Comments Suck, But Silence is Worse
I find it harder to have substantive public conversations now than at any point since my first BBS calls in 1990.
I feel trapped by the fragmented web and the asymptotic trendy of blog comments towards YouTube levels of nastiness. Here’s my current example. Audrey makes a great umbrella post about the trend of MakerEdu. HackEducation should be an obvious place for all stripes of teacher/makers to congregate, as should MakerEd. Instead substantive posts on both sites are relative ghosts towns.
When comments show up, they sit in solitude or lonely pairs, desperate for someone else at this party to pick up the thread. Gary Stager had a great post about walking the line between speaking truth to faddishness and becoming a crummudgeonly charichtacure. Four comments, from people I think are great educators (I’m making assumptions here, since no names link to their public identity), but no conversation.
I recognize that I’m part of the problem here. For every post that I comment on, there’s a half dozen that I star or retweet and then forget about. I’ve been chastened by the experience of checking back on abandoned comments, only being reminded of my “subscribe to comments” click when the post is discovered by spambots.
New bloggers crave comments; final unquestionable proof that someone is reading. But beyond a certain threshold, links and RTs paint more compelling picture of the reach of each post. The twitter community around hackeducation and MakerEd is far larger than the comment section indicates, but there’s no easy way to check on it. Comment sections on established blogs demand defensive attention more than anything else; nuke the spam, mute the troll threads, avoid the rage posts. In the odd chance a comment sparks a new thought, blog incentives clearly favor responding in a new post rather than in comments. The utopian version of this trend is a vast network of trackbacks, where the conversational thread bounces between individual blogs and every post adds new layers and insight to the discusson.
If any of you have found that network, please link me in.