Sunday, November 05, 2006

RE: New Name? Plus More

H'OKAY: So I ended up touching on several bases here regarding general thoughts about this blog. Sorry that I jump from issue to issue, I just had lots of thoughts come to mind, and could not really hold back sharing them. All thoughts about my thoughts are definitely welcome. (I decided to just make this another entry since I ended up touch on so many different topics. Certainly, if you want to just suggest a new name, for whatever reason, comment on Sarah's post, to separate them off from this one.)

I definitely prefer the new look. :)

As for name, I can't say that I thought it suggested such Quinean love, I thought it was just rather cute. I would be fine with whether it stayed or changed. I'm trying to come up with something witty and clever to suggest.

But before I make any suggestions, I guess there is a question that can be asked about the general nature of this blog:

What sort of impression (or persona) do we wish to express to represent this blog? Perhaps we ought to consider that first, and decide how we'd like others to react to a first impression, based purely on name, and decide from there. One could also question whether that matters at all, but if we have any desire to invite outsiders, then perhaps it does. I mean, there are a few of us who possess some online personas where we can promote the hell out of this blog to at least get it noticed. We can also promote it to our own students--for those of us who teach--for any of them who are serious about getting into some philosophical discussions beyond the classes we teach. So the question that seems needing addressing first is about what sort of first impression presentation we desire to display to the public. Essentially, when it comes to designing to anything, the first thing to consider is the goal one has in mind.

For my own suggestion in that direction, I would push for a less humored and more serious sort of presentation, only because WMU has been gaining in noteworthiness amongst the professional philosophical community, and thus, perhaps we ought to take advantage of that and promote it further.

Here is an even further thought: if we can get this blog to have an overall feel and presentation of professionalness, then we can attempt to promote it amongst the more professional community, which could help get WMU's name get out there even more, and thus, help promote our program, which will of course help us all in the long run. I mean, imagine this scenario: someone is reading a particular book/article by someone, has some questions ideas about it, posts an entry, which doesn't necessarily require everyone to read it, just address some questions and issues, and perhaps the original poster eventually decides to send the author an email saying basically, "Hey, I was reading X by you, I had some questions about it, posted it in the unofficial blog of the graduate program I'm in, if you have some time to spare, I'd really love your input about the discussion that's going on there. Here's where you can find the post..." And so-and-so checks it out, sends an email back, and things start rolling for that grad student. How cool is that? And if s/he never hears back from him/her, meh, so what? You lose nothing except a bit of time writing an email.

And one last thing: I think everyone really needs to realize the amazing potential this blog can be as a resource for ideas and general feedback about papers you all need to write for any of your classes. And perhaps we all need to push this a little on the other students who have yet to jump on here. Seriously, from my experience--and remember, I am going on my 4th year year here at WMU, although I am not a student anymore, still--you can gain so much in the direction of writing papers by talking with other people about your ideas and such. Please take advantage of that! Philosophy is not a conversation with yourself, you don't have all the answers; philosophy makes progress because it is a continued conversation between several intelligent minds. Even if you think that other people don't have enough knowledge in whatever area you are writing about, we all have the basic philosophical tools to think about pretty much any philosophical issue. You might have to explain some things first, but once people have enough information, they can certainly offer up some worthwhile thoughts, questions, ideas, etc.

And hey, you have a great and interesting philosophical discussion with another student: share it! You certainly don't have to mention names, but it could be worthwhile to everyone for you to share it.

Something just confusing the hell out of you? Bothering you? Whatever? Post it, ask everyone, you might get some great worthwhile feedback.

Essentially, more people need to get onto this blog and contribute. We all spend a whole lot of time chatting with each other in the department, spending time with each other, etc., why not let such interactions carry over into here? What is the benefit? Having a typed out log of conversations that you can come back to as frequently as you like; with real life conversations, you have only your memory to rely on. Plus, if you are anything like myself, sometimes you find it much easier to express yourself clearly and thoroughly through the medium of writing, as opposed to speaking. Additionally, if you are posting an entry specifically about something you are thinking of writing a paper about, you can gain some practice here through having to already type out your ideas and such. Trust me, that really does help, the more you have to type it out, or say it, or whatever, the better prepared you will be to type it out in a final draft in the best possible way.

