Commenting is Dead. Long Live Commenting!

Is commenting dead? Or is it more alive than ever before? No and Yes. And Yes.

Here are some thoughts on why.

DARN IT, I JUST STARTED BLOGGING AND NOW YOU…

Just when Corporate America was catching up on blogging and other social media, Twitter and FriendFeed swoosh out of the blue, grab comments out of blogs and sprinkle them all over the interwebs.

Comment fragmentation, as it is called, has a lot of people talking on blogs and Twitter and FriendFeed. The fear is that commenting on blogs is dead or at least 2/3 dead.

Is this true? Are comments really dead or dying?

POPULATION BOTTLENECK

The rumor of the death of the blog comment may have been over-exaggerated, but there’s actually a poignant truth to it. Evolution via natural selection suggests that change is almost always inevitable.

Rather than the extinction of an entire means of dialogue, mutations are spawning new species of commenting tools (think FriendFeed). As these tools proliferate across the interwebs, comment fragmentation becomes increasingly more common in spite of tools to fold them back into original blogs.

As comment fragmentation grows, a critical mass of comment fragmentation builds (see the red line pictured above). This critical mass creates a bottleneck in the flow of information across the web which traditional blog commenting may eventually face.

Think of a population bottleneck as a horizontal version of Seth Godin’s Dip, except a lot crueler. Population size is the number of traditional blog comments, assuming services like FriendFeed do what Robert Scoble expects them to do in the coming years or even months.

The Recovery line would be the new species of commenting that will evolve over time. Extinction is possible, of course, but not inevitable. There are tons of businesses on the web which have yet to adopt blogging. And when they do, blog comments won’t necessarily be their primary purpose of the blog. Rather original content would be.

I believe that these bottlenecks will not extinct comments per se, but they will help to evolve new forms. In fact, that’s just what population bottlenecks can do: they help spur novel changes that lead to new ways of doing things.

SURVIVAL OF THE REMARKABLIST

Remarking will become an almost standard feature of future web-based socializing (personal and professional). Those vectors of remarking which are easiest to use and to help spread messages, will be the ones increasingly adopted.

Right now FriendFeed, Twitter, Disqus, ping.fm, etc. don’t hold a substantial share of the interwebs. But eventually, such services will go mainstream. When that critical mass hits, traditional commenting will likely reach its bottleneck.

THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF COMMENTING

So I don’t think this a time to mourn the death of comments. Rather there’s a rebirth of the original spirit of blogging which is now taking place. That spirit was in part was to establish a place on the web to have a *conversation*.

Blogging also evolved into a sort of financial instrument. That also will see change. Comment fragmentation will have positive and negative financial impacts on many blogs.

Yes, as services like FriendFeed and its ilk evolve and grow in web presence, the traditional dynamic of leaving comments on a blog’s post will likely erode. Bloggers will still be a vast source of content, but the comment-genie is now out of the blog.

Even with WordPress plugins and other tools to loop web-wide comments back into posts comments are now going to be everywhere.

Commenting is an important link between people online. There’s tons of revenue in comments. Tons. You can strip-mine them of course and hope that you have control over the selective pressures of the web. Or you can accept the fact that our world is now getting asymptotically closer to a perfect word-of-mouth paradigm of information flow.

If the brains over at FriendFeed are smart (and I think they are), they will launch an algorithmic revenue-sensing model that will tap into the commenting–not exactly in the way AdSense works, but by exploiting all of the social data being generated between and among people.

COMMENTING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE COMMENTING!

If you’re worried about the evaporation of comments on your blog, remember: your commentary is now being published without much effort on your part. If you play it right and get involved in the new ways of communicating then you just might figure out a way to make good returns from those small efforts.

So keep talking. Keep blogging. Keep commenting. Commenting is content and content is still king. It always will be.

Commenting is dead. Long live commenting!


Image source: Wikipedia, markup via Skitch

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Are We Generalists, Specialists or Speneralists?

I’m a speneralist, aren’t I? And you: aren’t you as well? I don’t know if that’s a good or bad characteristic these days. Maybe you can help me decide (because you need to know too). Let me explain.

speneralist
Photo: Tidewater Muse’s photostream

A Brief History of Our Species
A long time ago, most people were generalists. They knew how to hunt animals and cultivate the best plants, made living quarters out of mud, and maybe even painted on cave walls in their spare time or uttered poetic stories at night. They specialized of course, but in order to survive they had to be generalists. They had to know it all and do everything. Or die.

