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A reply to @pepsmccrea from staffrm.io #28daysofwriting

This morning I was replying to Tom’s post about the extent to which ‘micro engagement’ was in some way killing the edublogging community.  I included the following comment. Note that I got the name of the site slightly wrong…

My real concern is the growth of ‘you’ve got to be a member to comment’ platforms. It’s been great to see the numbers of teachering in the UK using staffroom.io  to engage with the #28daysofwriting, but I do have concerns that you have to be a member to comment, and you can’t subscribe to an RSS feed yet. I’ve resisted it so far, largely out of some principle I haven’t quite got my head around yet, although I suspect if I want to engage I’m going to need to hang up my principles and create an account.

Shortly after, @pepsmccrea, one of the creators of staffrm.io, took time out to reply. He said the following:

Hi Dave, appreciate your comments RE Staffrm.io (you’ve given it a bit too much ‘oo’). The difficulty with opening up comments is that it leaves the conversation massively vulnerable to spam. And that’s one sure way to end engagement. Authentication is important if you want to have a decent conversation on the internet these days. For example, you and I both signed up somewhere/somehow to leave these comments.

The RSS feed thing is a different problem. In many ways, Staffrm is more like a long-form Twitter than a Blog. You wouldn’t want an RSS feed for someone’s tweets, you’d just follow them. The same is true of Staffrm. Or at least that’s my understanding of it at the moment anyway!

One thing I’m trying to get my head around these days is how Staffrm fits into the quasi-democratic ecosystem that is the blogosphere. WordPress is a great example of what can be achieved with open source, but it comes with it’s own set of limitations, especially when we’re talking about helping teachers fluidly share practice. I may be wrong, but it feels like there’s always going to be a compromise at some level.

Anyway, it’s very early days over at Staffrm. It’s less than a month since we launched out of BETA and I’m sure things will change a lot over the next few months. So all I can say is: watch this space 🙂

 

Rather than carrying one the comment there, I thought I’d bring it back over here, partly to give a longer response than I’d probably normally put in the comments, but also so that I can claim it as today’s post for #28daysofwriting!

Hi Peps,

I appreciate the reply. Sorry about the excess of o’s. I thought it might be too many, but didn’t get a chance to go and check!

The first thing to say is that anything that gets teachers blogging and responding to each other in the way that you guys have is A Good Thing. I also get why you might have built the site the way you have. My view, for what it’s worth, is that as you develop it would be great to see you open the eco system up a little. I’ll take a couple of the points you make in turn…

The difficulty with opening up comments is that it leaves the conversation massively vulnerable to spam. And that’s one sure way to end engagement. Authentication is important if you want to have a decent conversation on the internet these days. For example, you and I both signed up somewhere/somehow to leave these comments.

Yes, although most blogs are content with either getting people to identify themselves and holding a comment for moderation, or identifying with either Google, Twitter or some other system. Most WordPress users (and I count myself among them) have installed plugins that handle spam pretty effectively. While many teachers wouldn’t want to worry about it, if you’re offering the platform it doesn’t seem out of the question that you could manage something like this on their behalf. Would it be possible to have people authenticate with staffrm.io or another id system to help open up the conversation a little more?

The RSS feed thing is a different problem. In many ways, Staffrm is more like a long-form Twitter than a Blog. You wouldn’t want an RSS feed for someone’s tweets, you’d just follow them.

Isn’t ‘long form Twitter’ the definition of a blog?!?! Again, I can completely see why you built what you have, but moving forward it would be awesome if you could develop a system that allowed RSS feeds for blogs (people may well be keen to pull these into other social spaces they have) and even allowed them to follow blogs from outside staffrm.io and bring them in to that environment. Then you really would be adding value!

Anyway, it’s very early days over at Staffrm. It’s less than a month since we launched out of BETA and I’m sure things will change a lot over the next few months. So all I can say is: watch this space 🙂

I just to restate what I said at the beginning, I think getting that many teachers involved and blogging is awesome, and I don’t mean to be negative. I would just love to see the thing spread it’s wings and take it’s place in the wider network of blogs as it grows, rather than continuing to act as a silo. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and the best of luck for the future of the system.

In fact, I think I’ll head over and set up my account now…

Dave Stacey

5 Comments

  1. Hey boss, thanks for taking the time to reply in such depth. I’ve found this conversation really useful in helping me step back from what we’re doing (hard), and to check in with my vision of where the site might head in the future (important).

    TBH, I’m on board with all your suggestions here (no commission I’m afraid!). At the most basic level, they ‘fit’ with my philosophy of the web. At a higher level, they offer some great solutions to fostering better conversations on the internet.

    That’s not to say that we’re going to implement them. Even if we wanted, you’re talking about some BIG projects here. We’re a small team of teachers building a social network in our spare time (of which there appears to be less and less of), and so we’ve got to keep our eye on the low-hanging fruit.

    I suppose that’s what I was talking about when I referred to ‘compromise’ in my first reply. In reality, it’s more of a compromise between our after-hours work Staffrm and our lives, which inevitably leads to compromises in what we can achieve.

    Hey ho. You can only do the best with what you’ve got, eh. Hope to be able to buy you a beer and pick your brains again some day 🙂

  2. Nice post Dave,
    I share your worries but it sounds like they are being taken seriously.
    I guess blogging is at a point where there is a fragmentation in the needs of writes and in the solutions.
    I’ve been interested, although not sings in any serious way, in known, https://withknown.com which looks as it might be trying to get the best of both worlds. It came out of the POSSE movement, can build communities, but also be self hosted. Tries to link up all our various silos.

    Great responses by Peps too. The death of blogging seems further away.

  3. Great stuff. I know the thing about time only too well. In fact, right now I’m supposed to be busy painting upstairs!
    I also completely get the scale of what I’m suggesting here. Good to know that it’s in the back of your mind though.
    Looking forward to seeing how the site grows over the coming months, and hopefully meeting face to face at some point.
    Cheers!

  4. Cheers John, will take a look at that later on. I think the idea of linking silos is the key, both on and offline. Maybe a blog post in that later in the month!

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