Peter Baumgartner and Leiff Pullich (after giving a presentation about weblogs in education) had a discussion with others at the Fernuniverstität Hagen about the differences between classical forums and weblogs for discussion:
In several occasions we had no convincing argument why discussion via weblogs are different from news groups. The productive atmosphere today (oops: yesterday) generated a new argument:
News Groups are topics oriented where as weblogs are learner centered
I sense there is even a more important aspect that specifically needs to be reviewed when talking about personal weblogs (in contrast to group weblogs): the creation of identity. A weblog (to some degree also a group weblog for small groups) is “owned” by the author(s) and therefore create a completely different motivation for expression.
I’d like to repeat a section of my (somewhat outdatet) BlogTalk 1.0 paper:
Weblogs are not special because of their technology but because of the practice and authorship they shape. And it is a practice that will require a weblog author to be »connected« to processes, discourses and communities.
This seems to me is a fundamental difference to classical forums and discussion groups where individuals are only represented as part of the system – and not the system as part of the identity of the individual (in this sense Peter and Leiff are – I think – correct by asserting the difference is related to what is in the center).
It is also this “turning around” the role of the technology/medium which makes – in my opinion – weblogs a completely different approach in regard to didactical and educational scenarios.
As stated in the paper, this puts also a social pressure on the learner: the creation of individual identity is created by the nature and quality of interaction with the discourse – not by judgments of a single other individual (the teacher/coach).
I think there is much more to say about this, but I think weblogs remain a trend because they give individuals a feeling of identity, responsibility and relevance (that would otherwise need to be established by alternative means).
I’d like to point some examples of students in our department, that have started personal weblogs: e.g. Tim Bruysten and Tobias Jordans. There are also other examples of former students remaining active webloggers: Fabian Bolte, Katharina Birkenbach and Ingo Hinterding (both mentioned in the paper with other work BTW). I’d say their weblogs have become “individual” in the sense, that they all have their style, writing, topical focus, a.s.o. – In regard to the former students: they remain existent on my radar. And their professional future is to some small part a part of my identity as coach – so that’s why I like to put them in my blogroll.