In the end, I'm trying to offer some of my advice to you all that is based on my experience of being here in this department for 3 years, so far--4 when I hopefully finally leave. It has been the best damn 3 years of my life thus far, I have learned way more than I ever expected, and if I can share that so that others can benefit, I'd like to. And I know from experience that having typed out conversations like this, in a blog format, can be extremely beneficial, so of course I'm pushing for that. So, anyway, I guess that's all for now. Cheers to you all.

17 Comments:

At 9:18 AM, November 05, 2006, Blogger Tedla said...

Hey SS!

I was nodding in agreement, all the way, while reading your post, with almost everything you shared with us; I wanted to say thank you so much for your great input!

I look forward to being a more active member of this philosophical community here at WMU, of course, more by way of this blog.

Sarah, thank you for everything you're doing for us.

Last thing for now: I also loved the way our blog looks now!

Cheers,

Tedla

 
At 2:47 PM, November 05, 2006, Blogger Sarah said...

I am absolutely postively in favor of getting more people to post (just in case you live in a hole and haven't figured this out yet). There are two responses that I've been getting when I am accosting people about not having signed up to post, or not even having commented:
1) "I don't have time"
2) "I don't want my name out there...yet"

The "I don't have time" excuse doesn't go far with me. We have time to chat with each other. We have time to read. You cannot tell me that you don't spend ANY time blogging on your own, or at least reading other blogs (even if it's just on myspace or facebook). This means that you should be able to make time to participate in the blog.

I have pointed out multiple times to people that the blog is an important method of a) promoting ourselves and b) promoting WMU. This intimidates the hell out of people. You know what kids? It intimidates the hell out of me too. I am frequently wrong. There are frequently things I have not considered. I don't always have something to say about ideas and theories that are posited. We cannot possibly be good at ALL areas of philosophy. We cannot possibly have read EVERYTHING. But we are all here- for a reason- a good reason. Many people did not make it in. Many people never will. We did. So suck it up. The one thing that second-year grad students here and grad students in other PhD programs tell me over and over again is that we absolutely have to learn to put ourselves out there AND learn to get used to hearing "you're wrong". As Cheryl pointed out, not one of us have all the answers. Plato claimed that the only way for one to truly become a good philosopher and to truly pursue knowledge (and make a little headway in that pursuit) was through dialectic. This is what we have here- an invaluable opportunity for dialectic. The benefit of the blog is that we don't have to be Euthyphro and be backed into a corner by Socrates, ending up admitting to things we had no intention of admitting in the beginning. We have time to think about our responses. We have time to consider the propositions presented.

All that being said, here's what I'm thinking- I want this to be professional IF AND ONLY IF it does not mean that everyone is terrified of posting. If we have to change the URL of the blog so that nobody outside of the grad students know what it is (so it's not linked in 50 different places like it is now) then fine. Because what is important is the opportunity for dialectic.

We also have a valuable opportunity to promote ourselves and our program. I admit that it terrifies me, but if any of us are going to do this professionally, we have to get over that fear. Including me...

So yeah...that's what I think.

 
At 3:51 PM, November 05, 2006, Blogger Marcus Adams said...

I agree that the post should be professional, but (as Sarah notes) not soooo professional that we're all intimidated to post. This is a more effective way to communicate than in the hallway because, as said elswhere, here we think a little bit more about our thoughts (hopefully) before clicking "publish".

I have a few questions/comments relating to the appearance and features of the blog.

1) I like the new look. It's much more tranquil and aesthetically pleasing.

2) I'm not familiar w/ how blog programming works, but I've noticed that other blogs often have a link called "click to read more" at the bottom of a post so that the entire comment isn't posted on the front page of the blog. This allows readers to quickly skim through posts and see if anything is of interest to them. Is this something we can do?

