Is the edublogosphere a closed, elite cocktail party?

I noticed Jon Becker's post responding to Scott's post about Comment Intensity. I really try to stay out of the contest of measuring the “biggest blog” — I think it is a waste of time.. and in 5 years it will change anyway.

But I had to respond to this note from Jon. He says:

“I think where I’m going with this is that I worry that the ed. tech. blogosphere is reasonably saturated. Related to Darren Draper’s post on Twitter Set Theory, I feel like there are some central figures whose spheres overlap considerably and a whole lot of us outsiders trying to penetrate that inner circle. It’s as if folks like Will Richardson, David Warlick, Wes Fryer, Vicki Davis, Dean Shareski, Stephen Downes, Chris Lehmann…(and, yes, you Scott) are having an awesome cocktail party conversation and I’m standing on the outside staring over their shoulders and listening in, trying to get a word in, but not penetrating that conversation at all. I know there are LOTS of us on the outside looking in.”

This was my reply:

The “perception” of some sort of “cocktail party conversation” is just that a perception. I rarely even chat with those guys and although they are awesome, only a few of them make my weekly MUST READ list.

I FEEL out of it ALL THE TIME. I feel like an outsider ALL OF THE TIME. I don't feel in the know. I feel left out a lot. And supposedly everyone THINKS — I'm in.

The fact is that NO ONE is in. This is a big, massive microcosm that no one controls and few of us even understand. We struggle with having time to do it all and coming to grips on all of this blogging and global audience thing.

So, how would you take this personally? I went for a week with no comments — did that mean no one was reading? I left and didn't blog for a week — does that mean I'm suddenly irrelevant.

We are all relevant but the emotions you're feeling with all of this are something I very often feel and I believe most people struggle with. I LOVE it when I get links and I Live for comments.

It is never enough, though, and I find that I have to focus on my real life in order to achieve satisfaction. Most people here don't know cool cat teacher exists.

Keep perspective and know why you blog… if you blog to make a difference and inspire… you will. If you blog for some sort of validation… you're not going to get it on an Internet that likes this person today and moves on to another tomorrow. If you want to be loved, pet the cat, hug the spouse, enjoy the kids. And you might want to take a read at the poem I shared today.

You are an excellent blogger. Just remember, people post most often on emotional issues, not on the technology issues that they actually use.

Scott's post on comment intensity was a real downer for me — I mean I must be worthless if I have a low comment intensity!? But hey, we can talk all day about who is important and who isn't. But if one person reads our blog and get something out of it.. it is important.

I'm to the point that I could care less about my technorati rating, my comment intensity or link count — I might check them every two weeks. I care more now (hopefully it is maturity) about connecting with people and doing things that make a difference.

But, I'm not perfect, the comment intensity post really got me down and made me want to quit blogging. And remember this, Jon — AFTER 3.5 months — I HAD 7 READERS!


It takes time. Time and doing it for the right reasons. If I had a blog that looks like yours after 3.5 months, I'd count myself very proud… but I didn't. I didn't know what I was doing and was completely lost!

You've come a long way… don't be so hard on yourself!

There are a lot of us on the outside looking in. But, the outside is the inside. This blogosphere is like nothing else we've ever seen. Crowdsourcing and mass collaboration is a new thing and we all have new emotions to deal with

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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loonyhiker April 11, 2008 - 10:31 am

I really like your comments. I think we need to remember what our purpose was when we started to blog and mine was to share my knowledge and experience with others, which I believe I’m doing. I also disagree that the edublogosphere is a closed party because I feel the blogging is a lot like teaching and that we get out of it what we put into it. I like to look at many different blogs because of the different perspectives they give and I truly believe that we learn by the exchange of ideas and experiences. I don’t feel that any of the names mentioned act or feel like they are better than me and have even included me on many conversations. Thanks for sharing your comments so I could think about how I felt about this.

