Why blogs aren’t suited for discussion

Over at Rands in Response Michael Lopp makes the case that after BBSes and forums in the  1990s there has been little innovation and newer tech, like blogs, Facebook and Twitter don’t lend themselves to discussion. I particularly like his  “simple rules of communication among a digital population”: Add something to the conversation. Stay on topic. Don’t be a jerk.

But more on topic: there is a reason why blog posts and comments don’t create the discourse we are used from forums: In forums the initial post is just a spark and all subsequent posts are presented as equals. After a while there is little that sets the initial post apart from following posts.

It’s very different with blog posts. The blog post itself almost always dominates the whole discussion, comments are visually set apart and often set in smaller font sizes. Following up on previous comments is awkward, so most comments are focused on the initial blog post, which means the discussion doesn’t go anywhere.

With forums the discussion itself is the product, with blog posts the initial post is the product. That’s why we go back and update blog posts after a discussion, but we rarely do that with our initial post in a forum discussion.

It’s important to keep in mind that these different communication forms don’t just exist for the fun of it. They have prevailed exactly because they serve different purposes. If you really want a a discussion, a blog post maybe not be the best way to go about it. I’d say use the right tool for the right purpose, but unfortunately there has been little research into how communication forms work, and how people use them to solve communicative problems, so we’ll continue with trial and error. Discourse looks like a particularly interesting case of such a trial.