I found it inside my blog reader!

There's informal learning happening inside my blog readerI All these bloggers I subscribe to appear to be learning without formal instruction. No one is showing signs of rote learning, acquiring books smarts without street smarts, or regurgitating a repository of useless facts. All these bloggers are self directing their own learning proceses, motivating their own progress, synthesizing their own meaning and constructing idiosyncratic mental models.

How did all these bloggers get so resourceful and practiced at learning informally from the blogging they are doing? Was there a workshop or webinar I missed on how grow and change from blogging? Is there a sim where the branched story guides the learner to make the right learning choices? Are all these bloggers learning informally (from reading, writing, linking, subscribing, deleting, quoting and getting quoted) without being taught how to do that? Aren't they (and me) in danger of making costly mistakes to have taught themselves how to learn from blogging?

Are there leaders running this show? It there a design for this community in my blog reader provided by someone else? Maybe there is one of those servant leaders that leads by following, serving and supporting the followers? But I'm thinking I'm the real leader. I decide to subscribe and delete RSS feeds and control the membership and agenda this way. I create new folders and dictate which bloggers go in each. I give the folders names of my choosing, like I'm doing some Web 2.0 folksonomy tagging thing.

This might be an unconference. I don't recall flying to my blog reader, renting a nearby hotel room or signing up for the conference. But the latest postings in my blog reader seem like that whiteboard of potential conference sessions. It's that same process where the agenda cannot be set in advance, but emerges from the collective expertise that is gathered together. Whenever a blogger stays with a topic for several postings, that's like a conference session. When other bloggers join in via comments or links to their own blog, that's like a panel session in my blog reader.

My blog reader is like Nancy White's diagram for a "topic centric" blog community where there are many shifting overlaps between blogs. None of the bloggers are boundaried and ruling out the overlap with my interests. It reminds me (Nancy too perhaps?) so much of the new TV show (Fall 2006 inthe US) called "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip". The flux within the community comes up with a program schedule from scratch each week, abuses a team that writes comedy sketches in the basement while coaltions and stances constantly change among the characters. The show gives a fascinating portrait of an amorphous / structured community in action, just like the amazing show in my blog reader.

All these contributions appear to raise the water level and float all the boats. It's functioning like the open source movement and gift economies. The decentralized, democratized governance nurtures staggering amounts of initiative, creativity, and enterprising spirit among the bloggers in my reader. There are no privitized tax breaks, kickbacks or subsidies for blogging. It's as amazing as the quality of wikipedia entries or the generosity of each Burning Man festival attendee.

What's the effect of all this. It appears highly contagious to me. We're talking "network effects" like every blogger is linked to every other blogger. Changes can move through this system without making it happen. Unlike controlled distribution systems, confining pipelines and hierarchical power structures, this is the long tail of phenomenal numbers of artisans at work. And it's all inside my blog reader right now. Wow!


  1. Excellent! I could not agree more.

  2. Wonderful thought-byte: it captures the moment (2006 Winter solstice) when lots of us are seeing the blogs from the academies.

    Or, less obtusely, what you seem to have captured is what I call ante-formal learning - learning that has not (yet) been formalised, and I think its where most learning is now taking place. Its part of a 'knowledge process cycle' that I am working on, and recently published.

  3. This is great, and I use blogs as my preferred route for keeping up to date with all things learning.

    There is one thing I can't see my way through. The relationship between informal learning and credentials.

    Blogs are essentially super-networking among peers. But how does the outsider (who might be my client) know that I know what I am talking about? We have traditionally associated credibility with formal learning and a portfolio of experience. I am not going to convince my client that I know what I am an expert because I contribute to all these blogs. Do we have to continue with formal learning in order to prove credentials? Or is there an informal equivalent?

    Just a thought...

  4. Mark
    I'm becoming increasingly impressed with blogging as a credential. It combines some formal and informal dimensions of someone's qualifications -- better than resumes, online profiles or vanity websites. Blogging is more revealing of how someone is growing from, changing amidst, responding to and diagnosing new situations. Formal credentials are becoming more perishable and disconnected from changing challenges. Qualifications are becoming more a question of "what you are thinking this week" or "how are your responding to that setback this time around"? Thus far, I'm only sorting bloggers between subscribe / delete, read every day / read once in awhile and follow their links / read the next blog. Yet I see in the blogging, responding to comments, raising questions -- the potential to recognize the qualifications for collaborating or setting them loose on a challenge as a consultant, contractor or employee. Blogging is "super networking among peers" as you say. It's also revealing about how bloggers think, respond to challenges, vary from day to day and interact within a community of diverse thinkers. Pretentiousness, exaggerated credentials and misrepresentations become obvious through blogging. Besides technical proficiencies showing up, it becomes apparent how confident, courageous, creative and compassionate the blogger usually is.