Hello, reader! If you intend to post a link to this blog on Twitter, be aware that for utterly mysterious reasons, Twitter thinks this blog is spam, and will prevent you from linking to it. Here's a workaround: change the .com in the address to .ca. I call it the "Maple Leaf Loophole." And thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hello Out There (HELLO Hello helloooo....)

There was a great discussion in Global Math Department today, lead by the intrepid Chris Robinson, about how we facilitate, and how we sometimes fail, new people participating in the little online math teacher thing we have going on here.  At one point I tried to take the mic to add a few thoughts, but the technology failed me.  (I really wish I knew what I did to anger the technology gods.  What's an appropriate sacrifice for that?  Do I have to throw my iPhone into a volcano?  Would they settle for a nano?  Will they settle for a hibachi?)

So, here they are, the thoughts.  Embellished, just because I'm way better at writing than speaking.  Broadly categorized as assumption-disspelling:

  • I'm the worst at keeping up with blog posts.  The worst.  I'll let Reader go unchecked for weeks on end.  And now Reader is going away, and everything else sucks.  (Yes even Feedly.  Feedly is not good.  There, I said it.  I want to be able to mark either a post or a whole blog as *&^%ing "read" and I want it to go away forever.  I want to see all the subscriptions all the time, and I want to know which ones have unread posts.  I don't want you making decisions about what to show me.  This is basic reader stuff, Feedly.  You should have learned this in reader Kindergarten.  Get it together.)
  • I blame Twitter.  I just assume if a post is noteworthy enough, someone will mention it there and it will catch my attention that way.  This is all to say, if I didn't read your post, I'm sorry.  And if I've never interacted with your blog, I'm also sorry.  It's not personal.  I'm just disorganized and lazy and over-reliant on Twitter to act as my newspaper.  And also, because of new job, I'm not desperately Googling "how to teach factoring" at 6AM anymore.
  • I don't think there's a single thing on this blog that I thought up all by myself.  Look around if you don't believe me.  It's all adaptations of the work of other people, or there's a vague statement apologizing for not remembering where I first saw something, or it's a dumb story about how a kid accidentally grabbed my boob.  That is to say, you don't have to wait until you have the next great inspired original lesson idea to write a blog post.  Write about a thing you tried that bombed.  Write about a thing you stole from someone else and adapted for your unique situation.  Write about how the light looks outside your classroom at 5:30 when you are all alone and cutting out laminated blah blah.  Write about how that kid in third period asked you for crush advice and you felt unqualified to help because you have been divorced forever, so you just told him to smile and try not to act like a spaz.  People love reading about humans.  It hardly matters what they are even doing.  
  • I should take my own advice.  The last post on here was like a million weeks ago.
  • People aren't fans of f(t) because there's awesome stuff on it.  People are fans because it's honest, and I try to pay at least a little attention to telling a story.  Plus it's been around forever because I'm a super nerd who knew what a blog was in 2005.  That's all.  That's really all.
  • It is always a good idea to add some pictures.
  • Everyone should comment more.  Everyone.  Me, you, YOU.  WITH THE FACE.  Deal?  Deal. 

Update: Featured Comments (in which I steal a(nother) good idea from dy/dan)
[Lots of good Reader alternative / Feedly customization advice.]
GregT:  I think some of it is just EXPERIENCE, which is something you can't really teach or help with. But at the same time there's a perception that we're LOSING promising people to misconceptions, which is not good either (is it even really the case?). 
Christopher Danielson:  If you're seeking engagement with a larger audience, do more of what they have responded to. It turns out not always to be what you might rather be writing about, nor what you expect will resonate. 
Josh Giesbrecht: "F you NSA"
Everything Elizabeth said. 


  1. Hey! You should re-look at feedly. I got it set up yesterday to work almost exactly like reader. (un?)surprisingly my requirements look just like yours...

    I held out until this weekend, though. 6 weeks ago when I first tried feedly, it wouldn't do what I wanted.

  2. Oh, okay. FINE. Not like I have a choice. Stupid Google.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, and sorry your mic wasn't working! I agree with you on all these things -- I get so behind on blogs and twitter that I just avoid them sometimes. But I totally need to be writing my own blogs more often (or ever) and commenting and twittering and all that. I just gotta jump in and do it!

    P.S. I'm with you on feedly. It told me today I had read all my blogs, and I haven't looked at it in weeks!

  4. Jillian--that's a result of their change to their own back end (they used to just scrape off google).

    Check again, you'll find stuff. At first it was only new stuff. After about 36 hours, everything was there.

