Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 3, 2011 4:32 PM

The Liberation Of Comments And The New Storytelling

People leaving comments on a Blog has changed. If it hasn't changed all that much, it's going to.

The primary reason that people leave a comment on a Blog is to add their perspective. It's a huge value add to the core content and it opens up the piece of content from a one-way diatribe into something that looks like engagement and - with a lot of activity and back-and-forth - a conversation. Many will point to comments as the key differentiator between what is a Blog and what would otherwise be known as an article. It was also an important functionality because there were many individuals with unique perspectives who did not want to commit to having their own Blog, so having a place to publish their thoughts was a critical component for the broad adoption of Social Media.

The question is this: is a Blog post any less valuable if the comments don't take place on the Blog post but happen anywhere and everywhere in the online sphere?

The Cognition Blog has two very interesting calls to action at the end of each Blog post (hat-tip to JF). The first one says, "Tweet Your Thoughts" (when you click on it, a box opens up that allows you to write a tweet and connect it to your Twitter profile), and the second one says, "Respond On Your Blog" (when you click on it, a box opens up that allows you to input the URL of your Blog post). There's no question that they could have pushed this even further by adding a "Comment On Facebook" call to action as well.

It's what happens next that makes this concept interesting...

No matter where you respond (in their own comments, on your Twitter feed or by adding in the URL from own, unique, Blog post), your comment still appears beneath the Blog post that you are discussing. Think about the intrinsic value of this as the evolution of Blogs and commenting happens before our very eyes.

  1. You see the whole conversation. Every comment that is being created in all of these individual spaces and platforms are aggregated beneath the Blog post. It's like a 2-for-1 with a much bigger multiplier effect.
  2. It's easy. By adding in this functionality, the user decides where to take/place the conversation. If they feel like it's something relevant to their social graph, they can tweet it. If not, they can just leave the standard/traditional comment on the Blog post.
  3. It creates more chatter. When someone responds to a Blog post in their own Twitter feed, they are helping the Blogger to make their content more shareable and findable. They're also publishing that one thought in multiple places for more people to see and have access to.
  4. You meet more people. For those following along on the Blog post, they can now click over and add/meet new people by connecting to them on Twitter in a much cleaner and visually appealing way than what we traditionally have on Blogs (a hyperlink on the commenter's name).

It just makes sense. 

As much as we may want people to speak their minds about our content on our own properties, they simply won't bend to our will. The truth is that anyone can say whatever they want about anything in nearly any channel, in text, in audio, in video, in images, instantly (and for free) to the world. We can hope that they'll speak their mind about the content we're creating in our own spaces, or we can open up - liberate the comments - and use our platforms to aggregate and curate the content. In essence, why don't more Blogs (and brands!) enable and empower their consumers to share their thoughts - how and where the consumer wants?

It comes back to control.

Bloggers and brands still want to control the dialogue. They set-up guidelines and rules for commenting in hopes that people will respect the repartee that takes place in that one space. We tend to forget that a hater (or lover) now has a choice. Everyone now has a publishing platform - in one form or another (we can point to Twitter and Facebook for democratizing publishing even more than Blogging, Podcasting and YouTube has). It's simple to publish and most people online have an audience. It's fascinating that one Blog post storyline now becomes multiple stories across multiple platforms as each individual is a media with immersive, narrative and collaborative capabilities.

This marks the end of the linear narrative... and that changes everything (again).

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Bryan Person
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch: When I saw this headline in my RSS reader just now, I was sure this post would be about Facebook's recently upgraded Comments Box plugin, which has made some waves over the past couple of days. On blogs and sites using this plugin, users will now have the option to syndicate their comments to their Facebook Walls. And then subsequent comments in either place will syndicate to the other. Brands have the opportunity to syndicate these conversations to their fan Pages as well.

    This 2-for-1 effect, as you call it, has tremendous potential, and for all of the same reasons you mention above.

    Reply
  • Posted by spydergrrl
    Mitch Joel

    It's about time that tools exist to help integrate cross-platform conversations. The idea of commenting on the blog itself ignores the reality that a) people aren't reading you on your blog, necessarily and b) sharing a link via other platforms is just as much engagement as leaving a comment. I get almost as many views through RSS as I get on the site itself. Those readers aren't going to bother coming to comment, but they seem to share and retweet posts.

