Encouraging Conversation

I’ve always thought (well, I guess only since I discovered blogs) that while many use blogs as a way to encourage conversations, the actual facilities within blogs to allow comments don’t seem to be the best way for people to have a conversation. Commenting can be awkward – really, really awkward. I have long been frustrated by Blogger’s extremely small comment window – which makes it beyond difficult to write a long comment. Other blog software suffers from the same problem. I do like the preview feature in Blogger, but wish spell check were available. SPAM forces many to restrict people from commenting anonymously (I’m not making a value judgement – comment SPAM is starting to drive me insane) and/or moderate all comments. Again, I understand the reasoning, yet this inhibits conversations since people may not want to log in and since comments may not appear directly after they are written. Additionally, most comments are put in chronological order – and often times some comments may not get posted in the order they were written. This makes reading the comments awkward and even painful at times – especially if there are a significant number of comments, and one has to scroll up and down to remember what (and who) a particular commenter is talking about.

I would love to see some other way of commenting on blog posts that would encourage and organize specific conversations. Interestingly, Dave Pollard from How to Save the World blog has some ideas and suggestions in the post How to Make Blogs More Conversational– some good ideas based upon the architecture of online forums. Well worth a read – especially for those who might finding the experience of commenting on blog post a bit awkward – and maybe even frustrating.

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6 Responses to Encouraging Conversation

  1. Jen, you might want to try Firefox, which has a built-in spell checker – even for text entry (comment) boxes! Only solves one of your issues, but knock ’em down, one by one 🙂

  2. Jennifer says:

    Paul, isn’t that the only real way to solve all of these issue – by dealing with them one at a time. I do often use Firefox, but when I am at work, I always use IE (and IE7), since many of our apps display best in IE. What I need to do is remember to always open my aggregator in Firefox. Thanks for the information!!!

  3. Ross says:

    One frustration I have encountered in leaving comments on blog posts is remembering where I’ve left them. Comments are meant (in part and at their best) to initiate dialog with the blog community, an impulse that is thwarted if there’s no way to track them. I agree with the author (Where did I see this?) who said that blog comments don’t create new ideas, they only provide a forum for reacting to them. That said, however, wouldn’t it be nice it there were software that encouraged it?
    I hope I remember I left this one — I’m curious what response there might be (if any).

  4. Say Ross, if you remember to come back to check the comment thread 😉 the tool you want to explore is coComment. Plugin for Firefox or bookmarklet for IE – it tracks comments you’ve left, making it easy to return to them, and also gives the option of tracking conversations even when *you* don’t leave a comment. Gives you an RSS feed so you can see if someone else has commented after you, and also a webpage that collects all your conversations. Nifty slick – I like it a lot.

    Jennifer, since I seem to be on a Firefox evangelical kick this week – you should check out IE Tab for Firefox – you can trick any page into thinking you’re running IE, and I’ve yet to find a site for which it didn’t work!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Paul, thanks for the heads up about IE Tab. I will definitely check it out – that sounds like something that could help us out with many, many browser inconsistency issues.

    Ross, excellent points about the difficulty in following comment threads. I have explored coComment. I really need to get back to it. Initially, I found it a bit clunky -but that can so often be the case when trying to learn something new. Lately, I’ve been bookmarking posts that I want to keep checking on – and that is a bit of a headache.

  6. Ross says:

    Fooled ya all, I came back to look. Thanks, Paul, I’m a rabid Firefox fan and I look forward to having another widget up there someplace. I confess, Jennifer, I hadn’t considered bookmarking my commented posts (I suppose I could park them in del.icio.us) for the very reason you eventually discovered. It does seem odd that nearly every version of blog comments asks you for your email address, and yet there was (to my imperfect knowledge) no way to capitalize on it as a finding tool.

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