    Oh! and it does take some tweaking. Choose "Hide" categories with no updates and "No" for featured articles.

    I like "Auto mark as read on scroll" for all views (like reader, but YMMV)

    ...and I picked "magazine" as the default view. titles doesn't have quite enough info for me, but the other views just aren't conducive to the 500+ articles/day I read.

  5. I think "Index" in Feedly will give you what you want (a list of only the updated feeds.

  6. I found to be a pretty good substitute for Google Reader. There are some misfeatures, of course, like only drag-and-drop for sorting feeds.

  7. I almost wonder if a Reader is part of the problem. It generates it's own internal community (it's own 'lunch table' if you will) of "these are the people I follow"... and then if I can't even keep up with them, the chances of reading a post on a new blog are even more remote. Unless someone points me there.

    Not being part of the Reader community though, it's also possible I don't know what I'm talking about.

    I also think other issues are: People are disinclined to advocate for themselves; People are way too busy (and then possibly feel guilty - wow, stop apologizing, I wasn't taking it personally, really!); Perception is mathematically skewed.

    If I see a link that's been retweeted 20 times, and then see it has 5 comments - well, of course it does, it's getting press. That doesn't mean every blog post the person does gets at least 5 comments, but the perception can be that "everyone else is talking without me, I'm doing it wrong". Because humans will use any excuse to start getting down on themselves.

    Which probably relates to how they're disinclined to advocate for themselves. Perhaps particularly if all they're posting about is those human interest stories you mention. ("Who will want to read this rubbish? No one, apparently.") I'm not sure if that's at the heart of the matter.

    I post up a song parody text. I get a tweet back. Sean posts up a song parody video and gets 20 RTs and comments in a day. (In fairness, it was epic.) Triangleman posts up about dividing fractions and it provokes discussion. I post up about dividing fractions. Nothing, until I explicitly ask Fawn if she could have a look. PaiMath talks memorization. So I post up about memorization. Still no remarks from within the teaching community BUT it got a shoutout from someone else, so yay. (The difference? I tagged it directly at some people. Because I'm gradually getting a sense of who might be interested in what.)

    I think some of it is just EXPERIENCE, which is something you can't really teach or help with. But at the same time there's a perception that we're LOSING promising people to misconceptions, which is not good either (is it even really the case?).

    Hey, I have no answers, but I should probably stop because this is turning into a blog post in and of itself.

  8. I was all "Yay Feedly" and then the Today page broke for me, and I gave up on it and went to The Old Reader which is nearly identical to Google Reader of olde.

    (However I will probably go all "F you NSA" over the summer and switch to self-hosting something within my country of origin, just because I'm a nerd that way.)

    Also MOAR COMMENTS. (Yes this comment is totally just because you asked for more comments.)

  9. Since the tech gods were mad at you and Dan, I'm thinking the hibachi won't be quite enough!

    As a newbie, I'm not all that concerned. Like a couple of people said last night, you get out of the community what you put into it. That should be enough.

    Except beer. We need more beer.

  10. I would add one bit of advice to your excellent list, Nowak, which is this: If you're seeking engagement with a larger audience, do more of what they have responded to. It turns out not always to be what you might rather be writing about, nor what you expect will resonate.

    Take Talking Math with Your Kids. I started writing those conversations up because they were interesting to me (which matches you have offered here), but I worried that they might be taken as self indulgent or needlessly navel-gazing. But something about them resonated with readers. I read the comments and tweets trying to understand what that was. And then I did more of that.

    As for division of fractions, Greg? I am always surprised that ANYONE besides me is interested in that.

  11. Thanks for the reader survival advice, everybody. I'm going to steal (yet another) page from Dan's book and update the post with "Featured Comments". (I am SO FANCY.)

  12. Yeah, so truthiness time...I am the technology gods who stole you and Dan's speaking powers last night. Sorry about that.

    You said it well on Dan's blog that beside the point of whether the Lunch Table conversation is worth having, we're getting some great advice coming out of the conversation.

    My major goal is to rid our community of the sense that
    1) you have to invent it to share it with MTBoS,
    2) you have nothing worth talking about if you've been around <1 year,
    3) any *one* here is a rockstar -- we're all rockstars.

    It's that last point that really bugs me when someone brings it up. There are about a half dozen names that get tossed around like these folks invented division of fractions. The bit that bugs me is how the speaker gets all gushy about how awesome said rockstars are and how they couldn't possibly have anything as awesome to contribute.

    Bullcrap. We all have something to contribute.

