One of the criticism that is often leveled at the Blogosphere is that it is an echo chamber – that the same stories get blogged about in the same ways by blog after blog – without anything constructive or unique emerging.
Blogging as Conversation
One of the things I love about blogging is that it is (or can be) a conversational medium.
When blogging is at its best it creates threads of conversation – bloggers building upon the thoughts and ideas of other bloggers – where all engaging in the conversation learn something.
This conversational aspect of blogging is what hooked me on it in the first place.
The Lost Art of Conversation
Unfortunately I think the blogosphere (or some sections of it) might be losing the art of conversation.
We ‘talk’ a lot and do a lot of ‘reporting’ – but some days I wonder if we’re all just saying the same things to each other without anyone actually doing the hard work of adding value to to the conversation.
You see reporting news is one thing – but actually going to the next level with it and talking about what it means, how it impacts us and being constructive with it and making it useful I wonder if the echo chamber is increasingly a reality.
How to Add Value to Blog Conversations
I don’t want to be a part of a medium that simply ‘talks’ and ‘reports’. I want to be a part of a community that engages, grows and adds something of value to our world.
I want the blogosphere (myself included) to relearn the art of conversational blogging.
But how do we break the cycle of the echo chamber? How do we become more conversational with our blogging?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers with this and would be keen to hear your thoughts. However here are eleven ideas that come to mind when engaging with what you see other people writing:
- what did they say well? - rather than just reporting what someone else has said – pick out something that they said especially well or that is the crux of the news.
- what did they miss? – conversely, one way to add to a conversation is to find a gap in the conversation or a point that might have been missed. Blog from this angle and you add something of real value to readers.
- answer questions – this one’s pretty obvious really – but if another blogger asks a question – why not answer it – it’s the perfect lead in to a post of your own that takes some of their ideas and extends them.
- what are others saying? – who else is talking about this story? What are they saying? One useful type of post is the compilation post that pulls together lots of ideas on the one topic and attempts to make sense of them. Look for the patterns in what people are saying – look for the gaps in the collective arguments.
- how does it apply to you? – take a news story and tell your readers how it applies to you personally. Hearing news as it impacts people can help others interpret what it might mean for them. Tell your story, share your experiences and bring it home on a personal level.
- look forward - one interesting exercise to do when a story breaks is to ask yourself ‘where might this end up?’ Intstead of just reporting news – hypothesize and predict which might happen as a result of this news.
- look backward - the past informs and shapes our present. Look back at similar stories or news and see how they played out. Can we learn something from these stories? How do they intersect with and inform our present?
- extend ideas – I often get to the end of reading posts that others have written and want to add points. You can do this by leaving a comment – or by continuing the conversation on your own blog (with a link back). So turn the next ‘top 10′ article you read on someone else’s blog into a top 20 article on your own.
- take the ‘opposite’ tack – I love doing this one with my own posts. For example why should you join a blog network and why shouldn’t you join a blog network. You can do the same sort of things with others posts – not just when you disagree with them, but to expand the topic out.
- ask what if? – one of the best ways of coming up with creative and useful ideas is to take an existing idea and asking ‘what if…’ about it. Sometimes the what if questions will see out of ‘left field’ – but ‘left field’ is where geniuses often live!
- play devil’s advocate - you might not disagree with what another blogger has written – but taking the opposing argument to see where it leads can be an illuminating journey. For example – I’ve asked readers a couple of times to answer the question ‘What’s wrong with blogging?‘ – the results were illuminating and I know that a number of new blog tools were written to overcome some of the submitted problems with blogging.
It’s About Time and Attitude
I want to finish with two thoughts, both of which come from the art of having real life conversations.
1. It takes time to Have a Conversation – having a conversation means not only having the ability to say something and expressing an opinion (something most bloggers are pretty good at) but also having the ability to listen to…. no HEAR the other. Hearing another person goes beyond to listening to their words – but hearing their intent and making sure you understand what they are saying. This takes time.
I suspect most of us as bloggers don’t really put enough time into our blogging. We want to get posts up quickly – we want to report the news and be first with it – but we rarely stop and hear what is going on behind the story and hear what others are saying about it.
As a result our posts often come out rush, light on, with mistakes, missing the point and full of false assumptions.
2. Conversations are not Competitions – the best conversations result in both parties coming away from them better people. They are about two people treating each other as equals – wanting to share what they know but learn and be impacted by the other.
True conversations are not about one proving that they are better or know more about something than the other.
Perhaps this is where some blogging interactions fall a part.
Bloggers have always had their egos – but one of the things I first loved about blogging was the way that there was a ‘vibe’ of generosity, giving, sharing and community. At times I still see this as a feature of the blogosphere – but on other occasions I see competitiveness rising it’s head.
We quite often talk as bloggers about ideas like ‘open source’, ‘collaboration’ and everyone having a voice – but when it comes to the crunch we often do what’s in our own best interests at the expense of others.