3) Is there a way to add a recent comments/replies section on one of the sidebars (w/ live links to the particular comment...I don't know if this site supports that)? This would make it easier to see what has been said most recently w/o having to look scroll down to the bottom of each post.

Marcus

 
At 4:28 PM, November 05, 2006, Blogger Sarah said...

Marcus-

1) yay!
2) As far as I know, blogger does not support this- if someone wants to challenge that claim and knows how to do it, awesome- find me.
3) Blogger doesn't support this either. (See #2)

Nothing says we can't move the blog...

but then again, if we spend all this time getting it to be one way or another in appearance and function, we are going to miss out out on content...

 
At 4:32 PM, November 05, 2006, Blogger Sarah said...

Afterthought regarding comment notification:

I know that as an administrator, I have an option to be emailed if a new comment is posted... I wonder if I could add multiple email addresses- if people were interested- we could at least try it. Or I suppose it could just go out as a phil-grad...

Thoughts?

 
At 4:56 PM, November 05, 2006, Blogger Marcus Adams said...

I'm not sure if it would be a good idea to send an email every time a comment is posted, but I think it would be a great idea if each person who posts sends out a mass email to phil-grad when a new topic is posted (not on every comment, just a new posting topic).

This would have two benefits that I see:

1) It would be a semi-personal email from the posting individual encouraging comments and feedback.

2) Since we would only send out an email if a new topic is posted, there would be fewer emails and (I think) this would likely encourage more involvement.

What does everyone think about that?

 
At 9:09 PM, November 05, 2006, Blogger Sarah said...

I think you're brilliant.

How does everyone feel about getting numerous messages from Cheryl and Trin? *haha*

 
At 2:42 AM, November 06, 2006, Blogger cheryl said...

Personally, I think everyone will *love* getting emails from Trin and I, and well they should. ;P

Actually, I am somewhat torn about the emailing issue: on the one hand, it sounds great, a little reminder to check the blog for a new post, but on the other, it might be an annoyance to some, and they might rather prefer to check the blog on their own time, and seeing the emails will only bring about a groan and the thought, "Yeah yeah, I don't have time right now, I'll check it later, like I was going to anyway..." or something like that, and that perhaps we ought to just leave it up to everyone to check the blog themselves at their own leisure. And yet, I am perfectly aware that at first, people will forget about its existence and need reminding. One avenue is to just send emails out until someone complains. lol. Another option could be to state from the start that emails will be sent out for the first month, or something like that, just to beat into the minds of everyone that the blog exists, urging them all to come have a peek. And then emails will stop, based on the expectation that after a month, or whatever decided upon length of time, people will have been conditioned to at least remember the blog's existence, and that should be enough for them to occasionally check it.

 
At 2:42 AM, November 06, 2006, Blogger cheryl said...

All right, kiddies, let me add to my thoughts about all of this.

(i) People DEFINITELY have time, including myself, we just have to get our asses into gear and make it a bigger priority. Watch TV? Hang out with other friends? Read leisure books? Play video games? Spend time on the internet doing stuff that doesn't have anything to do with philosophy? Then yes, you have time.

(ii) It can be extremely beneficial as an open forum for discussion about whatever we'd like. If people realize the benefit that can be had, then they will make it a priority to pay more attention to it, make time, etc.

(iii) It can only be beneficial if people make it beneficial for themselves, which essentially means, participating in it.

(iv) Okay, please don't let the word "professional" fool you, because in reality, this should be as fun and comfortable as getting together at the bar for some loud, drunken philosophical ranting and arguing. Seriously. The only implication that the word "professional" has is that we don't turn this into a forum for silliness, gossip, terrorizing others, bashing philosophers, whatever. The "professional" aspect of it really has only to do with the etiquette, not the intellectual level of the content, that's not what I meant. It's more about maturity than anything, and keeping the discussions focused on actually doing real philosophy, or discussing topics and issues that are important for us to discuss in regards to our profession, the relationship between our program and us, talk about conferences, journals, PhD programs and applications and such.