    Oh, and because I don't transition very well, let me say that I love Greg's very excellent tip for getting attention: specifically mention folks in the tweet. Twitter moves so fast that I, for one, miss about 99 billion tweets a day. An @ mention, however, is about 100 times more likely to get noticed.

    Oh, and gadfly1974 is totally right about needing more beer.

  13. Thanks Megan and thanks Kate for your thoughts.
    I am a 27 year veteran math teacher, think I have SOMETHING to offer, not sure what/ how I can be of service. I want to be though! I want to be useful! I want to know how to specifically:

    How to use Twitter to help

    What is helpful and how the hell to deliver it! It seems as soon as I try something, Educreations, ie, it is old...

    Argh...I know I need you guys, but being needy is NO frickin' fun.

    I concur with rock one rock stars, just us.

    And GregT, I will come by more often.

  14. Wow, I'm sorry I missed all the Lunch Table fun last night! But it was my birthday and I had to make pizza and play with the dog and do math, ya feel me?

    There are two things I wanted to contribute to this thread.

    Thing One is this: My basic reason for blogging is to improve my own teaching and learning. I blog about lessons and activities that worked, ones that didn't work, and ones I'm thinking of trying. The mere need to package things up into a post and try to explain them helps me to reflect and improve. The fact that anybody reads my blog at all is just a happy coincidence... and a miracle.

    Thing Two is this: readiness is a great gift, but nobody can give it to you. When you're ready to step forward with your own voice and speak authentically about your teaching and your life, you will know it. Also, be advised that those two things cannot be separated. If you are authentic in your teaching, that authenticity will spill over into your life and vice versa. Try not to pay attention to the whole rock star idea because ultimately, it is a big distraction from teaching and learning.

    - Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

  15. A little bit of pushback on this one, Danielson. I might agree with you so long as the ‘if’ in “If you’re seeking engagement with a larger audience…” is emphasized. Bold. Italics. Underline. I want to read about what you would rather be writing about. Bob Dylan (a Minnesotan, no less!) extending his middle finger to his folk fans objecting to him going electric comes to mind.

    If I were to seek a larger audience based on what has resonated, I’d be pumping out posts on Tarsia, Matho, etc. for the Pinterest set. My most popular post remains a post in which I say I’m sharing this kind of stuff for the last time. But readers land there because they’ve searched this very kind of stuff out, not because my commentary questioning this resonated with anyone.

    I’m not gonna say I don’t appreciate when a particular posts engages a (slightly) larger audience, but this can’t be a goal. I’m tickled pink when you, or John Golden, or Fawn Nguyen, or Sadie Estrella, or … has indicated to me in some way that they read what I wrote. That, and the enjoyment I get out of writing it, has to be enough. I know you aren’t saying this, but the idea of a blogger chasing an audience or writing something in hopes of receiving the Meyer (or Nowak) bump gives me the willies.

    I’m cool with self indulgent. It’s your blog. We have no say. Which kinda reminds me of that weird “Kate, you’ve changed” comment on f(t) earlier this year. Maybe I’m being oversensitive here. Maybe you remember why.

    Oh yeah, the “something about [TMWYK posts] resonated with readers”? That’s easy– Griffin & Tabitha.

  16. Kate, your blog has sustained me through one awesome job that almost burned me to cinders because of the work load, and through another job that is considerably easier, pays considerably more and is so much less authentic that I am daily trying to find ways to quit. Through both experiences on opposite ends of the educational spectrum, this blogging community has sustained me, inspired me and challenged me to keep trying. This blogging community is amazing. You make it amazing. I've been following some econ bloggers and the way they treat each other is terrible. The warmth and support that can be found here is nowhere else on the web and I guess I just wanted to say thank you. The efforts you've extended have been enough to make my life better and have helped keep me in the classroom.

  17. Kate - I can't even remember where you're living or what you're doing these days (I'll blame Google Reader and the discombobulated state of my RSS feed), but thanks for writing up this 'ethic' and for featuring comments a la Dan the Man.

    You said it well, "People are fans because it's honest, and I try to pay at least a little attention to telling a story. Plus it's been around forever because I'm a super nerd who knew what a blog was in 2005."

    Early to the game doesn't mean better as you've so eloquently pushed over time, but it does mean one benefits from cumulative readership and a sense of seniority in this tribe. Good or bad, it's worth noting. Speaking of which, I don't think I ever did write up a summary of the Mathedublogosphere family tree:


Hi! I will have to approve this before it shows up. Cuz yo those spammers are crafty like ice is cold.