Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Let the Battle of Ideas Commence!

This is a ‘low-traffic’ blog. I get about 300 page views per month and 150ish readers. High traffic blogs such as Iain Dale’s diary get around 700,000 page views per month.  Iain gets as many readers on his blog every 20 minutes as I do in an entire month!

Even very high-traffic blogs typically get very low numbers of commenters – i.e. people that comment on a blog post and debate and discuss the issues raised.  By my rough calculations, on Iain Dale’s blog approximately only 1 in every 300 page readers leaves a comment (approx 600 comments per week).

So. It was a great surprise when my last blog post entitled ‘An Intelligent Educational Analysis’ yielded a total of 43 comments alone from 7 commenters  – albeit comments added to the copy of my blog entry that appears automatically on my Facebook page, rather than (as you can see – nothing there) comments added to my blog post and appearing as blog comments.

It was great to see lots of ideas flying around - debate, disagreement etc.

So What Makes a Post Attract Comment?

From my observations of blogs in the last few years, I think the most effective way to attract comment is to ask a controversial question. E.g. A post entitled ‘Should Gay Vicars be Allowed to Marry Civil Partners?’ And then in the post provide a couple of points of view and then at the end ask. What Do You Think?

This tends to be a great way for political posts to attract comment – particularly if the person writing the post is an elected representative and therefore doesn’t necessarily want to take a particular position on an issue because they want to avoid creating public argument with political colleagues, pre-warning political opponents or simply because they want to gather ideas and points of views from their electorate before drawing their own conclusions.

A Powerful Research Resource - Crowdsourcing

Inviting or provoking comments on a blog is a great way for elected representatives to research potential reaction to a new idea, proposal or proposition or to gather ideas to help solve a problem. In the early 1990s in the US dominated  IT industry, this used to be called having a ‘Mind-Share’ (now adopted as a marketing term with a slightly different meaning) and today the latest buzz-word is Crowdsourcing.

Post Authors Should Also Comment!

But you often need to do more than just ask a question and provide some sample opinions or ideas. A great catalyst for provoking comments is if one person making comments takes a very strong position on something – the more controversial the better.

This was the case with my last post that got 43 comments. The first commenter took a very strong position on something (A Local Councillor as it happens) which in turn provoked lots of comment and debate and resulted in a relatively detailed exploration of the issue provoking lots of thought and discussion - great stuff.

So, if you post something on a blog it makes sense to provoke comment by taking part in the commenting stream yourself – to keep the debate moving and the ideas flowing. Incidentally, If you follow blogs currently you will see that a lot of people will adopt a name (like Crossfire for example) which they use when commenting as they don’t necessarily want to publish their identity. (best to avoid posting as Anonymous as other people tend to ignor your comments because they can’t address you personally)

The Democratisation of Political Discourse

Much has been written about how the Internet is a democratising force and how the ability it provides for everyone to publish and share their thoughts will eventually substantially change politics.

I buy that, and I think the current developments in blogs and social networking are the first groping steps towards a fundamental change in the way politics is done (and don't we know how much it needs to change!)

But at this stage you need to experiment, make mistakes and learn.

As the IT industry used to say ‘We are not just leading edge. We are bleeding edge’.

But I can take a little pain for a big longer term gain. Can you?


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