It’s the Conversation – Isn’t It?
Some of what I say here may not be new to followers of the clue train manifesto. If you haven’t come across it and are interested in marketing or where the web is going, it is worth a read.
Websites are a one-way conversation. They give you information, sometimes they even try to tell you what they think that you think, which is always a dangerous game. Many websites don’t give an obvious way to contact the authors, let alone the ability to leave a comment. Talk to the web browser, the site isn’t listening.
The world of blogs is one of conversations, although there are a lot of lonely voices. With blogs, you can read, you can comment. You get to have your say. There is a two-way communication, the conversation. Or so I thought…
On one of my blogs I discovered that comments were blocked. Not good. Big error on my part, it was due to a programming glitch. Bad Benjamin. Also this week I had some comments I wrote on a blog deleted. This was a new experience for me, even though I have been commenting on blogs for a few years. The comments weren’t controversial, and I didn’t think they were unhelpful. Nevertheless, they were erased. No explanation, no comment, and no way to contact the blogger. Not good, no conversation.
It is a funny type of conversation where people can unilaterally eradicate parts of the dialog. However, that is one of the properties of shiny-new digital media. These are unusual conversations. When a conversation is mediated by technology, the technology alters that communication. Even the humble telephone changes how we communicate. Subtle, almost imperceptible, things like delay and echo affect how we converse.
Mediums like email, Twitter and blogs are even less transparent. They change the shape of the conversation. It is worth remembering that. One of the things I like about wiki technology is the way that it tracks changes and creates an audit log. That makes more sense of the shifting sands of digital media.
Since I started blogging, the most interesting aspect has been the conversations. It is amazing to watch the way that they can flow from one blog to another. Someone comments here, posts over there, bringing other posts and comments elsewhere. Often the conversation flows right back to where it started. This swirling nature of conversation in the blogosphere is a wonderful dynamic. It is like little sparks of knowledge flying off, as different minds brush together.
I want to listen more, but I am only just comprehending exactly what ‘listening’ ‘looks like’ in the blogosphere. I’ll add a blogroll, tweak my WordPress settings and adjust my writing. What other things should a good listening blogger do?
I think it’s important to keep hold of the fact that it’s still your blog, and therefor your space… the idea of democratising a blog can have diminishing returns if your remit isn’t ‘free speech above all else’ – I’ve deleted comments from my blog and the forum on my site before now, usually with an explaination, sometimes without if the person was posting anonymously and offensively…
In your case, it seems odd that your comments were deleted, and that seems like a breach of the unwritten blogger’s protocol to offer no explaination, but that’s how the conversation can go… like someone getting distracted and ignoring you in a chat in a pub :o)
Spoken like a man of experience! I like the pub analogy, it made me smile on a cold and frosty morning. I take the point about the anonymous comments, I think there is definitely a line that can be crossed, where you walk away from the conversation if it is abusive, and where the nature of digital media means that others can be spared the abuse. I guess it is fairly civilised around here.
Without really thinking about it, I haven’t allowed anonymous comments on any of my blogs. Maybe I should?
Benjamin, when I posted about homeopathy I got some of the most offensive comments I’ve ever received and I decided I just didn’t want such comments soiling my blog – like Steve says our blogs are our spaces.
So I did two things – I switched on full moderation and I entered some text in a text widget on my wordpress blog which describes my comments policy.
I would allow an anonymous comment if it wasn’t offensive and wasn’t spamming but that seems pretty rare! Most reasonable commenters are perfectly happy to say who they are
Thanks Bob. It is amazing what can cause a controversial conversation. I have a healthy respect for people who’ve had to put up with that sort of abuse. I have been spared it so far.
I definitely agree that a blogger’s blog is their space. We wouldn’t let someone graphiti on our front door, so why allow it on our blogs. The amazing thing is that people do it, or do things that are close to it.
We have scripts for acceptable behaviour in different social settings. The scripts for the blogosphere are still being established. What is acceptable and what isn’t is different from place to place and from what people would do face to face – at least from some of what I have seem, I hope it is – although I could be wrong there.
A comment policy sounds like a very good idea. It makes the blogger’s expectations explicit, some blogs seem to welcome offensive comments. I don’t think we are in that camp!
[…] would have it. If you have read the clue train manifesto (and you should), you’ll know that it’s all about the Conversation, not about shouting or broadcast. The difference comes in the listening – communication […]