Blogging and the dying art of conversation

 by Martin Belam, 15 April 2011

There was a lovely blog post by Khoi Vinh this week, about the way he thinks blogging and commenting on blogs has changed over recent years. He rightly points out that you can’t extrapolate behaviour across the web from one set of anecdotal evidence. However, his main points, that long-form blogging increasingly feels like a niche activity, and that there seems to be less conversation in the comments on his blog, are how I feel too.

In some ways I think it is a real shame. I really enjoy blogging, and writing up the talks and events I go to forces me to concentrate and take good notes when I’m there, and I enjoy it as a way of knowledge sharing. But it is increasingly obvious that the conversation has moved on from the comments underneath a blog post into the 140 character stream of Twitter. It is quicker to post a link on Twitter and add “<- Yes, what Penny says!” as a sign of agreement and approval than it is to fire up a blog CMS and post a hundred words that essentially add up to “<- Yes, what Penny says!”.

Doing that on Twitter also means that the link and comment are shared amongst your own network, whereas leaving a comment at the foot of a blog post only shares your agreement with the blogger’s own network.

I was reminded of what blogging used to be like yesterday - when a conversation accidentally broke out in the comments underneath my blog post about whether UXers (and indeed journalists and musicians) will need to learn code in the future. It made such a refreshing change to see people I know in real life discussing something on my blog in the way they used to in 2004, rather than the constant war of attrition against spammers which moderating the comments on here has become.

It was appropriate perhaps, though, given that “the conversation” has moved on to Twitter, that it only seemed to start once I tweeted a link to one of the comments...

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If only tweets lasted forever so they could be permanently embedded into the post. (Sigh). But even blogs might not last forever.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em: Jeffrey Zeldman's design studio Happy Cog switched all their blog's comments to Twitter last year:

Also reminds me of Facebook's recent Comments platform changes - if you use their embedded widget to allow Facebook users to post a comment, it will also show that user's friends comments on the article, even if they never visited your site themselves. Although it's handing control of your site's discussions onto a third party, it's certainly one way of keeping the discussion within your site, even if it happens offsite.

From a UI point of view, your comment process here surely causes some people to just not bother. Oddly that's actually more true if you've commented here before.

(Basically, if the blog tool's rubbish with comments and spam - and yours definitely is - I think looking at a better one would be a plan.)

I have noticed recently that people become much more lazy about representing their point of view - not only in blogs, comments or posts, but in real life too.

They just walk through some comments, see that everything is already has been said and walk further - it is sad, but it is the modern life style.

In our world people just can't focus on something for a very long time - the great amount of infomation won't let it happen =)

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