May 8, 2009 0
[note: This is a post I wrote in September of 2008 for the company blog at Qwidget, a web startup that I co-founded. The post was less about our company and more about my personal feelings about blog comments. Therefore, I think it's appropriate to re-post it here, where I write about how technology affects us and the world around us.]
I have been thinking a lot about the commentosphere recently. I’ve delved into the world a bit as well, leaving a handful of comments on my favorite blogs. But I keep running into the same problems. I would consider myself a fairly fanatical blog reader, twitter user, and a social media addict in general. But I’m a user at heart. A reader. I have a lot of opinions and I love talking about them. But I often feel left out of conversations on blogs – even when I know as much about what everyone is talking about as anyone else. Why don’t I participate more? Here are three reasons:
- Comment conversations are totally disorganized with no clear format or structure. There is no clear entry point for casual users like me. What should my comment be about? The post? A related article I read? A response to a previous comment? Do I need to read all the previous comments before leaving mine? Or can I just comment away despite the fact that someone else might have said/asked the same exact thing?
- Comment sections tend to be dominated either by trolls or power users who comment a LOT. The presence of trolls tells me: “don’t bother.” And the power user dominance says: “Do you really belong in this conversation?” Sometimes I don’t know.
- There is no mechanism to connect conversations across articles. As a result each article or blog post is an island unto itself with dialogues that have a short shelf life. Which again makes the investment of time not worth it when I’m not sure if I really want to come back to that post to comment again.
To be clear, people that do leave comments often get an enormous amount of satisfaction out of it. But it seems to me that you need to make a certain minimum level of commitment before you start seeing benefits like fulfilling conversations, new friends, etc. And that minimum level of commitment is simply way too high for an enormous majority of web users.
That’s why we are building the qwidget: to unleash the vast human desire to communicate among casual users that has been stifled by the problems unique to commenting.