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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blog Discussion

Dave Ferguson just raised the issue of blog discussion that has come up before when I talk about Learning and Networking with a Blog. The issue he raises in Mandatory Blogging is:
Here at your own blog, you often have extended discussions. Of the 15 comments here before I started this one, 12 were from 10 people other than yourself. That's a terrific exchange, though I doubt that's the norm. For me to get 15 comments, I have to go back a month, and half those are my own.
Dave points out that given the 90-9-1 Rule he's not likely to get much dialog by creating a blog, posting and waiting for comments. I actually think Dave has a pretty good blog. So, the real question is:
What should a blogger with relatively less traffic do to generate more dialog around topics he's interested in online? Should they try to get more comments? If so, how? Or what else should they do?
I talked about different Types of Blog Discussions before. And Dave is participating in blog carnivals that certainly help. He also has participated in the Learning Circuits Questions. These would be first level suggestions for most bloggers.

Some other things I've seen around this topic or have experienced myself.

1. Comments are Not the Only Blog Discussion

Cross linking and discussion on other blogs is discussion.

2. Ask Questions in Your Posts

Make sure that your posts inspire people to interact. Easiest way is to ask questions.

3. Invite Comments

Make it clear that you'd like discussion. Of course, that's probably same as asking questions.

4. Make Openings Clear

Make it clear that you know that things are missing. For example, I know that the list I'm writing right now is incomplete and there are other things you can/should do.

5. Post Controversial Topics

Take a stand, but something you believe in - not just to be controversial.

What else should bloggers do to create dialog?

20 comments:

Mike B said...

Tony,

I am not sure if this quite fits with the topics you have started. I don't agree with Mandatory Blogging, and I don't think that blogging is always about informal learning (even for people in the training industry).


I am not familiar with Dave Ferguson's blog. I will instead talk about myself instead.

I have been reading blogs for two or three years. I don't think I left any comments the first six months. Eventually, I started making a comment here or there. At first, I felt funny making a comment on someones blog for the first time, especially if I never met the person. Even to this day, I will sometimes pass up the chance to leave a comment if I see that the last several posts didn't have comments either. There are some blogs that I am more likely to comment on.

I didn't start my own blog until last year. I think you were one of the first people who found it. I was still playing around with the settings and had only posted a basic, test post. I don't get many comments on my blog, but I also don't think I have many readers. (OK, I delete a lot of unwanted comments.) I specifically don't use my blog to talk about work or eLearning. That way, it is easier to not cross any lines when it comes to personal vs. work issues or make an inappropriate comment or share some corporate secret. My blog is more about my life and what I do outside work. Recent blog posts have been about my new car (the smart fortwo), turning on the AC for the first time this spring, going to the circus, and charity events. With those topics, I don't expect to grow a large group of regular readers on my blog. Maybe a few members of my family or friends in other cities.

I don't think I blog as an informal learning activity. I don't really use my blog to reflect on the day's events. I do reflect on the day's events, just not on paper (or blogs).

I read a dozen blogs with some frequency. (and all by actually visiting the blog's website and not using a reader) A few blogs are by friends in other cities to see what they are doing, a few are people making movies that I worked on so I can know when they will be released, but most are elearning, training, web, or technology related. I think that when I leave a comment on a blog that is somehow related to my job, it is more reflective and helps me grow or challenges either my own ideas or someone elses ideas.

I am more likely to get comments from my comments on someone else's blog that I am to get comments on my own blog.

If I wanted to grow my blog readership, I would need to pick a central theme (hopefully of interest to others) and post regular entries on that subject. Once I had people reading, I could get comments by saying something that causes controversy or asking a deep question. One of my friends had the most comments when he blogged about what he would have as his last meal and then asked others what they would have.

I am fine with not having many comments on my blog. I blog because I can, not really to learn and definitely not because anyone forced me to do it. Sure, I could have blogged about some of the resources I was reviewing while trying to learn php/mysql or Adobe Flex, but I didn't.

Maybe, for the next month, I will try to post blog entries more often and try posting on different topics.

Michele Martin said...

This is always a fascinating discussion to me, but particularly appropriate right now as we're in the middle of a 31 Day Comment Challenge over on my blog. I agree with what you wrote, but here are few other thoughts. . .

First, you have to leave space for comments. By that, I mean you can't sound like you have all the answers or that you've basically covered everything that could be said. People need to see an opening for comments and that comes from writing a post that leaves a place to do that.

