As a teacher, I just want to get my students to write. Because of this, I am always looking for ways to get them to write, and, usually, these ways are disguised as fun rather than academic. In the spring of 2002, I was shown a weblog by a former student I had as a high school teacher while I was taking a class titled Electronic Communications from Dr. Kevin Brooks. From then on, I latched onto the format, the fun, and the phenomenon known as blogging. This led to the creation of my own teaching weblog found at (Figure 1), many class weblogs, and The BisonBlog — a collaborative weblog for students at North Dakota State University.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

There are a lot of holes in my writing.  There are mistakes there that shouldn't be there in a graduate student's work.  I don't focus enough.  I am too wordy.  I go off track.  I am vague.  I don't clarify.  My sentence structures don't make sense.  I put words by other words that don't belong there.  Even when I read my stuff, I stumble over words… I lack flow sometimes.  But I do like to be creative.  I do like repetition.  I do like using dialogue and fragments and surprise endings. I have started to observe daily life differently. I notate in my head now things that I want to think more about. I am a blogger.

These fears and affirmations are attached to weblogging for me and for many of my students.  Blogging allows me, and others, the freedom to make mistakesWeblogging can be serious in content but not in form.  The only format is to have a time stamp.  Modern Language Association documentation doesn't come into play at all.  Webloggers don't have to focus on one thing.  They don't have to cite sources, just link to them with HTML instead of a stupid footnote.  They can go off track, and yet conclude their posting altogether in a nice big surprise at the end.

5:10 PM - add eprops - add comments - email it

Figure 1. A weblog posting demonstrating complexity in a non-serious form.





Weblog posts may seem to be unfocused and unorganized, but bloggers often dive right into critical thought and complex writing, demonstrating that even when bloggers, especially student bloggers, do not write for a class or for a paper, their thinking is critical and their writing is complex. Compositionists can extend their understanding of this extra-curricular composition by studying and attending to weblogs, especially when these postings are to a community weblog based on a college campus.


1.1. Background

Currently, compositionists have focused more on online writing as products of their classroom activities (hypertext, web sites) and less on how the writing online, through discussion boards or email, relates to what they are teaching in the classroom. For example, students at North Dakota State University have created collaborative hypertext projects for various composition courses or used discussion boards to extend the discussion of a topic outside the classroom walls. Not many composition teachers, however, have brought how students write in these writing spaces into the classroom and asked: “Do you write differently online than in your papers for my class?” Investigating the content in weblogs can lead us to figuring out, as compositionists and teachers, how to bring the love of or fun with writing to an online discussion board which isn’t an assignment into the classroom because if students are writing complex material online, then that love and that complexity must be studied.

Research on weblogs has just begun. Into the Blogosphere, an online collection of essays written about weblogs, contains genre analysis of what is found in weblogs with Susan Herring’s team’s essay, “Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs.” But there are no essays on the actual contents within a weblog’s postings. Rebecca Blood’s books, The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog and We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture, are loaded with information about how weblogs can be maintained and how they are affecting our society; however, neither book analyzes what is happening in the postings of these cultural phenomena. Another book rounds out the list of current weblog literature. Blog On: The Essential Guide to Building Dynamic Weblogs by Todd Stauffer, leans more towards the building process including various set-up processes and design aspects. While the knowledge we have of weblogs and how they are created and maintained is plentiful, we still are unaware of what these weblogs and their postings actually contain regarding complex sentence structure, critical thoughts, errors, and other sentence structure components.

The importance of this study is to further research in composition that is usually overlooked. Can online writing be considered complex and full of critical thought?  Not only will this study further research about extra-curricular writing, but it will shed light on the insides of a weblog, the writing and the thought behind those words.

After researching how to build a successful online community, mainly utilizing Derek Powazek’s book, Design for Community, I have created one called The BisonBlog. This particular weblog is community-based, and the users/participants are all college students at North Dakota State University.

In order to conduct my research, I would have to implement community-building elements into The BisonBlog. By having the atmosphere of a real community for students, student bloggers would be more likely to share stories. In allowing myself to investigate how students use The BisonBlog, feel about The BisonBlog, and think about its use on campus, I had to allow myself to participate along with them. This meant utilizing participatory action-based research (PAR) throughout the implementation process, afterward in the analysis of results, and to view the end results from the compositionist's perspective. This method of research is explained further in section 3.1; however, the method essentially allowed me the same position as a host would have of an online discussion board. The position of a host is absolutely necessary in developing a successful online community.


1.2. Definitions

            Based on my teaching background, the definition of “critical thinking” will be based on thought that shows up in writing that can be placed in the top three levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. After all, in 1956, Benjamin Bloom was the one who headed a group of educational psychologists in developing the classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning. These levels became widely known as Bloom’s Taxonomy and are still used in education today. If students are demonstrating the higher levels of learning on The BisonBlog, then composition teachers may want to examine how to bring that type of writing and thought into the classroom.

As shown in Figure 2, these higher levels of thought are: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The BisonBlog shows writing which can fit into any of Bloom’s six categories; however, when a blogger elaborates on an item in their list by comparing, evaluating, or integrating then their sentence structure shows evidence of jumping up a level in complexity either in how many words are in the sentence or by what is contained within each sentence. For example, when sentences contain subordinate clauses, the sentence is usually comparing or discriminating between ideas, relating knowledge from several areas, or predicting conclusions. These actions (comparing, relating, and predicting) connect to the top three categories which connect to critical thought. “Complex writing,” then, is writing which shows evidence of critical thought. Therefore, if a student writes a sentence on The BisonBlog which shows evidence of the higher levels of Bloom’s triangle, such as sentences that evaluate using subordinate clauses, then the student has demonstrated critical thought. The two concepts are not completely exclusive, but they are intensely related to one another. One will usually only occur along with the other.



Figure 2. Bloom’s Taxonomy triangle.




1.3. Questions To Be Answered

The research questions I focus on, relevant to composition studies, are

Š      Can the content found in weblog postings be considered evidence of critical thought?

Š      Can the content found in weblog postings be considered evidence of complex writing?

Š      What can weblog postings to an online community say or do for the discipline of rhetoric and composition?


In looking to answer these questions, I focused my literature review on those disciplines which would elaborate further on what has been seen in online writing like current research in computer-mediated discourse, weblogs, and extra-curricular writing. In order to make the online community a successful one, and bring in quality material to analyze, I looked into research on successful online communities and used the method of participatory action-based research in order to include myself as the host of this successful online community.

Next in Chapter Two, a review will be conducted of the current literature containing research, knowledge, and statistics vital to this study. Those areas relevant to the study I conducted, include: computer-mediated discourse, weblogs, online communities, and extra-curricular writing.

Chapter Three, “Methodology,” will discuss how Participatory Action-Based Research was implemented into the study of The BisonBlog. The process of how data was collected will also be detailed as well as how I employed the linguistic analysis.

Chapter Four will report on the results of the two one-month studies conducted on The BisonBlog (February 2004 and October 2004) concerning analysis of the complexity of BisonBlog’s postings. Within each of the sections of results will be a discussion of how that statistic defends or undermines the current research regarding computer-mediated discourse, weblogs, online communities, and/or extra-curricular writing.

Chapter Five will include a brief synopsis of the what the findings laid out in Chapter Four mean for computer-mediated discourse, weblog research, and online communities. The main focus of this chapter, however, will be how this study connects to the extra curriculum of composition as well as to compositionists, in general, since as a teacher myself this is the discipline I’d like to further research in. Beyond the synopsis of findings and their implications, this chapter will also conclude the thesis and its study. This conclusion includes: possibilities for future research, final notes about where online discussion boards like the weblog-based BisonBlog can take compositionists, and how a writing space like this could be further investigated.


            To begin looking at online communities and weblogs, one must first look to the umbrella which envelops all computer-based interaction. Computer-mediated discourse is defined as “Human-human communication by means of messages transmitted via computer networks.” The scholarship on computer-mediated discourse, then, lays out the modality differences between speech and writing and the definition of a “posting,” which I use throughout my study. Then, from computer mediation, I narrow down to the literature about weblogs and outline the analysis of what Susan Herring’s team has discovered regarding the weblog genre. From weblog research, I turn to online communities; after all, without this knowledge, I would not have been able to put together a successful community and attracted quality postings from my participants. Lastly, Chapter Two ends with extra-curricular writing as defined and researched by Ann Ruggles Gere. In this study, I have used her research as a connection to all the disciplines covered in this Literature Review since she is the link between composition and online study. Although her research did not investigate online writing, her research does contain elements of community and communication, both of which are found in weblogs. A community is needed in order to attract and retain quality conversations and quality communication; Gere found that to be just as significant in her studies of writing groups as well.


2.1. Computer-Mediated Discourse

In any current research regarding computer-mediated discourse, weblogs have been mentioned although they have rarely been discussed individually. As of now, research concerning weblogs, whether as an online community forum or a pedagogical tool, has extended into the areas of gender study and genre definition. Rarely has research been conducted looking at the critical and complex writing and thought being put into these weblog posts. While the field of computer-mediated discourse extends back to before the  popularity boom of weblogs, the past fifteen years of research in that field are crucial and relevant to understanding weblogs further.

When it comes to computer-mediated discourse, one must look to researcher Naomi Baron for her years of expertise in e-mail and computer mediated communication, language acquisition in children, and sociolinguistics. Although Baron has written six books on writing and technology, Baron’s essay “Letter by Phone or Speech by Other Means: The Linguistics of Email” lays out the history of CMD concerning email as a particular “communication genre” (135) or “communicative modality” (162). Her research looked at the spectrum (Figure 2) of genres (both online and offline) between writing and speaking to see where email fit in. Baron mentions that linguists like Deborah Tannen (among others) argue that writing could contain the characteristics of speech or that speech may contain the traits of writing.

In one of her more recent studies, she researched IM-ing (Instant Messenger) by college students and “found that the communication was more formal – in use of vocabulary and abbreviations – than might be expected in a speech-like medium” (Schirber). Baron, of American University, also stated that: "The most important finding is that IM by college students does not look like bad writing." Baron’s study consisted of reviewing 23 different conversations and surveying 158 students. What she discovered was that “out of 11,718 words, there were only 31 abbreviations (mostly "k" for "ok"), 90 acronyms (mostly "LOL" for "laughing out loud"), and only 49 emoticons (mostly the smiley)” (Schirber). Lastly, only 121 words were misspelled out of 11,718 total words which Baron even commented in the article that she has more misspelled words in her students’ papers.

Therefore, online writing through email or discussion boards or weblogs, even though sometimes considered online speech genres, could lean towards writing, depending on many factors. The online genres mentioned — email, discussion boards and weblogs — are usually composed of planned, well-thought out posts with complex syntax, abstract thoughts, and, sometimes, quite formal writing altogether. If this is so, the modality, or the type of communication, most associated with complex weblog postings would be writing. My study will look at where a particular type of weblog posting, a posting to an online campus community, will fall on the spectrum between these two modalities — writing and speech — as seen in Figure 3.







            WRITING                                                                                                                                         SPEECH

Asynchronous communication                                                                             Synchronous communication

                                    Work email                                                                                   Family/friend email

                                                      Instant Messenger

                                                      ?<-Campus community weblog postings->?


Figure 3. The spectrum of online communication (from Baron). I have added where community weblog postings may occur.



Although Baron does not cover weblogs, she does identify their type of computer-mediated communication with the term “posting.”

A posting is a “finished” piece (such as a scholarly paper, an electronic journal, or the contents of a web site) that an author makes available for public consumption. Such postings come closest to traditional writing, which results in a “product” that others can access. […] Postings are potentially open to revision based upon elective feedback from readers. (142)

One can hypothesize, using Baron, that because online community weblogs consist of “postings,” they are going to fall closer to writing on the Writing/Speech continuum. If these entries to an online campus community do not resemble a “posting” as defined by Baron, we can speculate that they will lean towards speech. Perhaps if composition teachers saw that writing to weblogs is not as close to “chatty” speech as often thought, they would value their usage more.

Research conducted by others (Collot and Belmore, Yates) to assess electronic dialogue as either more like writing or speech came up with mixed results. The data collected in Collot and Belmore’s study as well as Yates’ in 1996 analyzed linguistic variables such as: word length, passive voice, lexical categories, etc. What both studies found was that some results showed electronic dialogue to be both like writing and like speech. “For example, on such textual measures as type/token ratio of frequency of adverbial subordinate clauses, the electronic text more closely approximated writing” (Baron 149). When it came to whether the sender “appeared personally involved in crafting the message,” and this was measured by the presence of first and second personal pronouns, contractions, and modal auxiliary verbs, the online writing “looked more like speech” (Baron 149). When Collot and Belmore published their findings, they concluded that electronic language resembled “public interviews and letters, personal as well as professional” (21). Some of the very same measurements will be taken of The BisonBlog, such as frequency of adverbial subordinate clauses, disjunctions, and contractions, but I did not apply all the categories in my analysis of The BisonBlog. Some of the measurements taken by Naomi Baron in her research regarding email were not found in this study based on time constriction.


