There will always be spare seats – please join the conversation

Coffee and blogging I was talking to a journalist today about blogging and I was trying to express in a simple way what blogging is like. Using my previous analogy of me at a table in a pub sharing my views with you or the world, I changed it slightly to be me at a cafe, having a coffee and I’m talking about whatever I want to talk about and you can come along and sit down and engage with me on the topic. Then someone else can come and sit down and engage too. Then you and others can engage with each other and discuss the topic and agree or disagree with each others views.

Each of those commentors can then go off and sit at another table and join in on another conversation or get a free table and start to discuss something new or something sparked off from a conversation at another table.

In this coffee shop there are loads of tables with loads of conversations happening. The barista or waiter is Google who pops around every so often to every table and takes note of what’s being discussed and then goes back to the counter. Someone comes in and asks are there any tables discussing conservative politics/niche tech/anything and Google brings you on over to that table or points to two or three tables where the conversation on this is happening. There are always spare seats at a table and you can join in or just sit and listen. There are always spare tables too.

And ideally that’s where this analogy thingymajiggy should end. However what seems to be happening with the bigger bloggers (as in traffic not size) is that they’re getting so many people at their table who are chatting and sometimes arguing amongst each other that it is taking away from the blogger actually moving on to another topic that they want to discuss. Unless your blog is your full-time pursuit it’s going to be hard to keep the momentum if you tend to the comments and have to police it, but if you heavily moderate or kill comments totally you’ll be pissing off those people that helped build your current status.

To me it’s quite apparent that there are parallels to blog popularity and celebs who were pals with the media on ascendancy and now find they have too much attention. It’s the too much attention parallel I mean. I don’t mean that all the top bloggers are suck ups like Guy Kawasaki. They’re not.

This “too much attention and having a job and life outside of your blog” issue, I think, is what happened to Robert Scoble and his family room policy. More attention means less civilised people. I’m sure there’s some Attention/Jerk rule out there. That a change was needed I agree with but I was not in agreement as to his new policy. Still, his time, his dime, my whine.

Blogging chairs

So now the tables are being taken away, and rows of seating are being put in place, the main blog guy/gal who you previously had coffee with is now standing at a podium and the audience is either allowed to submit comments/questions with no guarantee they’ll be read out or they’re told they can’t say a word here but can get some tables outside and converse there. This goes back to the bad old days of talking at and not conversing with people. So now the one big conversation hasbeen smashed into smaller conversations at different tables and the barrista isn’t fast enough to take down which table is saying what, so you yourself will have to switch from table to table to see what 6 of the tables are discussing about the one topic or else use services like TailRank or Memeorandom which do help but it still means more moving about to hear all that’s being said.

While I don’t forsee many of us getting to be** super blogger top ten status**(you have to do this in a midAtlanic accent), it does in a way impinge on us as conversers with these bloggers. When I look at the likes of BoingBoing who removed comments and Slashdot who have a moderation system more complicated than a phoenticaly written George Bush speech I do wonder how bloggers can handle the increases in attention. Bring back Everything in Moderation. It’s probably not going to be a direct problem for us Irish bloggers but I bet as more and more people read blogs and write blogs, it will become a greater issue. How many of the top ten bloggers allow comments now compared to when they started out? And the top 50?

It seems that just like celebs, blogs will need some kind of communications manager once they hit a certain attention threshold.

Images courtesy:

5 Responses to “There will always be spare seats – please join the conversation”

  1. Your observations apply more accurately to American bloggers than Irish bloggers. Those in Irish blogspace with archives more than three years deep have niche audiences of around 100 returning visitors a day, open comments on both their blogs and their photostreams, and fewer minutes speaking at conferences than their VC-placating American friends. It doesn’t matter if their audience levels off at a plateau because (to use your analogy) their tables are full.

    In my experience, I gain readers after stints of public speaking. But I gain followers by cross-fertilising their blogs with comments, continuing threads of discussion in moderated groups, and answering direct e-mails. All those things take away from blogging. I think those related activities enhance the strength of social networking, including the pull that keeps me interested in writing online.

    After seeing the moderation policy invoked by those who get 10,000 daily visitors, I throttled back on the A-List linked items that I used to write. Many times, those high profile links just encouraged racist, sexist and bullying comments. There’s no reason to end up as part of an echo chamber that attracts acerbic invective that does little to enhance the social dimension of the internet. I don’t want that kind of carry-on around my table.

  2. Twenty Major says:

    I think those related activities enhance the strength of social networking, including the pull that keeps me interested in writing online.

    Exactly right, it goes back to that little ego thing we all have and it’s great to get feedback on what you write from your readers. Can you call ‘Boing Boing’ a blog now?

    Without the reader participation it’s a one way communication process and blogging, for me at least, is more than that. Maybe if we get to have a pint one day I’ll expand on this because I don’t believe that more visitors has to equal less or no comments. I have a good example too!

  3. that girl says:

    What time are we meeting in Rons?

  4. I’ll have a bottle in a paper bag on the pavement outside from last night.