May 08, 2003

Blogging Sucks For Conversations

We've got it all wrong. We're all sitting here with our weblogs posting little idea-lets onto our weblogs, waiting for people to come to our weblogs for unrelated reasons. Then maybe they'll read our thoughts and respond.

Basically, we're making the conversation subservient to the posts. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

The A-List folks have the advantage of a built-in audience that are there for no other reason than being a built-in-audience. They're not there for the merit of each individual post. Why are they there? Partly because of momentum, partly because of community. Lots of people read Mark Pilgrim and Dave Winer (who probably don't want to be joined with an "and") because lots of other people read Mark Pilgrim and Dave Winer. They also read because they write good entries, but really, does every single one of their entries deserve that much audience and discussion? It's a false advantage.

Here's what I want. I want meta-conversations that we can redirect to our blogs on demand. When I write a post that is topical in some way, I want to ping a conversation about that topic. (We've got topicexchange, but that isn't a collection of conversations; it's a collection of blog entries designed to elicit conversation.) The conversation is going on before I ping to it, and after. But when my blog entry pings the conversation, that ping would be considered part of the conversation. Everyone participating in the conversation would see that ping and be able to read my blog entry. And then the best part of it would be that any further conversation following up to that ping would automatically be showing on the comments section of my blog entry.

What does that mean? It means that you don't necessarily have to be reading my weblog in order to post a comment to it. It also means that people who read that entry out of my built-in-audience can find my weblog entry and the discussion it inspires just by reading my weblog; and commenting on it will be also sent to the meta-conversation and read by a much wider audience of people.

The weblog entries should be subservient to the conversation. Until it us, we're all just on a big ego trip.

Posted by Curt at May 8, 2003 08:15 PM


Do you mean something like "tangent"?

I'm having a hard time envisioning where these "conversations" would exist outside of a different blog, so tangent is what I think you're asking for but I could be way WAY wrong.

Posted by: scH at May 9, 2003 03:18 PM

I think a lot of people are thinking about this right now. I am working on a project called the iCite net that allows one to connect up any sites into a discussion, and where people can comment on their own sites and link up to such a discussion. See for some more info.

Also very interesting right now is Easy News Topics (ENT) at and ThreadsML at that also are looking at ways to connect up conversations across multiple sites.

Posted by: Jay Fienberg at May 9, 2003 04:01 PM

Since many people blog about the same things, if we could sent trackbacks to Blogdex for items it tracks, we could more or less achieve this.

Posted by: Adam Rice at May 9, 2003 06:53 PM

The ThreadsML stuff should do the trick. Couple more related links :

Jack Park's recent work XTM-based work :

David Jane's marvellous SVG view of blog threads :

(needs SVG viewer - try Adobe)

Posted by: Danny Ayers at May 10, 2003 06:25 AM

Perhaps at this same time an independant reputation/identity system for the poster, and rating system for the poster's comments can be implemented - allowing us to filter a conversation at a set level, or find out what our favorite poster said, regardless of site.

Posted by: jb at May 15, 2003 03:45 PM

Currently, as a not-yet popular blog that can't rely on people coming back by default, I have to check referral logs, read these comments, and follow trackbacks to read responses. And to respond, I have to post here, email back the commenters, and engage in the comment sections of those who have linked/trackbacked to this entry. Yikes!

I think that we could write something so that blog entries could also implement an API for comment trackbacks (as opposed to entry trackbacks). It would require threaded comments after a blog entry. I just started a conversation. Those who leave comments here in response have their comments exist only here. Those who trackback my entry have their trackback entries also appear in my comments as a root thread. Responses to that comment here would also appear as comments to their weblog entry that trackbacked this entry. Responses to their weblog entry in their comments would show up in my comments as a response to his original root thread. Et cetera. It would also work for subthreads.

There are scaling issues, of course. Soon an entry three subthreads down would be pinging multiple parents. But I could choose to kill trackback subthreads from appearing in my entry's comments, since they'd also be existing elsewhere.

It doesn't solve referrals, but that's okay with me since trackback is made to inform the original entry's author.

Anyone want to help flesh this out? We could set up a project page somewhere.


Posted by: Curt Siffert at May 15, 2003 06:43 PM

Well done, Curt. You've taken one of my favorite off-line rants and moved it onto the net so that.... it can probably fail to produce meaningful conversation :)

I've been quite amazed by people's inability to see that whilst the blogosphere can be great at spreading memes, it is awful at evolving them into good quality discussions. A previous attempt of mine to argue this can be found here:

Posted by: Tom Steinberg at May 16, 2003 09:16 AM

I happened to read this post after writing recently about blogs as conversation:

Blogging seems to me to be a very different form of conversation than others that I've experienced (in person, chat, news, wikis, etc.)

The conversation is persistent and remains associated with your identity. You will leave a chat or stop reading a newsgroup, but while your blog is there, so are you. The group changes over time. I see it as a benefit that you never know who will read your blog. It can be nice to have a small audience. If 10,000 people read your blog, is it really a conversation or has it become a conference?

I agree that it would be interesting if there were something that added some social constructs from newsgroups or e-mail lists, yet retained the benefits of blogging.


Posted by: Sarah at May 29, 2003 11:36 PM


Posted by: eMule at January 14, 2004 10:21 AM

Hello! i'am from china! can i make friends with you?

Posted by: qqba at March 19, 2004 09:14 AM

I've been active on ECHO (, a text-based online community using Caucus software, since 1990 (Clay Shirky used to be on it too). Also been on panix. (

I think the problem with blogs for conversation, as opposed to these message-board-type systems, is that a blog is MY blog or it's YOUR blog. If it's YOUR blog, I'm just a guest, reading your observations on life, and I get to "comment" on that, which is intrinsically a one-down position! and vice versa, when you visit MY blog.

Whereas with Echo, panix, or usenet, we BOTH have to leave our "homes" and go to a "public" place where we begin on an equal footing. I think this makes a HUGE difference in the style of conversation.

A blog is by definition derived from the diary or journal model, NOT the community model. A journal is essentially a one-person enterprise. A bulletin board is a multi-person enterprise.

How does a blog work? One person, who "owns" the blog (& whose name or particular subject/conceit is on the masthead), posts something, which shows up on a home page. Then there is a "Comments" section. Isn't the hierarchical nature of that obvious?

As far as I know, when you go to a blog, you're shown over and over again the primary blog-owners' entries, and if there are new comments, they're tacked onto the ends of the Comments section, so that a reader has to go through all of them over and over again to see the new comments (if there's any blog software out there that shows you e.g. "Here Are New Responses" please e-mail me! this is what I"m looking for!)-

- thereby driving home the point that it's the Blog "owners" original thought that's REALLY important, NOT the "comments."

(What's more important, the Talmud, or the rabbis who interpret it?)

I feel as if blogs are a type of social regression, really, hoping to be "communities", but failing terribly.

I am currently exploring what software is out there so that I can start a blog that will be a real community/discussion group.

Posted by: Liz at May 13, 2004 04:46 PM

Prayer answered. It's called Wikipedia.

Posted by: Dave Diehl at November 16, 2004 07:04 AM

i think we can find our favorite subject in blogs and then have a kind of conference. this kind of comunication is good because u can say your real is not nessesory that others know u.
grey sky

Posted by: saeede azari at December 4, 2004 02:44 AM
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