Blogging is the hardest "conversation" I've ever had

August 26, 2008 ⋅ 10 Comments »

Yesterday, after writing my post in reply to Atul, Aza, and co., I was thinking about how much work it is to put together a post like that. You often hear people refer to blogs as a “conversation”, but if that’s true, it’s more work than any type of conversation I’ve ever had.

Compare it to other kinds of group conversation we can have on the internet:

Writing a blog entry in response to someone else’s is far more difficult than any of those. Partly, it’s because blogging is often slightly more structured and polished than the other methods; but there’s also a lot of overhead in the actual act of writing a post. For example, here’s what I did to write that post yesterday:

Compare that to how easy it is to reply to a forum post or email. Click one button, type your response, and you’re done.

And what about trying to follow one of these blog “conversations”? You have to keep visiting n different blogs to see if there are any new comments, and watching Technorati or Google to see if there are any new blogs linking into the conversation. Sure, you can automate some of this with RSS feeds, but that’s another complication that you need to manage.

If you’re a blog author, you probably get an email every time someone comments on your post. But when you reply, you can never be sure if the person will ever see your response.

Obviously, I think the good outweighs the bad, because I’ve kept on blogging. But I really wish it were simpler. I’d like to be able to join a blog conversation as easily as I can join an email conversation.

What do you guys think? Any blog authors out there who have found some good tools to make this easier? I know about CoComment for keeping track of the comments I leave, but haven’t tried it out. And I know that Disqus can also help, but that’s only good for blogs that are using the Disqus service.


  1. Michael Hoisie - August 26, 2008:

    Yeah, it is a disconnected conversation. I think the main reason is that blogs have startingly low engagement compared to other services on the web, especially social networks. And it seems to be this way by design -- blog content is meant to be consumed as fast as possible (just look at the point of rss readers). It's not uncommon for people to crank through a blog post in half a minute through Google Reader. They just don't have the patience to seek out related stuff.

  2. Danielle Fong - August 26, 2008:

    It takes a while for me to write a well crafted post. The first draft takes around a 4 hours for me, for a 3000 word post. Then finding images takes another 30 minutes, finding links and referencing things properly and making footnotes takes around two hours. Editing takes at least as long as the writing. Then I ask my friends to read it, refine it based on their input, and then release it and evangelize it a bit, that's around another three hours. I read it over and over, and make updates as I think of them and as correspondence dictates. Keeping 'online' takes around six hours.

    All told, crafting a decent post takes around 20 hours of work for me, and that's after the research phase, where I gather links, quotes, images, ideas, false starts, design, and try out some of the concepts in conversation. But I wouldn't be satisfied with anything less.

  3. The Grand Discussion « Scott T. Frey - August 27, 2008:

    [...] 26, 2008 · No Comments I happened across an interesting article after clinic today, and I puzzled over it on my way totry out yet another burrito restaurant. I have to agree whole heartedly with the author. Blogs are fantastic launch pads for conversation, but could use some help supporting and enhancing debate. The development of discussions surrounding a post is limited by the community that a given article can reach, and is further hindered because conversation will not exist in a singular forum where it would have its fullest growth. [...]

  4. Scott Frey - August 27, 2008:

    I really liked your post. I even extended the conversation on my blog. I just signed up for coComment, and will stream it over to my Friendfeed account. In my opinion, social aggregators are the best bet for having a more complete conversation, but they still could do better.

  5. Scott Frey - August 27, 2008:

    Everyone should check out Disqus's new "Rebloging" feature that turns any comment into its own blog post.

  6. Patrick - August 27, 2008:

    @ Michael Hoisie: Good point. Using an RSS reader probably makes it even harder to comment on a blog post. But maybe if it was easier to follow conversations as they happened, then the conversations would be more engaging?

    @ Danielle Fong: The time you're referring to is overhead that's independent of the medium. If you were writing an email of the same length, it would take you just as long, right? Or because a blog post seems somehow more permanent, do you think you spend more time on it than you would an email?

    @Scott Frey: Thanks for the pointer.

  7. Erigami - August 27, 2008:

    I'd add another cost to using a blog as a conversational tool: the blog writer has to provide enough context for their readers to understand the conversation at the point they're picking it up. That adds a lot of overhead to the writing the post.

    Pingbacks and trackbacks are supposed to add to the conversational transparency, but I'm not convinced that they work well in that context.

  8. Danielle Fong - August 29, 2008:

    Because a blogpost is written to a less specific audience, I put far more effort into linking, footnotes, and context. They're also far longer, and are edited more thoroughly: I try to maximize the accessible information density, or at least the surprise/entertainment value.

  9. Tanya Heat - February 19, 2009:

    Even after going through their website, I can't quiet comprehend what the main advantage of this function as at relates to WordPress comment feature

  10. Vincent Gable’s Blog » (Hyper)Text is King of Substace - June 22, 2009:

    [...] Videos, speech, etc. will always carry more emotional content. But for consuming ideas, text offers the highest bandwidth and most precision. Unfortunately, writing well takes time, and can hinder conversation. [...]