2.2. Weblogs

         As mentioned previously, weblog research is just beginning. Weblogs were “born” only a few years after the birth of the internet. At first, computer scientists and researchers used weblogs to record information from experiments or conferences because, as the definition I use states, these weblogs are simply logs of information found online (on the web). Another specific characteristic to the weblog happens to be its layout — the information is listed chronologically backwards. A brief history is provided in Rebecca Mead’s article in The New Yorker titled, “You’ve Got Blog:”

The weblog format of links and commentary has been around for some years, but in the early days of weblogging the sites had to be built by hand, one block of code at a time, which meant that they were produced only by a handful of technology mavens. There were a few weblogs that earned a following among non-tech civilians [...] but most remained more specialized. A year and a half ago, there were only fifty or so weblogs; now the number has increased to thousands, with blogs like Megnut getting around a thousand visits a day.  This growth is due in large part to Blogger, and a couple of other weblogging tools such as Pitas and Editthispage, which have made launching a personal web site far simpler.

Collections or books of weblog research include We’ve Got Blog, Into the Blogosphere, Blog On, and The Weblog Handbook.

When it comes to computer-mediated discourse in the realm of weblogs containing actual analysis, Susan Herring and her colleagues have researched this area. In “Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs,” Herring teams up with Lois Ann Scheidt, Sabrina Bonus, and Elijah Wright in examining 203 random weblogs “to provide an empirical snapshot of the weblog in its present stage, as a historical record for purposes of comparison with future stages of evolution” (1). While this study did not analyze the weblog posts for complexity of thought and writing, it did conclude that the assumption held claiming that weblogs are “link-centered filters of web content,” from the late 90s, is misrepresented for most weblogs right now (9). Current weblogs (2003) do contain, according to Herring’s team study, archives (73.5%), images (58.6%) and comments from others (43%)(7). Content, in images and words, overtake hyperlinks whether to websites by others (53%) or other blogs (51.2%)(8).

Research in 1996 conducted by Herring regarding email postings to an academic discussion list was one of the first assessments of statistics gathered from online writing that included quantitative data such as average number of words in a post and number of sentences per post. These are two of the three areas (her other statistics from that research included “quoted content”) that I will analyze as well. In “Bridging the Gap…,” she and her collaborators did utilize these past statistics of Herring’s to show that at “210.4 words, the average blog entry is somewhat shorter than an email posting” and that with 13.2 words per sentence (including fragments) in these randomly sought out weblogs, the weblog entries they looked at were still 3 words shorter than “those of private email messages exchanged in a university setting” (9). In addition to the average length of a posting as well as the average number of words per statement, Herring found an average of 3.5 paragraphs per weblog posting. My research study will extend Herring’s research with email into the weblog genre as well as elaborate on her current research with Scheidt, Bonus, and Wright in deducing just what else can be found in weblogs and their postings concerning sentence structure, number of errors, amount/use of links, and amount of “netspeak” (phrases like “laughing out loud” abreviated to “lol”). A few questions that will expand Herring’s research will be as follows. Even if the postings in weblogs are shorter than email, do they contain complex writing and critical thought? Does the length of a statement in a weblog surpass the length in a regular email entry now, and does the length of a statement determine its complexity?

Beyond Herring’s analysis, other extensive research on blogs is limited as of right now. Some basic research about weblogs thus far comes from Rebecca Blood, Alexander Halavais, and Sandeep Krishnamurthy. Blood has published findings on a larger scope of weblogs and the weblog’s use while Halavais and Krishnamurthy have narrowed in on particular parts and types of weblogs.

Of the generalities in weblogs, Rebecca Blood has laid out the basics to weblogging: the how, what, why, and where. Blood was also one of the first to distinguish the different types of weblogs: the personal journal, the notebook (some see this option as more academic), and the filter weblog. Blood’s generality in claiming that “social interactivity is the highest in journal-type blogs (3)” leads into Herring’s research, and Blood has also stated that “blogging makes people more thoughtful and articulate observers of the world around them (6)” (which would likely make them critical thinkers of that observed world). This second claim from Blood is what leads me into my investigation—are people more articulate or more complex online than previously assumed?

As far as more narrowed research about weblogs, Halavais’ research, as summarized by Herring’s team, discovered that the most common topic for discussion on his random sampling of 125 weblogs was popular news stories, and, during the same year, Krishnamurthy researched war weblogs immediately following 9/11. Out of these two researchers, an insight from Krishnamurthy seems to reveal a connection to my research. He found that posts which are the most controversial get the most feedback. Besides that conclusion, Krishnamurthy’s presentation at a 2002 conference, summarized by Herring as well, provides us with a useful grid (Figure 4) of placing weblogs into one of four categories: personal, community, topical, and individual. The BisonBlog would mainly fit in the intersection of personal and community (in his grid, this would be Quadrant II). Furthermore, he mentions that not many examples of Quadrant II were identified, so the addition of The BisonBlog to this arena adds to amount of writing spaces that could be observed in this category. There haven’t been many examples to analyze until now; this may be why there is not much research regarding weblogs nor weblogs as online communities. As far as the other categories, there are more examples that can be observed. The individual online diaries/weblogs that Herring’s team analyzed fit into Quadrant I, sites like Metafilter and fit into the category which connects a large community of readers/writers with topical responses and activities, and, lastly, Quadrant III contains blogs which are called “enhanced columns.” Former and current journalists fill this category (like Andrew Sullivan).




Quadrant I:

Online Diaries


Quadrant II:

Support Group

The BisonBlog





Quadrant III:

Enhanced Column (

Quadrant IV:

Collaborative Content (ex-Metafilter)



Figure 4. Types of weblogs according to

Krishnamurthy with The BisonBlog added.




2.3. Online Communities

The end product of this research study will certainly entail findings relative to CMD and research regarding weblogs; however, in setting up a site that would bring in people and their words, I turn to the non-academic realm of online community-building to shed light on what they have to say about sustaining an online community as well as bringing in content worthy of studying in the first place.

For a quick historical look at online communities, many point to Howard Rheingold’s the WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) as the key starting point to looking at successful online communties. His WELL, a “computer conferencing system that enables people around the world to carry on public conversations and exchange private electronic mail,” started up in 1985 and grew to eight thousand members in 1993 (Rheingold xvi). “Through the 1980s, significant computing power became available on college campuses, and everybody, not just the programming, science, and engineering students, began using networked personal computers as part of their intellectual work […]” (Rheingold 61). In his book, The Virtual Community: Homesteading the Electronic Frontier, he states that, for him, posting his own messages was: “Writing as a performing art!” and he was hooked in minutes (Rheingold 25). In assessing the importance of an online community, Rheingold has this to offer which connects well to what others, like Derek Powazek and Amy Jo Kim and myself, have seen in online communities and how they function:

One of the reasons people value places like the WELL is the intellectual diversity it offers. With a divergent group, you get separate, non-overlapping personal networks of expertise. If you could use that diversity as a kind of living encyclopedia, you would find that communication [...] is not the only kind of value that people derive from virtual communities. The knowledge-sharing leverage of a large, diverse group of people who are motivated to help one another, and whose differences of place and time are erased by CMC, can be considerable. (45)

If someone knew this so long ago in the internet’s brief history, then why don’t we have more of these types of communities, especially since these virtual communities contain intellectual diversity? My belief is that this information, this knowledge that online communities can create “intellectual diversity,” has taken awhile to get through the chain of command from the “technophiles” Rheingold posted with to the students nowadays on college campuses.

Along with the background on CMD and weblogs, online community research situated particularly within education is limited as well, specifically the actual existence of online campus communities themselves. As of the fall of 2004, the Weblogs at Harvard Law and Uthink at the University of Minnesota were the two highest profile blog sites for colleges. Neither of them includes a specific area for the members to communicate to each other. Therefore, without any existing online communities, when setting up The BisonBlog in the fall of 2003, I turned to Derek M. Powazek and Amy Jo Kim for guidance, tips, and background.

Powazek’s book Design for Community starts off with a declaration similar to the backbone of my own research: “The moral of the story is clear: Give your users something to talk about, and they will reward you with high-quality conversations” (11). This connects back to what Naomi Baron’s research said. “High-quality” which relates directly to critical thought could be found in the modality of writing or speech, yet Powazek uses the word “conversations.” Since I’ll be investigating the “conversations” the students are having online, if those conversations through the postings resemble writing more than speech, Baron’s hypothesis will be more evident: Online writing can resemble writing more than speech at times.

Another statement Derek Powazek makes, which echoes statements from computer-mediated discourse and weblog research, is that “asynchronous communication gives the participants more time to craft elegant responses” (13). So, whether an online community is based in an educational setting or not, Powazek’s research reminds online community builders that in order to acquire high-quality content, asynchronous communication is vital in order to attract what he calls “elegant responses” rather than quick, synchronous responses which do not allow the participant to critically think and write complex entries about their thoughts. While I agree with Powazek in his use of strategies in getting “elegant responses” in one’s online community, I will investigate whether the final product is more like speech or writing. Do these “elegant responses” connect to complex writing and critical thought?



2.4. Extra-Curricular Writing

Finally, this analysis of The BisonBlog will further Anne Ruggles Gere’s research regarding writing groups and extra-curricular writing. Her research argued that writing instruction “extends beyond the academy to encompass the multiple contexts in which persons seek to improve their own writing,” and that these extracurricular sites are often ignored by the field of composition (Gere 80). The term extra curriculum comes from “eighteenth and nineteenth century college literary clubs and recounts how these groups discussed vernacular literature judged not worthy of academic study” (Gere 79). Although Gere focused in on physical writing groups, my research easily extends hers because of some similar items.

For one, as mentioned above, much neglect has occurred in researching/looking at the extra curriculum of composition. “In concentrating upon establishing our position within the academy, we have neglected to recount the history of composition in other contexts; we have neglected composition’s extra curriculum” (Gere 79). In composition studies, some compositionists, like Steve Krause (“When Blogging Goes Bad: A Cautionary Tale About Blogs, Email Lists, Discussion, and Interaction”) have said that there “was very little writing [on the weblog postings] that could be described as reflective, dynamic, collaborative, or interactive” in writing groups he had created online for his students through an online community format. For Krause, these postings during an “experimental” assignment lead him to no longer using weblogs; therefore, to him and other composition teachers wanting to try out using writing groups in an online matter, much research has not been conducted to aid these teachers wishing to incorporate extra-curricular writing to their composition classrooms.

Secondly, Gere has looked beyond the composition classroom to show that writing which is not being done in an academic setting is still valuable. “Although it remains largely invisible and inaudible to us, writing development occurs regularly and successfully outside classroom walls” (Gere 78). The same can be said of weblogs since many students utilized The BisonBlog to brainstorm ideas or to vent on topics they felt strongly about. These postings are not academic essay-worthy, perhaps, but as Gere states, this type of writing occurs outside the classroom walls, so some investigation needs to take place in order to see what can be found in the contents of this regular extra-curricular writing. Once compositions investigate what students are writing outside the classroom, they may be able to interpret and revise what they are writing inside the classroom and bring whatever may be working on the outside, in.

Building community through writing is a typical outcome of extra-curricular writing, according to Gere. A stated goal of the Lansing, Iowa Writer’s Workshop (one of the groups she looked at) was to “build community in order to solve problems” (77). The BisonBlog was created, first and foremost, to encourage an online community at NDSU. From the creation of The BisonBlog, I then investigated what students were writing — taking Gere’s research one step further by looking at what is “on the screen” after creating a comfortable community where, like Gere saw in her writing groups, students would share their stories, events, and information.

Within that community aspect then, Gere found “these accomplishments of workshops outside of the classroom walls mirror the goals most of us composition teachers espouse for our students” (78). The accomplishments she saw are relevant to what most composition teachers wish to see in their students, and these accomplishments are as follows: “Positive feelings about oneself and one’s writing, motivation to revise and improve composition skills, opportunities for publication of various sorts, the belief that writing can make a difference in individual and community life” (78).

Although Gere’s essay “Kitchen Tables and Rented Rooms: The Extra-curriculum of Composition” was written in 1994, she alludes to the possibility of the future of extra curriculum when she states:

[Her] version of the extra curriculum includes the present as well as the past; it extends beyond the academy to encompass the multiple contexts in which persons seek to improve their own writing; it includes more diversity in gender, race, and class among writers; and it avoids, as much as possible, a reenactment of professionalization in its narrative. (80)

The internet has made it possible to include more diversity, even if, as in The BisonBlog, that diversity is still contained to a campus space.

The BisonBlog’s creation could act as an additional writing space for students to practice their writing and communication skills as well as provide a space where students of different backgrounds could interact and enhance the university’s learning environment by providing extra-curricular conversations on topics relating to them; to classes; or, generally, to college life. The BisonBlog also provides, as Gere mentions, an additional role for me as a composition teacher since I became a leader, a hostess who had to be concerned with the community as a whole learning, writing, and communicating as one.

Essentially, I agree with Gere that “these ongoing and vital manifestations of the extracurriculum challenge us to take a wider view of composition” (86).

