Sunday, 6 September 2009

Me and the blogosphere

I spent most of the summer either working like mad on my writing and editing work or relaxing in the sunshine with my wife and kids. So I kind of neglected not just my own blog, but also everyone else's.

Now I'm back in control again, and I've at last had a chance to check what fellow bloggers have been writing during my absence. And I've found some great stuff.

First of all, remember this piece I wrote - my thoughts on blogging - as part of a blog carnival organised by Karenne Sylvester at Kalinago English? Well, the carnival happened during my absence (as carnivals always seem to), and it's really worth spending a couple of hours wading through it, following all the links, noting down the great advice. I've only skimmed the surface of the wealth of knowledge and expert support for new bloggers like me, but I'll go back to this resource again and again.

One thing I noticed on Karenne's site was that she'd reached the number one spot on OneStopBlogs. Congratulations Karenne! But when I followed the link, I was delighted to see my own humble blog in the top ten. (It was number 9 when I first checked, number 11 yesterday, and back to 10 today - not that I'm obsessed or anything). How did that happen?

(Well, now I know how it happened. My blog was mentioned twice in other blogs in the OneStopBlogs list ... both times, it turned out, on Kalinago English. Once in the carnival and once on Karenne's round-up of blogs for June.)

Anyway, I kind of liked the idea of being in the top 10, so I set off in search of more statistics. (You won't be surprised, by the way, to hear that I check the sales of the books in my series about once a week, or that when I used to sell newspapers in Berlin I kept a graph of daily sales on my wall). I found a function on Blogger that tells me which sites link to this blog, and I found well over 100! I calmed down a bit when I realised that over half of these were from Vicki Hollett's blog, which has a short cut to my own. I guess every time she updates her blog (which seems to be quite often), I get a new link.

What I like about Vicki's blog is that the entries are all nice and short, so you can go in, get your quick fix of ideas / inspiration / enlightenment and get on with the rest of your life. I'll try to follow her example ... one day. Anyway, Vicki's great story on "How it all started" (well worth a read, including the comments) led me to explore Ken Wilson's blog.

As well as his own "How it all started" story (which, like Vicki's reminded me of the horrors of my first lessons - something I'll have to write about one day), I also loved his piece on native and non-native-English-speaker teachers (NESTs and non-NESTs - great acronyms!). I've been muttering about discrimination against non-NESTs for quite a few years, including a very stressful conference panel debate where the other three panelists ganged up on me! So that's something else I plan to explore on my own blog.

Coming back to the list of sites that linked to my own, I did find one genuine article, which was inspired by my post on non-experts teaching ESP: this very interesting piece on Margaret Marks' Transblawg. (Again, I'll come back to the points she raises in a later post here.) It's well worth exploring Margaret's blog, especially if you teach legal English - scan through her posts on law here, for a taster.

Anyway, seeing Margaret's post reminded me about a message I'd posted on LinkedIn's BESIG group when I started this blog, asking for opinions on the non-expert issue. It turned out there were a couple of great responses, which I REALLY will write up on this blog very soon, so I'll resist the temptation to say more on that topic for now. (There's nothing like a wander round the blogosphere to give yourself inspiraration!)

But while I was at LinkedIn, my eye was caught by a link to Carl Dowse's blog, where he had posted a video interview of Matt Firth by Gavin Dudeney. Matt is a legal English expert, someone I've worked with directly and indirectly quite a lot over the last couple of years (e.g. Matt co-authored Introduction to International Legal English, to which I wrote the teacher's book). That interview is well worth watching, not least because he has some really good points to make about the expert / non-expert debate (which, as I've said, I'll come back to!)

While I was at Carl's blog, I noticed in his list of topics immediately beneath Matt Firth was Nik Peachey. Nik gave me an early break in my career back in 2003/4, when he gave me the chance to moderate the Language Development discussion group on SearchEnglish, one of the British Council websites that Nik used to run (and which is sadly defunct nowadays).

(It could well be, of course, that I was the only person to volunteer to moderate that group, so I suspect he didn't have to agonize for long over the decision to take me on. But that opportunity gave me the chance to discuss things with learners and teachers all over the world ... well, mostly the discussions were between the moderators themselves (who also included Gavin Dudeney, Nicky Hockley and Graham Stanley, if I remember correctly), because I guess the world wasn't ready for our version of Web2.0 back then ...)

Anyway, it occurred to me that Nik could help me with my search for statistics, and sure enough I found this great tutorial on using Google Analytics to monitor traffic on one of his sites. Excellent. And as a result, dear reader, I now know EVERYTHING about you, haha!

From there, I finally made it back to Kalinago English, where there's a fascinating guest piece by Gavin Dudeney on inspirational women in ELT. Now perhaps I'm imagining things, but it feels as if Gavin's been following me on my trip around the blogosphere! Paranoia aside, I decided to check out Gavin's own blog, where he's got some great ideas on the future of books, which I'll be sharing with my colleagues in the world of publishing. Interestingly, it was Gavin who gave me some excellent advice about becoming an author the first time I met him (for a few minutes). (The second time we met, again briefly, it was deep underground, and we were very hungry, but that's another story).

So what have I learnt on my first real wander round the blogosphere? Well, I've learnt why it's called the blogosphere for a start - everything's connected to something else, forming a huge web of connections. Also, it does feel like a community. The same names keep coming up, and discussions lead both to unexpected, intriguing new sites and to reassuringly familiar places like Kalingo English, which is good when all the wandering around gets too much.

So I've created my own blog roll (called "Blogs I like", in the side bar), to help me find those blogs again. Also, because I enjoyed seeing my own blog mentioned elsewhere, I thought it'd be nice to return the compliment (and perhaps help those sites stay high in the rankings). Finally, if there's anyone out there who's as lost in the blogosphere as I've been, I hope I've helped you find some great places to start exploring. Have fun!


  1. ;-) this is so lovely jeremy, I felt like I was wandering around with you - the blogosphere is mad but it does feel very communitish ;-).

    I felt "you" on the OneStopBlogs thing - to be honest my blog's position does jump around a bit too and in the beginning I was really nervous about that until realized that that was just plain silly and am writing for teachers not statistics!

    Am so glad you're back in the sphere ;-) and looking forward to more great articles!


  2. Thanks Karenne
    I see you've increased your lead as the most popular blog on OneStopBlogs.
    I think you're right not to worry about statistics too much, but it nice to know that at least some people read what we write, which is much more motivating than writing with potentially no-one ever reading it!

  3. I reckon she's cheating! I guess those are the rewards for actually knowing something about technology before deciding to start a blog...

    TEFLtastic blog-

  4. Go for quality, Jeremy - in your readers, I mean. After all, you wouldn't want every jobsworth Tefler reading your blog, would you.

    Would you?

  5. Alex: Do you really think she's cheating? You don't suppose she's creating links from one of her blogs to the other, just to bump her up the rankings?

    Sandy: Thanks for this sound advice. I'll definitely follow it. From now on I'll have a no-riff-raff policy. I've just had an explore of your amazing blog, and it's given me the idea of a blacklist ... what do you think?

  6. Bad, bad boys.

    I'm going to tell Alex my secret - yes, I cracked the OSB code.. he's asked me to do an interview so I decided to fill you guys in.

    But of course, boys, you can't tell anyone else.