’t holding up very well. There just aren’t many contiguous or story-like posts.

Lately, the main thing that seems to sparks off a post is new information or a specific occasion. That is, author-related updates Kiersten provides for her fans and readers such as public upcoming events. There doesn’t seem to be an obligation to post regularly, and in one instance she even apologizes for the lack of new posts. There is a notable absence of things like daily routine. Either she has become too busy to update as regularly as she used to – in her latest publication she mentioned how her entire family was ill – she lost her passion for blogging, or she decided to shift the focus of her site.

When it comes to presenting the blog as a public narrative, Kiersten White doesn’t go to many extents. There are one or two markers when I looked a little closer, like directly addressing the reader, which signals she does know someone is reading. Examples of this can often be found at the very beginning of her posts, like here and here when she says things like “hello, my lovelies” or “I am positively exploding… on account of the news I have for you today”.

Given all that I’ve seen in my reading of the blog and writing about it, the main thing this helps me understand about blogging is that our perception of it can change. We can go from believing them to be one thing, following and reading the posts for a long time, and suddenly realize that we’ve either been exposed to different content than we were expecting or our own views of the site have altered. Does that make sense? I went from firmly thinking of Kiersten White’s blog as an ongoing narrative – as a narrative in general! – to questioning whether it’s one at all.

Guess I’ll have to keep digging and reading Rettburg’s chapters.

On Rettburg and Blogging: Chapter Five (Part Two) (#en3177)

“You’ll have to comb the blogger’s archive to find out when it started, and to get an overall sense of the direction of the blog, the topics and style of the posts – personal or even confessional, or more public and distant – and to get a sense of where it went and where it seems to be going. In a series of posts, consider how the blogger uses narrative.” -Dr. Michael Morgan

Yesterday, I began my exploration of author and mother Kiersten White’s blog, considering things like whether or not it’s goal-oriented and what kind of narrative it is, according to Rettburg’s definitions. Today I took an even closer look at the posts themselves and what White provides for us.

While she does not link back to prior posts, she does often refer to prior events. This is most seen in her personal publications, especially concerning a time of loss for her and her family, which is something she talks about once a year. Though Kiersten doesn’t use tags or categories at all, I’m generally not left piecing it together sequentially myself. She does use narrative devices such as a flashback.

An example of this is a post she shared on a trip she and her husband took to Romania while telling us about her new book deal, which is relevant to Rettburg’s mention of a sequential narrative in a blog (separate narratives that cover time-limited events such as a vacation or a sabbatical or a project). She also describes her book tours. So, yes, these sequential narratives are very much present.

Because Kiersten is such a successful author and so well-known, she’s built quite a following for her blog. Every single post has comments from her readers. Especially when it comes to personal triumphs or losses, I noticed. However, I also observed that she doesn’t ever incorporate these comments into the narrative. What she does take the time to incorporate is external links. Oftentimes they’re for venues she’ll be at for a signing or an event, sites where you can buy her books, or sales that are going on for them. It’s admirable that the only content she provides to actually leave her page draws them right back again.

And I know that even if it weren’t for this assignment, I’d go back tomorrow.

On Rettburg and Blogging: Chapter Five (Part One) (#en3177)

“One of the important uses of blogs is for narratives. The narrative might be personal – mirrors. But, as Rettberg mentions, bloggers also start blogs, or start stretches of posts on blogs, as a way of recording a project. They can also be topical: There are blogs about senior year, about writing a dissertation, about learning to cook, raising kids, building a house, moving to the country and creating a home.” -Dr. Michael Morgan

Over a series of four posts, I plan on exploring every aspect of a narrative blog and how it relates to Rettburg’s chapter.

As for the blog itself, I chose to focus on the site of Kiersten White, who is an author and mother. She has no desire to be pseudonymous, and in her first post, she states that “rather than continuing to force my journey to publication on my family and friends, I’d start a new site devoted just to my writing.” Perhaps the event that started her online blogging was a desire to find people with similar passions… or maybe she was simply annoying everyone in her life with her own literary fervor.

Whatever the reason, the record of her journey to publication – and then her experiences beyond the release of that first novel – is fairly open-ended and authentic. It’s not just about a single project and thus not very goal-oriented, which is “when a blogger starts a blog with a clear project in mind” (230). During my perusal I read posts about her writing, events, successes and failures both author-related and otherwise. Which is why – though it initially seems to be professional – the blog is a combination of personal and career as she talks about her craft and her family. There are both public announcements and confessional ones.

Her blog was begun in 2008 and continues to be updated. The events that tend to prompt posting are upcoming events and a time for personal reflection. Her self-representation is interesting in that she’s both a distant figure in her success, and yet entirely relatable in certain moments of vulnerability. Rettburg points out that “each post in a blog has a beginning and an end, and can in principle be read on its own. Read together, the posts create a larger story” (227). So even though one post is a story of the loss of one of her children and another is about a new book deal, they still come together to document the life of this woman. Thus, if I had to put a label on what kind of blog this is, I would say it’s an ongoing narration. Someday there will be an end, and when we look back it will form an entire story.

So far, I find it fascinating.

Reflection on Rettburg’s Blogging: Chapter Three (#en3177)

This week was a little harder for me. Not in the amount of work we had in class – the load was actually lighter compared to what we’ve done so far – but in the specifics of the assignment itself. I may have missed the mark when it came to learning what we were meant to learn.

Based off the third chapter of Rettburg’s Blogging, we were instructed to take an idea and delve into it, exploring examples and expanding upon it. While I do feel well-educated on the four characteristics of online social spaces, I didn’t delve near enough. There was more I could’ve said about the examples I found.

As to assignment outcome, I wrote a blog post on the performance aspect to social networking in Jill Walker Rettburg’s third chapter of Blogging. Again, the ideas I presented need to be developed more. When talking to my professor about it, he told me that “one way of addressing these criteria is to locate something you don’t understand well and work with it until you start to understand it well. You’ll know you’re on to something when you can declare a point solidly rather than falling back on waffly conclusions.”

Which was solid advice. So now I know what I need to work on for this week! I also want to focus on blogging more in general, whether it be about my writing or what we review in class. Wish me luck!