Lisa Parisi April 11, 2008 - 10:42 am

Vicki, you gave a very sensitive response to Jon. I often feel the same way. I do love when you say, “if one person reads our blog and get something out of it.. it is important.” I try to keep that in mind all the time. Numbers don’t matter..people do. Thank you for reminding me of this fact.

Charlie A. Roy April 11, 2008 - 10:55 am

I feel similar frustration. If the point is about learning than reading and commenting is a great way to add to our own creative potential. As far as the ego thing goes who cares. Your blog’s this mine is that. Whoopdy do! If you’re learning and growing your PLN that is what counts.

With my own blog the readership is low but then again it is a specific reader who is invited.

Scott McLeod April 11, 2008 - 11:43 am

Hi Vicki,

I concur with everything you’ve written here and will write more on this myself at Jon’s recent post at

Re: the depressing aspects of ‘comment intensity,’ I actually meant it to be an affirming post rather than a depressing one. As I said in the comments to that post…

I think that the comment intensity idea is important in this respect: I often see laments from bloggers that they don’t get many comments on their posts. What the table above shows is that even those of us who are fortunate enough to have large readerships often don’t get many comments. My personal median over the past 20 posts, even WITH the big spike of 89, is still only 2.5. Ewan, your blog and Vicki Davis’ are similar. The point is that many, many posts don’t get a lot of comments, even those by the more widely read bloggers.

So take heart, edubloggers! If you so desire, admire the fact that Dan Meyer and Will Richardson are adept at generating commentary on their blogs. Otherwise, don’t sweat the fact that you’re not getting a lot of comments. Few of us are!

See also the 1% rule:

Thanks for all that you do for the blogosphere. I’m looking forward to meeting you in person – for the FIRST TIME – at the cocktail party we all know as NECC. =)

tom April 11, 2008 - 11:44 am

Thanks for bringing this up. This has been an issue for me personally as well. OK, so nobody’s IN, but the (pseudo?) community nature of blogging makes it feel that way.

Blogging is a personal product and, like other creative work, it becomes an extension of ourselves. Writers and artists struggle with this all the time. But, like other artists, we have to work a little every day whether we feel like it or not, and whether we get validation that day or not.

You’re right that the sources of our satisfaction and being loved need to be back in our real world. However I think many of us are working at blogging because there’s an element of self improvement, which implies self evaluation. Without feedback from others it’s easy to be hard on ourselves.

By the way, here’s the link to
Jon’s blog, where he follows up on the comments at Scott’s blog: . It would be nice to keep the discussion going over there too.

Christopher D. Sessums April 11, 2008 - 12:06 pm

Great post, CC.
Clearly, the blogosphere is what you make it.
For me, the conversation is hardly closed; it is simply a matter of having something to say, something to share.
The emotional commitment is another aspect of the conversation that is easily glossed over. Thanks for bringing it to the fore.

MIke Sansone April 11, 2008 - 12:19 pm

Great extension of an important conversation.

I’ve found (both with myself and those educators I’ve worked with in their blogging starts) that the edublogosphere is open and welcoming — but as we engage in any cultural group (even offline), patience really is a key.

Still, we sometimes measure our success by the interaction from those we look up to (esp. teachers – many of whom were probably the best students in their class, yes?)

As for comment intensity – I’ve been ‘showing off’ Cool Cat Teacher for two years in workshops and one-on-one’s — but have only recently become more engaged in the conversation. The point? Sometimes we don’t see the comments — because the talk happens offline.

How do you measure that?

As you say, if it matters to one – you’ve made a difference!

Thank you for making a difference!!

Britt April 11, 2008 - 12:21 pm

Great comment, Vicki, and like Lisa said earlier, I am definitely one of the “one person” people who have benefited from your words.

