Defragmenting The Conversation

During the past couple of weeks, there have been a number of articles discussing the aspect of comment fragmentation. The problem being described is that, instead of commenting on the blog where the blog post resides, people are conversing on their favorite social platforms such as Twitter or FriendFeed. This has lead to an increasing problem which doesn’t appear to be getting better any time soon.

In my own experience, I’ve always left a comment on the actual blog post rather than on a social web service. I have a Twitter account, but 140 characters is usually not enough for me when I leave a comment. However, how many times have to visited the actual blog post, only to go back to Reddit or Digg or some other service and discuss what you just read?

Third Party commenting services such as Disqus or IntenseDebate plan on implementing features which will pull comments made on specific services and place them back on the blog. But until that happens, there is going to be bits and pieces of the overall conversation here, there and everywhere.

When I presented this topic within the Performancing Hive Forums, I received a number of interesting responses. They ranged from, could care less about community building as they have developed their sites around search traffic acquisition to being happy that anyone would leave a comment on their blog at all. Someone also mentioned the fact that they appeared on the front page of Reddit. The article on Reddit received 180+ comments while the blog only received 53. Whats interesting is that, you have to actually click through a link on Reddit and visit the actual page. After doing so, people are going back to Reddit to leave their comment.

I think Steven Hodson of hit the nail on the head when he proposed that comment fragmentation was not the bloggers fault. As bloggers, we can not control where the conversation takes place. Readers will decide when and where they will participate in the conversation.

I now propose a few questions to the Performancing audience. First, do you believe that conversation fragmentation is an issue? Secondly, are you happy with the fact that your articles are being discussed at all, wherever that might be?

6 thoughts on “Defragmenting The Conversation

  1. This post has the potential to bring up even larger issues.

    -Is the traditional blog facing an evolutionary filter?
    -Is “defragmentation” really re-fragmentation that we need to adapt to?
    -Will the definition of blogging be more than blogging (e.g. blog –> microblog –> feeds –>blog)
    -Is what we call a “blog” now evolving into something more organic (beyond just an interactive document at a url)?

    There definitely will be comment fragmentation until tools like Disqus are able to feed the fragments back to the source blog. But ultimately, this is part of the new paradigm quake that I think we’re about to start really feeling.

    Sometimes we get used to how things are done and become anxious when a new thing comes along. What was once revolutionary can become traditional and then extinct (blogging was once revolutionary & it has become traditional). But the status quo always has the inherent risk of being broken (or altered). Blogging’s origins are in the conversation. And it’s an orderly, established platform for having an intelligent conversation. (I don’t think blogging is extinct, it’s just pregnant with a new baby perhaps.) But now FriendFeed is gobbling up the little bits of that conversation and launching them around the web like cluster bombs.

    I actually see this as an opportunity for us to improve the mimetic power of the conversation. It is, of course, embedded with challenges. We will likely see in the short-term a lot of chaos, noise and clutter. (NB: Noise is the ocean on which the currents of signal propagate.)

    But I have noticed some hope: on FriendFeed, the comments can be really cool, quick and informing. Great comment clusters aren’t always interesting but they can be. They’re pretty spontaneous and fleeting, but they are live.

    Bloggers will have to choose to keep the tradition or make creative decisions about how to handle the conversation. There will have to be a lot of re-purposing, keeping up and even failure, but I think these are Dips worth the push-through.

    Sorry for the length (this just opened a lot of considerations).

  2. Let’s look at it from another point of view – though this doesn’t apply to all blogs. A really big blogger (won’t say who) last week wrote something that is absolutely incorrect and offensive (to me) in the first paragraph (sentence?) of their article. Except they have no comments section and also don’t approve all trackbacks (including any of mine, for over a year now). So there’s only one way I can comment on that big, offensive statement: somewhere else.

    Of course, none of that means whether or not I worry about conversation fragmentation. There are actually two types – one good, one not so good. The first is on other sites, the second on social sites. What I’ve noticed is that even though I don’t get a lot of comments on my Performancing articles, unless I get really controversial, I’ve noticed that more recently, my articles here are starting to aquire an increasing number of back links each. This is a type of fragmentation I can be happy about.

    As for the other type, the best I can do is to either stay on top of it (by aggregating any conversations into a single custom feed via, say, Yahoo Pipes), or actually comment on those converations. I also always defend my colleagues against unjust comments on social sites and can only hope I get afforded the same courtesy when my articles are submitted.

  3. Reddit!

    I think Reddit is the ultimate destroyer of blog conversation. The site rewards users for commenting on Reddit. It takes away conversation from blogs, and that sucks. I think I have had several articles on my own blogs where the conversation mostly took place on Reddit instead of my blog.

    However, I do see this as the future, and I believe more services will be built that will try to act as hubs for blog conversation.

    I’ve actually stumbled upon some random blogs lately that don’t have areas to post comments. Interesting, don’t ya think?

    It sucks, but I don’t think it will do significant harm anytime soon.

  4. If I feel so strongly as to leave a comment, it will always be on the blog. I would rather revisit the page that had the article on it rather than go to a couple of other sites to see what everyone and their brother thinks and were too chicken to leave a comment on the blog w/the article on it (but thats just my opinion…). I don’t see the point of commenting in Digg or Reddit…seriously makes no sense to me for them to have the comment option (lol again, just my opinion).

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