It’s always show time here at the edge of the stage

Spotlight Beam

Most of my experiments with web publication have been experiments with form. My late-and-unlamented blog on Blogger, my Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ presences, even my DS106 blog (which needs a daily create before it starts pining for the fjords) – all primarily attempts to understand tools through their constraints.

So the act of planning the categories for this blog creates a level of intentionality which is unfamiliar and challenging. I think that’s part of the idea of a portfolio, though. Defining a structure makes it real – establishes that there are parts of my professional presence I want to focus on. For that matter, a reflective practice offers the opportunity to notice the structure as it emerges here, in what I share and what I keep to myself.

Sidebar: I’m not understanding implications of the distinction in WordPress between “tags” and “categories”. Near as I can tell, “categories” are big and hierarchical while “tags” are small and flat, and they’re different so that you can have a tag widget and a category widget without either one being “too long”. Am I missing something?

Still, I’m struggling with what to call the categories. So let’s go back a step – who’s the audience for this site anyway? Maybe if I think about who I’m writing for, I’ll think about what the right categories are.

When I say that this blog is a reflection space, and that I’m trying to push myself to explore different ways of reflecting, I’m saying in effect that the primary audience is myself. What would the descriptors be which aid self-reflection? There might be a “reflection” category, which would then allow for subcategories depending on whether I’m reflecting on news, technology, higher ed in general, work experiences in particular…

An “experiment” space would also be a good idea – someplace where I could narrate the things I try out. I suspect part of the value of that category would be writing down the fact that there ought to be something in it.

And then who am I talking to? I might want categories for groups or projects like You Show and Connected Courses – or ongoing groups like CLAMP and EDU-ISIS. Maybe one for “professional organizations” in general?

I’m not tenured faculty, so my work resists the easy breakdown of “research” and “teaching.” There is a split focus between “pedagogy” writ large and “instructional technology issues”, so that might be a pair of categories. (There’s also the tension that there’s a website for my work which needs feeding with similar-but-not-the-same content… though I suppose there’s nothing wrong with a repost, or a link with a paragraph for context.)

I suppose this exercise has accomplished its task – now I’m thinking about the things I could be writing, and how they might best be made visible.

And more importantly, once I hit publish, I’ll give myself permission to go on to the next thing.

Top image “Spotlight Beam” by flickr user Starving Artist, licensed cc-by-nc;

2 thoughts on “It’s always show time here at the edge of the stage”

  1. Although I am not one who makes bread by hand, I think it might be like making bread by hand. You have to start with *something* but you might always be working it as you go.

    Ugh, that analogy stunk.

    I’ve been trying to work on ways to explain the use of tags and categories, but it starts with there is no single or right way, and eventually you settle into something that works, or you end up with a haphazard pile of labels and stickers. Or somewhere in between.

    Blogger only gives you labels, tumblr tags, and they are pretty much the same thing. The first thing is recognizing that WordPress provides you with not only two different ways to organize, but another level if you consider the hierarchy of categories. The ironic thing is that they all reside in the same database table.

    You can organize a WordPress site in just tags, or just categories. Here is how I have tried to explain it.

    Categories are like big vertical buckets. While you can create many, I suggest keeping them broad, and even in informational weight, but not too many at the top level. The nifty thing is that you can drop a post in multiple buckets. You may find it useful to create categories as children of broad ones; If you create a category called “Projects” and put “Video Production” as a subcategory, everything you put in “Video production” is automatically part of “Projects”.

    I suggest trying tags as more descriptive, like free word association. Tags can go horizontal across categories, maybe it is subject disciplines, or media forms represented. You can tag things by perhaps degree of complexity, or for grade level. Or level of completeness. Or just “cool”.

    You do not have to have ot all laid out ahead of time, obviously you can add categories as you go. Back-organizing can get tedious.

    Or tweedy.

  2. Thanks, Alan. Actually, the “big vertical categories” idea does help, especially for a “portfolio” website. The idea that it might be useful to show all “projects” as well as the various kinds of projects makes sense.

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