Karenne on blogging- Interview Part One

An Interview with Karenne of Kalinago English, part 1

You seem to have a real community feeling on your blog – something I’ve never managed. Any ideas on how that happened? Was it a deliberate attempt?

Yes, it is very deliberate.

That’s the fun part, isn’t it, Alex? What makes blogging different from writing articles in a magazine: the dialogue – sharing thoughts, experiences, ideas and learning from others.

It’s basically why bloggers stay up ’til midnight to finish a post or search through flickr for an hour just because they can’t find the right creative commons licensed picture: the buzz of the “alive” page.

It’s also why I visit other blogs – even when I’m tired or not in the mood. To give back what I receive, to be part of the community. I’m mostly attracted to blogs that have this, as opposed to the “sage-on-the-stage” feeling you can find out there. Obviously, I don’t agree that yours isn’t community oriented and I’m sure that anyone who’s reading it doesn’t either!

The hardest thing for me though, is answering my posters and I have to confess I see so many bloggers who are much better at this than I am. I’m so often engaged in what they’re commenting that I don’t know what to reply! I hope to get better at this – confession though, sometimes the comments are so learned, so knowledgeable that I feel like I’m going to say something really dumb as actually I don’t know all the answers to their questions!


How much time does your blog take up? And how much time do you spend following other blogs, forums and groups?


Some postings take 1/2 hour – the thought musings and random rants.

Others take between 2 -4 hours, others take 8. A 3-part answer like this task you’ve set for me takes around 12 hours.

The posts which have the potential to offend or need fact-checking, research and adequate linking, take days. There are even posts which take weeks: videos to be filmed from week to week, then edited, uploaded to youtube, etc..

I don’t publish everything I start either – there’s an awful back-log of half-finished pieces, ideas that need development, stuff I don’t like anymore…

Also I generally spend between 1 and 2 hours most days in some sort of social-networking activity: I’m fascinated by communities (online and offline) and therefore consciously perform different roles within different groups.

Your blog is one of the two TEFL blogs “of the moment” – the other being Lindsay Clandfield’s Six Things. What’s your secret? What is your blog philosophy?

Being one of the blogs of the moment is just that: something happening now.

There have been far better bloggers than I am; are many, many quality writers who aren’t getting as much as attention today as they should be; tomorrow there will be someone else offering more.
I don’t really take it all very seriously.

When I was walking the Camino de Santiago (a pilgrimage across Northern Spain) I learned not to count kilometres but instead to focus on the actual journey, to understand that the value lies in the learning and experiences on-route.

The most important advice I can give to any blogger is that there’s very little point in counting number of posts, especially not those written by others, or the number of visitors you have: it doesn’t tell you anything – other than how many visitors and how many posts you’ve written!

My philosophy… hmm, I wouldn’t say it’s a philosophy.

I blog because I’m opinionated. Blogging gives me an audience for all the stuff I’ve been boring people with, for years, out there in the ‘sphere.


Seriously, though, Alex – a blog is a dialogue, you just gotta ask repetitively:

Am I part of the conversation going on in my community or am I dominating it?

Am I talking about only me and my materials, ideas, business? Am I preaching to the converted or I am sharing? Am I educating, am I challenging others to think in a different way – about things they’d taken for granted, am I giving back?

Am I entertaining? Making a tired teacher laugh, make a disillusioned teacher wake up energized?

Am I making my industry any better?

My secret?

You mean because I’m somehow number 1 on OneStopBlogs at the moment, and you think I’m doing something to manipulate the stats? LOL, Yes, Alex, I saw that! Boys, boys, boys…

I will happily share: we are not islands in the middle of a Google Sea but instead are globally linked to other thinkers and writers.

In our niche, English Language Teaching, we are the democratization of methodology, materials and resources. Via our connections we can support each others development. Like any teaching village there are those of one opinion and others with another – yet within the collected wisdom of all of our posts lies a real, rich and abundant knowledge.

Whenever you respect your community, you grow as it grows.

For example, if a teacher is searching for “Smart phones + EFL” in Google, there is a good chance she will land on my page.

However this teacher is not on “my” page to read “my” words, she is there because something came up in class. Maybe it’s to support an out-of-date business English textbook; she needs a speaking-skills based activity on this theme or maybe she’s looking for some listening to download for her students.

