Systems Need Feedback

Interesting post by Jeremy Keith relating to comments on blogs.

Most blogs allow comments. There’s no doubt about it; having comments enabled is likely to increase the popularity of your blog.

But that, in and of itself, is not a good justification. It assumes that popularity is desirable. The truth is that, when it comes to personal publishing, it’s not the amount of people who visit that count, it’s who those people are why they’re visiting that’s important.

His point that "it is not the number of people that matters" is so true and it actually mirrors some of the concepts relating to permaculture and ecosystems in the sense that it’s not the number of connections that matter but the quality of them. Thus if you have a blog and you’ve only got ten people who frequent it, that doesn’t matter. What matters is the quality of the relationship with those people and what each of you are getting out of that relationship.

The difficulty then is keeping track of these conversations. Trackback would be a good option but it relies on a certain level of techiness on the part of the responder and again, the issue of spam raises its ugly head. These days, it should be possible to replace trackback with search using third-party tools like Technorati and Google Blog Search. Expect to see that kind of functionality built in to more and more blogging tools.

True this is an option but he’s right in that the biggest problem with this approach is keeping track of these conversations. I’ve fooled around with some ideas on how to get around this myself but still don’t see a way yet. Again though, if you used a Technorati link to show all people responding to your post, you still have the problem of an overloading of comments even if people posted them on their own blogs. No matter what method is chosen some way is needed for these quality comments to bubble up to the top so that they don’t drown in the sea of comments.

Personally, I’d like to have enhanced comment / trackback system that allows me to selectively pick out people who’ve provided quality feedback and highlight these people first, yet you could still read the other feedback if you wanted as well. This emphasis on quality not quantity (i.e. best go to the top, from my point of view) would hopefully entice others to write more quality feedback as well.

Still having said all that, often times the best feedback comes from the most unexpected places. For example, I would have never have thought to research about permaculture in relationship to the Web but I stumbled across someone’s comment on another person’s blog and discovered it by chance. Now strangely enough I’m hearing more and more about the Web as an "ecosystem" which is what permaculture deals with (i.e. working with ecosystems, instead of working against them). Therefore, yes I’d still like most of my posts to be open to comments, since you don’t know where ideas or inspiration may come from.

Maybe Jeremy’s idea of being very focused with your discussions is the key since it will hopefully attract a smaller and more discerning group of people (specifically interested in that topic).