New Ideas in Blogging and Online Conversations

If you've been reading this blog a while then you know that a while back I embarked on a project to make blogs more conversational and orderly. The project has been on the backburner for a while as I wait to get inspired with some better ideas on how to implement it. Fortunately it looks like I'm not the only one thinking about this stuff - Dave Pollard has a great post on the mechanics of conversation and ways to realize those mechanics by tweaking blogs:

...since there is no protocol governing blog comments, it is often ambiguous whether the commenter is (a) looking for the author of the blog to reply, or (b) hoping other readers will reply to them (rather than starting their own new thread branching off from the blog post), or (c) not expecting any followup at all -- closing the thread and making way for others to open new ones.This is confusing, because a blog post itself isn't really the start of a conversation thread, but rather a provocation, a jumping off point and invitation to any number of people to start threads based on the post. When the first commenter 'responds' to the blog post, s/he is really opening up a new thread, such that any subsequent commenters have the choice to either (a) start another, independent thread responding to the main post, or (b) respond to and therefore continue the previous commenter's thread. Despite the competition on some popular blogs to be the first to comment, and the optics, every commenter really has this same (a) or (b) choice. Online forums have evolved some protocols that make that clumsy conversational vehicle work reasonably well, and a protocol for making blogs more 'conversational' should start with these.

I don't want to steal his entire post but the whole thing is really insightful. He's identifying a very similar problem to that which I started ThreadSpinner to solve. I think many of his suggestions could pave the way towards some different ways of implementing blogs to encourage more topical, relevant, and clean conversation. Perhaps through his post I can find some people to bounce ideas off of in continuing development on ThreadSpinner.

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Written on Thursday, January 11, 2007