Composition’s extracurriculum can remind us of the need for increased access in writing instruction. In response we can strengthen our vigilance against reductive forms of assessment and against instructional practices and curricular plans that make writing a barrier to be overcome rather than an activity to be engaged. We can also learn to value the amateur. The culture of professionalism, with its emphasis on specialization, abhors amateurism, but composition’s extracurriculum shows the importance of learning from amateurs. (88)

Just as computer-mediated discourse currently studies how males and females communicate to one another online and link that to our physical social action, compositionists “can draw upon and contribute to circulations of power in its extracurriculum” (88). What can the extracurriculum found online, through weblogs in particular, tell us about the composition classroom? “As we consider our own roles of social agency we can insist more firmly on the democracy of writing and the need to enact pedagogies that permit connections and communication with the communities outside classroom walls” (Gere 91). In connecting communication outside the classroom with the communication inside, perhaps compositionists at universities will need to consider their additional jobs/roles as online community hosts. Just as writing groups need a group leader of sorts, an online community will need one as well in order to be successful.

There is surprisingly little research regarding extra-curricular writing since teachers who have their students write online are looking for them to write academically in that online space. The value of the extra-curricular may be found in a collaborative weblog which does not require the students to blog for a grade. Gere’s first quote mentions that writing groups were created for people seeking “to improve their own writing.” Even though student webloggers are rare to return to their postings to edit them or improve them, their writing skills and critical thinking skills may increase by blogging with others and communicating online. This investigation may lead us, as compositionists, to redefine what critical thinking is and what it looks like on the screen or on paper.



            This chapter contains much of the how of this study. In using participatory action-based research, I could easily participate in the study and work on my skills as an online community host; it may become a role for composition teachers in the future. The section following the outline of participatory action-based research is a description of who participated and when the studies were conducted.


3.1. Participatory Action-Based Research

Since I knew that I would be a part of this study (I needed to write on The BisonBlog in order to get others to do so as well), I utilized research methods entitled Participatory Action-based Research (PAR). In doing so, I could gather information from my participants while being a part of the study (as the host) as well.

         According to John Creswell’s book, Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research:

Action research: encourages change in schools, fosters a democratic approach to education, empowers individuals through collaboration on projects, positions teachers and other educators as learners who seek to narrow the gap between practice and their vision of education, encourages educators to reflect on their practices, [and] promotes a process of testing new ideas. (604)

Participatory action-based research allows educators “to gather information about — and subsequently improve — the ways their particular educational setting operates, how they teach, and how well their students learn” (603).

In wanting to investigate how students write online, I used participatory action-based research, like mentioned above, to “narrow the gap between practice and [...] vision.” According to PAR, The BisonBlog was created so that it could be the part I "look" at.  This phase consists of collecting data such as observation or interviews or surveys (Creswell 610).

Books, like Creswell’s, containing information on participatory action-based research often divide this type of research into cycles of “looking,” “thinking,” and “acting.” Before the investigation of The BisonBlog, those steps were used in the order described. After the investigation, the steps were used in reverse to allow for me to, lastly, “look” at what I had gathered.

The first cycle of participatory action-based research, completed beforehand, required that I "look," first, through other online communities to see how they had attracted quality discussions online. The online community, I knew and learned, needed to be successful in order to bring in those high quality postings, conversations, and content.

What I found was a few online collaborative discussion boards without hosts or with hosts, usually teachers, who blogged by themselves on one side of the webpage while the students’ blogs of the classroom or the college were listed on the other side. These online communities included one for Beloit College, The Reedie Journals for students at Reed College, and the Uthink: Blogs at the University Libraries out of the University of Minnesota. I found one community that resembled what I was hoping The BisonBlog could emulate which was the Harvard Blogs since they had a listing of categories, hosts updating people, and a collaborative area for discussions amongst student bloggers to take place. When I “looked,” I also found many teachers using collaborative weblogs for their classes. Most of the teachers with classes blogging online were not using it as an extra-curricular writing space but a space that would be graded on or used to announce activities, etc. One class blog example has Jane Levy, a fifth grade teacher in Connecticut, using the online space in order to have discussions with her students as well as “give my students the opportunity to talk with people outside our town” (“About”). It is unknown if they are graded on their postings, however, she does claim in one posting that: “Remember this is more of a conversation than an essay so your style of writing will probably be a little different” (“January 12, 2005”).

After looking at both online campuses and classroom blogs, I then "thought," another stage of the first cycle, about how to incorporate a small-scale online campus community for NDSU: one where the host would not be the only one blogging on the first page, one where the template would be simple, and one with easy access. Through the next stage, I “acted” in receiving IRB approval and in creating The BisonBlog.  The action itself included the actual putting together of The BisonBlog online through, putting up posters around campus advertising The BisonBlog, writing an article for The Spectrum (the NDSU campus newspaper) about The BisonBlog, and sending out an email via the NDSU student and faculty listserv.

In a second cycle of PAR, to be completed during and after each one-month study, the process of research started with what I had ended with: "Act.”  Through this second “act” as The BisonBlog host, I implemented community-building strategies such as: gaining valuable content with open-ended questions and daily topics, promoting events and rituals like giving dates when the BisonBloggers could meet each other, identifying my role as host, discussing accessible tools such as how to use the Comments feature or get their weblog added to the list along the side of the screen.

From acting, I stepped back and "thought" again by gathering quantitative and qualitative data from participants as well as conducting analysis of what was/is on the screen.  Lastly, I completed the second “look” process by “looking” at the material and analyzing it according to the questions and categories I have identified in Chapters 1 and 2. The analysis of The BisonBlog takes place in Chapter 4.


3.2. Data Collection

This study is based on an analysis of all the postings within one month’s (4 weeks exactly) time. These postings were collected from February 1, 2004 to February 28, 2004 and from October 3, 2004 to October 30, 2004. All postings were included in the study, whether the posting was substantial (50+ words) or not (less than 5 words). The only exclusion from The BisonBlog study for both month-studies was comments to postings. These were not analyzed simply because the comments feature on (used for the February study) was not as accessible nor as widely used as the comments feature found in Drupal (the software used on the NDSU server for the October study). This would have lead to a very biased report regarding comments to community weblogs in general, and this study wishes to look specifically at weblog postings, not at how participants responded to one another.

To become a participant or member of The BisonBlog for the February study, NDSU students heard of The BisonBlog from an NDSU listserv email I sent out or they received information from posters I had put up on campus. From there, I sent them an invitation to The BisonBlog as well as the IRB information on becoming a part of my thesis study. On a weekly basis, and right before the study, I emailed participants to inform them of upcoming topics and events occurring on The BisonBlog just as a host of an online community would. Guidelines were laid out insofar as claiming that The BisonBlog remain a “friendly community.” Participants posted as often as they wished.

Over the summer of 2004, a plan was devised to move The BisonBlog to an NDSU server to make it even more a part of the campus community. Also, Drupal (a weblog software) was used and the same advertising was used as before. Having The BisonBlog on an NDSU server allowed for less work on my part. Students wishing to participate simply went to the site and signed themselves up, accepting my IRB terms in the submission process. Topics and events were emailed just as I had completed for the February study.

All BisonBlog participants were or are current NDSU students and faculty members. Of those participants, 30 were members for the February study (Figure 5) while 8 (excluding the host) participated actively (posted at least once a week), and 93 were members during the October study (Figure 6) while 25 (excluding the host) participated actively.



Figure 5. Participant number for the February study.




Figure 6. Participant number for the October study.



Both one-month studies saw about the same percentage of participation no matter how many total participants were signed up as a BisonBlogger. In February of 2004, the percentage of active participants was at 26.6%, and in October of 2004, the percentage was nearly the same with 25.8%.

Statistics based on gender or race are not considered in this study since I wish to investigate whether students, in general, are writing complex postings. However, for further information, of the 8 participants in the February study, 5 were women, and 3 were men. In the October study, 11 were women, and 14 were men. Both studies show a fairly balanced representation of both genders. There may have been additional participants who commented on the blog postings of either study, but as previously mentioned, this study specifically analyzes the blog postings of The BisonBlog, not its comments.

Throughout both studies, I, as the host, implemented many of the community-building strategies that had worked for Derek Powazek. In order to gain high quality content, I started off the first week of both month-long studies with open-ended questions. One such question in the February study dealt with how to deal with a racist friend, and another such questions used in the October study asked: “What do you do with a friend who won’t vote?” or “Should we be in Iraq?” These questions usually lead to elaborate answers in paragraph form.

During the second week, I implemented a sort of “Sweeps Week” by creating some fun topic for each day hoping to lure in more participants by offering topics that may not be considered as “tough” to write on as the open-ended questions posed during the first week. These topics ranged from “Ticked Off Tuesday” (a participant favorite) to “Thankful Thursday” to “Web Site Wednesday.” As expected, “Ticked Off Tuesday” led to more lists in postings and “Web Site Wednesday” led to more postings with links to other sites, weblogs, etc. In comparison to the open-ended questions at the beginning of both studies, the Sweeps Week did bring in more participants and smaller postings. These postings, however, were not more or less complex than the paragraph-filled postings earlier in the month or later on. More on this in Section 4.1.5.


3.3. Analysis

Just as Herring and her team analyzed blog samples in “Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs,” I used various ways of analysis to identify the content of the postings to The BisonBlog. The categories analyzed were determined through multiple means such as analysis of:

Š      use of subordinate clauses

Š      use of topic sentences supported by follow-up statements

Š      number of high-order entries

Š      comparison of filter entries to journal entries

Š      list of grammatical conventions that mark a posting’s sloppiness, and

Š      instances of community building between participants.


3.3.1. Subordinate Clauses

First of all, research by Naomi Baron has shown that subordinate clauses show up more in writing than in speech. When the writer, or weblogger in this case, has a posting which contains many subordinate clauses, they are writing something more complex than how they would speak. Therefore, the percentage of complex statements was calculated by checking to see if the weblogger had used a subordinate clause in their posting. What also goes along with complex postings, besides the amount of subordinate clauses, would also be the average amount of words per posting and the average length of each statement since the longer the statement, the more complex the thought that goes into that statement.


3.3.2. Topic Sentences

Secondly, Richard Braddock’s research, conducted in 1975 (“The Frequency and Placement of Topic Sentences in Expository Prose”), found that sometimes “a major topic sentence and a topic sentence occurred in the same paragraph, and sometimes several paragraphs seemed devoted to the presentation of one topic sentence” (36). Because of this, I looked for what Braddock would label an “inferred topic sentence” as well as obvious topic sentences. An inferred topic sentence is one where “the reader thinks the writer has implied [a topic] even though the reader can not construct it by quoting phrases from the original passage” (35). While Braddock’s findings within 673 paragraphs/25 essays only came up with 47% of the paragraphs containing topic sentences, he still states: “In my opinion, often the writing in the 25 essays would have been clearer and more comfortable to read if the paragraphs had presented more explicit topic sentences” (39). Therefore, from a first-year compositionist’s perspective, seeing many topic sentences come first in weblog entries as well as being followed by back-up statements would lead one to suggest that students are learning to develop and focus their topics within weblog postings.


3.3.3. High Order Entries

Next, I wanted to analyze how many participants used developed/high order thought by responding to a prompt with more than one statement. Since many compositionists see writing online as oral communication, I wanted to see if webloggers are exercising their academic writing skills by weblogging high order postings with, for example, a topic sentence followed by back-up statements or research. Posting which could, as laid out in Chapter One’s definitions section, be linked to use of the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, like Evaluation and Synthesis, would also be considered high order. Postings which just answer a question and move onto to some other topic, for instance, would not be postings considered showing high order thought; in other words, postings that contained high order thought contained not just understanding or basic knowledge, but synthesis and evaluation as well.



3.3.4. Filters

Fourth on the list was investigating whether the lists or filters/links found on weblogs were more or less complex than entries containing paragraphs. With open-ended questions, the postings were usually in paragraph form and with the Sweeps Week daily topics, more postings were in list-form. Does this matter when determining complexity? For example, Herring’s team found that weblogs were not the linking genre they assumed to be.

Also, in order for a filter to be considered a high order filter, it needed to contain evidence of the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy such as evaluation or analysis. For example, if a BisonBlogger elaborated on two sites he/she filtered, then that would be a demonstration of the higher order quality. If a web site was just placed in an entry without explanation (i.e. “I love this site.”) then it would not demonstrate the levels of high order thought.


3.3.5. Grammatical Conventions

Then I looked for the number of fragments, misspellings, slang, and missed capitalization. Obviously, seeing these sorts of problems in a posting would lead to thinking that these online postings really aren’t as complex or full of critical thoughts. Analysis of the high order as well as looking for items that contain a lack of formality (misspellings, fragments, etc) was called for in this analysis. In the investigation of The BisonBlog, the frequent occurrence of errors may suggest sloppiness whereas relatively few errors would suggest the opposite and perhaps lead one to assume that, indeed, webloggers are careful, committed writers who revise and edit to some extent.


3.3.6. Community Building

Lastly, community building analysis will be looked at. Aside from viewing The BisonBlog as a place for quality communication to take place, it is also a community. Students who do not respond to others in the community or are not responded to may feel left out, not leave quality postings, or just simply fade away. I want to show how and why The BisonBlog was a successful online campus community. This will be shown through the analysis of how many participants responded to each other or responded to a prompt. If student webloggers are recognizing each other as a particular audience and responding appropriately in certain situations, this may give further evidence to compositionists to see the relevance of weblogs in their classrooms or in their research.

