Tracking Blog Conversations

Tony Karrer got me wondering about tools to track blog conversations with his Types of Blog Discussions post. The main point of his post was actually about different types of conversations, such as the usual organic discussion and the memes where people tag each other. However, he ended the post with this:

I’ve personally been playing with different forms and I’m still not sure I know what will make sense in which cases. Certainly I’ve come to understand the importance of tools like MyBlogLog, Explode, CoComment, Meme Trackers, etc. to help bloggers and blog readers to form community around a network discussion. At the same time, these tools are in their infancy as is our understanding of network conversations.

I started using coComment in January shortly after Tony posted about it. Now, I’m not as good about commenting on other sites as I should be. I’m really trying to make the effort to increase how much I’m out there interacting with people and doing comments now. I will say that coComment does make it easier, and that I do keep track of comments much better now. Having it show up in my reader means I actually see if someone replied after I did, rather than generally forgetting to over go back (which is pretty much what I was doing before).

However, I really wasn’t familiar with the other tools he mentioned, so I posted a comment and asked him. Not only did he reply quickly, but he wrote a full post and even complimented me on my “great questions.” He has more intriguing ideas in his post Blogs, Community, and Discussion Tracking – What’s Really Needed. He did explain the tools, what he has hoped to get out of them, and what he has actually found to be the case. He also describes what he’d really like to see in tools to facilitate learning through blog conversations (my summary).

  • A visible community of people reading the same threads–whether or not they comment
  • Suggestions of related reading based on what others in your community are also looking at
  • Rankings and ratings based on your community–not the vast population of the entire Web
  • A way to track all comments in a related thread in one place, regardless of what blog they are posted on
  • All of the above just based on what threads we are already reading and what we’re already doing, without having to go out and join yet another network or go to someone else’s site to get the information

Tony’s last point echoes Stephen Downes from yesterday in Social Networking As Professional Development, referencing the Classroom 2.0 group on Ning. Stephen said, “I don’t think it’s a network if it belongs to someone, if it is created, if it is associated with a place. It’s more like, what, a club or a group in such a circumstance.” Tony’s ideal tool, as I understand it from his post, would take the actions we’re already doing and make the network more visible, without us having to sign on the dotted line and say, “yes, I am a member of this network.” Each individual would be at the center of his or her own network. Networks would overlap, but each one would be unique for that person.

I need to spend some more time thinking about all of this. I can feel all the thoughts rattling around in my brain, but it seems like there are some connections just out of reach for me now. What do you think? If you could design your ideal tool for tracking blog conversations, what would it look like? Is there something better out there now that I should try?

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