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The Future of Electronic Conversations: The Solution

February 25, 2008

The vase majority of blogs have comments at the end of the entry, making them seem like an afterthought. They’re not an afterthought—they’re just as important as the entry!

Thankfully, someone realized this. That someone is an organization called the Institute for the Future of the Book.

The Institute invented a new blog format, a new way that entries and comments can coexist on the page. Check it out here before continuing. Read the article if you have a minute, or just scroll down and see how the comments section moves with the text.

The three major innovations of this blog format are (1) the aforementioned fact that the comments box scrolls down the page with the body text of the entry, (2) paragraph-level coding for comments, and (3) the ease of posting new comments. The blog using a great example of how people have written in the margins of books for thousands of years—why wouldn’t blogs have the same component?

The one thing this is missing is something I’ve discussed in other recent technology posts: Having the internet bring the information to you. On LiveJournal, if you wrote a comment on someone’s blog and someone replied to your comment, you got an e-mail with the text of that comment, and you could hit “reply” on the e-mail to reply to the comment. Very easy. You didn’t have to keep refreshing the LiveJournal page to see if someone had something to say about your comment, something that’s particularly prohibitive if you’ve replied to many different blog entries.

Also, a major roadblock is that no pre-made blog template uses the blog format created by the Institute. You have to have your own FTP client (which is not easy to install unless you’re technically adept) and then go through a number of complicated steps to install it. And for someone like me who wants to keep their domain name, it creates even more trouble. It’s such a hassle that I’d rather (a) stay on Blogger or (b) hire someone else to do it. And I’m not a rich man.

Speaking of the importance of comments, why can’t you link to a comment? Or compile your comments in one place? Why can’t I see an insightful comment from Jake37 on my blog, click on his name, and see where else he’s made comments? Or if I read a funny blog on Stuff White People Like, why can’t I see the compiled comments the writer has made on other people’s blogs? If comments are just as important as the blog entries themselves, you should be able to access them easily.

Of course, not everyone is going to want to share that breadth of information, but you always have the option of posting anonymously. But even for personal use, knowing what the blog comments you’ve made in the past are would be really helpful. There must be a way to do this.

Some people say that current technology prevents people from connecting. I would revise that statement to say that current technology prevents people from conversing. The Institute for the Future of the Book has shown that it’s possible for a blog to be a medium of conversation. What needs to happen next to make this technology widespread?

Non Sequiter Endnote: If you’re interested in seeing how a company will start to use digital ads integrated with real life and cell phones, see this article.

Future Blog Entry: I’m thinking about creating a March Madness bracket of all of the allegedly “brilliant ideas” I’ve come up with over the last year competing against the “brilliant innovations” by real companies and “people who actually do something with their ideas.” Stay tuned for details about this.

Tomorrow:

I Own That Guy’s Arm

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