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November 2, 2003
Comments, Aggregators, and Broadcast Models
After reading through an argument in a comments thread on Julia Lerman's site
on posting behavior and aggregators, I'm reminded of the old adage "When you assume..."
In those comments, Sam Gentile says
Comments are irrelevant. Blogging is one to many, not a usenet forum or mailing list. There are better technologies for discusssions like Wikis, Groove, mailing lists, usenet groups. People don't read web log sites. They read in the aggregator and when there is too many it overloads everything.
Of course, a blog is personal but is very well established that if you don't have a RSS feed you just don't get read. I don't what world you two are in but that is a well established fact by now. The majority of blog readers read blogs through RSS feeds in aggregators. Thats the whole point. No one has the time to go to 100 separate web sites versus one window with 100 feeds. This is so established that I am not going to even debate it. Nor am I going to debate the comments. The tiny amount of commenting that goes on in the blogging world is so small that its insignificant. Most blogs don't even have comments and if they do you see very little if ever leading to the conclusion that most people in the blogging world read feeds and "comment" by blog posts not commenting systems.
Right now I'm at the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey, and I bet that most of the librarians here have had (bad) experiences with making assumptions like that about their patrons.
Comments are an integral part of almost all of the weblogs I read (and write). And despite the lengthy list of weblogs I read regularly, I still resist using an aggregator, because the visual aspect, the virtual space, of a weblog is important to me. The site statistics for my personal weblog, this one, and misbehaving.net all indicate that while there are many people reading via aggregators, there's an equally significant number reading via browsers.
Beyond the assumption about reader's browsing habits, Sam's making the assumption that all (or almost all) weblogs fall into the "broadcast model" of information dissemination that we've talked about here at length, and I think there's plenty of data to debate his assertion (despite his unwillingness to enter into such a debate). Many of the webloggers in the "middle of the curve" (and some near the top, including Joi Ito
, Mark Pilgrim
, and Shelley Powers
) maintain active comments on their weblogs, and engage in debate and discussion with their readers. Not because they don't know how to use tools like mailing lists and wikis, but because weblogs are a unique blend of existing technologies, providing a powerful mix of open and searchable content, participatory discussions, and clear authorial voice.
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