For me blogging is about conversations
I wonder why some weblog conversations develop in a full distributed discussion (e.g. actionable sense conversation), while others die after a few comments. I guess it's not only about the power of an initial topic to keep people active, but also about effort that participants spend locating others and commenting on their input.
A few days back I had a discussion with my colleagues about finding comments to one's weblog post. As many of you know, to find all interesting replies it's not enough to check comments and trackbacks, one needs tools like Technorati as well. Of course I explained it mentioning my morning routine of checking Technorati and referrer logs. The reaction was, uhm, a bit weird, as I was truly addicted... This could be the case, but I don't feel so :)
From my own perspective, I'm far from looking for popularity. I don't care about my Google rank*, numbers of my visitors or even being mentioned in A-list blogs**. When I check my server stats I don't look at traffic numbers, I check referrers, search strings and countries. I'm not very interested in how many people are reading my weblog, but much more in who are they and what do they say.
If you ask me why, the answer is simple: for me blogging is about conversations.
Conversations are different from publishing, they require listening to others, require investment of attention and energy. My morning check is my way to find out who is talking to me and what they are saying. I don't do it to find our how famous I am, this is just a very human thirst for a feedback and my respect to those who spend time answering my questions, finding flaws in my arguments or developing my ideas in new directions...
So, coming to my original question. I guess some of our conversations die because we do not spend enough energy listening and replying back. In this respect weblog conversations are not much different from all other conversations.
Still, one thing is different: it takes a lot of energy to find others that talk to you. Hopefully we will find a way to make it easier. As David Davies puts it
What I'd find really interesting about this research is recommendations for how weblogging tools need to evolve to support conversations in a more structured way. One of my constant frustrations is not being able to keep track of a conversation when it's spread across weblogs and comments on weblogs. There's an interesting comparison with the traditional published literature where citations allow the reader to follow a thread across many journals. The lack of formal writing structures in weblogs often means that citations are not present and the narrative is broken. There is naturally a trade-off with weblogs as many conversations are social and so being able to follow a thread is probably less important (regardless of how frustrating it might be not to be able to follow them). However in weblogs where an academic debate is developing then perhaps in the absence of tools to properly track conversations across weblogs and comments, more formal writing rules could be used. Then again, perhaps the distinction between social and academic debates in weblog is artificial, all being just conversations.
* Although sometimes I'm saying "just type Lilia and click the first link" to demonstrate the power of blogging :)
** With one exclusion - I was very happy when I got my first link from OLDaily. For me this iwasn't about popularity, but about the quality of my ideas (OLDaily is the only one of my "before weblogs" subscriptions to e-learning news that survived till now).