Student blogs

by Eszter Hargittai on October 23, 2005

For your weekend reading pleasure, my Internet & Society course blog links to 25 students’ class blogs. They are required to blog about their readings (which already leads to some interesting posts), but additionally, several of them have gotten inspired to blog about class-related (and sometimes unrelated) topics above and beyond the required assignments. From interviewing grandparents about their radio uses to reflecting about their obsessions with IT they have covered lots of topics.

Extras have included discussions of the “What Would Jesus Blog” movement, the Facebook banned at a university, Tuvalu’s .tv domain name (also discussed briefly in class once) and frustrations with software installation. One student blogged about a run-in with someone regarding a copied identity on MySpace. Blogger ELVIAJERO has a series on Weekly Musical Leanings. Another student blogged about an upcoming movie that a friend is producing. Some students also get inspired to add images to their posts, which adds a fun component when you’re reading through a couple dozen of these blogs. (And yes, they are careful about not hotlinking and using up others’ bandwidth.)

In case you’re wondering about the curious blog names, I encourage students to blog without their real names for privacy (and in compliance with FERPA guidelines).

I’m sure they’d be delighted to get some comments from people outside of class so if you have a moment please stop by and say hello. That said, many of the comments on the posts are closed due to spam protection we have implemented on their blogs. We use both the auto-close comments plugin for WordPress and an additional spam guard to protect against unwanted junk. I recommend both if you’re a WordPress user.



agm 10.23.05 at 3:54 pm

“And please, just say no to poking.”

Priceless commentary for a new generation.


Eszter 10.23.05 at 4:24 pm

In case anyone’s wondering, agm’s comment refers to this post by Smooth Criminal.


Ampersand 10.23.05 at 6:08 pm

I don’t like the auto-close idea; it’s fun when, occasionally, non-spam discussions reopen on a post that’s been lying quiet a year or two.


pdf23ds 10.23.05 at 6:50 pm

I don’t like the auto-close idea, either, but let’s face the truth. Old threads are dead threads. Blogging as a format simply isn’t built to handle non-temporally-local discussions, like Wiki or even mailing lists can.


coturnix 10.23.05 at 10:48 pm

This is so cool. This is the third blogging class I’ve learned of recently. It is amazing to watch students’ blogs take off after a while.


sharon 10.24.05 at 3:53 am

If you use decent anti-spam plugins, you don’t need to auto-close comments. Why aren’t you using Spam Karma? It rocks.

The blog format has a very simple way to handle ‘non-temporally-local’ discussions: a Recent Comments list in your sidebar. (Even Blogger has a plugin to do this.)


Eszter 10.24.05 at 8:24 am

Thanks, Sharon, for the suggestion. I needed something that is super simple (it looks like SK2 has several settings) given that this needed to be installed by 25 students who aren’t used to WordPress. Auto-close comments just needs to be activated once it’s installed, there are no settings with which to tinker.

More importantly, it looks like SK2 still let’s spammers leave comments although you may then be able to moderate them. That doesn’t quite help me. My provider will lock my account from too much CPU usage and it turns out that lots of spam being left on a blog (not to mention 25) is enough to pass the threshold of what they consider acceptable use of the account. I couldn’t risk that. I already spent enough time last summer dealing with such a situation.


pdf23ds 10.24.05 at 10:16 am

Sharon, it’s true that a recent comments feed helps, and there are some other things that are nice too, like comment feeds on individual posts. But there’s a fundamental scaling problem in very long threads. Over time they get more and more unwieldly, especially if the comments are not threaded. (Threaded comments threads have pros and cons, but I think they do scale better.) Besides that, recent comments lists are usually very short and don’t get the kind of attention that the post lists on the main page get. In message boards, the threads are ordered in the main page by the date of the most recent post added to it. Another thing is that many places have a mild stigma associated with “reviving” dead, or “zombie”, threads, especially the longer ones (which often are the most interesting ones and the most deserving of new comments).

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