Blog Conversation Lifecycle

I spotted an interesting commentary on the lifecycle of a blog discussion over Simon Phipp's blog. I think its one good way to look at it. I do think there are some things that could be done to make conversing about a blog topic easier on the actual blog itself. The fact that I don't ever get notified VIA mail or RSS if someone responds to a comment I leave on their blog makes the blog comments a lot less useful than they could be for on topic conversations. I think because of that this lifecycle is a bit more forced upon us than it should be.

Flow graphicOn our internal blogs at Sun, I stumbled across a good reflection by a colleague (and related comments by others) on a weblog I'd not previously encountered (I'd spotted comments like those made by James Tauber, but only because of Technorati, I had to work at it). The problem with trying to have a discussion spread across a myriad blogs is there's no meaningful way to read it.

I would never have read the comment (about wanting to use trackbacks and blog-hosted discussion) if I hadn't just stumbled across it, and if a newcomer to our conversation wanted to see what had come before s/he would stand no chance of finding all the blogs involved and threading together the comments in an order that made them intelligible. The discovery seemed to me to demonstrate the problem with a blog-centric approach to conversation (something that's bugged me for ages)....Both trackbacks and blog-hosted comments fragment the conversation and keep blogs an echo-chamber rather than part of a discussion flow with a conclusion. In a peer community, I believe discussion forums (of some sort) need to be the centre of the discussion, with blogs and wikis at either end end of the flow.

[Via WebMink]

Comments (5)
  1. denny says:

    too simple…. stuff I read is more like

    "Add about 10 arrows in every direction"

    at least it seems to me to have many more states and transitions to me…

  2. Simon Phipps says:

    You’re right, and on the internet there’s even less support for conversations than in the relatively calm atmosphere of a company-internal blogosphere (a colleague with your view drew the full diagram of the flow of a conversation and yes, there were arrows everywhere).

    But essentially the conversation moves in phases which, while they exhibit the internal complexity you’re talking about, still can be drawn quite simply – all the extra arrows seem to come from using tools that aren’t up to the job of supporting a conversation.

    We can add all the complexity to the picture later – first we need to find a way where we can elegantly extend the blog/mail/forum/wiki worlds so they support conversations in a way that actually works. That’s what the two articles Josh pointed to are getting at.


  3. I’ve got an older blog entry about this:

    Improving the Blog Commenting Experience

    Basically there needs to be some means for people who want to participate in the blogosphere to have a unique, identifiable account. That way, it would be possible to view posts from a particular person spanning blogs, to get email or RSS notification when someone responded to a post, less comment spam, etc., etc.

  4. Simon Phipps says:

    Actually, I think all the real problems we have ever faced on the internet could be solved with strong and provable yet federated identity systems where the privacy of the individual remains under their control. Spam, hacking and access control are now joined by blog comments on the "waiting for the industry to do something that’s not broken by self-interest" pile…


  5. jledgard says:

    I agree with all of the comments here so far. Essentially I see all of these mechanisms starting to merge to form, what essentially will become a trustworthy collaborative set of internet workspaces where there are mechanisms tied together to support all phases of conversations.

    I imagine a set of standard protocals like RSS that could eventually enable wiki’s, forum posts, blogs, articles, and other content to tie together in ways that make the conversations flow together better than they do today and enable new forms of widespread collaboration and information sharing.

    Tie all of these mechanisms in with effective product integrations, a better offline story, and some simpler UI for non-advanced users and I think we’ll be on the verge of seeing a bunch of new "killer apps" that take advantage of all this groundwork.

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