So PLEASE don't let the word "professional" mislead you into thinking I'm saying we need to only have posts that are of the caliber of publishable quality papers. No no no, that's silliness! It would be perfectly legitimate, and professional, to have a post of something along the lines of, "Hey, I'm reading X about such-and-such issue, and it's pretty interesting, but I don't know that much about it, so I'm wondering what your thoughts about this..." and a bit of sharing of your own thoughts included. No one is asking you to present a full argument every post. Your post could completely lack argumentation, and rather be a question. It could be a post in which you ask for some help because you are stuck on something, or confused, don't know where to take some ideas, whatever. Essentially, you all can really take advantage of this being a place where we all help each other. ESPECIALLY WHEN WRITING PAPERS!

(v) If you are really afraid of making yourself known here, you can always make yourself unknown via your username and profile, you don't have to let us know who you are. No one is going to be offended if you do that, it's fine. Maybe later when you're comfortable, you can tell us, or some of us, who you are, but in the meantime, if you'd rather hide behind anonymity, then by all means, you can do that. And trust me, it does have its benefits! ;)

(vi) This can be a great place to discuss some of the stuff from classes, whether it is the readings, some direct comments from class, issues from class, even discuss something you have to do a presentation on--you phil of mind people, I'm talking to you!--whatever, but take advantage of it. Again, the whole presentation here should be much more relaxed and fun, again, like we're at the bar, not like we're at a conference presenting a paper we've worked on for 8 months. It should feel much more like the sort of conversation we have in class or in the hallway--when it's philosophical, of course.

(vii) I think that we need to push some people in person more to get involved. When a bunch of people are posting and commenting back and forth, it can get really fun.

(viii) Please don't have any fears about your ideas and theories being argued against, I mean, come on, you've entered a field in which that is the main sort of discourse there is! If it comes up, a few things will happen: (a) you realize that you were mistaken for whatever reason, admit that you made a mistake, and be grateful for having learned something; (b) the other person has completely misunderstood you, and obviously if he had understood you, he wouldn't think you are wrong, so you might try re-explaining it so that he understands, or maybe you just tell him that he's misunderstood you, it happens all the time, it's not a big deal; (c) you can't figure out how the hell to prove wrong the argument leveled against you, but dammit, you know you're right and eventually you'll figure out how to demonstrate that, so until next time...; (d) you still think you're right, but some good points have been brought up that you hadn't thought of, and you clearly must address them and answer to them, but that would require a lot more thinking and work on your theory, so you just leave it at that and admit that you have a lot to think about before you can come to any answers. If you are always afraid to present your own ideas, thinking, "Well, I just need to get more under my belt, learn more, then I'll start presenting my ideas..." you'll never do it. Trust me, you'll never get over that feeling of not being good enough but thinking that you just to need learn a bit more and you will be, it will continue to persist in your mind, and you'll forever sit in silence. You just have to stop with that and realize that the only way you're ever really going to grow as a philosopher IS to engage yourself AND your ideas in real philosophical discussion. So what if someone else demonstrates that you don't quite know a whole lot about the issue you're discussing? That's the perfect chance to go to that very person and ask them to help you learn more about it! So what if someone proves you wrong with some knockdown argument? If you think they are right, just admit that, amend your beliefs, appreciate the kind of enlightenment that that has probably brought you, and move on. It is just as important to know why you are very wrong about something for your growth as a philosopher; if you expect to get better, you have to find out what mistakes you've made, ADMIT that you made a mistake--which shouldn't be that hard since we all already believe that no one is perfect--why they are mistakes, learn from them, etc.

Okay, this comment has gotten so long! I should stop. But I do feel the need to say a lot, because in the 3 years that I have been here at WMU I have learned so much, but I realize that one of the very important factors that led to my learning so much involved the way I approached all of it.

 
At 3:17 AM, November 06, 2006, Blogger cheryl said...

Marcus:

You mentioned the notion of having some sort of link in a post to cut down the size of it on the front page, the "click to read more". Did you see this being used on other blogs here on Blogger? I am avid user of LiveJournal, and that has the option for it, it's called a "cut", and I use it all the time for my really long posts in my blog. You can even customize what the link says, it doesn't always have to say "read more", which is the default. But I'm not familiar with Blogger, so I have no idea if this is something you can do here.