Originally, I wanted to analyze how many times participants on The BisonBlog used each others names or used greetings and closings, but a few differences in each study kept me from that analysis. First off, screen names could be chosen for the Drupal program (October 2004) so one may not know the webloggers actual name. Secondly, like previously mentioned, the Comments feature during the October study was easier to use, and therefore, used to comment more directly to each participant, so greeting someone by using their name was unnecessary. Lastly, Drupal allows for an automatic closing on a participant’s posting, so those numbers would have been skewed.



Before getting chin-deep in analysis, one should know how The BisonBlog works on a weekly basis. Usually (as of the spring of 2005), a few student bloggers will log into the community and write postings that contain any of the following: how things are going with their studies and classes, how their personal lives are running (Some ask for advice or pose questions, and, usually, a few students will respond within a few day’s time.), and/or a response to the daily topics which are laid out on the screen’s left side. Currently, those topics are “Music Mood” Monday, “Ticked Off” Tuesday, “Web Site” Wednesday, “Top Ten” Thursday, and “Funky Title” Friday. On a daily basis, the number of BisonBloggers who log in, post, or just read the site ranges anywhere from 1 to 50 students.  As the host, I used to have to post on a regular basis, but now, since The BisonBlog has taken off fairly well since moving to an NDSU server and having much easier access to logging on, I usually read students’ postings and comment on what they write. This may be better than posting my own thoughts simply because it encourages the bloggers to continue to post. When one has a direct audience, he/she is more likely to communicate with others as well as post his/her own thoughts.

The results of the investigation into The BisonBlog support the possibility that these postings to an online campus community are complex in thought and written expression. The results also move away from the notion that online postings are filled with writing errors such as misspellings, lack of capitalization, comma splices, fragments, run-ons, and what some call “netspeak.” What I refer to in using the term “netspeak” is the type of writing you would see in a chat room or with an Instant Messenger conversation: words being spelled as they sound, many slang words, many smileys, and acronyms (ttys= talk to you soon).

In this section, I will present quantitative summaries as well as charts and percentages of the results of the analysis, as an empirical look at the postings from The BisonBlog’s two one-month studies. Please note that these percentages and amounts reflect what the participants wrote/blogged, and not what I, the host, wrote.


4.1. Complexity of Postings

In looking at the complexity of blog postings, showing the complexity of the post would mean showing how they contain the same items that are found in writing, not speech. Here, I employ Baron’s claim that those items are subordinate clauses, disjunctions (e.g. “however,” “in contrast,” etc.), and a low number of contractions. When blog postings contain these items, they are more closely related to writing than speech, according to Baron’s findings. Besides being more closely related to writing, subordinate clauses also show cause and effect relationships: e.g. Because I am tired, I did not complete my homework.


4.1.1. Subordinate Clauses

In analyzing the subordinate clauses in both one-month studies, I simply used Microsoft Word’s function “Find” to find all the varieties of subordinate conjunctions such as “although,” “because,” “if,” “whereas,” “even though,” and so on. (For a complete listing of the subordinate conjunctions I looked for, see Larry Behrens’ Sentence Craft web site). After finding these subordinate conjunctions, I used my knowledge as an English composition teacher and writer to decide whether the subordinate conjunction was part of a subordinate clause by checking to see if a subject and verb followed the subordinate conjunction. Not all subordinate conjunctions lead to subordinate clauses (e.g. “Its now 3:27 … Phish is on though”). If a statement contained more than one subordinate clause (and this was a frequent occurrence) the statement itself was counted as complex. I did not count subordinate clauses, just the statements that contained them.

The percentage of complex statements, statements with subordinate clauses, was at 30% for The BisonBlog’s February study. That percentage dropped to 20% for The BisonBlog’s October study (Figure 7). One possible reason for this drop could be the increase in the amount of participants for the October study. Also, many conversations during the October study took place in the Comments section, whereas February’s study did not have a widely used Comments feature. The postings in February usually contained responses to others, and the postings in October started conversations only to continue them in the Comments link/section.



Figure 7. Complex statements for both one-month studies.



Some examples of statements from The BisonBlog (both from February and October) with subordinate clauses are found in Figures 8 and 9. Some of these very same statements, or others contained in the same blog posting, contain disjunctions which will be discussed in the up-coming category of analysis.




Thank you to God for allowing me the chance to exist and live my life. Thank you to my parents, for being the best parents in the world. Thank you to my friends, because without them, I would be empty and incomplete. Thank you to teachers who drop the lowest grade you get. Thank you to the inventor of breath mints, because my breath is horrible. Thank you to the people who positively criticize me because it helps me become a better person. Thanks to the people who ever made me think outside the lines, or ever made me truly question something.

And thank you to anyone who has ever read anything i've wrote, or ever listened to me. I truly appreciate it.

this entry posted by Charles : 9:06 PM

Figure 8. A BisonBlog posting showing complexity in the February study.




Is anyone feeling the most stress you've ever felt now than ever before? I'm a freshman here so I don't know if this stress level is normal, is it just me or is everyone feeling it? Let me know if you have any ideas how to control the high levels of stress so I don't flip out on some random person.

» Shannon's blog | 4 comments

Figure 9. A BisonBlog posting showing complexity in the October study.




         As one can see in the blog posting examples above, the complexity sometimes shows up in a less than profound manner. Charles’ posting contains examples of subordinate clauses that are examples of cause and effect which would definitely connect to the higher, more complex verbs used at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Shannon’s examples of complexity through subordinate clauses, on the opposite spectrum, are not as profound or “serious,” perhaps, but she does qualify her complexity with “I don’t know” or “let me know,” and Shannon also asks for advice which could be loosely interpreted as evaluation. While Charles’ complexity shows up in a more serious tone and is more closely connected to the high order content teachers would be looking for, Shannon’s are still somewhat complex even if they are not at the same level of complexity as Charles’ posting.


4.1.2. Disjunctions

According to Merriam-Webster Online, a disjunction is “a compound sentence in logic formed by joining two simple statements by or.” These types of statements are often used in logic or math, and for this study, add to the complexity of the statements found. Besides searching for statements with an “or” in them, I also looked for, as Baron suggests, the word “however” and the phrase “in contrast” (Baron 153). Out of the 423 statements found in February’s study, 27 of those statements contained disjunctions. For October’s study, statements with disjunctions came in totaling 34 out of its total of 623.

Charles’ posting (Figure 8) contains two examples of a disjunction when he states: “Thanks to the people who ever made me think outside the lines, or ever made me truly question something,” and “And thank you to anyone who has ever read anything i've wrote, or ever listened to me.” In Shannon’s posting from October, another disjunction is evident: “I'm a freshman here so I don't know if this stress level is normal, is it just me or is everyone feeling it?” Two more examples of disjunctions used in both February’s and October’s studies are found in Figures 10 and 11.

Disjunctions easily add complexity to a statement by referring to the opposite of the statement’s meaning, or by giving another example of what the writer is trying to communicate. As previously mentioned, these complex items, like subordinate clauses, can and do appear in sentences and topics that, to some, may seem less serious or profound. For example, Helene’s posting is generally about daily life, yet she used a disjunction to add humor and also show her synthesizing/evaluating what is supposed to happen in a particular situation. For example, should Helene feel reassured or faint in this given situation; she is considering and evaluating both possibilities. Gunnar’s posting is geared more toward a bigger issue—belief system—and even the subject to his posting has a disjunction in it! While his posting is much longer, allowing for more disjunctions to be created, his topic has more distinctive examples of evaluation and synthesis. Some items he evaluates are people who believe in God or do not, why people believe in God, and whether people are Pro-Life or Pro-Choice based on yet further evaluation of whether they are any of the three mentioned due to what their family thinks or what they have decided for themselves. Once again, these two examples show the levels of complexity one may find in a collection of students’ online postings to a community site.





Oohhh a lot of people have ticked me off today already.
1- My neighbors: why do they drink so much and then yell at each other night? They bth must be in their late 40s early 50s, they drink and yell, in the meantime I am awake...
2- phlebotomist: ok first he tried the right arm, "hmmm", then tried the left arm, "hmmmmm you got small veins"... Is that supposed to reassure me or do you want me to faint right then?
3- Hummer: not the car but my co-worker, she hums all the time. Usually I am a little annoyed nothing bad, but today I could have strangled her. This is what makes people go nuts and bring a gun to work!

Thats all for now but it is only 4.20...I think I should go home early and make pancakes. I'll try the blog/hour tomorrow, I'll have to take notes as I doubt my boss will enjoy seeing me on the computer every hour :).

this entry posted by Helene : 4:17 PM

Figure 10. A blog posting from February’s study showing disjunctions.

Is this your opinion or what you were led to believe?

I often wonder why people think that we should not be in a war against terrorists. So I stopped wondering and asked a few people whenever the time was right.
They were all saying this and that, but none of the opinions they had were their point of view and only led to believe what others thought were right.
MiddleEastern culture is different than ours and that consideration should be given when demanding peace between us and the terrorists. So people, really carefully consider whether the opinions you have are your own and you would be willing to back it up or if you are just following in others steps clueless as to what you have on your mind.
When I was growing up I thought I was a Christian. I do share a lot of views on Christianity, but I was only into it because my parents were. This is the case for many of us. Now that we are adults, we really should think for ourselves and know a little more before blindly following others.

Do you know why you believe in God? If you truly do, that is good for you, but if you question it every now and then, build your faith by questioning and finding answers on why you believe in your God (s).

Are you Pro-Life or Pro-Choice? Well, don't be one or the other because your friends are and your religion says so. Consider all the social influences as well as value of choices. Personally, I would rather spend all the energy and money that we spend on abortion and no abortion in our country to orphans, hungry children in our country and foreign countries out there. We shed blood and sweat and useless effort on fighting abortion and choice, but there are other actions that could be taken at this time to save children that are alive and not well that needs more help than fetuses and gametes. They are dying out there daily. Why not save the one's that are dying first?

There are so many others that I could bring up and you know yourselves that you are questioning life as you know it. This is a place of learning. Now that you are adults, you should seperate your views from what your parents built into you growing up. Think for yourselves, and we can really change a lot.

Thanks for reading my extra long blog.

» Gunnar's blog | 2 comments

Figure 11. A blog posting from October’s study showing disjunctions.



4.1.3. Average Words/Average Length

Baron’s computer-mediated discourse touched on the importance of word count, but Herring’s research regarding the length of such computer-mediated postings lead to specifics. Her team (in “Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs”) found that “at 210.4 words, the average blog entry is somewhat shorter than an email posting” and Cho, a researcher in one of Herring’s edited collections, found that “at 13.2 words” per sentence, the average sentence in blogs “are three words shorter than those of private email exchanged in a university setting [16.2 words per sentence]” (9).

The biggest difference between this research and mine is the fact that The BisonBlog has a community of writers rather than just one blogger like the weblogs that Herring and her colleagues observed. While The BisonBlog averaged only 138 words per posting during the February study (versus her average of 210.4 words in her weblog postings), the average number of words per statement was consistent with Cho’s email statistic of 16.2 words by acquiring 16 words per statement. So, while the postings to The BisonBlog were shorter than what was found by Herring’s team, the amount of words per sentence were above what Cho discovered for weblogs. The BisonBlog contained shorter postings with longer statements in February.

During the October study, the average blog posting decreased a tad to 130 words per posting, and the average amount of words per statement decreased one word, to 15 words per sentence. A college community could be an important element in gaining short quality postings since The BisonBlog’s average words per statement as well as amount of subordinate clauses show that while the posts were smaller than Herring’s findings, the complexity of statements and postings was still evident. What I mean by this is in comparison to an academic discussion list or email (where the email entries were written by academics who probably should write longer statements than the average college student), the BisonBloggers were busy students only getting on the community weblog periodically through the week. The postings may have been short because of this, but their complexity is still evident in the length of their statements as well as the percentage of those statements that contained complex items.

Also, if one were to view this average statement length from a first-year composition teacher’s perspective, one would agree that most of these student bloggers must be combining sentences to gain an average length of 16 words or more — a goal of a first-year writing program at many colleges. Dr. Kristi Siegel of Mount Mary College gives the following advice regarding sentence length:

In general--and this type of analysis is very tenuous--an average sentence length well below 14 words per sentence may indicate that you use too many short sentences and you need to learn how to combine and/or subordinate ideas.  If your average sentence length is well above 22 words a sentence, you may be piling too much freight on your sentences and have a prose style that is dense and tangled.  If your average word length falls between 14 and 22, you need to look at your sentences to see if there is some variety or if they are all about the same length.

For further research, then, one could analyze the sentence variety since The BisonBlog’s average length falls into the “average” length, according to her research.


4.1.4. High Order/Follow-Up Statements

Most compositionists would claim that good writing includes topic sentences with back-up statements provided in the body afterward. As found by Braddock, topic sentences do not always come at the beginning of the paragraph, yet topic sentences do help writers develop a main idea or claim for their paragraphs, and, perhaps most importantly, they help these writers stay focused and keep paragraphs manageable. So, as I investigated, I searched for both inferred topics as well as those that simply came first in the paragraph and lead into developed statements concerning the topic.

