Yesterday I decided to get back into the school mode by starting to blog again. I figured I would start light and blog about my pottery class at the Haliburton School of Arts this summer. In that blog I had mentioned that I used something called the Steve Tool to make some of the pieces for that class. Surprisingly, today one of the comments I got about the post was actually from Steve of the Steve tool fame. He kindly offered some suggestions on how to finish off one of pieces (although I admit… It is highly unlikely that I would actually take a power drill to anything, just a bit too squeamish about using power tools) I thought it was pretty cool and pretty unexpected that my little blog was found and read by people outside of the usual Seneca open source community.
I admit it, I’m terrible at blogging. I don’t do it nearly as often as I should but I will try to do better this year… maybe its like brushing your teeth. You just have to make it habitual.
Anyhow, while I was at my little Raku workshop I had mentioned in passing that I would probably end up blogging about the class when I got home. And the question I got was … why? I didn’t have a great simple answer at the time other than wanting to keep a record of my experience but perhaps now I that I have gathered my thoughts I would better be able to do it.
Record Keeping – Those of you who know me well know that my memory is pretty much like swiss cheese. I really wanted to have a record of the things that I learned. Raku is not something that I would have a chance to get a lot of practice on. It may be months, even an entire year before I’m able to put what I learned back into practice and by then the things that I have learned may already have slipped my mind. Re-reading some of the experiences will likely trigger memories on things that I should keep in mind when I do Raku again.
Sharing of Knowledge/Experience – This one is tricky. I know that there is often a resistance to publication of techniques and methodology. We see this even in our school where some teachers publish their notes openly while others put them behind some sort of access restriction, while some teachers do not post their notes at all. The debate rages on. My raku teacher had commented that perhaps this instant access to knowledge is not a good thing. I think that underlying most of the the argument against open access is the idea that it would cheapen the experience (even if it is not put in those terms). That somehow if many people were to have instant access to the material that it would become less valuable. Here is where I think I highly disagree with that sentiment. I have always openly published my notes for courses I teach. This has not led to students not showing up for class. I believe that students go to class because that class room experience is such an important part of that education experience. The written material, the notes and so on, those are things that complement the course but they do not make up the whole course. I can read about someone firing raku but I cannot experience the course by reading about it. By actually doing the class, discussing the process with classmates and instructor I learned much more than I possibly could have by just reading about it. There really is no substitute for that experience.
Spreading the word – The Raku course that I took had a low enrollment (which worked out nicely for us as we were able to get more pieces fired 🙂 ). I think that part of the problem is that not enough people necessarily knew about the class (or possibly thought the class was too basic for them as the course was called Raku basic). If people were to blog about it maybe it would have more reach than the usual word of mouth sources. You never know… I mean Steve found my little blog after all :). Maybe other people looking to do raku will see it also. For me, doing the pottery classes on the weekends have always given me a chance to get away from my computer and do something very low tech (can’t get lower tech than mud right? ). However I know that most of the people that go never actually make use of the net in that same way. For example my regular pottery teacher always hands out fliers to the Durham Potters Guild‘s show and sales which is great… our entire class of 12 knows about it but that flyer never goes beyond our class. I can’t help but to think how much more effective it would be to spread the word via the web. To expand that community beyond the people that we might see day to day. One thing that I learned last year is that blogs help keep your name and your project out there. People interested in your work will keep following up on what you are doing and sometimes will participate when they can.
How to Blog 101
Ok, so with all that said, I figured I would write up the thing that I do to make my blog more interesting and draw in interested parties to my blog. One of the things I do is a lot is I link… a lot.
For example, in this blog I linked to the school where I took my raku class, my previous post, the Seneca open source planet, Steve’s page etc. Remember that your blog is not … for lack of better description, 2 dimensional. It is not just the words that you write but the topics that are related to what you are writing about. By including links, people will be able to more easily find related articles to your post. Likewise, when you link your site to other people’s blogs and pages, they will be able to find you via pingbacks and related comments. People interested in a related area will find their way to your post via other posts and other sites. So, don’t forget to spend those few extra minutes at the end to link up what you can.