The future of blogs....
Anyway, Chris' post, in response to my earlier post, in response to his post, while surprising me (someone actually reads my blog!) reminded me of a discussion I'd followed earlier, and something that had me thinking for quite a while.
It was a while ago, so unfortunately I wasn't able to find the sources (in the twenty seconds that I alloted to the task.) The discussion was about the future of blogs, and more specifically the evolution (or necessity of the evolution) of blogging platforms.
A summary of what I came away with follows.
Blogs are means of communication as well as expression, but they are in some sense egotistical (as they should be!) On my blog (or a company's/group's blog) you get to hear what I/we think. Others can comment on it, but I'm in control and the conversation is geared to my audience (whomever I'm expecting to read the blog.) This generally works well for most blog posts from most bloggers. After all, the most blogs are personal: personal opinions, personal insights, a diary, even news that a person is breaking. The hyperlinks out of most blog posts are either explanatory or citing source material. In an ideal world, the comments section embellishes the post. Its a place for the audience to express agreement/disagreement, add information or just rant. If you're lucky, you get a meaningful discussion there. If you've been a Slashdot reader, you know that often the quality and the usefulness of the discussions in the comments section can far exceed the post itself. Caveat emptor: while I was a religious Slashdot reader for a long time (though my posting attempts were limited to silly attempts to get the "first post":)), I haven't visited the site in well over a year and a half, as I'm getting my tech fixes elsewhere now.
Anyway things seem fine upto this point, but hold on! It starts getting ugly when bloggers who're commenting on other blogs (and who isn't a blogger these days?) want to post or reference their comments on to their blogs. This is a perfectly natural thing to want to do, not just to claim ownership of any opinion/idea, but also to extend the conversation to one's own readers. The problem then is "Can a blog post in one place be a comment in another?" This not only affects the content on the post, but also form (most comments don't allow images/advanced formatting.) And lets not even start approaching issues like wanting to tweak the text in your blog post. Will the text be update-able automatically in the comment that you left somewhere else as well?
Stuff like trackbacks, and even just ordinary links done with care do work, but they are hardly an elegant solution. So for a third-party reader just trying to follow a post and comments, things can easily get confusing and there is little motivation to try to get through all the information available. Now if there was one dominant blogging platform, this is technically a reasonably easy problem to solve, but it looks unlikely that that will happen, especially since the most widely-read bloggers will always want much greater control over their platform.
So the discussion over the future of these blogging platforms divided people in two camps: one that believes some sort of standards would fall into place, accompanied by innovation in user interfaces where the links between blogs and blog comments were better described and the other which believes that things will stay pretty much as they are now.
I started on the side of the evolution, but as I thought through the most basic use cases, I switched sides. Do you have an opinion? Care to post it on your blog or put it in the comments below?:)