Updated: 6/30/2005; 11:27:04 PM.


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  Sunday, June 13, 2004

  Weblogs as a conversational tool

Another piece of thinking aloud for the paper (triggered by Denham's comment:)

Weblogs make a very funny conversational tool:

Bloggers say they write for themselves, but they also care about their audience. Or, they write for an audience without really knowing for sure if there someone reading. In other words, they write for a change to be read.

Weblogs can provide immediacy of instant messaging (e.g. sometimes people comment on your post within minutes), but usually communication is asynchronous. (Sidenote. Would be interesting to study the timeframe of links/comments to a post: earliest comment time, longest comment time, average. Something like: "most of comments to a post are written within 1-15 days interval, so if you really want a feedback to your idea and waiting for a two weeks already, rephrase it and post again" ;)

Weblog conversations can be very intensive and develop fast much like mailing list or forum discussion (see the paper for an example).

Unlike mailing lists or forums, which require membership for participation, weblogs are open for everyone to comment. But not all commenters are equal: those with their own weblogs can make "global" contribution and engage their own audience in a discussion, but "blogless" people have to comment in the original weblog, where comments are secondary. (Of course, everyone can use e-mail to comment, but it's another story :)

Weblog conversations are public, but they are still hidden in a sense: it's too difficult to find all the pieces and it's even more difficult to get an overview (e.g. comparing to forum discussion). I would say that weblog conversations are like books in the library: only well-trained people can find them ;)

(One more sidenote: Don't know why I'm getting into writing mode when I should be sleeping. Hope I will not be sleepy in the morning ;)

  Following weblog conversations

Some ideas for the paper: on how people follow weblog conversations.

There is a substantial difference between abilities to follow a conversation between its participants and outsiders, as well as between following unfolding, real-time conversation and returning to it back after a period of time.

When the conversation unfolds its participants can use numerous tools to find out who commented to their weblog. Comments in weblog itself could be send by e-mail and/or shown in "recent comments" section on weblog homepage. Links from other weblogs could be found via trackbacks, referrer logs, Technorati (or other tracking services), which most of weblog authors will check regularly. In many cases participants of a conversation are connected via their own subscriptions, (e.g. they are likely to read weblogs of other participants), so they just find posts in their RSS readers. (Sidenote: I guess that weblog conversations are more frequent in existing network of weblogs connected via regular reading. Would be nice to check...)

Outsiders have fewer opportunities to follow a conversation: usually they cannot see referrer logs or receive e-mail notifications about comments on someone else's weblog (even if it will be possible there are not many people who want to follow all links/comments to a weblog, and tools for selecting specific posts to follow are not there yet). They can follow links to earlier posts and trackbacks and use tracking services as well, but the latter requires extra clicks. They can also observe the conversation in their news aggregators, but they are likely to miss comments and trackbacks, as those are not part of RSS feeds in most cases (and most of "local" conversations in comments develop after regular reader was there).

Following a real-time weblog conversation is a challenge by itself: one needs to combine several tools to find out all the leads. Following a conversation after some time is even more difficult. Usually referrer logs and many tracking services provide only newer links and do not keep archives. News aggregators do not help much as well as they show recent updates. So the only thing that is left for someone who wants to trace a conversation which is a few month old is to rely on trackbacks or hope that posts were indexed by Bloglines or Blogdex.

See also: Weblog conversations are flows in a river delta (thinking aloud about different degrees of visibility of arguments in a weblog conversation) 

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© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

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