Blogs — it’s all about the conversation

This may or may not be part of the “secret sauce” in Gabe’s, but I think Stowe Boyd is onto something. In a post about what makes blogs work — i.e., what makes them vibrant and helps them grow, as opposed to stagnating or becoming echo chambers — he says that he thinks it has something to do with the ratio of posts to comments and trackbacks.

Being a geek (and I meant that in a good way) Stowe comes up with a “conversational index” that quantifies that ratio, and figures if it is more than one — that is, if there are as many or more comments and trackbacks as there are posts — then the blog will flourish. Don Dodge has come to a similar conclusion, and so has Zoli Erdos.

I don’t know if the ratio needs to be one, or close to one, or whether you can even put a number on it, but I think this hits the nail on the head — what makes most blogs interesting isn’t so much the great things that the writer puts on there (as much as I like to hear the sound of my own voice), but what kind of response it gets, and how that develops, and who carries it on elsewhere on their own blog. And I agree that it would be nice if someone like or could track that kind of thing and make it part of what brings blogs to the top.

I like to see what people are talking about — not just what a blogger has to say, but what others have to say about what they say. That’s why I also agree with Steve Rubel that it would be nice to have a way of tracking comments, other than by subscribing to a feed of comments, or bookmarking posts you’ve commented on with or some other tool.


Stowe Boyd has more on the “conversation” conversation, as it were, here. And as far as tracking comments, no sooner did I mention it then came out with that exact thing. I’m sure that’s a coincidence though 🙂

19 thoughts on “Blogs — it’s all about the conversation

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  5. mathew,
    looks like you’re addressing the perplexing issue of how blogs get ranked? one thing i’ve tried to tackle is how the cream gets risen to the top, and how one would define “cream”. for what it’s worth, the blogosphere is what it is, i think. you find the blogs you like, you blogroll, link and trackback to them, and that’s all you can do.

  6. I suppose you’re right, Mark. And maybe it’s better that way anyway. I’m sure even if someone did come up with some magic formula, I’d find something wrong with that too 🙂

    I do think the conversational index idea is a good one though. Like Steve Rubel, I often find that the best stuff is in the comments.

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  8. Are you sure it’s not reversing cause and effect?

    This all part of the tendency to consider a “blog” as something somehow out in a mysterious space like an asteroid, entirely distinct from the person who writes it and their social network.


    “If a person is well -connected and has a large social network, their blog is likely to flourish. If they aren’t known and popular, their blog is likely to be ignored”.

    Would that be much of surprise?

    But invert it – and it’s hailed as a revelation.

  9. I think that’s a fair point, Seth. But I think the interesting thing is how blogs can help to extend your social network in different or even unexpected directions. That’s certainly happened for me. And I also think that some people see blogs primarily as a soapbox rather than as a way of enhancing or extending a conversation. I admit the metaphor falls down upon close inspection, and Phil Sim of Squash is probably right when he says the quality of conversation leaves a lot to be desired, but I still think it’s not a bad step in a good direction.

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  12. Don Dodge has suggested inverting the formula, which I am going to propose in a summary post today. That way the index gets larger as the conversation increases.

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