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January 10, 2003
Me giving a talk about all this in Putney tonight

I've just had a phone call from my friend Tim Evans, who alternates with me in running Friday speaker evenings, mine on the last Friday of each month, his on the second Friday. Tim being a person with a far higher metabolic career rate than I, he periodically sits down at his desk and fixes the next year or so of speakers, but periodically he also finds that he has a meeting coming up VERY SOON, and hasn't fixed any speakers AT ALL, even for TONIGHT, let alone for the next entire year. (I just tend at any particular time to have the next one or two speakers lined up.) And so it is today, for the first of Tim's meetings of 2003. So, not being able to arrange a proper speaker at such short notice, he has asked me to speak, about my educational blogging activities. What's that about? Why blogging? Why education? Etc.

I'm a blogger because I've always been a blogger, long before official blogging was invented and computerised. The natural span of a blog posting (which I now believe to be as much to do with the size of the computer screen as to do with attention spans) has always suited me. I used to do "jottings" for Sean Gabb's Free Life, and it was those which told my fellow Samizdatistas that I ought to be one of them. How right they were.

Blogging also suits me because, although not lazy exactly, I am not good at what is called "research", that is to say, prolonged self-immersions in bodies of thought or activity with nothing to show for it until all the immersing has been done. I like to dabble in things, to flit about, to hop from flower to flower, and to pass on whatever little half-masticated titbits I discover to other members of the hive, without having necessarily made full use of or fully comprehended each titbit myself, on a "don't know quite what this means exactly but it sounds interesting" basis, rather than being fully sure for sixteen pages. I've always wanted to do lots of "research" about education, but I couldn't face all those piles of books and reports I thought I would have to lock myself away with and plough through, before writing anything. Blogging, for me, is an alternative way of learning, nearer to conversation. For me, blogging combines most of the virtues of conversation, with most of the virtues of publication. See my earlier remarks here on blogging as a method of self-education. As I am fond of saying, the ambiguity embedded in the title of this blog ("Brian's Education") is entirely deliberate.

To put the above in another way, if blogging does deal with an attention span problem, that problem is not so much with the readers of blogs as with the writers of them. There's probably nothing wrong with your attention span. But the sustained concentration over a minimum of several days that old fashioned writing requires, is, on the whole, beyond me. And a man's got to know his limitations.

(And by the way, just as I was always one of life's bloggers, so too, in a similar way, I was always a desktop publisher. Long before that got computerised I was doing desktop publishing with scissors and glue literally cutting and pasting like some three-year-old at a nursery school, and for once the word literally literally means literally.)

The topics I expect to touch upon tonight may include: the politics of homeschooling (possible laws against it), the economics of homeschooling (a cheaper way of sending the little darlings to Eton and Balliol, basically), the "Sovietisation" of education (a persistent theme here), the impact on education (or lack of it so far) of computers (ditto), and, you know, whatever else pops into my head or anybody else's head on the night.

I hope also to touch upon the general topic of specialist blogging, if you see what I mean. Basically, I'm strongly for it, because it keeps the stuff separated out. It doesn't deluge readers with stuff they probably don't want to read, in among stuff that they might. Specialist blogging improves the information to noise ratio. I predict, for example, that Alice Bachini's specialist parenting blog will get more regular readers than Alice Bachini's personal whatever-comes-into-her-mind-at-that-moment blog, even though I personally love the second one especially.

Although come to think of it, Perry de Havilland gave the last talk for Tim in Putney, on samizdata blogging, and we covered specialist blogging then. So I guess I ought to talk education education education, rather than blogging blogging blogging. Probably a good thing.

Address to attend the meeting: 19 Festing Road, Putney, London SW15. Get there between 7pm and 8pm.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:56 PM
Category: Blogging

Brian, I would not be surprised if, when you were a toddler, the first word you said was "blog!"
Have a good evening. 'Fraid I cannot be there.

Comment by: Tom Burroughes on January 10, 2003 03:39 PM

Things Brian is right about:

1. Rational Parenting is already getting more readers than A Libertarian Parent..., after two days,
2. Blogger stinks. No sooner did I launch RP than ALPITCS went into a giant seizure from which it may never recover. I should have put them both on Movable type, dammit.

Have fun tonight, I wish I was coming too.

Comment by: Alice Bachini on January 10, 2003 05:12 PM

Hello Alice:

Talking of Blogspot, Movable Type etc., today has thrown up a story which makes Blogger's problems a definite case of Not Funny At All.

The word is that China is making it impossible for China-based Blogger users to access their own blogs.

But there is, of course, another explanation, which is simply that Blogger has unleashed another of its fuck-ups.

It is, and this is putting it mildly, extremely irritating for the suffering Sino-Bloggers not now to be entirely sure what is going on.

What's the betting Blogger finally starts World War III (the one we thought had been cancelled in 1991) by making all the super-powers think that all the other super-powers are screwing with the internet?

Comment by: Brian Micklethwait on January 10, 2003 05:59 PM

Blogger may or may not start WWIII but you can bet on the likely start-date on the web. Over on freerepublic.com (for those who suspect that the Daily Telegraph is a commie rag) there is a "Attack on Iraq" betting pool. The latest and 641th post suggests 11th February at 0205 EST. The "Attack on North Korea" betting pool has 78 posts with the latest forecast being 1st August at 0130 Pyongyang time. There are no cash prizes - only the kudos of getting it correct. But if you do, your win may well be somewhat academic.

Comment by: David Farrer on January 12, 2003 09:24 PM

Oops: 641st. This is an education blog!

Comment by: David Farrer on January 12, 2003 09:29 PM
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