To all:

In general, if it seems that the customization options aren't good enough here, we can always move the blog somewhere else. As I said above, I am an avid LiveJournal user, for almost 2 years now, and I love it, the options are pretty nice. Plus, there is that great feature of using a "cut" so that you can have just a very small portion of your post appear on the front page, and then a link that takes you to the rest of it, so that the front page isn't so clogged up with really long posts. I love that feature about LJ. Additionally, each blog, whether an individual or a community blog--which is what we would design--has a full profile. The maintainer (admin) of the community--there can be several maintainers, too--can choose the option that people can only become members by invitation, and only members have posting access in the community. The maintainer can also control who can post just comments, restricting it to members only, or leaving it open, and also whether anonymous comments are allowed. It may also be possible for the maintainer to set it up so all comments by members are automatically allowed, but comments by anyone else are screened, and the maintainer would have to approve them in order for them to be viewable. I am not sure if that is an actual option, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is, it would make sense; but I know for sure that you can make it so only members can post comments. Also, you can ban other users from commenting in the journal at all: let's say someone stumbles across the blog and makes some comments, and is basically annoying and obnoxious; s/he can be banned completely from the blog. (I love that option!) Obviously, making it so that only community members can comment would prevent such a thing from occurring, but perhaps we don't always want to just restrict all comments to members only, as outside comments can certainly be worthwhile. (If LJ has the option to make all non-member comments screened until approved by the maintainer, that would solve all such issues.)

So, I'm just putting the option out there, if we would like more options for customization and such. You can all check out my LiveJournal via the link on both my blog page here and my profile here, as well as just going to www.livejournal.com. And perhaps browse through some random blogs to see what they are like, check out the FAQs to see what sorts of things are available as options. LiveJournal has been around for awhile, for they've really got their shit together and there are lots of customization options and such.

 
At 4:12 AM, November 06, 2006, Blogger cheryl said...

One more thing I thought of, sorry for so many long comments and such.

About LiveJournal:

You can set it up so that you get an email every time someone makes a comment to an entry you post, and the email even contains the content of the comment.

You can also "track comments" for a post, especially for a post that someone else has made, but that is of particular interest to you. This is a new feature LJ just added, and I have not yet used it, but I would presume that you would receive an email every time a comment is made on that post. If not an email, then it would show up in the "messages", which is another new feature LJ just recently added, but it's basically a personal message board just for you in your account, and every time someone makes a comment on one of your posts in your own journal, you get a message about it. So it might be the case that if you use the "track comments" feature for a particular post, then each time a comment is made, it would show up there. I'm not quite sure, since I haven't yet used it, and I have also not yet looked into it, but I am sure there is an explanation somewhere in the FAQs about it.

Also, anyone who is interested in checking out LiveJournal, but is, for whatever reason, confused or something by their site and would just like a bit of a tour, feel free to ask me to show you a bit of how it works, as I can show you through my own account, what it looks like to navigate the site that way, some of the personal features and such, the customization options, whatever. You can either shoot me an email about it, or you can just grab me in my office or the hallway sometime about it, and I can show you all the neat little bells and whistles that are available with it. I think that LiveJournal is much more oriented towards being an internet community rather than merely a personal blog, so it has a lot of features that are directed towards that; additionally, because of its being very community oriented, there are so many people involved in working on it all the time, adding new features, making suggestions, just building it up to be more and more awesome all the time. (Gosh, am I going a bit overboard here? Admittedly, I am biased, but after using LJ for awhile, and then coming here to Blogger solely for the purpose of the WMU blog, I was really disappointed by it.)

 
At 5:09 PM, November 06, 2006, Blogger Sarah said...

I'm going to use my blog-god status (and pretend that this status somehow has some sort of weight) and say we are leaving the blog here.

If you want a name change- suggest one- otherwise that's going to stay the same too.

I'm most concerned about keeping the content going. So let's do that.

 
At 8:36 PM, November 06, 2006, Blogger Dan W said...

