Sunday, March 30, 2008

Topping Off Education

A recent blog by Clay Burrell speaks about Using Alltop to Teach Social Networking If you don't know what Alltop is, you aren't a blogger. Alltop is an aggregator of the top bloggers, divided by topic, so that you can ask yourself a question like "What should I be reading if I want to learn about life?" and then you just go to "http://life.alltop.com/", and there you have a list of blogs about life.

Guy Kawasaki has managed to jaw-droppingly outdo himself for marketing brilliance on this one. Without making any predictions on the viability of the business itself, the built-in marketing aspect is a work of art.

Obviously, if you are a well-known and respected entrepreneur, and you are starting a blog aggregator, every blogger is going to want to be on your list. Guy is generous about adding you if you ask nicely. I'm assuming there is an engine in the back which tracks how popular your blog is, so that your placement on the page could change over time, depending on how many people click through. Once you are listed, then of course, you have an interest in Alltop's success yourself, meaning you will want to mention it in your blog.

Along with his generosity in adding bloggers and his characteristic gentlemanliness in personally answering all of his e-mail, Guy's marketeer gears are well-greased. Coincidentally, just a few days after announcing Alltop publicly, his blog magnanimously offers useful tips on kissing up. Now, I don't want to sound cynical here, especially because I am taking his magnanimous advice, but you can read into it whatever you want.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about Clay Burrel's blog, in which he talks about his failure to get his students excited enough to use RSS feeds, and his relative success in getting them to use Alltop. Mr. Burrel doesn't claim to be using Alltop to teach research; just to teach writing. However, it did get me thinking about where we get our information, and what information is considered reliable these days.

Increasingly, my reading list is made up of books, sites, and reports that I've heard about in blogs. Increasingly, I get my news from blogs rather than news sites. My RSS feeder has both, but I read the blogs a lot more. Blogs are more interesting, no more biased, and for the most part, better written and more insightful than most of the news. When I fill in forms asking "where did you hear about our product?" I don't know whether reading it on a blog is "word of mouth" or "from another Web site".

It's good to see this kind of innovation in teaching. On the other hand, how many of us, like myself, are getting lazy about fact-checking, and are relying increasingly on word of mouth for our news? I think we would all agree that there's a qualitative difference between a New York Times report and a blog about an event. On the other hand, increasingly, we don't care.

For work purposes, if you are in the high-tech industry, nothing but real-time blogs will do for industry intelligence. I know my kid uses Wikipedia as her main reference for school report, and so far the sky hasn't fallen. How long will it be before blogs become a legitimate reference too?

1 comment:

Andrea Hill said...

the glut of online information is fundamentally changing our resource tactics. There are some law firms who are really struggling with a graduating class who doesn't know how to conduct targeted research: they have grown up in the age of google. Using blogs and wikipedia as references may help, but they don't always provide the whole picture (not to mention, everyone is an expert on his own blog, whether or not he is correct).
Blogs are great for capturing the new and the developing.. much of what is being discussed will be obsolete before a book can be published about it, and increasingly so before we all have a chance to sit down and read it. That being said, I think there is still a need to recognize them as a different type of source material..