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Extending the Invitation to Participate

Invitation_2 During the Comment Challenge, one of the activities that raised a fair amount of questions and discussion was on Day 11 when I suggested that participants write a Comment Policy. My purpose with the task was to suggest that as bloggers we needed to be clear with our readers that we invite and encourage comments, so we needed to let them know this on our blogs.

Many people were put off by my use of the word "policy," but several others questioned why you needed to let people know it's OK to comment on a blog. Isn't that one of the major tenets of social media--that commenting and editing and other kinds of activity are strongly encouraged? 

While we may think this is obvious, I'm not sure that the second wave of social media adopters will think this is the case, as Chris Stubbs points out in his post, No Invitation Required.

This is one of those things that homophily can breed. We spend so much time online interacting with other people who live in the social media space, we forget that some things simply aren't obvious to the average person. Commenting on a blog or editing a wiki can feel like you're interjecting yourself into someone else's conversation, something most of us hesitate to do in the "real world." And at least if you do this in a face-to-face setting you're doing so in front of a limited group of people, unlike online, where it's potentially the whole world who can see you.

You also don't have those all-important body language clues that we tend to rely on in face-to-face settings. I can usually tell who would not be happy if I joined their conversation in real-life. This is less apparent online, although the amount of time I've spent here has given me more confidence in that regard.

As we look at bringing more people into the conversations, we might do well to remember that invitations and encouragement will be a key part of the equation. The more clear we can be with newcomers that we welcome their participation, the more likely we will be to get it.

How can we extend these invitations more effectively? What can we do to help newcomers feel welcome at the party?

Flickr photo via tracyhunter


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Good Question!

I have been debating this topic for so long. Comments do count as a way of making others feel their blogging voices are being heard, that they also have something to add to what others are talking about, that their posts/work are appreciated, etc.

How we get people to be actively participate I don't know. I think it is a bit part of what we are and also of what we have become as cyber-learners. we learn by taking part in someone else's learning/reflection. However, this does happen with everyone. Most people are reluctant to comment, others don't see the point (maybe because they have only experienced the web as consumers, not as co-producers)...

I have also noticed that lately I have been encountering always the same "faces" in whichever cyberspot I join. It would actually be nice to get more people to experience learning in this way. We would all benefit immensely from it.
How we create networks of trust is crucial; Communication is essential...just like in any other (learning) relationship.
That's why sometimes I am "accused" of being comment-compulsive. But the truth is that comments are vital to the blogging activity. Who doesn't like to receive one? I do. They make me smile, and often they make me think deeper about what I have written. Learning too is based on how we feel about what we learn and interact with!
Thank YOU for your blog. Have been lurking quite a lot lately, but will promise to get more active now! ;-)

You're so right, Cristina that we tend to encounter the same people in cyberspace. Like you, I'm interested in finding ways to bring more people into the discussions, which is why Posterous seems like a really good option to me. People are already used to using email, so blogging through email seems like a great way to bridge the technology gap.

I think you're right, too, that people don't "get" commenting because they are used to using the web as consumers, rather than creators. I observe that it's the same with learning in general, though--we've conditioned people to be passive recipients rather than active creators of their own learning.

I think the invitation and encouragement is important. I'm not new to technology but fairly new to the web2.0. I can see it has huge potential for professional learning but trying to build a network from scratch is quite overwhelming at first. There are times when the language conventions are intimidating (twitter for example). So yes it is great to be invited.
On the other hand it is up me to keep working at my own web2.0 network. I will try to comment more often because that IS part of the learning.
Thanks for the Bamboo project I find it very helpful, interesting and enlightening at times.

Hi Lois--you point out a couple of things that make it hard for newbies, building networks and adjusting to the "culture" of different spaces. One thing that make it hard with language, etc. is that there are conventions that are specific to certain tools (i.e., the culture of Twitter and the culture of blogging are related, but not the same) and there are cultures within tools--educational bloggers relate differently than the all-tech bloggers. That's a lot for people to adapt to when they first start out, so we definitely need to do all that we can to help people feel welcome.

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