I get very few comments on my blog but see through the clustermaps that I have readers each and every day, so continue to feel that the blog is benefiting me through reflection and may even be benefiting others as well.

atruger April 11, 2008 - 12:31 pm

You always say things in better ways than I ever could! I am pretty new to blogging and find myself using it more as a personal journey journal. I am excited to blog when something great, interesting or life changing occurs in my life.I NEVER get to share tools I discover because someone ALWAYS beats me to the punch…but I am ok with that. The reality is I blog for me and no one else. I rarely get a comment, but that’s ok. Thanks for always sharing with us. I truly connect with what you write even though I am one of “those” people who reads but rarely comments. YOU do make a difference and so do I!


Bego April 11, 2008 - 12:32 pm

So let me give you some comment love….

I agree with you that we all love comments because it makes us feel good about what we’re doing, and you are so right that we need to seek our validation and real love elsewhere.

I am an educator (a career spanning K-college) closer to the end rather than the beginning of my career. I enjoy a very eclectic blogroll, many that are no longer linked on my goofy blog because I read from google reader. I blog about my life (it started for my family, but I have readers who bleed over from the inspirational work that I do).

The 1% rule is very true. I rarely post comments although I’m learning to do it because I know how we all love to get them…I imagine serial lurkers who don’t understand this “need” will never post on the blogs they love, but won’t do anything else until they’ve had their fix of that day or week’s entry.

Here’s the thing, and I don’t mean it critically, well, at least, I don’t want it to sound mean because it’s just an observation–the whole cocktail party analogy is just a grown up version of the kickball line-up in elementary school. The coolest kids got picked first, regardless of talent, and once that pool was exhausted, then the less popular but talented players got picked. Here’s the thing, the pretty people didn’t win the game, it was the talent that did it. In the blog world, change is effected by good content, and while good content isn’t always noticed at first, it does eventually get a respectable position–sometimes because the cocktail group points them out.

The blogsphere, whether it’s education, industry, politics, or whatever, like in everything else, has early adopters who’ve had years and years and years, many, since late 90’s, not only to refine their blogs, but build readership. How could I think to be in the same boat as John Scalzi who started in 1998 if I’ve only been blogging since 2007?

Here’s the thing–to build an audience we have to take risks and post elsewhere to support the cause (gotta get those comments!), but also we’ve got to market ourselves by doing relevant things that get our names, and BLOGS out there.

I found your blog, Vicki, because a project you do for Atomic Learning mentioned you, and your name is on the movies they use. Duh. Anybody using your materials is going to link to your site. So I added you to my feed.

If we want to increase our readership, increase our comments, and get noticed, we have to read not just the big boys and girls, but the obscure sites, too, and comment comment comment. Not whiney or meaningless comments, but things that link those readers to our blogs. And we need to be bold about advertising our own blogs when we network away from the internet. it felt awkward at first, but not anymore.

jeanette tranberg April 11, 2008 - 1:38 pm

From the outer side, looking in: Oh yes, I have felt the cocktail chill at times. I’m a norwegian edublogger, that have been following your brunks (blogdrunks) for a while. To start with – in 2005 – you were the only ones out there to follow… The conversation was about blogging and web 2.0 tools, and I eavesdropped the best I could and blogged about you and whatever you had in your glasses there and then. 99 bottles … oh we had some great parties, even if you don’t remember me being there – we did :)

I had lots of fun and some great experiences that I braged about in my blogpost the next morning. I probably created an image of me beiing inside the bottle of fun, at least that was the intention :) I still do that, and I believe that this is the reason I now and then get to do some workshops for teachers sharing everything from your bottoms up. This is often when and where I learn the most.

I’v shared and learned, and I’v gotten so much in return both from Norwegians and other educators from all over the world that have happened to peek in on my party reports. In fact, some of us have our own cocktail parties from time to time, were we backchannel on you all, and oh by the way, twitter is finally picking up here! Yay!

You are no longer – some – on my “must read list”. I have transfered some of you into my “read when you have the summertime list”. That is partly because your conversations have changed into directions that is not my main PLE focus at the time. And therefor, I have connected to others – via you, that I have found more interesting. Right now, Second Life is very much in my focus and I have got some new Australian friends.

