Wednesday, April 6


Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of participating as one of four panelists (all Houston area bloggers) in a Houston Community College (Central Campus) panel discussion on the impact of blogging -- now and in the future -- before an audience of 70-75 students, faculty, and administrators.

Corie Schweitzer of "Insane Troll Logic" acted as moderator -- Corie is professor of English at the college and its Assistant Chairman of the English Department -- and put the four of us through our paces, after which there was a Q&A session so the college students in attendance could exact their revenge on us. Just kidding, of course! I, for one, was pleased to see all the arms go up when Corie opened up questioning to the audience.

The only thing I took umbrage with was Corrie's placement of me, from the audience's view of the panelists, at the far right end of the group -- so far indeed that I had no table in front of me. That was a less than subtle way of signaling that I was the right wing, fanatically conservative poliblogger on the panel! Corie insisted there was no intent to define me by virtue of the seating arrangement, but I think she was being a tad "disingenuous" (Corie loathes the word, so I had to find a way to work it into this post!), don't you?

In fairness, however, there were but a few references to "poliblogging" during the entire hour and a half session and the panelists (and Corie, as moderator), to their credit, steered clear of pure political discussions, while keeping the discussion focused on what blogging is and has become, how to start a blog, build an audience, and find your "voice," how the technology has impacted the traditional "gate keepers" of news and information gathering, how blogging can improve one's writing craft, how infinite is the range of subjects covered in the blogosphere, and what this publishing technology portends for the future.

There were a number of excellent questions posed during the Q&A indicating an awareness in the audience of the government repression of bloggers in certain countries, of the as yet unresolved issue of blogging ethics, of the clashes between the mainstream media and bloggers over whether bloggers can ever be regarded as true journalists, and of a genuine curiosity about what discipline and time constraints are involved in maintaining a regularly updated blog. Frankly, I wish there had been more time to field additional questions, because when the audience got involved that interaction with the panelists generated a palpable enthusiasm for the subject of blogging.

I should add that my co-panelists -- Chris Doelle, Jack Cluth, and Robin Reagler -- did a nice job in responding to the questions from Corie and the audience. Corie's hands were full as moderator, as none of the panelists, myself included, was at a loss for words at any point in the discussion, and our enthusiasm for blogging translated into a loquacity that would have easily pushed the event into extra innings had Corie not intervened to bring the session to a close.

I'd like to thank the college's president, Dr. William W. Harmon, and its Dean of Academic Development, Dr. Cheryl Peters, for being in attendance and for their gracious welcome to the panelists. Dr. Harmon lingered afterwards and spoke with each of us, which was a kind gesture.

Now, if I may, I would like to conclude with a few words to the students who attended yesterday:

College can be an overwhelming, time-consuming experience, particularly when other responsibilities are heaped on those of attending classes, taking lecture notes, reading and studying textbooks, writing term papers, and preparing for and taking examinations. Many of you undoubtedly hold down jobs and some of you no doubt are married and have families. And, there are undoubtedly a number of you who recognize now that your high school years did not prepare you adequately for your college years. All of this can form a swirl of misgivings and apprehensions in your mind.

The strains of such a load are enormous; but the fundamental strain -- the one that exacts its toll on your energy level and your nerve-endings each and every day --is in trying to improve one's self. Professors can be intimidating and the course work even more so. Mastering college-level work can challenge the most self-assured among you. So you're no doubt asking yourselves: why should I add blogging to my punishing daily regiment of "things to do"; how will it benefit me; why become a writer?

To keep and update a web log (a "blog" of periodically published "posts") is to give yourself -- what makes you tick, what you think and care about, what is most important to you, what rouses your passions and soothes your soul, what drives you, what terrifies you, what you love, what you loathe, what cause you grief and exultation, and what, in Lincoln's words, form the "better angels" of your nature -- an immortality. Your words may never in this lifetime be cast in marble or in granite, but they will be there in cyberspace for the ages; and you will have been heard. Think about that: you will have been heard. The body in time will die; but what your senses took in, the brain digested, and your spirit revealed through the keyboard, while on this planet, will remain behind as a living testament, an affirmation, of the essential YOU.

And you can do this without any barrier to entry and without going through the process of endless rejection letters from publishers or any humbling, "You're not good enough!", from an earnest critic. Within a mere matter of minutes, you can set up a blog and begin giving expression to the essential YOU; and I promise you that in doing so you will be embarking upon a very special journey, one of ineluctable self-discovery, personal growth, and, in time, the sublime realization of certain of your dreams.

Go ahead. Give it a try. Give expression to your soul.