These are all great ideas. I'm happy with the look of the blog (thanks Sara), and I'm fine with the name, too.

As far as maintaining a professional look and feel of the site, I think that's also a very good idea, since this may be the only exposure some will get of us and our department. That said, though, I think synapsomatic (and Sara) are right, we shouldn't let fears of making mistakes online interfere with contributing to this blog.

Personally, I am very excited where this blog is going, and I'm confident that we can make this quite the site, if we do it right. Part of doing it right means simply doing what many of us already do well: and that is doing good philosophy.

As far as email notification goes, I would suggest a middle course: perhaps send out a friendly email to those in the dept once a month, that way it isn't so frequent as to be a turn off, but not so infrequent as to bear forgetting. Any thoughts on this?

 
At 12:02 AM, November 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All good comments, one suggestion. Maybe have two blogs, one being a 'professional, we're a great graduate program because were on the gourmet, etc., etc.' blog, and another 'non-professional, we're still college students, idiotic swampbrain in a vat bullshit (don't really feel that way, but do you get my point?), etc., etc. blog. maybe this should be implemented or decided upon before we talk about superficial things, like looks, ease of use, etc., etc. i'm less than enthused about this 'middle way' approach, but will accept it if i'm in the minority.

i've actually had some stuff i thought about posting, but haven't because of time, the generality of the issue, and the inability to formulate it intelligently for conveyence to you. if this blog gets any more professional, i will probably shy away from posting it, because of it's inherent 'non-professional blog' feel. sorry if i ruined the party, but that's my two cents, thank god for democracy!

 
At 8:22 AM, November 07, 2006, Blogger Sarah said...

In response to Dan:
We can do a monthly email. I'm also considering other promotional options that I shall wait to release until the feasibility is fully considered in my head.

In response to Anonymous:
We can't get more than 5 people to post and comment on here- Why have two blogs that few post on? Several of us have personal blogs for the sort of random b.s. If you don't have one, I'd encourage you to start your own. Even if this is "professional" it doesn't mean it can't include humor and the occasional absurd proposition. Cheryl, correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't you essentially just referring to an attempt to maintain thought-provoking posts (whether legitimate or absurd) instead of posting random things like "OMG Did you hear what Prof. X said today?" or "How dumb was that brownbag?". These are things we should not do anyway because it's a public blog. That should be reserved for offices with closed doors and bars.

I also wanted to point out that JoAnn posted a fantastic response to the Affirmative Action post from last week.

 
At 7:05 PM, November 08, 2006, Blogger Marcus Adams said...

I agree that an email once a month to all the WMU grad students would be helpful & also less intrusive/annoying than an email every time a new post is added.

Sarah -- I agree w/ the clarification on the ambiguous term "professional." By this, I assume we all mean that it won't be a gossip site but rather a place we talk about interesting topics, but with the understanding that we are all grad students...not professionals (whatever that is).

 
At 12:19 AM, November 10, 2006, Blogger cheryl said...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, STOP BEING HUNG UP ON THIS WORD "PROFESSIONAL"!!

I merely meant professional attitude and behavior, maturity level, etc. Yes, I meant, no gossiping and the like, we are graduate students for christssake! Let's just behave with the maturity level of that, that is all I meant. I DID NOT MEAN THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO POST ENTRIES OF A QUALITY THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH TO PUBLISH IN SOME PROFESSIONAL JOURNAL.

So please, spare the excuses of saying, "Oh, well if it's going to be 'professional' then I won't post because my ideas aren't at that level." I have clarified several times already that that is NOT what I meant. Perhaps you all need to [re]read the comments I posted here that clarified those points.

I am not trying to be mean, I am trying to get you all to realize that, look, we've got this amazing avenue for philosophical discussion here, something in which we can go into great detail, we can think about it enormously before saying it, so that it comes out as perfect as we would like, whatever, but either way, it's a great avenue and resource for discussion amongst the graduate students here in this department, ALL of whom are quite competent enough to post here--if you weren't, you would never have even been accepted into this program. :)

 

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