Distributed Conversations In Second Person

Earlier this month I asked Frank Meeuwsen a question, about his rss feeds, and he responded (in Dutch). He did so as a direct response (hey Ton!). He referenced a posting by James Shelley who suggests writing postings in the second person, as open correspondence really.

I definitely see blogs as distributed conversations. You write something, I may respond on my own blog, such as now. That response may either directly engage your post or may go off on a tangent, or weaves it into a broader conversation by pointing to other blog posts from other authors. It’s not the original use case why I started blogging, that was ‘thinking out loud’, but conversations definitely is the use case why I kept doing it for over 15 years now.

I also always treat blogs as the personal voices of their authors. Unless it’s an online magazine format, like Ars Technica for instance. In my feed reader I therefore always add the name of the author first. I’m not following publications or channels, I am reading what individual people write. Over time from that reading interaction and then connection may well flow. That’s also why I order my feeds roughly on social distance. Those closest to me I will check daily, those further away I may check less, depending on time or on having a specific question where I’m curious what others may write about that.


part of my reading lists: persons not publications

James’ suggestion I both like and feel slightly uncomfortable with. Like, because it is aimed at making blogs distributed conversations, which is a core purpose of my blog. Getting away from feeling like you’re writing a news article, striking a more informal tone, definitely helps. It likely is also a good way to blog more. A while ago when I asked my network what to write about more, one of the suggestions (by Georges Labreche) was to write an epistolary travel log novella. This, as my blog would actually provide all the material, with all the links to other blogs and authors in my postings. In James’ suggestion the blog itself would already be that epistolary travel log. My blog in that sense is too, just the form of address is different.

The discomfort is probably caused by also wanting to maintain a permanent open invitation to others to join in. To not exclusively address something to someone, and not discourage others lurking from contributing. Usually I am aware of others that are likely to have a perspective to add.
Another factor is supplying enough context. I agree that the first paragraph which allows you to follow the context of this posting as part of a conversation feels contrived and is ‘dry’ to read. Yet, I feel it is necessary to convey in some form. In a second person form this context would likely be left out completely as the counterpart already knows the context. That makes it harder to follow for those who have just one side of the conversations as their window on it.

But yes, let’s build more conversations, James and Frank. I’m definitely with you both on that.

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