I go blog jumping just about every night, and yes I get them hangovers from time to time. I am a teacher by day and a blogger by night and there is always another party on the next corner with plenty of bloose (blog news) – the fibers are crowded and I get to choose.

I’ve met Will in my 2. life somewhere I’m sure, and my mentor Mr. Warlick – the first blogger I knew (in fact I feel I know him very well) is now my closest neighbour there. But as with neighbours in RL: we’ve never actually met, and I really envy him a lot beiing such a hot shot moblogging from all over the world always getting to be where all the fun is. Wes told me once I twittered, that nobody should twitter alone and I could not agree more – so I don’t. I’ve invited Stephen to my island in real life, if he ever comes to Norway, because we are best friends on Facebook and share an interst in photography and I think he would love to take some pictures here from the end of the world. And I’ve seen Chris live in the dark on some educon somewhere and I just loved his voice because that was all there was – to love … at the time…

So, from the outer side looking in: Anybody stopping by in Second Life tonight (which is today for you) for a virtual edu cocktail?
I’m aka Kita Coage at Eduisland II, waiting to cocktail connect with you c”,)

And yes oh yes, I love your sharing too – which goes way beyond blogging – cool cocktail cat queen!

Paul Hamilton April 11, 2008 - 1:41 pm

Thanks for this post, Vicki. I really appreciate the ways you keep it real and make it personal here on your blog. For most of us, blogging is very much a personal venture.

You’ve done a terrific job in this post of articulating and discussing some of the feelings that many of us struggle with as we put ourselves out there. I suspect that we all have a deep desire to be heard and to be accepted. The longer I’m involved in the edublogosphere, however, the more impressed and encouraged I am by the level of acceptance that there is here.

It is a good thing that we don’t always agree with each other. Disagreement is often at the heart of constructive conversation.

At the same time, we are no different than the kids in our classrooms. We educators need to know that we will be accepted, no matter what we have to say and no matter how well we are able to express it. I think we help to make the edublogosphere a “safe place” for each other as we try to keep it positive and as we take advantage of the numerous opportunities to be affirming.

Alfred Thompson April 11, 2008 - 1:53 pm

When I was at EduBloggerCon last spring I felt quite the outsider. There were famous people there and I was unknown. I still feel that way in the broad edublogsphere. But honestly the broad sphere is not who I am blogging for. I blog for a niche – computer science teachers. The event for that niche is SIGCSE and there I (blush) feel a bit like a star. Few of the people there know the edubloggers with much larger readership or Technorati ranks. And really reaching the CS teachers is my goal not reaching everyone who teaches general subjects. Otherwise I’d blog a lot differently.
I guess my point is that you have to think about a target audience and worry more about meeting their needs rather than setting a readership goal.
Now if you want to make the top 10 edublogger lists you do have your work cut out for you. No one is trying to keep you out but everyone is also trying to do their best. There is, I believe, room for more at the top if only because the number of teachers reading blogs is still very small but we all hope it is growing. We are still at the ground floor. That makes edublogging different from tech blogging I think.

Jason Bengs April 11, 2008 - 1:55 pm

Thanks for the reminder. I think we need to all remember our focus for blogging. Mine is for reflection. I use my blog as a tool to improve my teaching. If others start to read and can learn from it, great. To my knowledge I am the only one seeing my blog right now. Which is fine with me. I don’t think blogging should be a popularity contest and having a large number of readers is great, it must mean that you, and others, have something to offer that others want to emulate.

Tennessee April 11, 2008 - 11:19 am

Kudos Vicki! Great response to a burning question/statement that most of us (well probably all of us)feel at one time or another. Teaching like blogging can be a lonely endeavor if you make it to be one, but I find myself thankful for all of the wonderful educators that I have met through my PLNs and all of the knowledge that I have acquired. Many of the people that I have learned the most from are not the ones involved in the “cocktail party” but rather those in the trenches doing what I love to do each and every day, just like you!

