I recently took part in the It's Worth Taking a Look at this Blog initiative, and thoroughly enjoyed not only featuring 10 blogs I thought were worth taking a look at, but also exploring all the other lists of recommendations that sprang up around the blogosphere as a result of this idea.
It's not surprising that some members of the ELT blogosphere chose not to take part, but some of the reasons I saw put forward did have me scratching my head a bit. While in some cases those reasons appeared logical or understandable (and goodness me, let's not forget that nobody warrants criticism simply because they chose not to do something a lot of other bloggers were doing!), I can't help coming to the conclusion that several good bloggers out there not only missed the whole point, but also missed a golden opportunity.
One concern some people had was that there is nothing really new under the sun, that we all tend to share the same readership anyway, and that lists of this nature are somewhat pointless.
My first reaction to that is: How do you really know what your readership is? Your readership is not just limited to who comments on your blog, and is not limited to who features you on their blogroll. My own blog gets 200-600 visits per day, which is far more than the selection of 50-100 good ELT bloggers I happen to know out there at the moment. I get far more visitors from Google searches and links from my resource website than I do other ELT blogs. Based on that I would encourage bloggers out there not to underestimate the overall readership and reach (and potential) of their humble blog posts.
Another (more or less whispered) concern was that this was just going to become a sort of PLN mutual grooming exercise, and that (inevitably, with a limit of only 10 blogs to choose) certain bloggers were going to end up excluded from certain lists that they figured they should have been a dead set certainty to make it onto, and the retractable claws were going to start peeping out of the PLN kitten fur.
If that is the case, why is it that I found between 2-5 new or relatively unknown (to me) blogs to check out on almost every list posted?
And I didn't see any of the PLN claws come out (not that they would be brazenly bared in public anyway). What I did see was a lot of bright-eyed buzz as many emerging or until now "unearthed" ELT bloggers rejoiced in the fact that they were actually being read and recognised on some of the more established blogs out there.
This shows me (personally) that the bloggers who took part in this read the intiative the right way, and in most cases came up with a list that blended some well-known favourites with some new or relatively less well-known blogs. There were also some better-known blogs mentioned that I'd heard of but never actually got around to checking out. Their presence on these lists reminded me to make the time to actually go and have a gander.
Some lists had 10 blogs I'd never even remotely heard of before, with plenty of recommendations that reflected personal or wider interests outside of language teaching. It all made for interesting reading and/or a more interesting insight into the people behind the blogs to start with.
My blog was not mentioned on the lists of several people I collaborate with quite closely at times. Oh my goodness - you know what that means, don't you?!!!
That's right! On each of those lists there was the chance of another blog being mentioned that I hadn't seen before. Another person in the ELT blogosphere I could hopefully connect with and potentially learn from.
Why would I want to peruse these lists just to make sure my blog was featured on them? It's something approaching an insult to me (and I suspect a lot of other bloggers out there) to assume that this would be the underlying rationale or reaction.
I did see lists that were clearly carefully chosen tribute lists, and I did see other blogs that pointedly mentioned avoiding a list and referring readers instead to a blogroll (which, sorry, is not the same thing as saying "here are ten blogs to check out now, if you're inclined, and here's why I like them"). I also saw a whole lot of quite prominent blogs which enjoyed the attention they got on other people's lists but wouldn't even acknowledge the intiative, much less go to the trouble of featuring an inspiring and interesting list of their own.
Well, each to his/her own (blog), but I really do think some bloggers out there really missed the point AND the opportunity to grow out of this rather tight little circle the ELT blogosphere has become - or rather, thinks it has become. They could also be missing both the point and the nature of this overall conversation - this networked conversation called blogging.
I think the initiative is a fantastic one, and I hope we see it happen in the ELT blogosphere once or twice a year. If so, I really look forward to presenting a completely new list of interesting blogs, and reading the new lists all my colleagues out there come up with as well.
I've found about 30 new blogs to explore out of this round (so far) and this has also inspired the "new blog on my block" recommendations that I plan to feature here on English Raven on an ongoing basis.
All in all, the It's Worth Taking a Look at this Blog idea worked well - really well.
For those who actually grasped it, that is.