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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Bloggers Wanted: Why You Should Volunteer for a Hospital Blog

Of the billions of bloggers out there (albeit most with an average readership of 1), how many talented ones would be willing to volunteer their time to help out a community hospital with its blogging?

As I’ve discussed in the last post, hospital blogging can be a costly project. The opportunity costs of blogging can be huge (time spent on research or improving operations). But: the opportunity costs of not blogging can be even bigger (not showing off your knowledge base and expertise or establishing community trust and authority).

So to help the community of hospitals (large and small), one possible route is to solicit help from the community of bloggers. The blogosphere a disparate and often talented community. It includes soccer moms, engineers, web designers, doctors, politicians, forest rangers, comics, and a whole assortment of other resourceful individuals. Many of them also have other skills pertinent to business and process management.

I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of bloggers (some amateur, others experienced pros) who would be delighted to offer their services to community hospitals. There’s really no University of Blogging per se. And no one company that stands out to fill the role of uber-consultant. So hospitals interested in looking into blogging or other Web 2.0 projects could reap handsome rewards by reaching out to the blogging community.

Why would bloggers volunteer their time, even it would be for an hour per week? Here are some off-the-cuff benefits to volunteer hospital-blogging:

1. Boost traffic (slightly) to their own site (as appropriate)
2. Help enhance their reputation and authority
3. Develop another blogging “voice”
4. Build their brand (or resume if that’s what they want)
5. Expand their horizons
6. Offer a chance to become evangelists for healthcare technology on the web
7. Enhance their value to other bloggers
8. Network with other bloggers
9. Change the mix of their daily grind
10. Gain a sense of participating in a noble cause.

I hear people laugh and offer a lot of (understandable) sarcasm at the idea of bringing blogging and other social media to hospitals. That’s fine with me. As long as they have ideas for improving healthcare. And understand what it is that I’m driving at.

Cynicism is not skepticism.

Cynics put down the truth. Skeptics lift it up.

For you folks who find it a nutty proposition, please argue with any of the ten items I listed above. If you reject them all, would you just do me a favor and offer your own lists for improving healthcare. People are suffering. They could use your help. You’re brighter than me, so radiate your brilliance!

For those of you who believe in the values of hospital blogging let me know why you think volunteer blogging makes sense. Do you think it’s a realistic proposition?

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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