Then these generalists got better at refining their civilizations. Their economies sprouted up and out. They invented new gadgets, like printing presses and steam engines and assembly lines. To be good at something, these people had to become specialists. They had to specialize in printing books or navigating ships or installing gear shafts. Poets started to get paid less. Painters starved. And our modern world arrived like a thief in the night.

Our World Soul Got Owned
And this modern world brought forth more gadgets and grew things like computers and transmission protocols and weblogs and AdSense. Specialization became a specialization onto itself. And the unconscious manifestation of all this specialization was the invention in 1968 of the cubicle with its eventual domination of our Anima mundi (world soul).

We’re all now plugged in. Soon we will be enmeshed. Information is flowing so fast at us now, that we can’t depend on others to do specialized things like journalistic investigation. We have to specialize a bit in journalism and skepticism ourselves if we are not to be fooled again and again. We have to write our own blogs and tweak our CSS or compose our own slide shows for those special presentations. We are able to specialize in many things in order to accomplish our specialized tasks. But wait: doesn’t that make us generalists? What, exactly, is going on here?

Outsourcing Your Marketing Department to Your Customers
On one hand, in order to thrive in the economy of the 21st Century you must specialize, you must be better than best: you must be so damn good that your customers become your marketing department. Being a know-it-all doesn’t cut it. And yet you leave out so much of the life radiating around you when the very focus onto your specialty is laser-guided. You’re stuck in a trap my friend, or fast approaching one.

So, again, the question: we’re Speneralists, arent’ we? Isn’t that what you call a stressed out, Moore’s-Law-spaghettied group of human beings tweaked between the need for specialty and the widsom of generality?

Those two animals up there in the picture. What are they? Well, they’re both mammals. Is the dolphin the specialist whose evolved refinements enable her to sleekly fly in and out of ocean waves? Is the cow a generalist who learned to specialize in acquatic miracles and really good Photoshop? Or is she a speneralist? Evolution is a snappy bitch, ain’t it?

Long You Live and High You Fly
That cow. That cow is what we are beginning to look like I think, dear friends. A swimming cow that leaps over turbulent green. But should she be doing that? Is it cool? Or is it utterly nuts?

So, what do you think that you (or the company you work slave for) is? A generalist? A specialist? Or a speneralist ready for anything under the sun?

The dusk is coming. Will your personal or corporate philosophy open its wings, or fold?


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A New Beginning

Well we all have to start somewhere and WordPress is a good place to start a personal blog.

I remember a few years ago when the word blog was becoming popular and we all thought blogs were either for political hacks or vain geeks. Although that might be somewhat true, the greater truth is that blogs are here to stay with us for lot longer I think. 

In an age when anybody can get onto a computer or an iPhone or blackberry or whatever portable devices that can connect large groups of people together, it will become almost impossible for businesses to stay in business unless they turn out remarkable products and services. Going quickly are the days of spending huge sums of money on advertising to build a successful enterprise. We’re now participating in either the democritization of the world or the mobification of it or some combination of the two. We shall see.

The technological innovations that are converging into what is generally referred to as Web 2.0 are generating enormous shifts in economic, social, cultural and geopolitical relationships. The exponential curve of change is increasingly inflecting at sharper angles and unless one really understands the general trends, it’s going to be very easy for large groups of people to become economically, culturally and socially displaced. But as these technologies become less expensive and more ubiquitous and user-friendly, more adopters will be able to ride the curve. My goal is not to become a laggard. My hope is that we all keep up.

For now, I believe the world is becoming increasingly democratic, although the transformation will involve a lot of hard work, dangers, and other kinds of resistance. This is going to be a merciless but remarkable century and since technology will be the dominant influence on it, it’s probably wise that we establish a remarkable relationship with it.

Blogging is a small but growing part of the changing roles we will be taking on and I’m glad to have finally broken down to pound out the keyboard and see where I can fly with it. I hope you join me in my dream to make this world at least a little more remarkable than it was before we came along.