Blogactiv Director

Do You Blog Or Publish?

On Friday last week I had the pleasure of attending a Lisbon Council event on the subject of innovation. I can’t lie, it was a fascinating event with some excellent speakers and interventions.

However, I don’t want to dwell on the content. Instead, I’d like to recall a conversation I had in the coffee break.

One of the main speakers at the event was Anthony D. Williams, co-author of the book Wikinomics. For me, speaking to him during the break was a real honour. I’d met the other co-author, Don Tapscott at another Lisbon Council event in 2009. These guys are the leaders in bringing the concepts around mass collaboration to the masses.

We spoke about blogging – I run a blog platform – of course. He asked me a very telling question almost immediately.

“What is the biggest problem your bloggers or your platform has?”

I explained that we don’t have as many ‘conversations’ and comments as I would like. He asked why…

As I was answering, I realised that Blogactiv – and possibly large parts of the EU affairs blogosphere – has a fundamental problem. It isn’t necessarily you, or me, it is many of us in small parts.

What is this problem?

The problem, I believe, is one of mindset as opposed to perhaps technology. Mr Williams, for his part, jumped on the problem as well. Here it is:

Many of the bloggers in the EU affairs space only publish complete thoughts.

That might sound strange, ‘complete thoughts’, but it is where many of us are. The point of blogging is not to push content out as often as possible. The content we push out does not have to be perfect. It might be that too many of us have some form of journalistic background or are frightened of possible hostile replies. Who knows?

Instead, the problem is that so many of the posts are finished and presume an answer within the content. Whereas, many bloggers do something quite different. They publish the seed of an idea. They can tell they are on to something, though not necessarily what, and then the audience chips in and helps to develop the idea further.

Blogging is collaborative. Blogging is not one way publishing. It isn’t a newspaper.

One of Blogactiv’s favourites, Mathew has written about similar things here and here. As you can see from that first post, he highlights a number of blogs that don’t even switch their comment functions on! And Julien Frisch posts here (be sure to read the comments) about the level of interconnectivity at the core of the EU blogosphere.

Mr Williams advocates many uses for Web 2.0 technology – as you might imagine – including bringing it into the public (government) space more and more. Quite right. After a wander around his blog I found this brief post, which sums up for me what we could all be aiming for. Solutions and answers as a group.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I can at least ask some questions…

How do you use your blog? Is it a conversation or one-way publishing?

If you only publish, what is it that prevents you from trying to generate more conversations? You know the EU blogosphere is a very polite place, you almost certainly won’t be pilloried for an opinion…

If you blog, do you ever ask questions to the reader? Would you publish their answers?

What might you be missing out on by not having others develop your thoughts further?

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Comments

  1. Nice post.

    Personally, I blog to share and receive ideas, and generally end with a question or invitation to others to comment, contribute, etc.

    However, I do tend to write long, highly “thought-through” posts, because the issues I am covering are complicated and I’ve found that if I just throw ideas out there half-formed, I get much of the same back – i.e., Gargabe Out, Garbage Back.

    Instead, I get only a few comments – the last 10 posts averaged 9 comments each, including my responses (what’s the average, excluding Macedonians and Greeks arguing over DNA?).

    However, my stats show that the people who don’t bounce off my blog spend, on average, 28 minutes per visit (and the average is…?). Which explains why the comments I do get are generally useful and thoughtful. It’s quality, not quantity.

    Interestingly, most of my comments come from non-Blogactiv bloggers. There’s no culture of conversation here. Why?

    While Williams is right, he misses the point that most people seem to blog here because they want to influence a discussion, not have one. So you’re getting a lot of polished ‘position posts’, designed to be read, rather than thoughts thrown ‘out there’ as part of an ongoing conversation.

    They probably fear that to do that may make them look unprofessional. They’re wrong, probably, and they’re missing a huge opportunity to develop support for their position by not engaging with people, but there you are – there’s no culture of conversation for the moment.

    If you want that, you could invest in cultivating it, but I wouldn’t do that just within Blogactiv – truly interesting conversations are rarely limited to a single platform. The web should be a sea, not an archipelago.

    Now the only people who can build the bridges are the bloggers themselves. But if Blogactiv bloggers are not interested in having comments on their own blogs, I doubt they’ll be posting comments elsewhere, which is exactly what they need to do to get the most out of social media. Maybe you can give them a kick? 😉

  2. Hi Stuart,

    Thank you very much for this blog entry. Looking at my own experience and environment as communications professional, I think you made a very important point, or should I say, raised a very good question 😉

    When I write for web or print, taking into account today’s requirement for dialogue-style, I often miss someone interrupting me like in a normal conversation. Or the instant feedback, which makes a face2face conversation more open and animated. Twitter seems a better platform for this, but then the sentence restrictions too short to really say something.

    What about the question that people do not commit enough to form a network, i.e. make a choice in who they follow so they have actually the time to respond instead of surfing on to other pages and lose the momentum? As a reader, I find myself often in that situation. There is so much interesting stuff on the web to which I like to respond to, but for which I do not take the time or lose the page via links in the text. It’s as if the Web is to Wide…. Hence, must we learn to better focus and manage in our online behaviour (like in our offline behavior)?

    I do like the comment of Mathew, that people often are too scared to ask questions (especially highly qualified people like BlogActive bloggers and readers). But this comes from our school time, where asking questions was not so promoted by teachers as in today’s schoolsystem. And still today there are many teachers at junior school and lecturers as Uni who just lecture, but not ask questions. Perhaps this is also an area which should be looked at if you want a more responsive public. What do you think?

    Brigit

  3. Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated.