A few researchers have viewed blog postings as irrelevant statements here and there, with the possibility of linking to a specific web site. In Steven D. Krause’s article, he found his “ ‘open-ended’ non-assignment translated into ‘vagueness’” in his students’ postings. Beyond that, Krause also found that “more often than not, the posts were short, merely links to other documents, or text that was ‘cut and pasted’ from another source.” Now, I will say that to a certain extent, blog postings do contain just these elements at times; however, The BisonBlog is an exception simply because of the community aspect that was encouraged from the beginning. Rarely, student bloggers on The BisonBlog do just post a link to an interesting site; however, those postings usually occurred on “Web Site Wednesday” during the October study. Many students would simply post thoughts, questions, or develop a new topic for others to comment on.

As previously mentioned, Herring found little linkage in blogs, and The BisonBlog was no exception during its one month studies; therefore, Krause’s claim that he found short postings with links to other documents does not pertain to the contents in The BisonBlog. Furthermore, since The BisonBlog showed little evidence that students associated blogs with links, this gives hope to the possibility that students will utilize weblogs as places for brainstorming and free writing rather than only for linking to sites which pertain to their research or paper topics. Perhaps, this is a good thing for composition teachers to note rather than be discouraged by. The BisonBlog’s two one-month studies contained many back-up statements to various topic sentences which, then, took away from the “vagueness” that Krause kept seeing in his class’ postings.

Whether the back-up statements were found in lists, after filters/links, or in paragraph form, in February The BisonBlog totaled 277 back-up statements out of a total of 423 statements. October’s study saw 477 statements out of 623 as back-up statements (Figure 12). Once again, large percentages in both studies (65% in February and 76.5% in October) show that there is evidence of well-developed writing in these community-based online weblog postings.


Figure 12. Amount of developed/back-up statements in both

one-month studies.



A prime example from the February study showing a developed paragraph in a posting is shown in Figure 13. In this posting, Dave has 14 back-up statements in this posting, and the identified topic sentence is: “Regarding Sybils conversation starter for an intimate relationship I don't know, but for a friendship I really don't think there ever is a time to throw it out the window.” Even though this sentence could be considered a run-on, it does lead into 14 sentences that clarify what the blogger meant in writing this statement. Also, these very same 14 statements were also determined to be responses to the prompt — a question I had asked earlier in order to attract high-quality content.

An example of a posting containing back-up statements after a topic sentence has been introduced in the October study is shown in Figure 14. Danielle’s posting would be considered, to some, a bit less serious in content than Dave’s, but this particular posting contains 9 back-up statements to the topic sentence of “I like to eat breakfast.” Instead of leaving her posting with just the comment that she likes breakfast


All the pretty girls shout "Daves got the Internet, Daves got the Internet!"

Ah it is so incredibly nice to have the entire net at my finger tips again, if it wasn't for the IACC I don't think I would've made it. I probably would've gone crazy and attempted to create the entire internet on my computer with just notepad and html. Thank you Lord for Cable One, whoo hooo!

To celebrate I think I'll introduce you guys to my favorite online comic some of you may already know it and if you don't well then what's stopping you go check it. Oh yeah the link, hehe, here it is Penny-Arcade.

Regarding Sybils conversation starter for an intimate relationship I don't know, but for a friendship I really don't think there ever is a time to throw it out the window. If your friend is trying to get you to do things you don't want to do or is pestering you, then you just have to tell them. This might seem a tad bit extreme yet I still feel that even if a friend were actively trying to kill me and if trying to work it out had failed that the right thing to do for that friend would be to tell the police. I know that sounds ridiculous but to intentionally dissolve a relationship requires you to judge the other person as lower than you. As a Christian the many quotations from the New Testament which tell us not to judge others continually ring in my head. For an intimate relationship you have to come to the conclusion that the other person is not right for you and that it would not be pleasant for you to spend the rest of your life with them. But with a friendship you only need acknowledge that the other person is a friend. For me friends are merely people that I hang out with and talk to on a regular basis. I can't imagine any reason why I would say to someone I don't want to be friends anymore. It just seems like such a horrible thing to say to someone "I don't want to be your friend". Heck, I'd probably be friends with Hitler although I would have totally disagreed with his entire idea of genocide and taking over Europe. It would be far more usefull for me to continue to be his friend because I would be able to talk to him. I might have even been able to convice him that the Nazi thing was a bad idea. I'm sure he would've had me killed for trying but I wouldn't be surprised if Deitrich Bonhoeffer didn't hate Hitler only his regime. On the other hand if somebody didn't want to be friends with me anymore I would just accept the fact and if they ever want to be friends with me again I would have no problem with it.

Mathew 6:44 "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,"

Oh yeah the bone head who said "Do unto other as you would have done unto you" is Jesus Christ.

I was thinking about getting a site counter once but then I realized that if I got one all it would do is burst the wonderful bubble in my head that hundreds of people visit my site everyday.

God Bless

~Discrete Dave<><

this entry posted by David : 5:51 PM


Figure 13. A BisonBlog posting demonstrating the use of back-up statements (Feb).





or that she’s conducting a study on what people eat for breakfast, she has gone further to explain what she eats and why she’ll eat that in the morning. Again, while the posting does not have as much seriousness to it as Dave’s does, it does contain statements which back-up the topic sentence—something many composition teachers would be delighted to see no matter what the subject. To give an example of a BisonBlog posting which did not demonstrate back-up statements to a particular topic, see Figure 15.


food is good

i like to eat breakfast. and not just quick grabbing a poptart or whatever on my way out the door. i like to take some time and cook something and sit down and eat it. pancakes & bacon or hashbrowns with cheese are my favorites. cereal, yogurt, or fruit is good if i happen to sleep in a little.

anyways on to the point. do y'all eat breakfast? i'm conducting a study (just because i want to) of what people eat for breakfast. just leave a comment of what you most often eat (like if you never eat breakfast during the week but always have pancakes saturday morning). it would be much appreciated :)

happy breakfasting!

» danielle's blog | 2 comments

Figure 14. A BisonBlog posting demonstrating the use of back-up statements (Oct).




I am ticked off because...

I cannot sleep.
My computer doesn’t have Microsoft Access, even though I have Office.
It’s only Tuesday.
People who say they’re gonna call end up not calling, and not even letting me know they cant do anything even though I planned my day around THEM.

this entry posted by Charles : 12:07 PM

Figure 15. A BisonBlog posting demonstrating the lack of back-up statements.




            As one can see, a posting of this sort did occur on The BisonBlog, yet these types of postings were usually found on Tuesdays with the “Ticked Off Tuesday” theme. The use of lists, as described in Section 4.1.5, will elaborate on the use of lists and paragraphs and how those writing styles lead to differences in complexity and form.


4.1.5. Use of Paragraphs, Lists, and Filters

While Rebecca Blood claimed that linking helped make bloggers better observers of the world around them, Herring’s team, my teammates (Dr. Kevin Brooks and Cindy Nichols), and I, in our essay found in the Into The Blogosphere collection titled “Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs,” have found that while bloggers don’t use filters and links as much as previously thought, the content in their postings is still complex.

The use of paragraphs on The BisonBlog was frequent. Out of 423 total statements in February, 208 were found in paragraph form as back-up statements. Using that same total for February’s study, 62 of the back-up statements were found in list form. Only 7 back-up statements were found following filters/links. As for October’s study, out of the 623 total statements, 453 were found in paragraph form, 5 in list form, and 19 were found following a filter or link.

When it came to the use of the prompts, lists were used more when the prompt was “Ticked Off Tuesday” or “Make a Wish Wednesday” – a topic which usually results in shorter answers. The prompts that were more open-ended (“What do you do with someone who is racist?”) led to responses with paragraphs. October’s study saw more links to other sites probably because one of the prompts we decided on (as a community) was “Web Site Wednesday.” Other than that day, rarely were links to other web sites found. Lists and paragraphs seemed to be much more popular with the BisonBloggers during both one month studies.

The BisonBlog reflects once again what Herring’s team concluded as well as what Kevin Brooks, Cindy Nichols and I concluded in our Into the Blogosphere essay. The BisonBlog had only a total of 6 filters/links during the February study and only a total of 11 filters/links in the October study “in contrast to the popular characterization of blogs as heavily interlinked and oriented towards external events” (Herring 8). Our team’s research (in the fall of 2002) found that only 12% of students preferred to use the filter type of weblog (compared to 63% who preferred the journal type). So, not only does The BisonBlog confirm what Herring’s group and my team found, but even when links were used, they rarely lead to much elaboration on the part of the BisonBlogger. Either students have not been shown by others how to link and use a bibliographical note with that link, or the idea of linking is just not as important to student bloggers as communication with others is. For example, perhaps when students link, it’s just to point out a good site, and that’s it. They would rather discuss with others on a community blog than spend their online writing time searching for what others have to say. The complexity in that may simply be that they would rather figure out what they have to say or think on a topic rather than search out other opinions right away.


4.2. Online Writing Errors

If one ever happens to observe writing in a chat room or observe students typing to each other through Instant Messenger, he/she would notice that when students go online in synchronous ways, their spelling, capitalization, and punctuation seem to get tossed by the wayside like an old graded paper. As Naomi Baron’s most recent study shows, that is not always the case, but this investigation dealt with a slightly different type of computer-mediated discourse — weblogs. So, to connect back to the graded paper and the errors found in students’ offline work, one must look to the research conducted by Robert J. Connors and Andrea A. Lunsford. Their research, conducted in 1988, analyzed the errors found in 300 student papers, ranging in length from one to twenty pages. On average, they discovered that for every 100 words a student wrote, there were 2.26 errors (406). Their findings within each error will be discussed below, and their findings echo what was found in The BisonBlog’s investigation.

The BisonBlog not only shows possibility in the fact that students are possibly writing and thinking complexly, but The BisonBlog also shows that these complex postings may have errors which do not reflect what a composition teacher would like to see in an academic paper. While some of the errors may be due to laziness or the fact that people, in general, don’t edit what they’ve written online (in email, with IM, chat rooms), some of the so-called errors could be due to students trying to stand out with their creativity or visual design.

The percentages for lack of capitalization, misspellings, slang words, and netspeak were low. In fact, by totaling up the percentages of each error, the February study comes to under 2%, the October study comes to 3.65%, and, as a side note, some of these words were duplicated (i.e. spelled incorrectly and not capitalized, for example).


4.2.1. Misspellings

Misspellings accounted for .6% of the total amount of words in the February study and only 1.1% in the October study. Examples of misspelled words in the February study include “transfered,” “defintly, “respitory,” “beauiful,” “earings,” and “intrumentals.” Examples from the October study include “soo,” (to emphasize ‘so’) “anyways,” “thouroghly,” “aparently,” and “priveledged.” As shown, these words are missing only a few letters which may account for speedy typing or using a spelling that could be meant for fun (“soo,” or “anyways”). One such female BisonBlogger who was more prominent in the February study is of French origin. A few mistakes came from her, and she even admitted, on The BisonBlog, that her English writing skills were shaky but getting better.

As far as what was found concerning spelling errors in the study done by Connors and Lunsford, out of the 300 papers they looked at, only 450 errors were found. It is unknown how many total words they were dealing with, but one can assume taking into account the large amount of pages they were dealing with that the percentage ends up as low as what was found in the BisonBlog.


4.2.2. Capitalization

The percentage of errors made by not capitalizing was under 1% for February and only 1.85% for October (February: 42 words out of 6903, October: 178 out of 9616). Connors and Lunsford reportedly found 24 capitalization mistakes out of their 300 student papers. Again, the percentages of capitalization errors found on The BisonBlog are lower than I think teachers would assume them to be, especially after receiving emails from students all semester.

As I mentioned in the introduction, weblogs can be serious in content but not in form. I found that even the few BisonBloggers who did not capitalize their “I’s” in their postings still posted interesting and/or complex content (Figures 16 and 17).

Missed capitalization like this was usually used by the same people, and they would use it consistently throughout each posting. Rarely did a BisonBlogger, for instance, have one “I” not capitalized while the rest were capitalized. It’s an all or nothing practice that could be attributed to the fact that both of these female BisonBloggers intentionally wrote this way. Then, it wouldn’t be considered an error, perhaps.


Crap! i missed ticked off tuesday! that pisses me off! i had a relatively interesting week so far (i should say year...)... the girl that is "with" my ex-boyfriend of a week works with me and she is avoiding me at every cost.....AS THOUGH I would start anything.......(heavy sarcasm)....i am the better person because i don't care and wish to remain neutral, he IS afterall, my ex (my ex-a**hole)....excuse my language/typing.....anyhoo, a saying holds true to me lately, something to the effect of:
"Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned." true.

