Sunday, October 29, 2006

More for the Record

Just cleaning up some loose ends. Here is the email that prompted me to do the checking reflected in my previous post, and my reply. With any luck, this will end my involvement in this issue. It was, after all, just a single post in OLDaily. Had not the people involved made such a big fuss over my criticism, it would have ended there.




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De: Gwen Solomon [mailto:gwensol@earthlink.net]
Enviado el: sáb 10/21/2006 11:41
Para: stephen@downes.ca
CC: Cheryl Oakes; Scott McLeod; Jeff Utecht; Dave Jakes; David Warlick; Miguel Guhlin; Terry Freedman; Wes Fryer
Asunto: Attacking do-gooders


Hi Stephen,

I've been reading some of your comments about other bloggers and want to respond directly to you. First, however, please take a look at TechLearning.com. You will not see the logo of the company you seem to hate so much - CMP. We were never a big part of that company and we are now part of a start-up called NewBay Media.

I want to tell you how much I admire people who work with students, teachers, and administrators and who are willing to share their experiences and expertise with others. The bloggers on TechLearning whom you've criticized are great examples. I've been lucky to know most of them and that happened because they've shared what they do with our readers by writing for our ezine over many years.

When blogging became so important, they were willing to help me get that started too. (Miguel explained how it came about.) Their blogs and articles are extremely popular with our readers and they are very highly respected. They deserve every bit of that respect.

It always dismays me to see anyone attack people rather than ideas. (When I ran School of the Future, one of our core values was respect for ourselves and others.) I don't see you arguing with them about what they say by commenting in our TechLearning blog. I just see you ranting against them as people in your own space. If I read your words correctly, you are condemning them for being good writers and presenters who are devoted to helping educators and doing a lot of good work. (Like yourself, right?)

Btw, Techlearning isn't associated with the K-12 Online Conference (I wish we were) but I think what they are doing is wonderful. It's a grass roots group of educators helping others; it's the spirit of open source. What could be better?

Thanks for listening. And lay off my friends please. It's beneath you.

Gwen

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Gwen Solomon
Director, TechLearning.com
212-472-5055
gwensol@earthlink.net
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Hiya Gwen,

You may have seen my post on this, but I would like to draw it to your attention, so you can be aware that I did not simply read and disregard your email.
http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2006/10/just-for-record.html

Minimally, what I link to shows quite conclusively that NewBay Media is not a simple startup, as you suggest in your email, but part of the Wicks Group of Companies. Moreover, the Wicks Group has acquired at least some, if not all, of CMP. So it is quite misleading to suggest that, as you write, "We were never a big part of that company and we are now part of a start-up called NewBay Media."

I would also take issue with your suggestion that I am attacking people rather than ideas. I have been specific in what I have criticized, and have not criticized the character of any person; rather, I have criticized what they have said and what they have done. When you say "you are condemning them for being good writers and presenters who are devoted to helping educators and doing a lot of good work" you are very much misrepresenting what I have said.

For the record, my concern was with the commercial nature of the enterprise (a point most readers managed to understand). While the conference was being represented as "a grass roots group of educators helping others," it was not clear to me that this was the case. It seems to me very clear that this is a commercial enterprise, albeit one that has managed to recruit a certain amount of volunteer support. This is why I mentioned the very strong connection with the same group of people who write for NewBay Media. It is also why I mentioned the connection with the Shanghai University. And it is why I questioned, in this context, the promotion of the conference and some of the speakers. It is my hope that the volunteers associated with the conference have a very clear understanding of the commercial nature of the conference, as they may not have had this understanding when they originally volunteered.

This argument sits in a wider context of a argument to the effect that it is contrary to the nature of blogging to try to elevate some people (especially paid consultants or journalists) to the position of thought leaders. This is the sort of thing, I would comment, that characterizes commercial enterprises, as they try to direct traffic to their own properties. But in my view, good ideas exist throughout the blogosphere, and it does people a disservice to suggest otherwise. Especially in the education blogosphere, a commercial presence distorts and diminishes the very real contributions of teachers and others. Moreover, the representation of this conference as the best, or only, means of connecting with other educators was, particularly in the blogging environment, misleading, and in my view did more to damage educational blogging than to support it.

You are of course free to disagree with my argument, and I would encourage you in this. However I would request that this disagreement remain congruent with the facts regarding your enterprise and reflect faithfully my arguments as I have stated them. As for what is beneath me, let me suggest, that this is my concern, and not yours.

-- Stephen

5 comments:

  1. Hi Stephen,

    I've read this carefully and tried to request a Skype chat, but I still cannot see why you mentioned me in your initial remarks, hinting that I am somewhat below par in what I have to say. If this is what you believe then I would appreciate a critique of some of my work with constructive words rather than a sarcastic side-swipe.

    I am not a consultant, I work for a national education system and have nothing to gain from this venture other than what comes through my RSS feed and the thoughts that I am able to construct for myself as I write my own blog.

    Please clarify this otherwise you are simply attacking a person and not their ideas or motives.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have not seen a request for a Skype chat.

    You were included in the list because your name appeared frequently in conjunction with the others. Like this.

    Suggestions that I am "hinting that I am somewhat below par in what I have to say" constitute your interpretation of what I have written, and are not in fact what I wrote.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You wrote:

    "Oh hey wait, it's the same people! Who are - according to themselves - the leading edubloggers. As one person commented today - a 'co-prosperity sphere'. I prefer the term from Jerry Pournelle: the CoDominium. Anyhow - I aggregate more than 300 edubloggers (and leave out just as many again) and try to represent their contributions as fairly as I can in these pages. And that is to me the core of edublogging, not self-styled A-listers. But hey - attend the conference, listen to Warlick and Freedman and Fryer and McIntosh and the rest and judge for yourself. What do I know?"

    That sounds like a side-swipe to me = "what do I know" is an open declaration that you've got something going on against me.

    Just let me know what it is you don't understand/agree with/believe in me or my work, or remove my name in connection with the negative connotations you have brought within that post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You write, "That sounds like a side-swipe to me = 'what do I know' is an open declaration that you've got something going on against me."

    I think you'd be the only person in the world to infer that. I am saying "What do I know?" - in other words, suggesting that I am not in a position of knowledge.

    As for the rest - I so don't do ultimatums. Unless you've got something better than 'sounds like' I am simply not interested in your demands.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fair enough - maybe this is just another example of the difficulty in interpreting someone's remarks when we can't see their faces or ask straight away to clarify. I also bit my lip after clicking publish since I wouldn't change a post on my own blog and it's presumptious to expect someone else to.

    I'm interested in the group dynamic argument as a reason for kind of 'clubbing together' and the number of links that appear when you link certain names together, but don't know if this is more down to serendipity or design.

    I'm not one to bear a grudge, just someone who likes to know where they stand - fat chance, you might say, in the world we live in today ;-)

    One day, if we're in the same room (real or virtual) I'd love to talk the ideas through and hopefully we can see where each other is coming from.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome your comments - I'm really sorry about the moderation, but Google's filters are basically ineffective.