    I want this functionality. Hope it's readily available for common blogging platforms soon.

    As usual, great post, Mitch!

    Reply
  • Posted by a
    Mitch Joel

    I enjoyed reading this intellectual post on the importance of bloggin'. Yep me brothers and I blog all the times. Yessim mr Mitch we even has a Facebook page that we write in allz the time. all kidding aside it was a great post really 'joyed it Tanks man.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I like the idea of responding to a post with another post instead of a comment. I sometimes do this linking back the original blog post, but of course having a tailore-made solution to do so is more efficient and elegant.
    Offering multiple ways to participate in a discussion encourages a broader adoption of social media, as it allows each kind of user to give their own thoughts, it's something very smart to do.
    As much as blogs gave people the chance to express their opinion outside of mainstream media, now a new way of commenting gives even more people the chance to voice their thoughts.

    Reply
  • Posted by Trish Fischer
    Mitch Joel

    "This marks the end of the linear narrative... and that changes everything (again)." Great line. Love this concept. I've seen it in action on a few blogs so far and it is brilliant.

    Reply
  • Posted by Raf Stevens
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch,
    Your post made me think of what is happening right now in my postereous blog!!
    http://rafstevens.net/what-the-fk-is-storytelling

    I did send you a link to my site yesterday, hoping you would find the time to get connected (in the comments). Maybe you can still do that...
    Anyway, reading your posting just now was fantastic. It explains in detail what I believe is important: finding your core story, connecting it to peers and finding engagement through whatever channel.

    And that's what I did just 2 days ago.
    Because I am currently writing a book called The New Trade (on peer-to-peer storytelling & how to link your story to the new world) I thought it was an idea to ask my community what they think on "story" and "storytelling". Their input and how it came about will be the start of my first chapter. I am crowdsourcing my book (applying The New Trade myself). Anyone who feels joining this initiative, please mail (rafstevens@me.com).

    To the point now; I made a blog posting called: "what the f**k is storytelling?" and posted it on Twitter as well. Result: more than 20 big thinkers and storytellers replied, mainly via Twitter (@rafstevens). So I curated their valuable content in the comments of my blog.
    The story seems to continue... So I will keep you (and all my peers) posted.
    All the best (love reading your stuff).
    Raf

    Reply
  • Posted by Tim
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch: Some great thoughts here. Whether you admit it or not, comments on our blog is a bit like a badge on honor. It a way we receive validation for all the time spent researching, preparing and writing. Getting 1,000 visits and zero comments is not as satisfying as 100 visits and 20 comments...at least that's the case for me. But your example of the Cognition blog re-enforces that it's not about us...it's about the dialogue and the connection with others. Thanks, as always, for some great thoughts on an important topic.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jon Thomas
    Mitch Joel

    Fantastic idea. I always felt that a blog was NOT the best place to have a "conversation", since most people just post their thoughts and leave, often never to be heard from again.

    An attempt to aggregate the comments across multiple channels, especially by asking your audience to respond with their thoughts on the channel of THEIR choice, is a fantastic way to both enhance and spread your story.

    There's nothing linear about content creation now. I was just reading a print trade magazine and saw a QR code. Even on paper I'm being sent to the web to listen and comment. It's only natural that blogs start to harness those conversations WITHOUT moderation.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    We're not in control of the conversations we start, and we can't limit them to a particular space. I guess you're right Mitch, but that really scares me.

    I can't stand the Facebook comment system. I don't like how they're trying to take over the Internet. I wish they would remain just a destination, just like Twitter and WordPress.

    I'm sure that for big agencies like yours, Facebook has meaty ROI, but I'm convinced that most of us are just chanting in an echo chamber. That's why I deleted my account. I'm convinced that a social crash is coming (not just Facebook-specific, though certainly included), because people have over-invested and over-extended themselves in this space.

    Meanwhile, people are confused about what they're doing. Even big people like Chris Brogan - who deleted his Fan page, only to start a new one six months later. That's the equivalent of declaring bankruptcy and restarting a business, isn't it? Talk about a slow way to get ahead. I'm seeing this again and again.