As you point out, asking questions is a good way to leave space--it shows that you're still wondering about some things. Those are often the posts I get the most comments on. Posting something controversial is a way to leave space too--you're likely to have people who want to comment to "tell the other side of the story."

Another thing to think about is having a "comment policy." During our Comment Challenge, what I'm finding is that there are a few key reasons people don't comment. First, there are still a lot of people who don't know how, amazing as that seems. They need some concrete instructions on where to access comments, how to leave one, etc.

Sometimes people's blog technology can also be a barrier. Dave doesn't seem to be doing this, but comment moderation and comment authentication (requiring people to type in some letters to prove they aren't spam bots)are two big things that make people say "forget it!"

But the biggest reason people don't comment is because they think that they don't have anything to add or they're afraid of looking stupid. They don't want to make a mistake.

With a blog comment policy, you can address all of these issues. You can show people how to comment. You can tell them that you LOVE comments and that they shouldn't worry about looking dumb. You can show them that commenting on your blog will make them feel smart and powerful and give them warm fuzzies. You can also explain why you moderate comments (although you shouldn't) and why you use comment authentication (something you don't need either).

I also think that having a picture of yourself on your blog and some information about who you are invites commenting--it's a way for people to feel like they know you and can make a connection, which makes them feel more comfortable joining the conversation.

I could write a whole lot more, but realize that I've practically written a post myself. This is just something that's top of mind for me right now, so lots of thoughts in my head.

Sue Waters said...

Glad that Michele's left a detailed comment about her reasons for a Comment Policy because this was one task from the Comment Challenge that I was conflicted on. Yes Michele I think it would be good to take your comment as is and turn into a post (off course finishing with questions).

The key for Dave is to take some time to analyse other bloggers posts to learn more about why different styles of posts gets lots of comments while others don't.

Take your posts for example Tony. Obviously it helps that you have a high readership but what are the other components you do well? Most of your posts are really short, don't necessarily fully explain your thoughts (partly because you may be still reflecting on it but also because you are interested in readers thoughts) -- mainly they are some of my thoughts but I really need help by you providing feedback (so you end with questions).

Also you engage really well with the commenters -- often expanding and clarifying your thoughts more.

Perhaps we should give him some really good examples of a mixture of different style bloggers who are really good at writing posts that provoke people to comment. This way he can consider which of these styles might help him.

Any suggestions on bloggers and particular posts he should check out?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia Ora Tony.

I am new to blogging. But I have a passionate interest in it that has actually been with me for a long time as an elearning teacher.

But I'm not sure about the benefit of 'mandatory blogging'. I would think mandatory commenting would be as useful if not more so from the point of view of the teacher learning about learning through electronic means. It gives the teacher the opportunity to be in the position of the learner.

But hey, what you said about asking questions is simply good teaching technique for it's not always the learners who need to do the asking.

You should also draw Dave's attention to Michele Martin's comment/post (@Michele - cracker points!) I think she may also have a few useful tips there :-)

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Dave Ferguson said...

I have two points I want to make, though I'm afraid they'll easily be taken out of context.

First, on mandatory blogging:

I compared the number of your comments to mine, Tony, to emphasize that most bloggers don't get many and aren't likely to. I did this in the context of the "mandatory" business, not to complain.

Second, on interacting with people (even via blogs):

I'd prefer not to make this point here, but the time difference and the popularity of your blog mean that many people will get the impression that I was asking what to do to get more dialog. I wasn't.

So one suggestion regarding engagement is: talk to someone directly before using that person as an example on your own blog.

Tony Karrer said...

Dave - I'm glad we exchanged via email. Sorry that I misunderstood your comment on the earlier post. And also that I used you as an example without discussing it with you first.

I've certainly heard other bloggers say things that sounded like your comment (i.e., they complain about a lack of dialog / comments). So, when I read your comment I interpreted it that way.

Glad we cleared the air (in email) and hopefully folks here will understand this question for what it is ... I'm not saying Dave needs to "fix" something - rather - I'm asking a more general question - actually I think the answers have been general - although maybe Dave is getting more specific "help" privately.

Dave Ferguson said...

Thanks, Tony. I appreciate the willingness of people to offer suggestions; I hope they in turn appreciate that the "real question" was not "what should Dave do?"

