Is it a “real blog”? Wrong question

Zoli Erdos has touched off the latest round in the omnipresent “what is a blog” wars, with a recent post looking at Google’s official “blog” and noting that it isn’t really a blog because it doesn’t allow readers to comment. Mike Arrington at TechCrunch — who to his credit has not only kept comments open but has participated in them, despite some flame wars with him as the target — posted on the topic as well as opening a poll on the whole issue of comments.

At last count, about 40 per cent of the 2,200 people who have responded think that the ability to comment isn’t a requirement, but enhances a blog’s content “dramatically,” and about 34 per cent say that commenting isn’t a requirement. The remainder think that a blog without comments isn’t a real blog — a case that I tried to make with this post back in February. After much debate, I modified that position to effectively agree with the largest group in Mike’s poll.

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I know everyone likes to say that it’s about “the conversation” and so on, which is getting a touch overused as a metaphor (but is still essentially true, I think). The bottom line for me is simply that the comments on a post are often at least as interesting as the post itself, and in some cases much more so. In that sense, the post is like a magnet that attracts different viewpoints — some of which are bound to be moronic “you’re an idiot” kind of comments, but some of which are occasionally going to add huge value.

For example, I found the back-and-forth between Blake Ross and his critics on the Google issue (see my recent post) of even more value than the original post. Yes, I know that other bloggers are free to respond on their own blogs, but that’s hard to follow unless you work at it — having comments on a post is like a mini-aggregator of differing opinion. And if you are lucky, the signal-to-noise ratio makes it worth your while. In fact, that’s a good sign of a valuable blog.

So is a blog really a blog without comments? Sure it is, if only because the term “blog” is so viscous and malleable that it can mean just about anything. But I don’t think of BoingBoing or Google’s blog or other prominent examples as being “blogs” in my definition. Are they valuable? Sure. Interesting? Often. But – at least as far as I’m concerned — still missing something.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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