A blog by any other name

I’ve been blogging for a long time now. I originally started in 2009 for a charity project I was working on and discovered a passion to share my ideas with the world (even if most of them were only ever read by my mom-Hi Mom!).

On this forum alone my posts go back to 2011, many of which are still relevant today. While I should admit I am highly critical of my evolution as a writer, I have never been afraid of to have confidence in my ideas no matter how flawed the delivery might have been. I credit this confidence in my words to the passion of my early years: journaling, and to the professors who give me good grades on my work.

So today I am wondering what the value my contributions and those of others are making on our culture and the digital space as a whole through the act of blogging.

Creating community and sharing ideas

The internet and all that lives on it from blogs and forums to ratings and reviews are about connection across time and space. Sharing ideas with people without regard for their time zone is something that makes blogging special.

Bloggers like Luis Suarez discuss the idea that this community and collaborative lifestyle is our right as citizens of the world. Kathleen Asselin also speaks of this interactive lifestyle and momentum in growth in her thesis (reference here: sadly not available outside of a library).

My posts started as essays on topics I was faced with in the workplace. They are littered with challenges of offering great customer experiences in eCommerce and digital marketing, topics, which were the reason I started erinburrell.ca. Here and there I would throw in a few accolades for those doing great things, but it quickly morphed into business commentary and hard-won survival tips with a sprinkling of academic content added for good measure.

Creating reach to new content and topics

As a student and scholar, I have access to publications most people only armed with Google and an internet connection will never see. Content under the badge of being scholarly and peer reviewed is often highly researched, validated, and edited for quality but sadly read even less than my personal blog in some cases.

Part of that fault is, of course, the desire for people to be paid for their content. An idea which with just a smidgen of understanding what it takes to publish an article makes sense. I have access to a great deal of paid content because I pay tuition and rich library access is included in my fees. I agree that content creators should be paid for their efforts, but I am sad that many publications and ideas will never reach people who could benefit from them.

Unfortunately, that means that the ideas we are all exposed to at no cost in some cases are….. well…. Let’s just call them poorly researched and not well cited to be generous.

Heidi Estes discusses the idea that blogging makes space for personal commentary and criticism in academic efforts and helps to round out the ideas of a scholar (here’s hoping).  Sadly her blog was not in the first few pages of search so the closest I can offer you for free is the abstract of one of her articles discussing the topic in more detail.-You can purchase instant access to the entire article for about what Netflix costs you each month.

Finding the balance: Freemium content

Freemium is one of my favourite things about the digital age. I could dedicate more than one post just to the value I think this adds to the digital economy, but for the uninitiated, this means that you have access to a product or service with limits. If you want to live life without limits you must pay for the privilege-somewhat like TV in the 90’s.

Great content providers in the entertainment, business, and journalistic space have embraced this idea. Harvard Business Review will let you read a little, as will People.com and the New York Times, but after you reach the limit it’s pay to play. I wish academia would embrace this, but I suppose it will be scholars like me that can change the face of publishing if we want to.

Freemium in my opinion, is the best of both worlds. Creators get paid and if they are producing content people really enjoy, in turn they pay for a subscription or buy what they want in an a la carte pricing menu.

So who am I to direct you?

Today I would call myself a scholar-practitioner. I study a number of topics and currently practice in the space of information technology and business strategy. My content is free and without the burden of extra ads and marketing because I pay service providers for blocking additional noise from my words.

If you like something I share or dislike it for that matter, you are welcome to comment, like and follow me. Or not. Your call.

I will continue to share my thoughts because I might be able to offer connections between the dots of concepts that you wouldn’t hear about without me.

I do ask you to forgive the gaps that may occur between posts. I am currently working toward my second masters degree, work full time and have lots of hobbies that keep me busy.  Plus, we all know that I actually pay for the chance to talk to you through this forum (domain registration, ad suspension, web hosting), not the other way around.

Then again delays could be that I am randomly surfing YouTube watching the cat videos that make the internet great.

Head to the archives and see what else I have to say.

Becoming an educated consumer of ideas

I had a paper due last week that included a critical review on the ideas and strategy of a talented scholar. At first I struggled with the idea that my feedback could possibly be valuable. It wasn’t until I began to evaluate the content with fresh eyes that I was able to find the perspective I needed to add value.

Adding to a body of work in any area is intimidating, but it’s exactly how new ideas are born. The work I was reading had a particular approach that could be reused and adapted to meet other environments and it was my fresh perspective and background that make that possible.

It is in this frame that I present my newly created 3 step process to becoming an educated consumer of ideas:

  1. Educated idea consumers have a base to start from: You must first have a foundation of knowledge to evaluate content on. In the case of my paper, I was using research methodology and types of critical inquiry to evaluate the authors work. In order to provide any feedback of value, I had to make sure I understood the theory behind research and inquiry before evaluating theirs. See the contrary approach of the guy who refuses to vote but criticises the politician.
  2. Admit what you do not know: I was not an expert in the topic of the paper so didn’t provide feedback on the data itself, but instead on the way they approached the research question and the methodology they used to develop their theory. See the guy who critiques the mechanic when they have never even lifted a wrench.
  3. Take a chance to learn from what you read or hear: The topic of the paper was fascinating to me well beyond what I was tasked with reading it for. It motivated me to do additional reading to further solidify the new ideas in my own mind. While at first I was intimidated by the topic I was able to take the new content on a more personal journey through the internet so that I could understand the overall purpose more fully and add a new tool in my mental toolbox to further improve the way I work. See the girl who receives irrefutable evidence but still swears that her argument is valid.

Reading and writing critically will be something I continue to work on, but with the help of great instructors, and some friends on the internet I was able to learn about two things at once. Talk about double dipping! If we each apply these three simple steps we can all become more educated consumers and creators of ideas.

 

Kotter is my Pal

It’s funny, when I started writing each new paper I kept hitting a wall when I wanted to credit my sources.  When I was attempting to follow the formal rules for citing a source, I was also breaking apart the framework that made my argument solid with a clumsy transition from my interpretation of the idea into the actual source of the idea itself.

It just occurred to me that the easiest papers to read were written as though the writer had just had a chat with the original idea guy or gal.  They were discussing a concept and using evidence from other peoples work seamlessly because of the level of familiarity that they had with the raw concept and the source writer.

In many cases the research papers and journal articles that I am reading are written by some of the greatest minds in the business community.  These writers are prolific and have produced books, articles, case studies and even have YouTube channels all about their concepts.  What I discovered is that I too, am getting to know these brilliant minds.  I now understand and can use examples from the different works because I am getting familiar with their theories.

I will be referring to these gifted academics in papers (respectfully and with the correct CMOS footnotes) as though I know them.  The risk of not giving sources credit is too high to not work as hard as I can at finding a way to do this well.  I am going to try this approach for my next two papers.  Kaplan, Miles, Kotter et al are now my friends and trusted inner circle.  Starting today I will be crediting them the same way I would credit an idea from a call with my mom or lunch with a friend.

My goal from this test is to see if it helps my writing become fluid again and see if it helps me to take some of the crispy tone out of the sentences supported by a citation.  From what I understand this is a skill that needs practice and will someday become something I no longer have to work at.  Until such time as I can integrate credit with the best of them, these celebrities of academia are my peeps.