In yesterdays posting I left three issues open: relationships around blogs, the road of discovery through the blogosphere, and the blogging dialogue.
I will start with both dialogue and the road of discovery. Not only do the stories in my blog describe my road of discovery through listening, but following the dialogue that often results from these stories is a journey of discovery as well, and appeals to the feeling of wonder I had as a 3 yr old when confronted with the world. Dialogue in the blogosphere is somewhat hidden from the casual observer, especially if this observer is used to e-mail or forums. Responses to my posts seldom come in the form of comments as added to the original posts. Comments usually deal with short messages (Great post!), or impromptu responses that the commenter does not deem appropiate to blog about himself.
Because that is where I’ll find the reactions to my posts: in other blogs. And I have to discover these responses for myself. A whole range of tools helps me do that, my visitor statistics keep track of which sites refer to me, likewise tools like Technorati, Blogdex and the like. That’s how I find where I’m quoted. Also my newsaggregator keeps track of blogs I find of interest, and, as I will explain when talking about relationships in the blogosphere, the blogs I find of interest are often the ones that respond to my blog as well. But this is all invisible on my blog!
Responses to my posts get dealt with in the blogs of others where it is incorporated in their stories about how they gave my story a place in their context. And, vice versa, in my blog these responses are only visible if I weave them into my story/blog in turn myself. In this fashion the red thread in any blog is always the evolutionary thinking path of the author, presented in lineair because chronological order, but as twisted curved and looping around as my brain. Dialogues are always a cross-section of a set of blogs at some point in time, thus nicely representing the limited validity of shared meaning I talked about with Denham.
On the face of it, it takes a lot of effort to sustain a dialogue through blogs. But as that effort has the form of a tour of discovery it is also a source of fun and satisfaction to me. Of course extra tools might come in handy in my blog, such as Trackback, and search functionality, when hunting down the conversation. Another bonus is that hunting down references leads to finding new blogs along the way, especially referrer-logs. The blog-roll I have was largely constructed this way. Now add to this picture the fact that with many of the people I have blog-dialogues with, the discussion spills over into other media, like e-mail, or in the comment sections of KnowledgeBoard.com, and is also added to by other publications of others that pursue other parts of the same or a related discussion with other parties, and sometimes in face to face meetings as well.
The effect is a sort of conversational cloud that resembles closely the way
dialogues flow between me and my personal friends: we talk on the phone, meet in private, meet in public (bars, theaters, political rallies whatever), we e-mail, write the occasional letter. And even when we haven’t met in months we pick up the conversation where we left it off the last time. Now this is the sort of
dialogue, prolonged in time, over many different media, in a dozen different spots, that contributes largely to the evolution of my thoughts. You talk, let it rest for a while, get prodded by a few others, read something in a paper, hear something on the news, and you talk again. There is no way of reconstructing that on-line, let alone in one medium, and I don’t want to either. My blog however gives clues to who and what makes up this cloud of conversation around me, and it’s the better at it than other media to date.
Like I said before knowledgesharing is a complex thing, chaotic, pseudo-random, a composite of many different 1-to-1 interactions. The blogosphere reflects that, it’s a cloud, not a hierarchy or a necessity of consensus on content, like forums, or congresses. There is no centralized push, you experience only push as far as there are pulls within you to accept it. It’s not ideal, but it feels comfortable like an well worn coat.
The last point I want to talk about is relationships in the blogosphere. The most astonishing thing in my experience when I started blogging is that by the strength of my ideas and original postings alone, a new social network came into existence. Normally when you meet people, you do that within a general context (this is a colleague of mine, let me introduce you to my golf buddy, etc.) If such a meeting results in a more lasting contact you start exploring eachothers interests and come to the mutual ones.
My blog draws attention from people purely on the basis of ideas, and a conversation results. Later on you start filling in the general details, which you would normally get to first. But now you already know you’ve found someone worthwile, where outside the blogosphere that proof is in the last bite of the pudding, not the first. After four months of blogging, people I’ve met through my blog I also have met face to face, and they have become part of my wider, general social network as more and more of their own conversational cloud became visible to me.
Furthermore I refer a lot of people I meet face to face to my blog. The consistancy (hopefully) of my web presence in my blog makes a very ‘intimate’ c.v. and people get to know my professional interests very quickly. Some of them regard showing them my blog as an act of trust, even though my blog is public for all to come see. My blog has become part of the face to face discussions I have with people, and so has become a part of the conversational cloud that was already there.
And that is a new effect to me: that both the conversations I have on-line and off-line now feel like taking place in the same contextual space. It was not like that before blogging.