Carolyn Foote April 11, 2008 - 11:36 am


Your post led me back to the conversation at Scott’s, but I agree that developing a readership takes time.

I also think however we are having those connections and conversations with colleagues is a positive thing for all of us as educators. Thanks for this post.

prof v April 11, 2008 - 3:51 pm

In reading your comment, I think you could have added three additional points. First, a suggestion on how to increase readership. I think new bloggers (myself included) are still trying to figure out how to make the connections that allow for conversations within blogs. I go back to your list of 10 tips for successful blogging, and still find things I never noticed before (I just set up the statistics so I can see if I really am not getting hits or if I just am not getting comments). I would love to see an updated list that perhaps would include how to make sure your blog is part of an RSS feed and how to set up subscriptions for potential readers to make it easy for them to subscribe to your blog.

Secondly, I think even you have realized that it is more difficult to break into the edublogger field as there is now so many new bloggers (just in the last two years). I have found through trial and error how to link my blog to some of the blogs that act as clearing houses for specialized blogs.

Finally, I am surprised that you did not point out how you have helped new bloggers by both asking for new voices and then publishing them in your own blog. I think this is an indication that you are trying to open up the “party”.

I too have moved away from frequent postings as I become more familiar with blogging and find blogs that are more aligned with my current interests. But I still come back to yours when I have an educational technology question as you have such a clear way of presenting concepts that make me believe I can actually use the technology.

Jim Dornberg April 11, 2008 - 1:53 pm

I don’t at all feel excluded from the blog “cocktail party”, because just like a real cocktail party, I am drawn to the people who have something important, and engaging to say and I am content to listen and learn from them. I have seen a few of the “big names” at conferences, and even met a few of them in person. I have emailed several of them and others, or left an occasional comment, and I have been very pleasantly surprised at the thoughtful responses I have received. They have been gracious and encouraging (including you Vicki!). I honestly don’t see how they have time to sleep and have a “normal” life. I read many blogs, but comment rarely, and I suspect that those who read my blog do the same. So I don’t feel at all excluded. I’m just happy to occasionally be part of the conversation.

Dean Shareski April 11, 2008 - 8:26 pm

Here’s repost of a comment I made on Clarence Fisher’s blog:

Isn’t the whole point of web 2.0 is that it exudes democracy and equality? Those that get all concerned about rankings and ratings are, as you’ve suggested missing the point.

I was watching a documentary the other day about a football team and the point was so clear that there were stars but also players who made significant contributions but were hardly recognized and yet to the rest of the players in the locker room, it was evident.

The concept of the long tail is one that few truly get. We often quickly want to find ways of ranking. Reminds me of the evils of current assessment practices. We tell kids to do their best and work on improving performance and yet continue to use ranking systems that is clearly a mixed message.

Thanks for the rambling opportunity. I owe you a cocktail.

Anonymous April 11, 2008 - 11:05 pm

I’m new to this world as of Monday…yes, 4 days of immersing myself in as much ed. tech, web 2.0, online collaboration “stuff” that I can. (thanks to Lisa Thumman at Rutgers U.) Cocktail party or not, your blog and the comments people have left have increased my list of people to follow. Even a discussion about “being on the outside” has led me to the “inside”. I’m thrilled to be in the company of such great minds and promise to start contributing once I wrap my brain around it all! Thanks to everyone for sharing! cmtvarok

Mrs. V. April 12, 2008 - 12:41 am

Great discussion- my comment turned into a post:) Read if you wish…thanks for coaxing me out of my blogger drought!

Vicki A. Davis April 12, 2008 - 1:50 am

As we say here in the South, “Goodness Gracious!” I’m floored and impressed at the outpouring of prolific and well considered opinions here. I believe that this “post” has been made stronger by the comments, which have added to the post greater depth of meaning.

All over this conversation I see the change in society. We are all going through the emotions of becoming accustomed to something new… kind of like I first experienced when the Internet first came out.

