Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hub Dreams...

Well, the complete delight of the syndicated Connected Courses blog hub has really got me thinking how great it would be to have a blog hub at my school too for university-related blogs (faculty, staff, programs). This is probably just me banging my head against the wall ... again ... but gosh, it would be so cool to have a blog hub! By a blog hub I am thinking of something like this:
I've been so impressed at how the blog hub works at Connected Courses, and browsing through the blogs of the 200+ people who are part of the hub has been, for me, the most valuable part of the experience thus far. Of course, a hub can work at any scale... from just 2 blogs, to 20, to 200, to 2000!

I'll be using this blog post to brainstorm out loud about this for a few days and then see what I can cook up this weekend. Any and all feedback would be welcome, especially if anybody is at a school that DOES have some kind of blogging hub for faculty and staff to connect via blogs.

Updated Wed. morning: Thanks to folks at Twitter and G+ for feedback and questions! I've added some more information as a result.
Updated Sun. morning: Thanks again to folks at Twitter, G+, and in comments here for feedback. I've expanded on these ideas some more!

Here are some of the thoughts that I have in mind:

1. Class hubs at the Domains pilot. We've got a Domain of One's Own pilot going at OU, with students blogging like crazy at Each class functions as a "hub" by default because the student blogs are all tagged by the class the students are in, so you can browse by classes in the directory and you can also get an RSS feed for each class. So, I've been watching the different classes by subscribing to the class RSS feeds in my feed reader.

2. The power of blogging. Watching the classes that are part of the Domains pilot is one of the most exciting experiences I have had at OU. Even though I am not present for the actual classes, the flow of the blog posts — day by day, week by week — gives me the sense of really being there in the class, "hearing" the discussion as each student explores in their detailed, individual posts the topic at hand. For a specific example, see Adam Croom's post about the Journalism class and how they are sharing videos via their blogs: Scaling Creativity. It's fabulous!

3. A hub can include existing blogs, too. Hopefully many faculty and staff will take advantage of the Domains pilot (how to request an account), but of course there are existing blogs, too. If we had a hub like the Connected Courses hub, people with existing OU blogs could join in too. We don't have very many active blogs at OU (at least... not that I know of... yet!), but we do have a few really great ones. The College of Liberal Studies Insights blog is a favorite of mine, and that is just one example. Who knows what other great blogs there might be out there now or could be in the future... with just a little encouragement?

4. Help bloggers find readers. People who blog can get discouraged if they feel they do not have readers. Now speaking for myself personally, that's not a worry to me; I am a blogoholic, and I blog in the same way that other people might takes notes in a document — my blogs ARE my notebooks. But I've known plenty of people who get discouraged about their blogging because they feel like they don't have a readership. If we had a blog hub for faculty and staff my school, that could help people find a mutually supportive audience.

5. Blogs, not discussion boards. OU really does not have a viable discussion forum online anywhere (the Chatter experiment lasted a good long while, but it's no longer very active). My guess is that blogs, which people can configure and control themselves, are more likely to promote good communication than a discussion forum. Discussion forums belong to everybody/nobody, especially when there is not a strong pre-existing sense of online community and online engagement. Blogs, on the other hand, are personal spaces which individuals can manage in the way that they feel most comfortable with. They can moderate comments if they want, or they can even turn off comments; blogs still fulfill an important public communication function even without comments. Plus, for academics, blogs have this advantage: they easily allow for tl;dr thinking-out-loud. My blogs are proof of that! :-)

6. Distributed syndication, not a group blog. The idea here is that these blogs are independent blogs, running on any blog software that has full-feed RSS (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, other blog platforms). People publish what they want to publish; people read what they want to read. It's a very a laissez-faire approach powered by inclusiveness, without all the editorial complications that an actual group blog poses.

7. More efficient than individual lists. For several years, I've been trying to subscribe to any University-of-Oklahoma-related blogs I can find, but that is inefficient in all kinds of ways. For one thing, it depends on me finding the blogs, which is very haphazard! And it's also really too personal; a hub for university blogs should not be bound up in one individual's maintenance of a blog list. For my own classes, running a syndicated blog hub with Inoreader makes sense (here's how I do that), but a university blog hub deserves better.

Okay, that is three six seven thoughts to start with. Thanks to everybody for helping me to clarify these thoughts so far!

Big oaks from little acorns grow.


  1. (I'm so frustrated-- I wrote out a whole response then when I clicked Submit, my Ghostery thing ate it.)

    Short version:
    GREAT idea. You could use the domain pilot to create the hub, and create a sign-up form right on the hub. You could also have a bug report form.

    Yes, there is the potential for a MAJOR time suck here. BUT not if it were a work-study position for a deserving student, a position that could be supported by the people sponsoring the pilot, or several departments, or the library. The sponsoring body could get a big hunk of space on the hub? (Alan & Jim could give you a sense of how many hours would be realistic. It would

    Just thinking out loud....

  2. Argh! Goblins have eaten so many of my comments over the years that I always paste it into a text file before I submit. Sometimes the goblins are REALLY wicked! But yes, I am really hoping that the Domains pilot will be an excuse for making this work... I'm not 100% clear on where technical support for the Domains pilot is coming from, but there was an error last night that I reported to very nice Adam Croom on our campus via Twitter, and he pulled in Tim Owens and they sure got it fixed up quickly. I was so impressed.
    What I would be able to contribute is kind of like what I try to do anyway with the blogs I follow - making comments, trying to make connections, and just being an all-purpose cheerleader. I don't have the technical skills to set up the hub that Alan does, but I know Adam is a WordPress wizard.
    Anyway, we'll see. It's been so helpful to think through this. I've often pushed at the idea for some kind of online community but with promoting a specific tool for that... this seems like a very suitable tool which can succeed at a small scale or a large scale.
    Yep, feeling optimistic!!! :-)

  3. I was late getting back to the combined #adjunctchat / #cccourses twitter conversation ~ and mid-blog-post to boot ~ but plan to get back to it. Not all are hashtagged or on the same tag. I may round up the main threads across tags to stash in Diigo or OneTab until I decide what to do with them or just to have in one place.

    At the same time, I'm thinking what kind of hub I'd like on precarious faculty ~ not wheels within wheels but hubs within hubs. Maybe AdjunctChat will do one.

    With most sampling in silence or preferring Facebook "conversations" (irony intended), engagement is problematic.

  4. One thought I have in mind here, Vanessa, is how useful it has been for me to have the two OU Twitter lists I maintain (one program, one fac-staff)... in a sense, my engagement level is low. Some people I retweet a lot, other people not at all, but I am still glad to be able to scan and see what's going on, as a kind of window on to the university, learning things I would not learn in any other way ... and given how big the campus is, so many colleges and programs, there's no way face to face would do that, and I sure would not want an email for every Twitter tweet I scan every day in those lists.... eeeeek! email apocalypse!
    So that is something I also should explain, perhaps, the value of the "aggregate and skim" as a way of getting to know something as big and complex as a university in its daily life!

  5. I would love to do this as well, but no one at my school blogs except for me, so it was be one lonely blog hub LOL

    1. Ha ha, Susan, I know what you mean! I'm not QUITE the only blogger at my school. I need to add something to this post about how a hub works well at all scales. It just takes two to hub! :-)


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