What Is Conversational Blogging?

What is conversational blogging?  MSN has a few relevent pages, Google does too, but the answer doesn’t seem very clear.  I’m going to propose a definition.  Feel free to track-back or comment to add your 2 cents…

Conversational blogging is the act of publishing or reading blog entries in a way that groups related posts into a coherent dialogue.

There are several mechanisms that people use to build conversations in the blogosphere. 

  • Comments are the simplist, and often the easiest method.  It keeps all the relevent info in one place, and anyone who visits the post page can easily find the dialogue.  Comment spam, and all the things that fight comment spam (CAPTCHA, Moderation, etc.) detract from the usefulness of comments for dialogue.

  • Referrers are dead in my opinion.  Publishing referrers is just spam-bait.

  • Trackbacks may be the best we have for current technology.  Spam is still a problem, but automated checking and blacklists seem to be holding back the tide.

  • Tags.  Tags can be used to follow almost anything, and if they are specific enough, they can limit their results to a single conversation.

  • Search.  The various blog searches have ways to subscribe to “who links to this or that” feeds, or you can follow conversations by tailoring your searches properly.

How could it be better?  From a user perspective, when I’m reading feeds and find an interesting entry that might have an good conversation surrounding it, I’d love to be able to click something and set a “follow this conversation” flag.  My feed reader should then give me some good way to visualize a threaded representation of all the chunks of information that relate to that specific entry.  Comments, links, trackbacks, whatever, I’d want it all to be available in an organized manner.  Let me un-follow the conversation later if I lose interest, but otherwise, bring me the new bits as they appear on the web, and provide some context for how they fit in to the dialogue.

This is a feed reader problem, but it’s gonna need a great search back-end, and a well thought-out UI on the front.



Do Bloggers Catch More Flies With Vinegar?

Want to get a link?  Complain…  I was looking through some of my old posts, and I realized that the times that I have received links from other bloggers are almost exclusively on complaint or suggestion posts.

There is an upside to this.  I know if I complain about a Microsoft product, my logs will show at least a handful of hits from Microsoft IP’s over the next few days. (This effect is even more pronounced if I include Robert Scoble’s name, coincidence?)  I’ve also seen hits directly from other companies whose names have appeared in my posts.  This is cool…  The consumer has a voice, and the same search tools that are finding posts in my blog are indexing MSN Spaces, Blogger, LiveJournel, etc., so the barrier to entry is low.  Still, I can’t help feeling a bit guilty for the fact that I get more traffic from negative posts than I do from positive posts.  I even looked back and found that (in my opinion anyway) my postings have become more negative as time has progressed.   I always hated the negative slant of TV news, and I feel bad that I fell into the same traffic/link-hungry rutt.

How can this get better?  Well, I’m going to try to post about more positive topics in the future, and I’m going to make an effort to link to some positive posts as well.  I know this isn’t going to even come close to changing the blogosphere, but at least my little neighborhood will have some glimmers of light.

Google Pack, Microsoft’s best Friend

I have to admit, I’m offering an opinion without having ever tried the product.  Granted, I have tried several different components of the product at different times, but still, this is more an opinion than a review.

Google Pack offers users an easy way to add a bunch of what Google considers “essential” software to your PC.  This includes antivirus, the Firefox browser, Adobe Reader (Acrobat for the old-school folks), Google Earth, Picassa, Google Desktop Search, the list goes on.  Honestly, the bundling creeps me out.  I’ve been hit with so many “Would you like the Google Toolbar with that” installation experiences lately, that I’m feeling a bit Anti-Google.  I still think they’ve done a great job with many of their products (Search, maps.google.com, gmail), but the business practices are starting to worry me.

Why is a coalition of bundling between Microsoft’s competitors a good thing for Microsoft?  Because it shows that they realy don’t hold a true monopoly on the computing market.  Google is showing Microsoft, the DOJ, and the public that it is possible to compete with Microsoft in the software market.  All they need is a couple of OEM’s to pick up Google pack, and Microsoft can take that to their DOJ reps as proof that the playing field is fair.

An additional benefit for Microsoft is that this brings some competitive pressure.  Dare Obasanjo points out that Microsoft often does their best work when they have a valid competitor to focus their efforts against.

Will the Office 12 Ribbon Bar be Microsoft’s “New Coke”?

Market research said it was going to be a big hit.  Focus groups showed that it was preferred over the old product.  Customers would be happier, and the new product would provide a competitive edge in the marketplace.

That’s what they thought about the new Coke formula back in 1985. The same (somewhat contrived) lines could apply to Office 12’s new UI.

The Coca-cola company miscalculated how much the identity of the brand was tied to the old formula’s specific taste.  Many Coke buyers just continued on their merry way, but a very vocal subset was upset, and they let the world know.  Soon, Coca-cola brought back the original formula Coke, and all settled out in the marketplace, with Coca-cola picking up a bit of market share along the way from all the publicity.

I wonder if the “newness” of the ribbon UI is going to be too big of a hurdle for the Office brand to overcome.  People have been using the same toolbar and buttons UI for more than a decade, and old habits die hard.  The ribbon may be better & more efficient, but will the public accept it with open arms? 

Microsoft needs to spend some energy convincing the consumer that this it still the Office they know and love.  Commercials showing typical users being more productive.  Maybe a Maytag Repairman-like “Lonely Office Guru” commercial will be in order.  Play against the fact that the UI may not be familiar, and then explain why the product is still the same, but better.

They need to convince everyone that this new product really is Office, that it fits into our collective brand image, it’s just better.  If Microsoft can’t pull this off, they can’t simply bring an “Office Classic” to market.  “Office Classic” means that people just won’t upgrade.

Clean Firetrucks Are Bad? Seth Godin on Initiative

One of my favorite business authors, Seth Godin, has an interesting blog post about initiative.  The premise is that the local volunteer firemen clean the trucks whenever they’re waiting for fires to occur.  The alternative according to Godin?  Maybe they should be out actively preventing fires?  I know that many fire companies do just this with community education and safety checks, but it’s an interesting metaphor that Godin uses to point out that most of our institutions do not instill nor encourage any kind of initiative. 

I’ve been going back and forth trying to decide how right this post really is.  On one had it rings true.  Thinking back on school, from elementary through college, I was hard pressed to find an exercise that really taught or encouraged initiative.  On the other hand, an organization where everyone was bursting with initiative would be a dissonant mess as well.  I’d say that the real problem at the fire company is that the leadership is not acting on the organization’s goals.  When the junior firemen are sitting around with nothing to do, the leadership should direct their actions in a way that is consistent with the goal of saving lives and property.  Likewise, leaders in business should keep their reports focused on actions that help achieve organizational goals, and not let firedrills detract from real productivity.