Blogs as conversation

Amy Gahran has a nice list of 10 Reasons Why Blogs Are an Awkward Conversation Tool.  Amy doesn't dispute that conversation happens in blogs - the essence of the list is that blogs hinder the flow of conversation that you might otherwise get in person or on more open technologies, such as online forums.  I generally agree with Amy's thoughts on the awkwardness of blogs for conversation.  It is difficult to "see" the flow of a conversation as it flows from blogger to blogger to email to comments and trackbacks.

From my perspective, my blogging serves to add my voice to a larger conversation around topics of interest to me.  I also participate on some topic-specific forums, and conferences and many other environments where conversations can happen.  Maybe blogs are better at capturing the flow of an idea, rather than a thread of conversation.

And beyond the idea of conversation, blogging has been a source of a growing personal network of people who are similarly interested in the topics I follow.  As people post their ideas, I get to know them and grow attracted (or not) to them based on what and how they write.  This is similar to how it works in face-to-face meetings and introductions, but blogs develop over time and give me different insights into people than I get in that first few seconds of an introduction.

Here is Amy's list.

  1. They're not intuitive
  2. They're too busy
  3. Who's responding to whom?
  4. Comments don't necessarily = conversation
  5. Comments don't always get a reply
  6. (Usually) no notification for follow-up comments
  7. You can turn off comments and trackbacks
  8. Perceived inequality
  9. Lots of people don't like blogs, and they never will
  10. It's much faster just to talk

Of course, her post has comments on these, and readers have also posted some good thoughts.  A few even talk about the kinds of conversations that are best suited to blogs or to forums or other modes.  Also, it's worth noting that this list only applies to blogs that are intended to be conversational.  There are many, many forms/styles of blogs out there, and not all forms are terribly conversational.

4 Comment(s)

Amy Gahran said:

Hi, Jack

Thanks for mentioning my article. To put it in context, that piece was a followup to an earlier article, "Missing the Conversation for the Blogs"

Although blogs are getting a ton of attention currently, I personally think much of that coverage and discussion misses the fact that blogs are but one aspect of a far broader and more significant phenomenon: the rise of conversational media.

Blogs currently play a key role in the popularization of conversational media. However, they also have several drawbacks in that regard, too. Hence, my "10 reasons" article. It was intended as suggestions for focusing future development of blogs and other kinds of conversational media.

Because, after all, people talk. That's what we do.

- Amy Gahran

The weblog format demands comments, but comments in blogs are not well-suited to a complicated conversation. The situation can quickly devolve into something akin to football game trash talking. Read More

» Facts and conversations from Knowledge Jolt with Jack

David Weinberger has a nice piece on Fact-based ethics for bloggers , and I think it actually adds a bit to the ideas about blogs as a vehicle for conversations. Read More

Jack, you know, comments are kind of messy right now. Blog postings are first class items in the RSS data streams with their own elaborately worked out data formats and syndication eight ways from Sunday, but you just try to gather up all the comments that you leave if you actually visit the blogs in question.

One problem that's immediately apparent is that feed readers like Bloglines actively neuter comments - you might hope that they'd have a little box right under each post for you to stick in your $0.02, but instead it's a multiclick process to get to the right step in most cases. (Feedburner makes that a little bit easier with their Feedflare, if you have a blogging platform you can wedge that into.)

I'm half tempted to just give up on feed readers and go direct to blogs and focus on the comments only.

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