In yesterday’s post about comments, and the various ways they show the reader’s engagement and move the conversation along, I wondered whether a new kind of Bloom’s Taxonomy could be applied to gauge the tenor and quality of blog-centered conversations. Jeff Utecht posted a twoparter over at Techlearning about this very notion that conversations on blogs happen differently than in other, more traditional modes. His posts carry the provocative title "A Problem with Blogs," but Jeff makes clear that the real challenge isn’t blogs, it’s us. It’s about changing our norms, expectations, and practices to take advantage of how blogs can transform conversations. It’s worth noting: Jeff extended his post with a sequel as a direct result of the many ripples of conversation it created, both within his post as comments, and beyond.

Last week’s post
has resulted in some comments that have allowed me to continue my own
thinking on blogs. The post has also allowed the conversation to extend
in many different directions. Both Cheryl OakesDiane Quirk
left comments stating they were going to share the post with others.
Therefore, the conversation started on this blog, has now started
conversations elsewhere, both in the blogosphere and outside of it.
This blog post is an example of how blogs can extend our learning, our
understanding, and our thinking to a completely new level.

Jeff gets into the levels-of-engagement topic with a succinct explanation of the difference between compliments and comments:

A compliment is nice, but it does not carry on a conversation. A comment extends a conversation.

He also reminds us that Vicki Davis has already given us solid groundwork for commenting in her Cool Cat Teacher post "How to Comment Like a King (or Queen)"

All good. But, in keeping with our theme, the really fascinating part of Jeff’s post happens down in the comments section. Jeff & Co. dig into the nonlinear nature of blog/comment conversation flow, the challenges of following threads, and the folksonomic role of tagging in keeping track of it all. 

Wes Fryer says:

One of the problems with blogs is that the conversations can be hard to
follow and are non-linear, but calling this a "problem" may reveal more
of my own bias due to prior experiences. I feel like I often jump into
and out of conversations in the blogosphere, but often the
conversations are with people I’ve never met in person and certainly
wouldn’t have been able to converse with if blogs weren’t in the
equation. I’d like to see more tools that help connect conversation
threads. Tags and technorati can do this to an extent, but things are
still disjointed. I’m wondering if others have similar feelings and
experiences with blogosphere conversations?

Jeff replies:

Blogs are a different conversation, they allow us not only to follow
a conversation forward, but to follow it backwards as well. Something
that before digital media was difficult.

The ability to connect with others that you have never met is even
more important when you are half a world away in a city of 20 million
people where you feel like you are the only one shouting from the top
of the building. Blogs have given me that personal connection to other
bloggers who think the same way I do and help me to expand my thinking
and push me to continue to think and learn.

Vicki Davis adds:

Yes, I think the conversation again takes this important subject to
the next level. Effective blog conversations are enabled by two things:
tagging and pinging. And technorati seems to be the best repository
now. . . .  Blogs are changing things but interestingly I find that I am changing how I read blogs continually!

And finally, Clay Burrell weighs in:

Wes’ comment about the disjointedness of conversations nailed a moment
I had two hours ago, when I commented on Patrick Higgins’ "Chalkdust"
blog a request that he cross-post onto my blog a conversation that he
and I are having about the difference between students being "students"
(doing homework) on blogs, v. being "writers" (finding their own ideas,
style, voice) on blogs. The conversation started on my blog, extended
in a nice direction in his; I commented on his, but (*blush*) want to
post my comment AND Patrick’s follow-up back to my own flow on my own
blog. Wonderfully messy, messily wonderful.