Over at Knowledge Jolt Jack Vinson created yesterday a very interesting weblog post coming from a trackback from Amy Graham‘s weblog post on 10 Reasons Why Blogs Are an Awkward Conversation Tool. His weblog post is titled Blogs as conversation and I have certainly enjoyed the conversations so far from both weblog articles. I must say that there are a couple of comments that I just couldn’t help but agreeing a great deal with Jack on how I view myself weblogging out there in the Blogosphere. In a previous weblog post I mentioned how in most cases I view weblogging as a conversation with others pretty much like you would normally have conversations while hanging out at the water cooler or with your friends, but in this case it will be a virtual water cooler. That is why his comments on “my blogging serves to add my voice to a larger conversation around topics of interest to me” and “blogging has been a source of a growing personal network of people who are similarly interested in the topics I follow” are spot on for me, too ! That is exactly how I view weblogging; as a powerful method to channel through my voice on topics for which I have got a passion and also as a way to try to help nurture my virtual network of connections from all over the place. Trying to do that with regular conversations would be a no go. At least, for my case.
That is why when I went through both articles from Amy (10 Reasons Why Blogs Are an Awkward Conversation Tool and Missing the Conversation for the Blogs) I just couldn’t help but diving into them and add some additional feedback into her already existing thoughts. So what I would want to do now is to basically list the heading from the 10 reasons and then add my two cents worth of comments on them. Hopefully, as a way for me to engage further in the virtual conversation(s) and also showing why weblogs may not be that awkward for conversation after all. Thus here we go:
- They are not intuitive: Maybe, yes, they aren’t, but, then again, entering the 21st century we have to acknowledge that there are lots of smart web users who know how to get around the basics of weblogs. In fact, there are plenty of services out there where you can create a weblog in just a few minutes and without hardly any technical knowledge. I could use myself as a good example. Now try to think about that same thing for someone who may want to create a standard web site. I am sure it would not be that easy. In fact, I would have given up altogether within the first few minutes. I am certain.
- They are too busy: May be there are some of them which are rather busy, but then again that is the whole purpose of using something so useful as RSS / Atom Newsfeeds with which you can just get rid of all of the noise and focus on the topic of discussion, i.e. the conversation. I must admit that I hardly ever go to a weblog site to read a weblog post from the feeds I subscribe to. I may eventually check them out every now and then to see what things have changed but not on a constant basis. So I guess that it will be up to yourself to tailor the level of interruptions and noise you may want to go through.
- Who’s is responding to whom: This is certainly something that I have noticed myself quite a few times and what distinguishes a good weblogger from one who may rather not be that good or not interested. Or just going with the hype of a popular weblog. If someone is genuinely interested in a conversation held at a weblog post, they will always try to make sure their message gets across; by rather using the number of the comment field or some quoted text (My main preference in most cases) people are able to carry on with those discussions for certain. I guess with all that said what I am trying to indicate is that it would all depend on how much motivated you may be to engage in the conversation or not.
- Comments don’t necessarily = conversation: Perhaps this may be the case, but they could well be the sparks that trigger the conversations. It all depends as well on how willing you would want to be to engage further. And if you have got several weblog posts without comments I would think that is fine, too. You shouldn’t expect to have comments the very right minute you publish a post. The key message from all this is that these weblog posts are published and available forever so if you have not started the conversation just then there is a good chance that it will happen at some point in the future and you will have to be ready for them and engage with them. And see if you would want to turn them into interesting conversations or not.
- Comments don’t always get a reply: Yes, this is very true and that is something that happens quite often. Take my weblog, as an example. But picking the comments mentioned above I know that although my weblog posts may not trigger a number of comments right away they are still valid posts. They are dealing with thoughts that I have decided to share on a more or less permanent platform and which I may be coming to at a later time or some other people may bump into them and comment further if they inspired them to do so. The fact that I am opening the door to make those ideas available to others forever might certainly provide a conversation at some point. I am sure. It would just be a matter of time and, perhaps, a specific context.