    Mathew, hi, you are certainly right that people on Blogactiv are often trying to influence a debate and to do that they need to seem scholarly to be credible. This is a difficulty with Blogactiv more than many other EU blogs I feel. Since the early approach was to aim for ‘quality’ bloggers, that is what you’ll get. For my part, I have tried hard to bring a wider range of people onto the platform. My thinking is that almost everyone you meet in the Brussels ‘bubble’ is intelligent, thoughtful and interesting – so they could ALL be great bloggers. If that is true – and I am yet to be proved wrong – then I hope to continue to widen and raise the debate by ‘lowering’ (I’m sorry for using such a term) the quality…

    For the record, the average is a smidge under 2 mins per visit. I think that proves that you are read in much more depth. Quite right too.

    Brigit, thanks for this too. I agree with you that readers might be scared to ask questions of some of our bloggers. I for one, know Stanley pretty well. He is a lovely and charming guy. We chat about a wide range of topics. However, I will not question him about policy. I know where I am wrong, and he is almost certainly right. If I feel this way, I can imagine that others do too.

    To link both comments, I have often thought that the EU blogosphere needs some form of unifying force. I don’t know what really. Perhaps a post about communication that we can ALL agree on. Or maybe one sentence of unifying cause (pretty unlikely though). With so many positions and topics, we cannot unify under any one – or many – banner(s).

    For what its worth, I often feel that Mathew’s writing about communications is as close as we are getting for now to unifying online EU debates. And that is in large part because we are all trying to communicate and use the same or similar tools – so it is our one common denominator. And, of course, he networks online and off with the community too.

    No matter how much I like your posts, if Mathew were writing about energy policy or whatever, I don’t think he’d be such a unifying force. For now at least, I think it is you providing the ‘kick’.

    Thanks for your thoughts. More are always welcome.

    Stuart

  4. You know Brigit, having just pressed publish, I am still thinking about your comment about building ‘a network’. That is very true here as well.

    Something that I hear a lot from our bloggers, is that they have made their 2, 4, 6 posts – or whatever – and now want to know where the screaming hoardes of fans and readers are.

    I do quite a bit of link building for blogs and the platform behind the scenes, but I would imagine that almost none of our other bloggers do that. Blogactiv is a pretty powerful platform, but it is not immune to the work and effort of internet marketing. Sure, that is my job. But it isn’t easy to do for dozens of blogs simultaneously…

    That is the more formal work of IM that doesn’t happen for most of our blogs, but the less formal – taking part in the conversation elsewhere (trackbacks anyone?) – probably doesn’t happen too much either. This again comes down to publishing vs holding a conversation I think.

    But the more high profile the blogger, the less likely this work is to happen I feel.

    No simple answers around here.

  5. I think you’re right that “almost none of our other bloggers do that” – I can hardly think of any bloggers on Blogactiv who actually comments on blogs elsewhere, or here for that matter.

    Hence my diatribe that kicked this off, and my comment, above, that “the only people who can build the bridges are the bloggers themselves.”

    However, that’s not strictly correct: if Blogactiv had an online community manager, for example, one of his/her jobs could be to build bridges between blogs on Blogactiv and elsewhere, posting comments along the lines of “your post reminds me of something Blogger X said here”.

    If similar activities existed on the other bubbles (Iabc.be, Linolounge, bloggingportal.eu etc), then we may eventually knit these so-called bloggers together into a more interesting conversation, rather than seeing them simply sound off inside their Chosen Bubble.

    But all this curation, filtering and bridge-building takes time, which noone has the money to support, particularly as the technology still isn’t there (see Groups in EU social media: not so ridiculously easy).

    It would still be better, faster and self-financed if the bloggers did it themselves. After all, there’s no better way of getting more mileage out of your own posts than to engage in online conversations.

    Take this conversation, for example. I tweeted it, Brigit (I presume) saw my tweet, read your post, added her own comment (and tweeted it), and at least some of those reading our comments will go to Brigit’s and my blogs to explore further. That’s how it works. It ain’t that hard. And it’s a fun way to learn and pick up ideas. So why don’t more EU ‘bloggers’ do it?

    PS Stuart, activate the plug-in that allows people to subscribe to updates, alerting them to new comments by email. It’s effective.

  6. Point taken about the plugin. Apologies. I ought to know better…

    You are right that a Community Manager could do that, and it is something I have been building towards with Michael – the chap that does the publishing each day – but a major part of this is still down to individual bloggers. We can’t really overcome that.

    Thanks again for your valuable input Mathew.

  7. This is indeed an interesting conversation to read.

    I agree with most of the points made so far. Because I am very new to Blogactiv and blogging in general I can only comment on my impression and activity so far, which was in fact posting complete thought through ideas.

    The reason for this is to avoid coming across as unprofessional.

    As I understand you suggest that as long as it the topic of the blog post is somehow linked to anything that seems important and has recently crossed my mind, I should put it out there? If so, that’s what I intend to do from now on.

    It is remarkable for me in any case, that I have no problem whatsoever commenting on issues on other social media platforms, but do on Blogactiv.

    I am wondering if any other Blogactiv bloggers of the ‘latest generation’ have the same problem?

    In any case, thank you all for the interesting ideas and especially Stuart for the reading & commenting suggestion!

  8. @Eva, thanks for your comment, which confirmed what was until then nothing more than an assumption, or suspicion, and developing it further – it’s very interesting that you feel reticent about commenting here, but not elsewhere! Stuart, is it all too serious!? At least you added that plugin… 😉

    PS And a small postscript to my last comment, where I use this exchange as an example of how engaging on other blogs is the best way of getting traffic to your own: since this thread began, traffic to my blog noticeably upticked.

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