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