    Don't know about you, but I'd much rather get comments than replies on Twitter. Why? Because they're more trackable. The social proof is measurable, and the digital currency is securely intact in your own real estate. Facebook comments can't be backed up. That's no bueno. TechCrunch is insane for switching. They assume that renting is as secure as owning. History tells us otherwise.

    Sorry for the rant here. I'm just extremely skeptical of what's going on here.

    Super looking forward to hearing the Seth Godin podcast! That's going to be awesome.

    Thanks
    m

    Reply
    • I'm against deleting Facebook pages and accounts. Regardless of business size, Facebook is much more than a destination and is rapidly becoming the platform of choice for people to connect to. I believe businesses should make themselves as findable and shareable as possible. If people are that engaged in and around Facebook, you're simply not making it easy for people to find your business and share their thoughts about it.

      Reply
      • Posted by Charles Baratta
        Mitch Joel

        There was a rumor and blog posts about Facebook being shut down a couple of months ago. But it was obviously a fake one. It's actually absurd just even thinking about it.

        Reply
  • Posted by Amanda Pingel
    Mitch Joel

    I would LOVE to allow people to comment on my blog posts wherever they prefer. For one thing, a good marketer interacts with her customers they way they want, not the way she wants. (Even if I despise phone calls.)

    For another, I'm trying to spread an idea, here. I'd rather my readers discuss my blog with their friends than with me. If I can get both at once, all the awesomer.

    Does there exist a plugin or tool for this? Or do I have to be able to code it myself?

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Saad
    Mitch Joel

    We've been doing this (aggregating the global conversation back into a unified comment stream) for about 24 months with Echo Comments.

    And will be going even further in the coming months. Stay tuned! http://www.aboutecho.com

    Reply
  • Posted by Laura Katherine
    Mitch Joel

    No doubt about this... This is the best way to share now. Cuts time down and makes it so much easier to communicate with everyone and in even more ways now. Love it!

    Reply
  • Posted by Byron Fernandez
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for this, Mitch. It's true: We are all connected. Always look forward to your posts

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Mitchell
    Mitch Joel

    I've been doing this type of thing for years, and it's funny that more people don't do it. Reading other blogs has given me lots of ideas for posts, and I always link back to the topic, when I remember the link, giving credit to the original writer for the inspiration, whether I agree with them or not. I've done it with this blog a couple of times as well, but you probably never noticed it. lol

    Reply
  • Posted by Tauqueer
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch - I'm so glad you wrote this post. I've been working on this idea for a long time (in fact I sent an email to Doc Searls around a year back asking his views on the idea - see below). I truly believe liberating comments from blog is as big an idea as...well, blogging itself....it's impact on blog world could be compared to blog's impact on print media...


    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: Tauqueer
    Date: Sun, Jul 11, 2010 at 3:36 PM
    Subject: Bloggers don't own the comments; so, why are they allowed to moderate them?
    To: doc@searls.com


    Hi Doc,

    Trust you are doing well. Can you please spare 2 minutes reading my business idea below and share your thoughts with me. I’ve kept it very brief; if you find it interesting, I’ll share more details with you.

    Assumption: Customers/web users are demanding radical levels of transparency and openness. To build trust in online conversations, bloggers and webpage owners will have to give up their right to moderate comments. This is not possible with existing blogging platforms.

    Idea: Move out commenting feature from blogs and web pages into a separate space which is completely owned/controlled by people who write comments. This new space (a combination of website, widgets, apps etc.) is my business idea. I believe such a platform will truly empower web users. While thinking about this idea, I was also wondering if it’s related to your fourth party idea in some ways.
    What do you think?

    Thanks,
    -------------------------------

    Reply
  • Posted by Tony Faustino
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, thank you for reinforcing the point about maximizing findability and shareability.

    This technology for blog commenting is a significant change because I've long subscribed to the views of Adam Singer and Brian Solis that Twitter and Facebook are short form content outposts pointing back to the blog which acts as the long form, central content hub. But, the aforementioned technology changes that perspective because Facebook wouldn't limit you to 140 characters to publish a thoughtful reply. And, if the comments take off on Facebook, you would want to reply in that medium to continue the dialogue.

    Everything changes again. But, that's what makes participating in technology enjoyable, fun, and intellectually challenging. Very cool.

    Reply
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