Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reading and Commenting on Student Posts

You can follow the posts of your fellow students from the blogroll in the left sidebar. But there can be some difficulty in doing that because it doesn't personalize for you there and hence doesn't track whether you've already read that post or not. There is other software which does that sort of thing. Those applications are called "readers" or "aggregators." Here's a site that lists a variety of good ones. Some of these are stand alone "clients" while others just run in your browser. I use Bloglines for my other blog reading and am trying out Google Reader for the student posts in this class. Both of those are browser based. When the class gets completely set up, I can provide a file (it's called an OPML file) with the list of all the student blogs. You can then import that file into your own reader and follow the student posts that way. This doesn't mean you "have to" read everything your classmates write. If you are curious, however, this makes it easier to do so.

Writers typically appreciate comments from readers. It gives more meaning to the writing activity and makes it seem more like a conversation and less like a broadcast. In our class setting it will help us to feel like a community rather than like a bunch of individuals who happen to meet together on occasion. So I encourage you to comment on each others posts. You can do that directly or in your own blog by making reference to that post, in which case you should link to it. Commenting directly has the benefit that the author will almost certainly see the comment and may very well respond to it with another comment. Commenting indirectly through your own blog shows how the original post influences your own thinking by tying it into your other ideas.

Unfortunately, spam is a reality with blogging. So you need to take some steps to block it. There are different degrees of protection you can take. These include who can make comments as determined by their login, whether commenting requires word verification, and comment moderation. Keeping the spammers out, however, makes it more difficult for legitimate comments to get through. In particular, if you moderate comments, you should set up an email alert so you know there is a comment that awaits moderation. I believe Wordpress is more sophisticated than Blogger on this score in that once a login has made a comment successfully after moderation the same login is given free access to make comments without moderation thereafter. (Especially if you use Gmail, Blogger does have some benefits over Wordpress in its integration with other Google applications.) You do want to encourage your readers to comment. Assuring that legitmate comments appear in a timely fashion is part of doing that.

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