Nancy White has done a great series of postings where she creates a simple taxonomy of three types of blogs – single blog centric, topic centric and community centric.

The first is centered on an individuals posting (like this blog you are now reading). The second seems to coalesce around an issue such as those focusing on PLEs (such as Josie Fraser’s contributions ) and finally those bounded by a community (she uses the example of MySpace).

Not wanting to limit the value of this classification, I wanted to show by this post how postings have the intractable capacity to morph between categories, which seems to add value to them through “weak connections” rather than diminish their value.

For example there are probably those who will read this post and think “oh, there goes that Virtual Canuck again” and he occasionally says something interesting such that in one moment of weakness I added a link to this blog (the blog centric distribution).

There are others from the PLE community who will likely have read Nancy’s posts and may be thinking how these different types could/should be merged into a tool set that spans formal and informal learning and maybe wondering if I have any profound ideas. So as to try not to disappoint, I’ll note that this post demonstrates that postings must be mobile enough to live within multiple layers and types of community. But that to be interactive, they must retain the capacity for response and linking and sometimes this creates problems -especially when moving in and out of bounded communities. Further my point following warns against making a “sacred cow” of openess and non-institutionalization such that we deny learners the opportunity to participate in restricted and potentially safer spaces.
Finally, Elgg allows me to have this post automatically imported into the space where I tend the bounded community of those Masters of Distance Education students enrolled in MDE663 – Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. There it will hopefully spark some thought about our experiment in NOT using the usual threaded discussion lists and trying to support our formal learning community with a type 3 bounded blogging environment. As an initial comment on that trial, I note that the lack of notification of new comments to existing posts seems cumbersome to those of used to threaded lists with push email notification for all new comments (I know RSS is there and does allow easy aggregation by all members of the bounded group but it seems to stop at comments). In any case the real value of the bounded community is just that- it is bounded and thus a safe environment. Elgg allows members to restrict postings to the class, any subset of people in the Athabasca Community they wish to designate or to the open Net. Rather than a liability I see this as a value add in much the same way that the medieval university provided a safe space (away from both civil and ecclesiastical censure) for scholarship to be nurtured. The personal learning value is that the learner controls the distribution but has both the right and the technical capacity to distribute their ideas to whom they choose. Of course, they still are able to publish from Me2U to the wide world if they choose, but the bounded community gives them a safe alternative and they still retain ownership (after the course) through import and export as they wish.

Returning now to the interactivity across these three types of blogs, if a learner in the Me2U community reads this post and replies or comments upon it, they will have to make sure they set the distribution to the Open Net or their response will be retained within the ‘garden walls’ of Athabasca University. If they choose the less restricted option, then likely Google and other spiders will discover their comment and thus create a ‘weak link’. But I doubt if the comment will carry the connection as usefully as one directly input as a comment to this post. But this may be just the price of freedom (and I am not quoting George Bush!)