- (Usually) No notification for follow-up comments: Yes, indeed ! This may be something that is currently happening with most of the weblogging engines and for this I have seen a number of different solutions adopted by many webloggers. I particularly like the one to bookmark those weblog posts where I have placed some comments in and that I may want to check on them at a later time using my favourite social bookmarking service(s), whether that would be BlinkList or del.icio.us.
- You can turn off comments and trackbacks: Certainly, and thank goodness for that ! Pretty much the same way you would do at the water cooler; there are times where you would be willing to converse with other people and exchange ideas and knowledge and there would be other times where you would rather prefer not to engage in those conversations because you may be busy with something else. Or you just don’t feel like it. And the fact that you can do so as well in this virtual water cooler that weblogging is will give webloggers the opportunity to identify the best timing for engaging in those conversations where they could dedicate the specific time and energy they would deserve. I would remember the day when elsua.net, for instance, was restricted for sharing comments as they would need to be moderated (I didn’t think I was ready to get comments back then just like that while I was setting things up but when I felt that the time was right for me to open them up I have already done so and now all those potential issues with spam that I thought would hammer down the conversations are taken care of by the corresponding plugins). And so far I haven’t encountered major problems.At the end of the day it would just depend on people’s choices whether they want to open comments and trackbacks or not and the fact that we have got that choice is probably one of the best parts of weblogging. To give webloggers the possiblity to decide when to be ready or not for taking those conversations. Always a personal choice.
- Perceived inequality: Although I could certainly agree with both comments shared over at Amy’s weblog I think that is also the same kind of perception in real life, and I doubt there would be much more we could do about it. In fact, I think it may well be a good thing as it would allow webloggers build their virtual network of contacts with whom they would be able to host different conversations and although at the beginning it may well be something related to weblogger and their audience in the end, and if things work out in the right way, that could well be turned into peers at the same level participating from the same experience: sharing their own thoughts on those common topics of interest. And I feel that this is one of the strongest selling points from weblogging: build your own virtual community of people around the topics you are passionate about using your weblog as the medium to carry on with the conversations.
- Lots of people don’t like blogs, and they never will: Hummm, I am not sure about this one. Certainly there may be lots of people who may not like weblogs but with Technorati tracking over 26 million weblogs, and who knows how many more million there are out there still to be tracked, I doubt we would be able to say that people do not like weblogs. I would rather prefer to think that what people do not like, or, at least, do not seem to be rather comfortable with, is the hype around weblogs. Certainly, that may well be the case, but one thing we would need to consider is that every hype has got its time and that would come as well for weblogs. However, weblogging will still be there after the hype is gone and it will be then, and only then, when we would start seeing the true power of what weblogging is all about. We would start seeing how more and more meaningful and relevant weblogs would come afloat and they would allow us to get access to much more relevant information to meet our intellectual needs and, of course, have an exposure with those people who decide to stick around with their weblogs despite that hype. Time will tell but it all may not be that long in the distant future.
- It’s much faster just to talk: You bet ! Of course, it is. We all know the speed of our thoughts, how they slow down when coming out through words and how they would even slow down further when writing down those same words. That is a fact that we cannot deny. However, in a world where more and more people are having virtual or distributed contacts, whether they are colleagues, peers, friends, family, etc, etc, talking to one another may not be that easy and accessible any longer. Instead, people may want to take the approach of writing down what they would want to communicate to others regardless of what timezone or geography they may be. Face to face contact, talking to one another, etc. is certainly probably the preferred method (Perhaps that is the main reason why VoIP is so popular these days); however, I am sure there would be people out there who would want to use different means of reaching out. Reaching out to their virtual networks of contacts and continue nurturing them in the best possible way: through a conversation.
And that is exactly why I think that weblogging is good for knowledge sharing and collaboration, specially remote collaboration; for establishing conversations with others and, more importantly, for keeping active and alive those virtual networks / communities that are floating around different people. Creating those connections, nurturing them to make them better in such a distributed world as today is something that we just can’t afford any longer not doing. It is becoming an integral part of who we are and the fact that weblogging is there is just a big help. As long as you keep the conversations flowing? So are you ready to engage in them ? You better be or you will miss out.
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