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:
- IM, IRC, etc.
- Twitter and FriendFeed
- wikis (not all wikis are really conversation-friendly, but the original wiki certainly is)
- email, discussion forums, blog comments
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:
- track down links to all of the relevant posts. Not too difficult, because they link to each other; but for more than a handful of posts, this can be a pain. To make sure you’ve seen all the responses, you need to check Technorati or Google or something.
- for each post, get a permalink (you don’t want to just link to the blog’s front page, even though that’s often the easiest way to find the post)
- for each post, check if there is a special trackback link. Some blogs have these links, and some blogs don’t, often not due to a deliberate choice by the author. It’s really kinda complicated.
- write the actual post, maybe cutting and pasting quotes from the posts you are replying to. Link to the original posts, and make sure to cut and paste the permalink URLs.
- depending on your blogging software, select the category for the posts, and add some tags to the post. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it helps your readers find your posts more easily
- paste any trackback URLs into the appropriate box in your blogging software
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.