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Content First, People Second

Tweeting is easy. Tracing how I got there is not. I'll give it a try.

Before I posted it, my mind was a whirlwind of messy tweet-length thoughts. Browsing blogs and conference announcements on 21st century skills with speakers who have never blogged but claim they 'get it' made me react in disagreement. Hence the post tone. This is the edited version.

An edublogger is not on an attention search. It's a learning search. I agree there is a bit of both, however, it makes a world of difference which one prevails. Of course you want to be read and you need an audience to spread your content. Up to there, it is simply a broadcasting quest. No learning yet.

If your blog visit counter soars, it only means you have built an interesting, visible conversation venue. Easy to tell because at that point, you will be contacted for all sorts of so-called collaboration offers. They just see what you can do for them. Funnily they may have never been inspired to post a single comment on your blog. If they did, they certainly always agreed. You see, attention is the web currency and you might give them some. Attention currency exchange does not equal networking or learning. Creating an attractive venue is a start. You are findable. Just that.

Learning awaits the node that builds network. The network does not revolve around a guru or star blogger. Although you might be inclined -at first sight- to affirm it is so. Seeing a long thread of comments in a high ranking edublog can give that impression.

Whatever makes a post or blog a gem is that blogger's ability to express what other people wish they could, but they can't. Yet. Or perhaps something you were sensing was important, but didn't have a name for it; therefore, no conversation dealing with the core issue had been built around it. A blogger may offer a playground of a post to imagine how we can think new ways of learning. I think many newbies have believed this is it about the blogging revolution. This is the kind of success we should be after. Owning the learning in your blog. Without comments on the post, it is still unidirectional. Close to what fascinates me about blogging, but not it.

Oddly enough, for those taking the conversation ahead, it is not countless visitors or comments what they are after. They are indeed making connections and exchanging Twitter trivia preferably with a closed or selected circle of people, but it is not because they are popular that they flock together. It's because they can all relate to the same topics of conversation. Therefore, rapport. Once those minds get in touch, they accept the kind of learning that occurs cannot happen in isolation. That is what makes the network continue paying attention to new ideas from those selected bloggers. Because it is the only sustainable way to learn informally. You know they are your best learning triggers. That's when learning sticks.

Learning nodes are special tweeple/people. These guys are not seeking ordinary learning, but brain-pulling learning experiences. No echoes or emotional bursts like "Amazing, great post, keep them coming" will engage them at all. It is the conversation going on. They need to find the key node for some push back to their ideas, not pleasing words from followers. If there is any high they are after it is the thrill coming from the learning itself.

So you write, you tag, you post. Twitter or blog or both. Just make it findable. To make your voice heard without a hyperlinked text, you'll have to be patient. For it takes patience to build your network of trusted sources, friendly reviewers of content that may circulate your words in a range of sharing options. Content will get to you by link or by network. Anything you mark as read in your reader is not lost forever if it is important. This web of ongoing educational possibilities re-tweets or saves again and again in your delicious network for you to step on it when your learning time is ripe.

Push, promote and email doesn't do it. Pulling the tag into your reader does the trick. I think that if any of my favourite bloggers started spamming their content in my email, I would stop paying attention. The protocol of the connection is constant choice to read or not. It cannot be forced.

How does all of that networked learning start to happen?

I think there is a simple structure:
Content first, people second.

For the newbie, this structure seems counter-intuitive. The newbie tends to crave for people to help them focus in an attempt to control the messy nature of the web. They want to search and quickly get to the list of 1001 best tools or the blog roll of the must-follow in education. They apply an old way in a new medium. The new way, instead, is opening up to finding value in randomness of diverse readings that lead to bloggers and, perhaps, connections. Serendipity is finding people through content. This is pure pulling power. It cannot be forced.

There is no right or wrong or best or fastest way to do it. I'd say it takes a couple of years to build a PLN. Once built, once it works for you, I find that you have to stop trying to search for connections. It is time lost that could be better spent blogging. Those nodes will appear as you join backchannels or blog posts. One day, you have to stop looking for learning to happen in a pushy way and let the flow of interactions in your network feed you the content.

As more people publish, what does the picture look like nowadays?
Educational technology is fashionable. I see misunderstandings on and offline.

We have to accept there will always be so-called experts talking about blogging who do not have a blog. If they haven't dipped their fingers into the pool, I guess I may be impressed at their performance, but not engaged. If they were truly committed, they would make their content findable. They would have piped their way to me through my RSS by now. How am I so confident? Because I am not looking for voices who need companies or institutions to make them seem reliable or specialists in the subject of informal learning. That is a marketing strategy that has no effect on me. Show me the content. Let people network around it.

Before hurrying into following popular people on blogs or twitter, it would be wiser to expose yourself to their content and see if some genuine resonance happens inside. Or not. You may be clueless why that blogger is so well networked. If tempted to approach them, you'll see it is fairly easy to attract the attention of any edublogger for a temporary exchange. It just takes a good amount of @messages or trackbacks. Problem is pushing doesn't build network.

The learning I am after is about depth. That takes a trail of thoughts sustained through a long time. If the connection lacks a foundation in content, it will fall like a castle of cards. It doesn't escalate. Content first, people second makes the difference. With a good connection built, it's irrelevant whether someone temporarily blogs about topics outside your interest area. Blog on. If you are engaged parts of the same conversation, content will pull you back together at some time.

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