@loonyhiker – Thanks for always being one of the first to encourage me when I “spill my gutts.” You always make it worth it!

@lisa — It is about people. Making a difference in their lives. Like last night when I shared a link to scholarship for women in computer science… if I reach someone who passes it to a student who gets the scholarship… I made a difference. Every little bit is important. And while, when I began blogging, I didn’t really set my sights or aim for a large readership… now that it is here, I will seriously consider and appreciate each individual reader and take my job seriously.

@charlieroy — I like you! You are direct like the people down here — especially the “whoopidy do” part! U Rock!

@tennessee — Those in the trenches are my most important reads… I just wish there were more of us. It seems as if many teachers view blogging as a way out of the classroom when they should see it as a way to improve the classroom!

@carolyn — Half the battle is consistent, meaningful contribution. The other half is keeping perspective and what’s important important!

@scottmcleod – I believe the comment intensity is highly correlated to controversiality AND immediacy. If a lot of people SAW someone recently, they want to interact and comment (immediacy.) If someone says something very emotional or controversial, people want to comment and interact (controversiality.) While I guess looking at these stats are fine, I’ve found in my very short time blogging that looking too much at numbers of any kind removes my focus from what is important. When I focus intently on conversation, my blog traffic and numbers just grow. I always say “whatever is watered, grows.” If I water my investigation of stats, I become a good statistician… if I water my blog but also commenting and participating in the blogosphere as a WHOLE, I become a good blogger. I’d rather be the latter. And while the post was meant to be encouraging… I have to admit I’m a competitive perfectionist and always have to reign in that aspect of my nature.

@tom – Your first paragraph hits the nail on the head — thanks for pointing out the link think… I accidentally left the link to his blog off the initial post and added it a bit later.

@christophersessums – I think the emotional nature of something is like the proverbial elephant in the Net — it is there. It always stuns me the number of people who discuss their feelings on this when it comes up… it means that many of us are experiencing the same thing. Thanks for being one of my first reads!

OK. This comment is getting long — I’m going to continue my replies in the next comment.

Alan April 12, 2008 - 10:05 pm

Eeech. Who wants to be at some snooty cocktail party? I’d rather be sitting on the tailgate with a cold one.

If you are blogging seeking comments as some sort of ego stroking, I’d adjust your intents. We blog to share, to connect, but mostly to express our own ideas. Seeking some sort of valuation based on comments is symptomatic of some other needs.

More people read and and never leave comments and that is just fine. its not about strutting feathers, that is so transparent.

.mrsdurff April 13, 2008 - 12:02 am

There is no cocktail party circle excluding anyone – the bigwigs don’t have the time. A more apt description would be a family reunion picnic with every one invited. The beauty of Web2.0 is that anyone can converse with anyone without distinction.
I don’t look at my technorati either unless i need a good laugh – last i checked it was 7.

3GK blogs April 13, 2008 - 12:32 am

Tall poppy syndrome? Perhaps Jon could read the archives or listen to the online courses of these “well-known” bloggers to get some perspective on their beginnings.

Usually people earn their success by the hard work they do in their schools which they share (for free) with everyone else as well as writing thought-provoking posts. I appreciate all of this information and insight.

Everyone starts somewhere and it’s not up to the readers to assume that “well-known” bloggers aren’t humbled by their readership or success.

Karen Kliegman April 13, 2008 - 11:36 pm

Your response really hit a note with a lot of people, including me! Sometimes it’s just a question of how much time do you have to spend on twitter, to keep up with the blogs, nings, wikis, etc. you create and subscribe to. It can be overwhelming! Sometimes I think we all have that ‘not in the loop’ feeling..and then we have to get over it cause that’s not what this is all about. Also, Jon should remember that the biggies out there are very much in the ed-tech conference presenter circuit, book authors, too. They have worked hard to get their readership.

Frank's Blog April 14, 2008 - 4:47 pm

I am having a hard time synthesizing the issue, could someone please reduce the point to 140 characters?

Comments are closed.

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