So, for a topic for today, Hump day, i propose it be wicked wednesday. what do you do to relax, have fun, and have a wicked day?
I go to the bison turf for $2.50 32oz beers, and that's where I'll be tonight!

this entry posted by Alisa : 1:00 PM

Figure 16. A posting from February’s study showing missed capitalization.



ticked off tuesday? or not-so ticked off tuesday?

i missed music monday!!!! so i'll tell ya

i bought a new cd at work yesterday and i love it. the band is called "kids in the way." they are a christian punk band and they are really good. :)

so for today. the only thing i'm ticked about is i work from 4-9 today. a 5 hour shift? its too weird for me. i guess its because on mondays i only work 3 hours, so i get the extra hour to 'balance it out.' but it still sucks. i can do 8 hour shifts cuz then i get two breaks. but 5 hours is a little too much without a break. other than that i'm pretty happy today.

ps) i work at the rainbow shop, but i think i've mentioned that before.

» danielle's blog


Figure 17. A posting from October’s study showing missed capitalization.





Grammarians (and composition teachers alike) would not be impressed with either of the postings shown above; however, I would like to clarify that, as I mentioned in the Introduction, blogging is serious in content, not in form. Many webloggers acknowledge this, and they do not view it as academic writing which is why it is surprising to me that there is evidence of complexity in their thought and in their words. In Alisa’s posting, she has critical thought laid out in the fact that she is analyzing her relationship with people as well as evidence of complex writing when she uses a subordinate clause in the statement: “i am the better person because i don't care and wish to remain neutral.”


4.2.3. Slang Words and “Netspeak”

The number of words or symbols that could have been considered slang (informal English) or netspeak was extremely low—under .5% for each month. In my analysis, I found a few words, used regularly and spelled rather consistently, that fell into this category. Examples of slang words found in the February study were words such as “gotta,” “gonna,” “kinda,” and “dunno.” Examples of slang words found in the study which took place in October of 2004 were words such as “gotta,” “friggin,” “frickin,” “cuz,” and “Omigosh.”

            I found it surprising to not see as much “netspeak” (“lol” or “ttys”) or emoticons (smileys) simply because those types of words seem to be a staple of online writing (words created after online communication was in widespread usage) whether it is email, a chat room entry, or a note on a discussion board. February’s study saw five smileys and a shortened version of “By The Way” = “btw.” In October, I discovered four smileys in my analysis, ranging from the winking smiley to the sad smiley. Another type of netspeak that showed up twice was the shorten version of “What the Fuck?” = “wtf?”


4.2.4. Contractions

As mentioned, according to Baron, postings with high amounts of subordinate clauses and disjunctions are more closely related to writing than to speech. The complete opposite occurs when analyzing contractions. The fewer the amount of contractions compared to the total number of words links the blog postings closer to the modality of writing, not the modality of speech.

In both of The BisonBlog’s one-month studies, the amount of contractions was extremely low. February’s study brought in 110 contractions (out of 6903 total words) and October’s study was even lower with 137 contractions out of 9616 total words. The percentages of both of these statistics are under 2.


4.2.5. Fragments, Comma Splices, and Run-Ons

Herring’s team alludes to the possibility that blog entries contain a “higher incidence of sentence fragments” when using quoted material or headings (9). Also, the notion that fragments may be plentiful could also come from the assumption that weblog entries are full of filters to other sites. Most compositionists would acknowledge the legitimate rule of fragments in informal writing, but they recommend to student writers to eliminate fragments from their academic writing. Baron would say that they are connected more with speech. The BisonBlog has evidence that its postings are much closer to writing as well as show the opposite of what was assumed by Herring’s team regarding individual weblogs. All three elements — fragments, comma splices, and run-ons — were a small part of the total amount of statements found.

Out of 423 statements in February and 623 statements in October, fragments totaled 18 in February and 27 in October. A large majority of the number of fragments was found when a BisonBlogger would have a list in their posting, which is pretty understandable considering lists rarely contain complete sentences. The study by Connors and Lunsford echo this low amount with 82 fragments in their 300 student papers.

As far as comma splices are concerned, out of the totals mentioned in the previous paragraph, the February study contained 24 comma splices and October’s study contained 25. When it comes to writing for the composition classroom, Connors and Lunsford found 124 comma splices in their collection of 300 student papers. Again, both low numbers when taking into consideration the number of total words involved.

Sometimes the statements containing comma splices were also run-ons. There were thirteen statements like this in the February study and four in the October study. These very statements, though, are also accounted for in the totals of comma splices and were not counted separately. As discussed in Section 4.2.6, statements which contained the use of ellipses also were separated as if the ellipses were pauses in thought like a period.

Understanding this may aid readers in understanding why many postings seem to statements with multiple errors. A statement that is a run-on with a punctuation error, for instance, will fall into both categories.

During the February study, The BisonBlog only saw thirty run-ons compared to the total amount of statements, 423. October’s study only saw 5 run-ons out of a total of 623.

The percentages of all of these common writing errors is similar to what Connors and Lunsford found and allude to just how misrepresented the writing online by students has been regarding online communities and their postings. The point of these sections is to show that the percentage of errors is low when students write online in comparison to previous assumptions.



4.2.6. Statements with Errors in Punctuation

Through the analysis process, I came upon statements that simply had errors in them, mainly regarding punctuation. Just as some BisonBloggers consistently used a small “I,” some would trail off their postings without punctuation. In viewing each individual statement, I first employed my own rule of looking at statements in between the periods the BisonBloggers used. If no period was used after a statement and the BisonBlogger continued their posting in a paragraph (for example, after pressing Return or Enter), I then identified that statement as in error. If the BisonBlogger was a user of ellipses, I treated those as periods as well. I justified that if they are pausing in their thoughts for whatever reason, and using ellipses to show that pause, then that pause equals what a period does for a sentence — it ends that statement or thought.

Another habit was the overuse of commas where they were not needed or possibility of a missed comma, for example, in a compound sentence. The amount of statements with errors like these were far and few between. In February, 36 statements with errors were evident, and in October, that number increased to 49.

            What this section sums up for composition teachers, composition researchers, and grammarians is that when students go online to write to and with others, their writing abilities do not suffer. In fact, they rarely have errors in their postings. And when student bloggers have a comma in the wrong spot or forget to capitalize here or there, that does not mean their postings do not contain complexity in structure. However, these types of declarations can only be made about a site where the community was involved and responded to one another frequently. In the next section, one will observe how important the community-building aspect is to producing quality postings.


4.3. Responding to Others in the Community

Probably the most important part of a successful online community needed in order to gain high quality content (which leads to complex postings), according to Powazek and other online community builders, is the element of connection and building relationships. Powazek’s own definition of community wraps it up nicely: “Web communities happen when users are given tools to use their voice in a public and immediate way, forming intimate relationships over time” (xxii). Without the relationships built on The BisonBlog or the continuing response from one BisonBlogger to another, The BisonBlog wouldn’t have been as successful meaning the postings would have trailed off into nothing, and the postings, then, wouldn’t have contained the great content that they did and still do. Successful online or offline communities need to connect people and good writing or good communication is key in keeping that conversation ongoing.

Now, with The BisonBlog’s two months, there were some exceptions as to how community building was demonstrated. As mentioned previously, the Comments feature on The BisonBlog in October was where one could find many more responses from one BisonBlogger to another. The February study, then, showed more response in each BisonBlogger’s posting since the Comments feature was not utilized. Therefore, out of the total 423 statements made in the February study, 234 of them were statements that responded to the prompts (ranging from open-ended questions posed by BisonBloggers to “Ticked Off Tuesday”). This is a percentage of 55%. An example of the community conversations from February is shown in Figure 18.



Okay Charles I just finally now got on to the blog and read what you wrote in response to what I wrote. And I would have to say I totally agree. So now I am lost on my opinion of the “second chance” deal. So I tested out the theory I looked up and old friend, and called them up to give them their “second chance” and I have come to conclude that I must have been on drugs when I decided to test this theory, because all I have now is nothing. It was the most idiotic thing I have done in a long time, so I say screw second chances, to some. So I guess ‘everyone’ was a term I used all too loosely, and so is ‘no matter what’ I guess I was just trying to once again create a picture of a perfect world inside of my head, but I had a crude awakening to reality. I am not so sure as what to think now.
Sybil about your trouble with your friend I have to agree with chelsea once a cheater always a cheater. You know the saying ‘do onto others as you would do onto yourself’.?? Yeah so I am not sure what bonehead ever wrote that up, but I felt it fit into this situation. You tried to make ends meet by being nice to this friend of yours and she came back to kick ya. So conclusion, people don’t change, and once they are gone run like hell so you don’t meet up with them again. Good day to you all.

I have written a blog on my personal site, and if you all wouldn’t mind I think I need a little advice or some feedback. So if you don’t mind could you all check it out and help out a fellow bison blogger. Thanks ~Jen~ my screen name is tooconfzd it is a xanga site.

this entry posted by Jennifer : 12:21 PM

If once a cheater always a cheater is true, then is once a liar, always a liar true too? I can take back friends for most anything, except lying.
Sybil, I experienced something similar with one of my highschool friends, Dorene. We went through differences over and over again, but something held us together. Then one day she did something truly awful and I let her go. It tore a group of about ten of us girls in half and two groups emerged and went their separate ways. (This must sound so pathetic to all the male readers on this site) But what I wanted to tell you is that I think now that I look back on it, Dorene really needed someone to stick by her. I did it as long as I could. For me the issue is not how many chances, but how much will my decision effect the other person. Usually if the conclusion is 'he or she doesn't care', I go my own way. Sometimes you have to take something for yourself.
On a related note, I'm completely neurotic. Good day.

this entry posted by Chelsea : 11:39 AM


Wow I disappear for a day or two and things get interesting.
To Charles and Chelsea:
I don't believe for one second that ANYONE has the RIGHT to a second chance. If that was the case then concepts such as mercy and grace would not be as powerful as they are. I come from the philosophical view point that every single choice we make has good and bad consequences - and we are forced to live and die by those choices. I personally give a lot of "second" chances. I have been granted far mercy more than I have ever deserved, for me not to react in kind would not be just.

As for the past and its impact on the present:
The past can be one of several things, for some people it is a monkey on their back that will not leave them alone, for others it is a collection of very hard lessons. Personally I know that my past effects everything I say and do, those experiences bleed through at all times. I don't see this as a bad thing. In fact it allows for a wide perspective.

One final thought:
I do not equate forgiveness and "second chances" to be the same thing. I will forgive anyone for most anything (might take a little bit but it always happens). But just because I forgive someone doesn't mean they get a "Second Chance" card. Trust is fragile and must be earned.

That is about it from here.
P.S. I am very Sorry Jennifer if I ruined your research with your questions, it was not my intention.

this entry posted by Jeremiah : 2:27 PM


Figure 18. Three different BisonBloggers demonstrate a community conversation (Feb).


The BisonBlog, once moved to a North Dakota State University server with more potential and better features, only brought in 111 statements (found in postings) relating to the prompts out of a total of 623. This is a drop to 18%; however, this doesn’t mean that the relationships or connecting between student bloggers stopped, it was just more evident in the Comments feature as shown in Figure 19.

I would agree with Derek Powazek when looking through the discussions had on The BisonBlog. He has claimed that in order to get participants to come back to the community and post their thoughts, a host and other participants have to comment to that person or at least make them feel welcome. Each time a new student would sign up to The BisonBlog, I made sure to welcome them in the Comments section, and other students did as well. When a student feels that he or she is a part of something, just like in the classroom, they are more likely to come back to it or to come to class to join in the discussion. If composition teachers can take that idea of community into their classrooms and even onto their class blogs, students will be more likely to post and more likely to post quality entries.





Submitted by Megan on Tue, 10/12/2004 – 13:04.

I guess i don’t have much to say today. I’m pretty much a pist off girl right now. My best friend is an idiot. I’m serious, she has a possevive boyfriend and she seems to see it, but refuses to acknowledge me nuts. Whatever.

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Submitted by tompkins on Tue, 10/12/2004 - 13:16.

I also have a friend like that, cept she's finally doing something about it. Problem is I'm his friend too and was actually friends with him for about 4 or 5 years longer than her. So do I side with the guy who has seniority but I don't agree with at all, or the girl? I don't know, just be happy you aren't getting pulled into the middle of it. =\

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Figure 19. Two BisonBloggers converse with one another through the Comments feature (Oct).


Essentially, this investigation of The BisonBlog extends the research of the areas mentioned in Chapter Two’s Literature Review. In this final chapter, the areas to be discussed, insofar as how The BisonBlog’s findings will extend their research, include Naomi Baron’s computer-mediated discourse; Susan Herring and her colleagues and their weblog research; Derek Powazek’s strategies for online communities; and, finally, the area I aim to connect to the most, Anne Ruggles Gere’s research concerning extra-curricular writing.


5.1. Extending Baron’s Findings

In connecting back to computer-mediated discourse and Naomi Baron’s work, one can see through The BisonBlog’s analysis that the postings to an online community do lean more towards writing than speech as previously assumed by researchers of the web as well as compositionists. Baron’s findings laid out the items that would connect more to writing than to speech, such as the amount or number of subordinate clauses, disjunctions, and contractions, and in each of those categories, The BisonBlog contained a significant amount of data showing evidence that the postings to The BisonBlog were complex and more closely related to writing.

