Conversation Control

Peter Kim featured on his blog a guest post from Kate Niederhoffer. He said:

…she’s cross-posting here and on her blog.  I’m turning off comments and trackbacks here so the conversation can happen at the source – click here to visit the original post.

I understand the intent of trying to direct attention and interactivity to a specific, alternative location or person, but the inherent friction and publisher control is a problem, and a big flaw, with first-generation comment systems.

Here’s why: I granted Peter my attention, something that is scarce. To force me to go somewhere else and deal with extra clicks, another interface (Kate’s blog) and additional cognition creates a lot of friction. It thwarts my continued participation. I ought to be able to leave a comment on Pete’s blog, where I happen to be, and have it syndicate on Kate’s blog as well. Furthermore, I ought to have ownership over my own disparate, published comments, and manage them in a centralized database. And when someone replies to the conversation in a comment thread, I ought to be notified immediately, somehow.

That’s precisely why I use the Disqus comment system on this blog, because it reduces friction to commenting, and empowers individual commenters to manage their own comments. Comment systems will become increasingly important — if for any reason, because comments often are more valuable than the original post that sparked the interaction.

As for Pete’s guest post from Kate, the topic is on the idea of influencer lists, and how they all lack objectivity, reliability and validity. I happen to agree with that assessment completely. Influence is a fascinating topic, but we still know very little about the mechanics. We need further exploration. And this blog is the only place I’ll be leaving that comment.

Pete and Kate: I would love your take on this issue as you roll out your enterprise social-media consulting firm!

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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  1. it does suck that efforts to hone conversational energy backfire by thwarting participation. i agree that comments are the life force of blog posts. Anything that empowers you to participate in the conversation and simultaneously fulfills your many reasons to interact (including generating attention and paying attention) is a huge value add. glad you agree influence needs more research! happy to have that conversation with you anywhere…

  2. I love the Discus commenting system and wish it were implemented everywhere.

    The fact is that it is not.

    You cant carry all of your comments everywhere. You cant use a single log in for all the sites and places you visit. Your house key doesn't open your car door. Thats just how it is right now.

    That shouldn't discourage you from engaging in the conversations that matter to you where those conversations are happening. You have now deprived all of the potential participants the privilege of your valuable contribution, and thus potentially thwarting many other's continued participation and thereby creating an additional and potentially exponential control problem. What if everyone felt proprietary about commenting and therefore no one engaged due to desire to control their individual components of conversation? How many additional friction / control points would inhibit open dialog? Aren't you just adding more friction?

    I think your comment on Kate's post would have been best made on Kate's blog, and your comments on commenting systems perfectly well made right here, but I find the two points you are making at the same time juxtaposed and at odds with each other.

    What's that old saying? ” You cant take it with you..”

    : )

  3. Agreed that friction exists and the way I executed the cross-post was intentional. In my past experience with guest posting, most of the benefit remains with the blog host. In this situation, Kate had a valuable point of view and I wanted her to get the credit and benefit for it.

    I guess if I had left comments turned on, an elegant solution would've been automated cross-post commenting. Then again, a simple click, copy, and paste really isn't very difficult, is it?

  4. Jeffrety, you said: “I love the Discus commenting system and wish it were implemented everywhere.” That's the real point. There needs to be an open source commenting system, so whether it's Disqus, Intense Debate, or whichever preferred system, they can all communicate with one another. What we need is an open-source, open-standard system, so comments can surround virtually any digital content, whether it be a podcast, an image, a news story, a blog post, a Tweet, or even a static home-page.

    Have I have now deprived all of the potential participants the privilege of…valuable contribution, and thus potentially thwarted many other's continued participation and thereby creating an additional and potentially exponential control problem? Perhaps, in some ways. Hopefully, though, Kate has her Trackbacks enabled, because I did link accordingly. Counter to your suggestion, I just introduced her discussion to all of my readers, who never would've known about Kate's post, had they not already been a subscriber to Pete or Kate's blog.

    It's not about proprietary. In fact, directing comments to Kate is proprietary. I'm arguing the opposite. We need open-standards comment for comments, so they can be more free and open, no matter what venue one happens to be when reflecting on another piece of content.

    And, thanks for your comment. Cheers!

  5. Your original points were very good, so that is the reason I made sure there was a comment pointing to you. Hopefully, my response to Jeffrey further clarifies where I was going. Moreover, there is an indirect tie-in to the question about influence. How does feedback expression, in different formats and taxomies, contribute to the mechanics of influence. Btw, I think we will be talking soon. Friday at 9:15am, right?

  6. Pete, this was all in good spirit, I'm sure you know. For the record, I'm not a Disqus shill. (My loose connection is that one of my company's backers is the lead backer of Disqus.) I'm not a super-blogger, and I do it largely for my own SEO and reactive reputation, not really reach. Regardless, using Disqus has changed the way I think about commenting and interaction — and how we need more open systems/standards. Just try it. If you don't like it, you can leave it.

  7. I'd also recommend installing Disqus — tying identity and threaded comments into their system helps facilitate conversations.

    As far as BackType, we're definitely interested in the problem of fragmented conversations — don't be surprised if we're able to help in the future 🙂

  8. For Pete's sake, Max, go to Kate's blog. Or maybe I have that backwards. Yes, yes, I understand what you're saying about all those extra clicks. But the easiest thing (although it involves even more friction) is to forget about leaving comments on either blog and to write a post yourself, as you have done. Have a nice weekend.

  9. Good point Max. We use Disqus at, and it has worked well. However, I still think the login limits some of our commenting. Maybe that's a good thing?

  10. Joe, I don't require any login — so as to reduce friction. You can be
    anonymous. However, anonymity may not be the best policy for certain venues,
    particularly highly-charged or gossip ones. Some mediabistro properties
    begin to fall into that category.

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