Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2004-06-29
  Comments are a broken concept
I like searching far and wide in the blog space for interesting people and interesting ideas. I'm often finding blogs with zero inbound links through technorati, but even ones that have reasonable traffic are surprised to get a comment from me. They're usually like:
"Wow, someone commented ... nobody ever does that."
There's several reasons for that I'm coming to find out. The first is that readers are just not used to joining in on a conversation. They're just there to read, get the information, and move on. One does not usually pick up a pen after reading something in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, or Wired and shoot off a letter to the author. (Actually it turns out that authors in these magazines love hearing from readers, and will almost always respond to comments or questions sent to them.) So maybe its part conditioning, part laziness, and part mindset.

Even if you do get past that and decide that you have something to say, leaving it as a comment is not necessarily your first choice. Since the point of web logs is to give each person their own voice on the web, you may want to to continue the conversation going on at your own site. Or even if you're thinking of leaving the comment at another location, you wonder if anyone will ever read it. (With RSS feeds, often the comments are not conveyed; and on some sites I have to wonder if the log author will even notice the comment.)

Even when I do decide to post a comment on another site, though, I run into yet another problem: finding it later. Sometimes my comments get pretty long (longer than a good number of my posts), and I'll be thinking a couple weeks later about something I said, then I've got to wonder if I can even find the comment again. And if someone else happens to post a response to my comment, its pretty unlikely that I'll see it unless its on a site I go to very frequently. Don Park just lifted a comment off of another blog and stuck it on his weblog because he wanted to keep the memory. (The post was about losing a pet.)

Maintaining conversations is a problem a lot of web tools have had. Wiki's suffered from this problem, and even old net-news (though with lower bandwidth groups, the later readers with thread stitching made a decent attempt at keeping track of it all). Track-backs try to solve this problem, but are harder to use and with only an excerpt in the source blog, the flow of the conversation is broken up.

I have faith of course, that someone will come up with a crazy idea, and after its implemented, we'll all realize how brilliant it is, and the global consciousness will take another leap forward. For now, we'll put up with partial solutions, and lost conversations.

 
Comments:
People can subscribe to comments on my blog, but it hardly ever happens.

People only do it if I email them back my comment on their comment...
 
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Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

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Blogroll
Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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