Although this investigation shows that online writing to a community weblog can be complex, there are still genres of computer-mediated discourse, such as Instant Messenger and chat rooms, which, I would assume, contain elements much more closely related to speech than writing. I state this for two reasons: chat rooms and Instant Messenger are synchronous forms of online communication and, therefore, do not allow for as much critical thinking to take place. In my experience as a weblogger and teacher, less critical thinking time and editing of writing time equates to less complex writing.

In further investigation of online weblogging communities, other grammatical items mentioned by Naomi Baron which separate the modalities of writing and speech, in email, could be studied. These items include: type/token ratio, a variety of verb tenses, the number of 3rd-person pronouns to 1st person and 2nd person pronouns, the variety of adjectives and adverbs, and the ratio of lexical/grammatical density.

Type/token ratio compares the number of different words to the total number of words. The higher this ratio is, the closer the relation to writing. Also, Baron points out that a variety in tense of verbs also leans more towards writing than to speech. In analysis of pronouns, when pronouns are heavily 3rd-person, the content is connected more closely to writing whereas when pronouns in a piece, or posting in this case, are heavily 1st or 2nd-person, the connection leans towards the modality of speech, according to Baron. Fourth on the list of items for further research analyzes the variety of adjectives and adverbs. In writing, according to Baron, adjectives and adverbs are more varied and in speech, there is a “heavier use of attributive adjectives and amplifiers (e.g. very, utterly)” (153).

Naomi Baron’s list of email styles which separate writing and speech contain: level of formality, forms of address, salutation and signature, emotion, and humor. The level of formality would be higher in writing, of course, in comparison to speech. The frequent use of 1st or 2nd person pronouns, like mentioned above, would indicate informal or formal forms of address. A salutation or signature is more obligatory in writing and is found to be more optional in speech genres. The emotion in a posting is usually monitored more in writing genres, and one way to investigate this would be, probably, to interview or survey students as to whether they think they do monitor how their emotions come across in email, blog postings, and in chat rooms/IM.  Lastly, humor is often higher in speech genres and more varied (as to whether it comes across through a smiley or as sarcasm) in the modality of writing.  

All of these items would aid compositionists, linguists, and computer-mediated researchers alike in understanding where all online communication sits regarding style and grammar/linguistic features. By understanding where different genres of computer-mediated discourse sit relative to the modalities of speech and writing,  educators can then decide which type of computer-mediated discourse will work in their classroom the best, know what to expect from students when they are writing in that computer-mediated genre, and open the doors to further research in their areas: technology-based classrooms, gender studies, and visual design, to name a few.


5.2. Herring’s Weblog Research

            Besides backing up Herring’s team’s claim that blogs are not the “link-centered filters of Web content,” I also found different statistics regarding length of statements and the amount of words per post. While the postings on The BisonBlog were smaller, according to her statistics of academics’ email postings, the average amount of words per statement was higher.

Additionally, in the conclusion of their findings, Herring’s team stated a few items that I would confer with, and thus, The BisonBlog would be useful in investigating whether it was “typically updated several times a week,” “mostly textual,” and allowed “authors to experience social interaction while giving them control over the communication space” (10-11). Herring and her colleagues found their sampling of weblogs to not be as image-packed as previously assumed. Again, The BisonBlog during the study did include some linked images, but they were few and far between. In moving The BisonBlog to an NDSU server, we were able to utilize Drupal, a weblog program which allows for various types of entries ranging from a personal weblog entry to a poll to a story among others. When a student logs into The BisonBlog, they have control over what type of posting they will create and, as of right now (Spring of 2005), students can categorize their posting under the topic of Politics (highly popular during the election) or Sports. More topics will continue to be added to add to the control and creativity students will have on The BisonBlog.

Lastly, her team declares that: “Ultimately, we believe that blogs have the potential to change the way we think about the Web and about CMC.” And after my investigation of The BisonBlog, I would definitely agree with them. At the beginning, when the internet and weblogs were born, no one imagined then that this could bring students together from different classes, be a way that an online community could eventually be the way a college would retain students and promote their college, or become a new career or additional duty for composition teachers. Computer-mediated communication has much to tell us about our students, their writing, and how we teach and connect students and their writing in the composition classroom.


5.3. Powazek and Online Communities for Composition

            Much credit is due to Derek Powazek and his own findings regarding online community-building since without his expertise, I would not have known how to attract high-quality postings to The BisonBlog in the first place. One possibility for compositionists to take into consideration is the idea of prompts in the classroom. The BisonBlog showed that with open-ended questions, the content was of higher-quality. Even though some lists came from prompts (ones that seemed to ask for lists), the complexity gathered from the paragraph-like content was much higher.

            Powazek just may be the community-building mentor for compositionists on campus who would like to extend their positions into the realm of being an online host to their campus’ online community. One conclusion the investigation of The BisonBlog can add to what Powazek and Amy Jo Kim have found is that without a host (“Hosts keep the key community activities running smoothly” (Kim 145)), the community does not last as long or have the high-quality postings it could have. In Powazek’s book, Design for Community, one such community builder, Matt Haughey (creator of claims that success comes from “a code of ethics, guidelines, and unwritten rules that people follow” (33) which is why a good community builder/host needs to be involved as well as: “devote the necessary time to building a site [...], stick with it for as long as it takes, keep it going as long as you can, and be open with your users” (36). These goals seem to be along the same lines as the goals a composition teacher would have for his/her physical classroom and/or online discussion board sessions.


5.4. Gere’s Extra-Curriculum of Composition

            Just as Gere hoped the writer’s workshops would get her writers to “write down their worlds”( 76), The BisonBlog has definitely shown inklings that some “writing development occurs outside formal education” (76) and can even occur online. The BisonBlog’s investigation has brought research with composition’s extra-curriculum one notch further to “creating another bond through the walls separating the classroom and the extra-curriculum” (86). Anne Ruggles Gere started by researching physical writing groups, and I have taken her research into the online community realm and investigated how critical thinking and complex writing occur in writing in groups—writing groups that happen to be online.

            Beyond creating another position for composition teachers to take at universities and campuses, now these types of communities could also be created online so that upperclassmen or graduate students in English Studies have a place they could use as field experience, or as “tangible” research for their papers. Also, this investigation opens up the possibility of adding Web Design to an English department’s list of minors or sub-categories.

            There is much to be studied in the extra-curricular writing students create online, or at least outside of the physical classroom, and The BisonBlog’s studies were just the beginning of looking at extra-curricular writing online as Gere has in physical writing groups as part of her research. After all, if students are writing complex postings online and using critical thinking in order to create those postings, there must be a way to incorporate this complexity and critical thinking into the classroom. If the writing being created online is more complex than what composition teachers are seeing in their classrooms around the nation, there must be something to take from the community building strategies or from what Gere has studied—how writing groups communicate and create magnificent work outside of academia.


5.5. Conclusion

In conclusion, the investigation of The BisonBlog found that there is evidence of complex writing and critical thinking being used and created outside of the walls of the composition classroom, just as Anne Ruggles Gere found in her research about writing groups and extra-curricular writing. What this means for the discipline of composition is this: there is much to be studied online in regards to how students write when they post to a community site as well as, in addition, how that writing differs from what they are creating in the classroom. This study also opens the doors for new outlets for compositionists as online community hosts and/or builders. It also adds field experience to the list of ways for a student to study online writing or online communication.

All in all, weblog research is just in its infant stages. There is much more knowledge out there for us to gain as teachers, researchers, and communicators of our language.


Baron, Naomi. “Letters by Phone or Speech by Other Means: The Linguistics

of Email.” Language and Communication. New York: Bergamon, 1998. 133-70.

Behrens, Larry. “Subordinate Clauses.” Sentence Craft. Accessed 30

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Virtual Enactment of September 11th.” Maastricht, The Netherlands: Internet Research 3.0.

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Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social, and Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Ed. Susan

Herring. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 1996. 29-46.







            There are a couple of things to note when using sections A and B of this Appendix. First of all, please remember that the weblog format is chronologically backwards, so the beginning of each month is toward the end of the section. Also, each section contains a random sampling from each of the one month studies. There are ten random postings for February and for October; the entire list of postings can be found by going online to either of the URLs listed under BisonBlog in the Works Cited.



A.1. February’s Postings




Thank you to the people that have given me all of these very atypical first year college experiences. Thank you to Mary, Jenae, and Tracy for hijacking Kiko’s car with me. Thank you to Mary for dressing goth on a whim. Thank you to Karen for being strong for all of us. Thanks to my roommates for being open–way too open. Thanks to Jenae for trying. Thanks for word of the day and for Mary’s stuff that’s always in my bed. Thank you to Mary, Karen, Jenae, Erica, and Tracy for signing the lease. Thank you for heading to Cali with me for spring break. Thank you Keith for building a fort in the lounge with sheets, tables, and chairs. Thank you Phil for hooking me up with RHA, and thank you Mom for when you piss me off daily. Thanks to Rachel for singing dirty, dirty Tenacious D when we most need it. Thank you to Lee for loving me–that certainly is monumental right there. Thank you for baking with me and for me. Thank you guys for carving pumpkins in the dorm room with me. Thank you for working on the Churchill Haunted House. Thank you for pouring Karo syrup all over me and for cutting my head off. Thanks for the late-night talks and the late-night tears. Thanks for everything I never thought would happen to me. Thank you for putting a puzzle together, learning yoga, and crotcheting and knitting with me, all in the dorm room. Thank you for being unabashed and unashamed DORKS. Thank you for The Princess Bride. Thank you for taking care of me, and for the close calls with the RA. Thank you for the prenatal vitamins and for the prank wars. Thank you for the condom in my bed...I think. Thanks for the randomness and the spontaneity. Thanks Lee for the heated games of Tetris, and thanks girls for getting down with Super Nintendo. Thank you girls for Casablanca and hopefully Top Gun. Cause we’re DANGEROUS. Thank you guys for everything that I can’t think of. Thank you for caring about me and for laughing with me.

this entry posted by Chelsea : 10:21 AM


Sybil I agree with you aside from the ice and no sunshine it is a beautiful day outside!! So Thirsty Thursday...I don’t so much drink anymore, I think I had my alcohol fling and now it is over. However I do take care of drunk people on a regular basis. I think that everybody needs to get drunk at least once in their life, just so they can relax and have a little fun!! I also think there is no drinking problem here and the only reason we think there is is because they talk about it so much and blow things out of proportion. I honestly believe drinking is okay, unless you are pregnant. THe only thing I am against is drinking and driving. I hate it when people do this.. I mean come on the taxi cab is here for a reason!!!!

this entry posted by Jennifer : 8:20 AM


Cindy, I would not say that the movie is violent but it is definitely not a disney type cartoon. The people are not handsome when they actually look like people. The animals don’t talk, they bark or they are eaten. It is quite dark overall, overcrowded and overweight cities, people with physical disabilities. And it has no dialogue, which I find pretty cool but if you are thinking about bringing small children, it will be hard for them to follow the story especially because they make a lot of references to the “tour de France”, a famous bike race held every summer over 3 weeks. It has an awesome music, I still have the theme song stuck in my head. I hope this answer your question. I have a tendency to promote foreign movie, well foreign anything quite a bit.

this entry posted by Helene : 11:07 PM


Alright so it’s Friday and I have to share a scary story or something. I’m not much for scary story’s but hey it is kinda interesting that tomorrow is Valentines day. There has to be some sort of Valentines day horror story out there somewhere. Anyway I did a quick search for something since I can’t think of anything so here’s a link to a scary story.

I was hoping to get in on the other topics but I was distracted. There really are few things in life like sharing the experience of running through dungeons killing hordes of monster with ones friends.

On a musical note for electronic music I would personally have to recommend the Nine Inch Nails. It’s not pure electronic and it can be a little heavy at times. The Fragile, the latest album, is the most refined. You may have heard of them before but I think a lot of people see the name and are turned off by it. Johnny Cash fans out there probably know the song “hurt” which was written by the Nine Inch Nails(Trent Reznor to be precise).

Kinski has some decent music that is mostly intrumentals.

If you wanted to make a will of soda cans what would you use to make them stay together?

God Bless

~Discrete Dave<><

this entry posted by David : 11:07 AM


Can I make several wishes? Perhaps three? My love of Disney tells me three seems to be the number for wishes. I shall have to think about this and make them good:

1. I wish for a sudden realization of what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m serious. Not having a major leads to a plethora of problems. (I am afraid this realization has already occurred and has something to do with #3.)
2. I wish for the physical and mental health of those I care about. It’d make things A LOT easier for me too.
3. If I can not have #1, I wish for a rich man to marry me and allow me to work on art for the rest of my days. Ummm...screw women’s rights?! I wish I could step back 45 years; I just want to have babies.

I think I’m outta luck for all three.

this entry posted by Chelsea : 12:13 PM


My daily annoyances (in no particular order):
-People who forget how to park when it snows. Just because you can’t see the lines, doesnt mean you have to take up 3 spaces with just your car, damnit.
-Speaking of which: Snow. It needs to be summer. NOW.
-People who use their celebrity status to promote their political agendas.
-CDs that skip. I’m starting to depend on MP3 backups now.
-Paul Oakenfold. (techno music wannabe, IMO)
-How time flies when you’re having fun.

this entry posted by Charles : 3:34 PM

Things that Tick me Off:
Well I am going to shoot for person rather than impersonal here.

