Over at Building a Better Blog, we've been talking about blog conversations.
On most blogs, commenting looks like the top part of this image--the author posts and then commenters respond to the author. But as Skelliewag (the source of this graphic) points out, true conversation is really about the second half of this image--the author and commenters all interacting with one another. The question is--how, as bloggers, can we facilitate discussions between commenters?
For myself, I've noticed that I tend to want to comment on a post based on what the blogger has written. I may or may not read what others have said. I'm usually too busy formulating my comment in response to the blogger to really pay that much attention to interacting with other commenters.
Another part of my reasoning in not interacting with commenters is that I'm less assured of a response from them. Presumably the blogger is aware when I comment and will read what I said, but commenters may not be keeping track of the conversation and so my interaction with them is more likely to just blow in the wind. Feels like kind of a waste.
I suspect that there are some aspects of a blog that don't lend themselves to this kind of conversation. Blogs do tend to be about an individual "talking" and others responding to that individual, unlike in a forum where anyone can start a conversation. And while commenters feel like they "know" the blogger and therefore are more comfortable responding, other commenters are very much a mystery, unless commenters know one another because they also read one another's blogs. It's kind of like being at a party--you're more comfortable interacting with a friend than you are with someone you don't know, especially if you're engaging them on a more contentious subject.
Despite this, I think there are still ways to try to better facilitate interactions. One idea, of course, is to make it clear in your commenting policy that you encourage commenters to interact with one another. Another, as Christine Martell suggested in our discussion, is to have some commenters modeling the behavior--responding directly to other commenters as a way to encourage that kind of interaction. But that assumes you have a commenter willing to do this.
The commenters to the original Skelliewag post had some additional thoughts, including:
- Using threaded commenting so that you could reply more easily to individual commenters, similar to replies in a forum.
- Posting on problems to solve that will invite readers to interact with one another in developing the solution (obviously this doesn't work for every post).
- Trying to create a culture that encourages commenter to commenter interactions through your own responses in the comments section--maybe by drawing the attention of one commenter to the thoughts of another.
This whole topic is fascinating to me as I become further drawn into the culture of blogging and consider how we use blogs to create and nurture community. In some ways, blogging may not be the perfect community tool. There are elements of blogging that aren't about community necessarily. At the same time, I think that we can be more purposeful about building community by thinking through some of the characteristics of a "real-life" one. No one goes to an event to interact only with the host. They also interact with other participants. The question is, if community-building is one of our goals as bloggers, how do we create that sense of community through our actions?
So, how do you encourage interactions with commenters on your blog? How do you interact with other commenters when you comment on someone else's blog?