To Michele, Sue, Ken, and anyone interested: Tony and I discussed the misunderstanding offline. Any vigorous opinions I have on topics he raises don't detract from the regard I have for him. Neither does this minor matter.

Michele Martin said...

Dave--I definitely understand where you're coming from and I'm glad you and Tony cleared things up. My points were really more general in nature, based on what's been going on with the Comment Challenge.

Sue Waters said...

Dave - I'm also glad its been cleared up. Like Michele my comments were general and based on what's been going on in the Comment Challenge. I'm not in favour of mandatory blogging for a number of reasons including the fact it can take a new blogger considerable time to build up a community that interacts with them.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

G'day Dave – I think that you qualify for the Certificate of a Good Bloke! It appears that despite the seemingly unknown onlookers poking their heads above the parapet, both you and Tony are able to put your differences into perspective.

Good on ya mate! Your blood’s worth bottling!

Tony Karrer said...

Blood's worth bottling - that's a new one for me. AUS expression?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Tony - the expression 'your blood's worth bottling' has been in New Zealand for over 40 years. It is the ultimate accolade.

Cheers from Middle-earth.

inpi said...

Tony,
I think that perhaps another way of getting more comments or to generate conversations on other blog posts could also be simply translating our own post with its comments in one or two more languages; for the moment, automate translators can't do a satisfying job and - as I see when trying to share good posts in my country - a lot of people doesn't read in English yet.
Ines

Sue Waters said...

Well this could be interesting Tony -- but I think that "blood worth bottling" was originally coined by Aussies. Here is its complete definition. Your thoughts Ken?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Sue - now hang about! I didn't venture to suggest the term originated in NZ. But if you really want a srap over it your link says nothing about the history or its origin.

I'd say it goes back a few. Having done a bit of research I found a reference in Aussie English for Beginners that puts it at the First World War. That's back far enough for me.

Given that there's now way we'll be able to ascertain who exactly coined the phrase and bearing in mind that Aussie and Kiwi troops fought side by side in that bloody war, I'd suggest that it probably came back to both Australasian countries at the same time.

I'm assuming, of course, that it was actually coined on the battle field. Where else?

How's that for companionship?

Sue Waters said...

@Ken Full credit for the additional research. Though you have to admit now it is interesting. Perhaps the truth was it was New Zealanders that developed the saying during the war and Aussies claimed it (like we often do with NZ bands and singers).

SO I have followed your link further and found the section of the book which talks about Aussie slang originating from war times -- here is the link (look at pages 21 to 24). I'm wondering whether these are also used commonly in New Zealand.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Sue - Yes it is interesting and more so that I don't recognise any of the phrases as NZ ones on any of the pages you cited, other than the one that started this conversation.

But, hey, there is nothing I'm trying to defend here. I'm a Scot, but I came to NZ in 1974. The word 'plonk', for instance is a word commonly used in Britain for elcheapo wine. And though the term is also used by some in NZ I would never claim it to be a NZ term no more than I'd claim it to be Australian.

I've just read Bill Bryson's book, Mother Tongue, for the second time. I'd recommend it - if you have the time between teaching and commenting and blogging :-)

@Tony - I suppose you will have a smile on your face at all this conversation about the origin of terms on your blog! This puts your comment count to 17 :-) Thank you for the forum - it is a friendly blog to drop in on. I guess your blood's worth bottling too mate!
Cheers!

Dave Ferguson said...

Speaking of Scots and blood (and thread hijacking):

John Barleycorn was a hero bold
of noble enterprise
and if you do but taste his blood
'twill make your spirits rise...


Back where I come from, they're trying to sustain canan nan Gaidheal with help from Te Kohanga Reo.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Dave - bearing in mind the direction the theme of this thread took in a strategic point in the discussion, I'm sure Tony won't mind us hijacking it, no matter where the thread takes us.

I enjoyd the video clip.

I'm a great fan of Donal Luny (I guess y'know he was playing the bouzouki in the background)ever since I heard him play live with Planxty and that wasn't a fortnight ago!

This music will do much to keep the tongue alive. I don't think folk (music) will permit it to fade away Dave. Blood's thicker than water.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippeny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!

Ka Kite ano

Sreya Dutta said...

Tony, awesome posts. I have been trying things in the lines of what you are talking about here. Will only do it more consciously now.

Thanks for sharing!

Sreya