We're a little over halfway through the Comment Challenge and I decided it would be a good idea for me to write up some of my thoughts on how things are going.
My participation in this Challenge has been very different than what I did in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog challenge last August, primarily because in the Comment Challenge, I'm acting as an organizer and writer of the activities, rather than as a participant in them.
Initially I'd planned to do both (write the activities and do them), but I found that coming up with the tasks and then trying to comment on Challenge participants' blogs was more than enough activity, so I decided to sit this one out as an active participant. Instead, I decided I'd look at this as an experiment in using a 31 Day challenge format for learning. I also wanted to sort of "stand above" the conversations about commenting to get a perspective on the issues and challenges people seem to be facing in developing their commenting skills.
Here are a couple of things I've been learning (in no particular order):
- One of the biggest reasons people don't comment is fear. They're worried they have nothing to add to a discussion or that they'll look stupid to the blogger, other commenters, or both. And the idea that their mistake will be forever enshrined online only adds to the pressure people put on themselves.
- "Policy" is a dirty word and no one wants to disagree. The two challenge activities that have seemed to meet with the most resistance were the one on writing a blog comment policy and the one where I suggested that people disagree with someone through a comment. I figured that participants might not be too happy with the idea of disagreeing in a comment, but I was a little surprised at the people who said they didn't want to write a comment policy. I realized that I should have called it something besides a "policy" and that I should have done a better job of explaining why I think it's important. A comment I left at Tony Karrer's blog is probably the best explanation for why I think a comment policy (or whatever we call it) is necessary.
- A Challenge format is a great way to try out different skills. It becomes a sort of "boot camp" where a bunch of people are working together on the same tasks, dealing with similar issues. They can support each other and provide good feedback and motivation. And if people don't like today's activity, they only have to wait until tomorrow for another one. I think it's a sort of "bite-sized" kind of learning that people can reasonably manage. As Ken Allen told me, "If ever there was an award for hooking in a recalcitrant, belligerent, Middle-earth would-be-blogger-cum-commenter you should have it." It's the Challenge that did it, though. I think that if these kinds of challenges were tied to people's actual jobs, this could be a fun professional development approach that could also build some camaraderie within a team.
- It's better to build it as you go. I've tried to stay a few days ahead on coming up with Challenge activities, so I've been putting these together as we go. Although it's like building the plane while you're flying it, I think it's a better strategy because it allows us to be more responsive to what's happening in the Challenge. For example, it was clear that people were starting to feel completely stressed about keeping up, so the other day I inserted a "catch-up" day. Being responsive to learners in this process is a big part of why I think it becomes so valuable to people.
So that's my learning so far. What have you been learning?