The blogosphere, the way I see it today, thrives to a large extent on active participation and the open sharing of ideas. During the last decade, and perhaps culminating in 2006, these intrinsic human behaviors served as the defining characteristics of Web 2.0 culture (remember that popular catch-all label?). And now, with the emergent social/semantic Web (yet another convenient label or paradigm shift?), these fundamental principles endure as the Web invariably reaches a more ubiquitous state and, dare I say, sophisticated level of techno-consciousness with regard to the human condition.
If the ideal framework is a more open and authentic human experience on the Web, one closer to the physical realm, for example, conversational in nature and designed with immediacy in mind, then it seems rather odd to note the blogosphere experiencing a relative deficit of comments of late.
Call it lack of time or an unwillingness to read anything beyond 140-characters, thoughtful comments appear to be on the decline. But why? Have our attention spans shortened to the point we feel more comfortable skimming text and jumping around from one blog to another, absorbing bits and fragments of information as opposed to reading and commenting at length? Is critical thinking on the decline? (Are you watching tv this evening or contributing to the cognitive surplus?)
This is an intriguing theory and one of the central themes explored in Nicholas Carr’s recent book, The Shallows, which examines what the Internet is doing to our brains.
While the lack of comments phenomenon certainly doesn’t appear to be plaguing many of the larger high-traffic/aggregator news sites, the more obscure variety of independent blogs on the other hand (this blog included) struggle to garner even a minuscule proportion of the comments seen by pro bloggers and the digerati elite.
Perhaps I’m not ‘meta’ enough or scientifically minded (Yes, apparently there is an emerging science to the pursuit of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’). to hang with the über-klout-minded. In any case, people generally seem too busy or distracted with their own personal lives to read blogs, let alone comment on one. Still, if we were all as passionate about contributing to the blogosphere as John Jantsch, this post would be completely irrelevant.
In fact, anyone who’s ever blogged seriously for any length of time knows comments are hard to come by these days. Unless you’re Robert Scoble or Roger Ebert, comments can be down right elusive —unless that is, you’re someone like Andy Rutledge and you really don’t seem interested in the notion of a blog as a platform for inviting participation and critical debate.
But imagine for a moment Facebook devoid of status updates or wall comments; picture TripAdvisor or Yelp without the user reviews. Where would these sites be without a vibrant community of people engaged in discussion voicing their opinions. For these and other socially oriented sites, the crux of their existence is based almost entirely on a model of community engagement and audience empowerment. That is, giving people a voice as opposed to offering a static one-sided façade of a platform. Circa Web 1.0 anyone?
In a way, the social Web—if to be truly regarded as social—needs to reconcile, for example, technical obstacles, and ideally invite us all to participate, experiment, reshape and influence the places we frequent. This is crucial if open dialogue is to persist as an integral part of the Web experience.
Now, penny for your thoughts?