As there exists a strong possibility that when she lands on Kalinago English, what I am offering is actually not what she was looking for, I link to other members from my community, the piece from Chwa moaning about the phones ringing in class could be used as an article; the posting by Lindsay offers activities to do with the phone switched off. I’ll also list websites like Gapfillers and Breaking News in a posting like this because these links might be useful for her students.

By pointing her and other teachers in the direction they were heading, enabling them to get through the maze that is today’s Google, I build trust.

The teachers who begin as accidental readers see I’m really here to aid them in their lesson-planning, discussing different approaches.

So… sometimes they come back, sometimes they become loyal readers who revisit often and then when I’ve written something they have an opinion on, when they’re ready, when what I’ve said hits a chord in their own understanding or they absolutely disagree with me, then they begin to share their own knowledge back with me.

And when that happens, I’m very, very happy.

On one hand because I did my job that day but also, inevitably, because when the teacher shares, she wants to continue sharing and becomes a part of my community and I, a member of hers.

So the secret, Alex? It’s just karmic math.

(A Win4Teachers + A Win4Bloggers/WebMasters) = Blog wins.

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9 Responses to Karenne on blogging- Interview Part One

  1. Jeremy says:

    Hi Alex
    I think the main reason Karenne has that sense of community on her blog is that she genuinely cares about the people in that community. Karenne’s been tremendously supportive to me in my first tentative steps in the blogosphere, but now I realise she didn’t single me out for special care and attention. That’s how she treats everybody. (I think). That takes a huge amount of commitment, energy and character.
    What I like about Karenne as a writer is that she explains difficult concepts in very simple language without ever talking down to us. I’m not especially clued-up on technology or dogme, but I know I can get practical, understandable and often entertaining information about those things from her.
    Even more importantly, we get a real sense of Karenne as a person. Her meeting with Obama, her near death experience … both very powerful pieces of writing, and there have been many more like them.
    Finally, her monthly round-ups have become must-reads. It’s through them that I’ve become aware of so much great stuff out there (including your fantastic blog, Alex, which is another of my favourites).
    As for how she gets to be top of the OneStopBlogs, I think you’re right that it’s all a scam. She claims not to care about being number 1, but she has a habit of mentioning it quite often …
    Cheers, and looking forward to part 2 …

  2. Alex Case says:

    Got two theories on Karenne’s cheating

    1. Does anyone know who owns Macmillan? Me neither. What with her getting paid a German wage in Euros and the present value of the pound, she just bought the company so she could control Onestopblogs

    2. Did you notice how the new rash of blogs sprung up a couple of months after Karenne’s. With her well known energy levels and enthusiasm, I think she just runs them all under different names and just links to herself. In fact, maybe I’m Karenne too!

  3. Tara Benwell says:

    Great interview! Looking forward to parts 2 and 3. The Obama stuff sucked me in too. Love the note on “karmic math”.

  4. Or maybe I’m sleeping with the boss.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Alex: I think I’ve rumbled her. A few months ago she gained access to my blog under the pretense of ‘helping to sort out html soup’ and make it readable again. (OK, I’ll admit it was looking pretty bad. Blogger is great until you make a mistake with the html, and then it turns evil, sucking you into a deeper and deeper mess).
    But then a few weeks later I noticed the hyperlinks in my archived articles had been changed so they went to Kalinago. All of them!
    I’ve had a look at your old articles too and they all lead there too … it’s quite scary, really, the lengths some people will go to to get to the top.

  6. Alex Case says:

    I think Onestopblogs should do a chart show as a podcast:

    “And slipping down to number 4 after too many silly ideas about improving TEFL pay, it’s TEFLtastic”

  7. Jeremy says:

    I think we should both follow Karenne’s example and pretend it’s not important where we are this week in the chart. Personally, I couldn’t care less that I’m back in the top ten …

  8. And today, Alex rapidly jumped 2 points to the #2 spot with Jeremy Day holding firm at #9.

    Will they keep it up? Can they beat the Queen of the Blogosphere?

    No one has ever beaten her for friendliest… and she’s successfully behind Lindsay for wordiest – Thomas Python column is definitely wrong….must must get back to Dan Brown column.


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