An interview with EFL Geek, the real grandfather of TEFL blogging

Hopefully he won’t mind the grandfather bit, seeing as we are almost exactly the same age (along with a surprisingly large number of other bloggers- is it a middle aged crisis thing to do??) I’m also hoping that he won’t have a problem with the interview being part of the history of TEFL blogging series, seeing as a recent post says that EFL Geek will shortly be, indeed, history. As he turns comments off after a month (explanation why below), you can leave any musing on EFL Geek and other TEFL blogging nostalgia here.

1. I believe you set up the blog to reflect on the content of your Masters. Why did you decide to go the blogging route? Did it work well for that?

I initially started the blog to help me organize my thoughts about the reading I was doing. I had just heard about blogging and was very interested in working with web sites – I was already using a web site with my students as early as 2002 (maybe 2003) I can’t remember exactly. Yes blogging definitely worked out for me, It really helped me find my writing voice as well as synthesize what I was reading. It got even better when I found a readership some of whom answered questions I posed or offered differing points of views.

2. Why “EFL Geek”?

EFL is pretty clear, but the geek part comes from my love of technology and a desire to integrate it with my classes. I’m a computer geek, a star wars geek and a comic book geek so it all comes together.

3. When and why did the name change from its original one?

My original blog was called Blinger – here is a quote from my about page

“When I first decided to make a blog I was trying to come up with some sort of catchy name. The only name I liked was already taken so I struggled with a name and ended up with Blinger a combination of Blog and linguistics. I have since come up with several names that I like but it is a little late to change.”

At that time I was unaware of the slang meaning of bling bling.

4. Any vital statistics for us?

I actually removed my stat software a few months ago and moved it over to a different web site. I have written 1665 posts and received 2142 comments

5. What TEFL and other blogs were around and/ or popular at the time? Which did you read?

At that time there were almost no TEFL bloggers around. There are only three that I can remember – Barbara Dieu, Graham Stanley (both still blogging) and Linguistic life which disappeared after a couple of years.

6. Favourite post?

That’s tough. My first two blogiversaries I wrote up extensive posts with links to several things I had written. Some of my favourites are the lesson plans I posted including Prison Break and Subtitles where I had a long lesson to educate learners on using subtitles in language learning, a lesson on internet piracy, and the smallville pilot.

On my blog I also have a page of favourites called classic posts that is actually 4 pages of articles I like, there you’ll find posts such as MacQuarie a Review where I review my experience with distance learning, Mistakes are your friend,  Stonewalled when Speaking Korean where I talk about expats’ experience with learning and using Korean (lot’s of good comments here)

7. Did blogging lead to other stuff for you?

Absolutely. I ended up being asked to write a column for the Korea Herald which I did about every two weeks for almost 8 months before I stopped – this was right around the time that I was running out of steam with the blog as well.

8. Could that happen to bloggers nowadays, or did you just time it well?

I think anything could happen now, but it’s much more unlikely due to the fact that the internet is flooded with blogs and it’s hard to make yourself stand out.

9. Why turn off comments?

Actually comments are not really turned off. I’ve got them set to be disabled on entries older than 1 month because I was getting tired of dealing with spam. With my blog at least I rarely received “real” comments more than two weeks after an entry was written. However since I haven’t written in over a month, it appears like I’ve disabled comments.

10. How did TEFL blogs change over the years?

What changed is the blogs. Tons of bloggers started and quit within two to three months. I subscribed to RSS feeds of so many blogs that started off great, but then just died when the authors stopped writing. That’s really too bad as there were some blogs that would have been great. I know that’s not exactly the answer you were looking for but…

11. I’m guessing some actual computer skills must have been necessary back when you set up.

A little, particularly if you wanted to host your own blog like I do. There were very few options for free hosted blogs, pretty much only blogger or blog-city that I can remember. Now there are dozens of free hosted blogs to choose from.

12. Most missed disappeared or inactive TEFL or other blog?

One of my favourite commeners ran a blog called TEFL Smiler. He actually only occasionally wrote about TEFL, but was a great commenter on my blog. I actually got to meet him when he lived in Korea for a few months. As I mentioned earlier I also enjoyed Linguistic Life – I believe the authors name was Dana. Additionally Katie from TEFL Logue was outstanding and a good read, she was also incredibly prolific. Finally Larry Ferlazzo is brilliant.

13. How do/ did TEFL blogs compare to non-TEFL blogs?

Well now I mostly read blogs related to web development as that is where I am moving my career. The blogs there deal with issues important to web designers and developers in much the same way that teacher blogs focus on issues related to teaching or relationships of schools with teachers. Also just like teachers will write about conferences or new lessons they’ve tried blogs about the web have tutorials on new techniques and overviews of various conferences. It’s pretty much the same, just different fields.

14. Any things you wish you had never written about?

Not really, though I did have to pull a post I wrote about a guy who got convicted of fraud because of a forged degree. His name and photo was published in the newspaper. However once he was free he found out that I and another blogger had written about him and threatened to sue us for defamation. In Korean law we would have lost because it doesn’t matter if what you said is the truth or not, what matters is that the other person is damaged by you saying it. Regardless it wasn’t worth my time to deal with that so I quietly removed the post.

15. How did you keep going for so long?

Teaching is like a hobby to me – so basically I was writing about something I enjoy a lot. Gotta love it when your hobby is your job.

16. When and why did your frequency of posting start to fade?

I think it really started about 2 years before I quit but really accelerated in the last year. I made a decision to return to Canada in summer 2011 around that time. I know that teaching ESL in Canada is basically a nowhere job and didn’t want to do that so I shifted my focus to my other hobby which is web development and started a company where I build web sites – http://createsean.com  – If you say it quickly it sounds like “Creation”, I think it’s clever and catchy and also includes my name.

17. Was blogging mainly something you enjoyed doing or mainly meant to lead onto something else?

I did blogging purely for myself. Once I got an audience I did write with my readership in mind, but it was primarily all about me. I’m really not that narcissistic but the blog was really a way for me to talk to other teachers around the world and share my thoughts about things that teachers I did know weren’t all that interested in – things like blogging with students, using tech in the classroom etc…

18. Blogging tips for beginners?

Make a plan and stick to it. Don’t try to be everything for everyone. Find a niche that is you and write most of your posts in that area. Also don’t ask for link exchanges. Write quality material, link to bloggers you like to read and click those links regularly so they know you’re out there. Also leave intelligent comments on blogs with a link back to your own. Make sure you comment is on topic, eventually people will start clicking through and find out that you have something of quality to say.

Also blogging can get difficult. Make notes of good blogging topics and keep that list handy. This way you’ll always have something to write about and won’t have a dry spell. It’s not necessary to write every day so do save some of your material for later.

This entry was posted in EFL geek, Teaching English in Korea, TEFL and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to An interview with EFL Geek, the real grandfather of TEFL blogging

  1. Adam says:

    Thank you for all your blogging down the years, Geek. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

  2. I missed my chance to comment on the EFL Geek post about retiring the blog, so I’ll just say that I’m sorry it’ll be going away–and I wish there were more openly geeky people in EFL/ESL (especially in North America; most of them seem to be in EFL). Best of luck with everything, though! See you on Twitter, I guess…

  3. I really enjoyed reading this – currently doing a post on the blogs that influenced mine so popped on over to see Alex – I wasn’t a big EFLGeek reader but do remember your blog and contribution to the blogosphere, and very much enjoyed learning more about your history here.

    Ta,
    Karenne

  4. Alex Case says:

    Just searched for it and it is no more, although you can see him reading a story to his son on YouTube!

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