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This may or may not be part of the “secret sauce” in Gabe’s memeorandum.com, 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 technorati.com or memeorandum.com 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 del.icio.us or some other tool.

Update:

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 CoComment.com came out with that exact thing. I’m sure that’s a coincidence though :-)

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

19 Responses to “Blogs — it’s all about the conversation”
  1. + Discussion:mathewingram.com/work, Weblogsky, Squash, michael parekh on IT, Message and robhyndman.com

  2. First impressions … easy sign up. Easy to use. The comment I registered was immediately reflected in my account. [IMG Ads by AdGenta.com]I’ll also throw my two cents in on this whole topic. Whileblogs are all about the conversation, I know personally I haven’t left as many comments on blog posts for the very simple reason that it’s been way, way too hard to keep track of them. Not all platforms offer comment feeds, and who really wants to have to keep adding and culling those

  3. I just couldn’t resist! First impressions … easy sign up. Easy to use. The comment I registered was immediately reflected in my account. I’ll also throw my two cents in on this whole topic. Whileblogs are all about the conversation, I know personally I haven’t left as many comments on blog posts for the very simple reason that it’s been way, way too hard to keep track of them. Not all platforms offer comment feeds, and who really wants to have to keep adding and culling

  4. if there is a larger group, where each individual comments/tracksback less. So for now, we don’t care. Also might be hard to get that number.] My head hurts. I feel like a geek. [Me too.] Mathew Ingram calls me a geek, too, but in a nice way: [fromBlogs — it’s all about the conversation] 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

  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.

  7. […] Stowe Boyd invents the “Conversation Index“, basically divide the number of comments and trackbacks by the number of posts. He reckons the index has to show up at betterthan one for a blog to thrive. Everyone reckons it’s all about the conversation. Over to our right there, there’s a bit of talk about this new aggregator, no sorry, apparently we’ve not used up our new Web 2.0 buzzword quota this month and it’s now a “memetracker“. Sorry, about that. Anyway, it’s called Megite and it’s ok, but not as good as memeorandum. But more to the point, all these new memetrackers are top stuff because the assist in the flow of conversation. […]

  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.

    Consider:

    “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.

  10. […] 4th, 2006 and is filed under News Brief. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently notallowed. […]

  11. […] Update: Read more about what some are calling the ‘Conversational Index’ at Don Dodge, Mathewingram.com and Stowe Boyd. If you enjoyed this post Bookmark it at del.icio.us […]

  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.

  13. […] Eine Innovation aus der Schweiz findet momentan enorme Beachtung in der internationalen Blogosphäre: coComment ist ein von Swisscom Innovations finanziertes Berner Startup-Unternehmen. Jeder, der in Blogs Kommentare hinterlässt und die entstehende Diskussion mitverfolgen möchte, kennt das Problem: Es gibt keine einfache Möglichkeit, die neuen Kommentare der anderen User zu den eigenen Kommentaren zu tracken und weiterzudiskutieren. Man muss selbst aktiv werden, die Seite des Beitrags bookmarken oder taggen und später wieder besuchen, oder den Kommentar-Feed abonnieren. Dadurch werden generell die Konversationen in der heutigen Blogosphäre behindert, wie kürzlich auch Bruno Giussani und Mathew Ingram festgestellt haben. […]

  14. Thanks, Stowe — I saw that. I think that makes sense.

    Mathew

  15. […] As a sidenote: trackbacking is a bit of an ideological issue, so not everybody might agree with the “trackbacking is not commenting” statement :-).  There is this idea of the blogosphere of a world-wide decentralised, author-centered “forum” (author-centered versus topic-centered) where links to other blog posts replace comments and the old problem of flaming has been solved because everybode stays on his or her own domain (read this insightful essay if you want to elaborate on the idea). The problem is that so far there are very few tools who collect individual blog postings and their links to visualize them into something that looks like a conversation.  These  memeorandum and pubsub examples are efforts in this direction, and here they illustrate the enthousiastic reactions on a new meme.  Strangely enough, it seems to me that part of the memeorandum-crowd has actually adapted to a highly conversational and link-rich style in order to get into memorandum… where the additional information value seldom exceeds that of a one-line comment ;-) […]

  16. […] I’ll also throw my two cents in on this whole topic.  While blogs are all about the conversation, I know personally I haven’t left as many comments on blog posts for the very simple reason that it’s been way, way too hard to keep track of them.  Not all platforms offer comment feeds, and who really wants to have to keep adding and culling those feeds.  E-mails … well good sometimes, bad other times. […]

  17. […] Blogging’s Secret Sauce This may or may not be part of the “secret sauce” in Gabe’s memeorandum.com, 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.mathew ingram […]

  18. […] Ingram, of course, sums up the other side’s argument well: What makes most blogs interesting isn’t so much the great things that the writer puts on there […]

  19. […] Ingram, of course, sums up the other side’s argument well: What makes most blogs interesting isn’t so much the great things that the writer puts on […]

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