1) Emotion Vapires
Description: (People who use you for an emotional dumping ground so that they can feel better, especially when you know that if you were not their they would just move on to someone else)

2)Survival laying
Description: Being forced to lie in order to maintain harmony (we not really because then you yourself are no longer in harmony) or the “peace”.

3)Police State Mentality
description: The idea that everyone is guilty of something, that often the only difference between guilty and innocent is timing. The business office and law enforcement in general fall into this.

Ok that is enough for now. I can feel a rant coming on and I would rather not.


this entry posted by Jeremiah : 9:04 AM

Wow there are so many things that tick me off I don’t even know where to start, but I suppose I should only list a few..
1) People who don’t know how to drive on ice....this really ticks me off.
2) People who lie even after they have been caught
3) People who have everything handed to them and never have to work for anything
4) Tests
5) waking up to realize that it is morning already..okay I guess this doesn’t tick me off, but it still sucks

I guess I could summarize this all by saying in short people tick me off.
well good day to you all!!

this entry posted by Jennifer : 8:38 AM


Relationships, wow here is a topic that will never be completely defined, and why may you ask it is simple...Women will never understand men, and men will never understand women. If you are in a relationship where you are trying and trying to make amends and you are getting no response from the other side, and you wind up hurt and in tears, it is time to say goodbye. As for friendship I have no idea. It comes it goes, it’s here then it’s not. Kind of like love, I don’t think we will ever know what is really going on, but that could also be the reason we do half of what we do, just for the “thrill” of a new adventure. There are some people in this world that make you want to just scream and shout and pull your hair out, but we still “love” them all the same, but why? It is for the simple fact that we are only human, we are not suppose to have all the answers to life. We are not expected to expect the unexpected, or something like that. It is the experiences good and bad that shape the person we are today. If we just did everything that “looked” simple we would be some pretty boring individuals. It is human nature, it is like when you smell something that could turn your face green we know it smells bad, yet we keep sniffing. Or at least that is how I think.....welp once again good day to you all, and if you are bored today go to walmart run up and down every isle talking to yourself and then sprint out of the store, the reaction you get from some people is priceless.

this entry posted by Jennifer : 9:24 AM


This is a good issue to discuss; I’ve wondered too about how to handle racist comments in certain situations. An elderly neighbor one day made some very anti-Latino remarks, and I thought–why bother saying anything? Given her age and the extreme nature of her remarks, there’s probably no hope of actually changing her attitude. It kind of nags at me, though; would there have been some respectful, nonantagonistic, and also fruitful way of responding? I’ve heard similar comments from her son (who is actually my landlord), about not wanting to rent to “certain groups.” Whenever he has said something along those lines (which, granted, has been very infrequently), I always wince, but still haven’t said anything.

One scenario I’ve sometimes imagined is this one: when my neighbor says that the “Mexicans are breeding thick as fleas in Moorhead,” I’d say, “Really? Boy, it looks to me like Anglos are the ones who are taking over this community!”

Or when our landlord says, “I’m glad you guys rented from me. I was worried I’d be forced to discriminate against certain groups,” my reply would be, “Funny. The only noisy, rude, irresponsible or otherwise troublesome neighbors and renters I’ve EVER experienced have been 100% lily white!”

But I always say nothing, either because I’m a coward or the social circumstances just seem awkward. If I knew these two people better, I might feel more inclined to give them some grief.

Anyway, it would be interesting to read some other thoughts.

this entry posted by Cindy : 11:06 PM






A.2. October’s Postings



I am new to this whole blogging thing, but I thought I might give it a shot. After all, I'm serving out my sentence at NDSU so I am stuck in ND for another seven months and the weather is going to be turning bad sooner than later. I guess this will give me something to do from time to time. I just saw on the news that Osama put out a new video message. I hope nothing too crazy happens here during the elections. I would hate to see another incident like the bombing around election time in Spain.

It is about 7:30 Friday so I am off to some friends for some ice-cold beer and lively conversation. Pre-drinking is a must when you are in college, isn't it?

Does anybody know where all the Halloween parties are this weekend?

» the_bombardier's blog | 1 comment

3:11 AM

I told myself that I would stay up studying tonight. Am I studying? No...I am listening to the String Cheese Incident and reading blogs. I thought this whole "night owl" thing was just a phase...its been going on since I was like NINE! I can still remember the first time I stayed up until 4 am...and I guess I just never got over the whole...thing? I also thought I would get over the procrastinating thing too...I try! I really do. But now...I'm actually trying to get myself to accept that I am a procrastinator and always will be (my exam is tomorrow...i have yet to study)(well...I have studied a little bit...)

This whole working an almost full time job and going to school full time, is really wearing me out. why am I not asleep then!? I just get wired at work..its too bad more people aren't up when I get off...then at least I would have an excuse to stay up late...instead of just sittin here listening to music and blogging. Ahh...well!

If I had free time right now, I would go camping! Some friends are going to Madison to go camping and then to a concert. I'm soo jealous. I would love to attach a bike to the top of my car, throw a tent in my trunk, and just drive to somewhere beautiful. I can't wait until summer! but then again, I still won't have free time, cuaes I have a full time job. (this song sucks...keller...what were you thinking?)

I'm trying to find a song by either keller williams or string cheese... I can't quite remember the name of it though...something like "I want to kiss you" but nothing comes up for that search, poopy.

What am I going to be for Halloween??? I have to dress up for work..I'm used to being something fun, like I was Spongebob one year, in a home-made costume (which, by the way, was GENIUS) this year I have to dress up like something..."cute" for work though.. Oh yeah and then there Saturday...naughty lingerie night??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! We are suppose to wear naughty lingerie to work....Ugh I am soo not that girl...but I am the girl who likes to join in the maybe I can find something cute but not too...proacative? or somethin? who KnOwS!!

Speaking of love came in tonight! ha! I have never even talked to him...well maybe I waited on him one night...yeah I think I did. I have a boyfriend it wrong to crush on another guy? Not like I would ever act on it...hell like I could...the guy waved to me and I about died--haha I'm such a DORK.

Its now 3:27...Phish is on though :). WHY CANT I JUST BE TIRED?!?!

I'm just going to go lay in bed now though. Sorry this is soo boring. I really haven't had much sleep and cannot really concentrate on one much for studying. Hopefully I will get up early enough to get at least an hour or two of studying in. FINALLY A DAY OFF TOMORROW!!! (besides for the exam) NO WORK! I like work when I am fact I love it...its just when I'm not there thtat I don't like that weird? Goodnight bison bloggers...

» Britt's blog | 1 comment


not quite ticked off

I did find it amusing about two or three weeks when I got an email from an undergrad thinking I was her TA, I replied saying I was not teaching. Actually I have not been a TA since last fall... Today I got another email from a student asking a question, I am afraid my reply might have been a little snotty. The name of his TA was in the subject line, and his name is quite different from my name (which is in my ndsu email address mind you). I mean come on, don't those people pay attention to anything? and how did they get my email?

» helene's blog | 3 comments


um yeah


on that note, the 2 cds that have been in my player today are:

nine inch nails - pretty hate machine
mxpx - slowly going the way of the buffalo

» danielle's blog | login or register to post comments

It looks like Rain.

Pumped up am i now. Eagle 106.9 is supplying a heavy dose of the Beatles right now in anticipation of the 10-22 concert in the Dome. Rain will be playing there the end of the week. I won't be priveledged in attendence but i got my Beatles fix and am now feeling like a hundred bucks!

» Daniel V's blog | login or register to post comments

I'm a copycat

But here's another good T-shirt site for Website Wednesday....



I guess i don't have much to say today. I'm pretty much a pist off girl right now. My best friend is an idiot. I'm serious, she has a possevive boyfriend and she seems to see it, but refuses to acknowledge me nuts. Whatever.

» Megan's blog | 2 comments

The start of my musical diary

So I'm trying this blog stuff out, seems most choose to use it in a "journal" form, so I decided I'm going to use this to document the shows I perform. I play bass and sing lead vocals (split with one other person) in the band Fat Chance. This is the second time in my life I am depending on music as my sole source of income. We play quite a bit, and our shows generally get pretty good reviews. It is a new band for me, we just formed in March, and it is my first time singing lead in a band. We like to mix it up, ignore the set list, and keep things spontaneous, and it usually works.
Anyways, this last Saturday night (Oct.11) we played Smoky's Back Room bar for the second week in a row. Why our agent booked us there for two consecutive weeks I have no idea. The club is brand new, they are still changing it- (for anyone who doesn't know, "Smoky" died in Arizona this spring, so Smoky's is under new ownership and are revamping the whole place, trying to turn it into a college club), and have a ways to go. I don't think our show was advertised in the least, I didn't see any posters, hear anything on the radio, etc... and as I warned the manager, nobody showed. We played a full 4-hour show (minus one 15 minute break, if you want to get technical) and 14 people showed up. Wow. I have never played that bleak a crowd in my 7 years of stage experience. Even in the absence of advertising, nobody I invited showed up, including a writer from the Spectrum that said she wanted to do a story on us and promised to be there.
We started at 9, like we were supposed to, and right away the night went to hell. We obtained a new (different) soundboard that we were trying out, and as we found out, some channels were totally messed up, and about the first 6-7 songs sounded like crap. We took a "technicality" break to fix the problem, first time I've had to do that in a long time, but we got it sounding good and went on with the show! After that problem was fixed, the show went off without a hitch, and the people that were there definately had a lot of fun. We did too, as there were so few people there we could make the show totally personal, and since the drinks were free for the band, we had a tiny crowd that wanted to have fun, we let it all out. We pretty much threw away the set lists and made it an open request night-- we did anything and everything the crowd shouted out, even stuff we had never tried before. We all got pretty drunk, I do remember somehow pulling off a very scary version of Dr. Love when somebody requested KISS, but I think the crowning moment is when somebody yelled out "EMINEM!!!!" That shout somehow led to me losing my shirt, donning a top hat (yes, a TOP HAT!) and jumping around like a fool (I am SUCH a white boy) trying to remember the lyrics to "Without Me." Like I said, we were having such a good time and all laughing so hard it was really pretty cool.
It was a good night, even if it got a little out of control (rumor from the manager is we downed a full bottle of Jagermeister on top of our beers) cuz nobody showed, but everybody, most definately including the crowd, really enjoyed themselves. The people that did show up came up to us and talked to us after we were done, and I think we made some serious fans! Which is a good thing!
Ah, well, better luck next time. By the time we get back there, they are supposed to have the whole place opened up and a full advertising campaign. Until then, we'll see what lies in store for the upcoming shows, we have to play Coach's in Moorhead this Wednesday (Oct. 13) and that place normally fills up, so it's sure to be fun. Maybe I can get that Spectrum reporter out to a show finally....... so until LATE NIGHT Wednesday, take care, hope to see you at the show!

» Chad's blog | 1 comment

Blah, Blah, Blah

There is more truth to what you say than most Americans realize. I had a political discussion with a friend of mine a few days ago. She lived in Saudi Arabia for a span of a few years and has been exposed to several other eastern cultures. I didn't recognize the fact that my opinions were being driven primarily by my focus on the American media's portrayal of Arab cultures. It has helped me to understand the importance of our involvement in the war against terrorism by examining how their culture and government(s) have evolved.
Something else that helped me come to that understanding is a statement from a friend of a friend. He is from a european country and Said something to the effect of: "You stupid Americans! Why do you question what you do so much? You have the biggest guns and can basically dominate anyone you want to--but even more importantly, you do what is usually most righteous. You don't go to war with the main intention of getting oil or taking over lands."
He's right. If we were there with our intention being to simply acquire more oil, we'd do so. We have more than enough resources to do so. We could've done so without removing Saddam or his regime.
War in that area of the world is probably always going to be long and bring negative responses from the people we are freeing. They have had years of having instilled into their minds and culture that they are to operate in ways that we don't consider right. They have never had a choice but to comply with those ways of life. By freeing them form the bonds of that mindset, we are asking them, as individuals to completely change the ways they think, conduct theirselves, and perceive their world. I don't think that America could do that without retaliation or at least friction. Even if it was a move toward a more righteous way of living. (i.e. no more murdering, rape, hate crimes, urinals that are so short I have to almost squat to pee in, etc.) There are always a few people who do not make right choices. When they have always been taught that what we consider to be right is wrong, I believe that it is absurd to assume that they will immediately adjust to a new belief system. With or without us there, it is something that will probably take many years and may never reach the level that we desire. That doesn't mean we should abandon our hopes and not keep trying. We try to help. That's what makes us America.
Sorry about the rant, but hey, it happens

» Brad's blog | 2 comments

la dee da

ok. so i'm new here. just for your information: my name is danielle (but most call me dee), i'm a 4th year chemistry major, i'm originally from bismarck, i work at the Rainbow Shop, and um...whatever. i have blogs at,,, and my website is


i'm kinda ticked off. i had a "party" last night at my apartment and invited about 20 people. 10 told me they would come, 3 told me they couldn't, but only 1 showed up (and with a date). has this ever happened to any of you? or am i just a huge loser?

» danielle's blog | 5 comments




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