Monday, September 3, 2007

Maintaining a Conversation

One of the things I like about blogging is having conversations with people. You know, someone says something, I comment, they comment back to me, I comment back to them, someone else comments to them too and I comment to the third person and so does the original poster, who also comments back to me.... Like people talking. It's fun and interesting and can be pretty informative as people share ideas and compare views and occasionally hash out differences in the back-and-forthing of conversation.

LiveJournal (and the other systems based on LJ's engine) has a couple of ways in which it facilitates this process. First, you can tell it you want to get an e-mail notification whenever someone replies to you. This applies to both original posts you make in your journal and to comments you make on someone else's journal. So if I comment on Mary's journal and she responds to me, I get an e-mail with my comment and Mary's reply, and a convenient link that'll take me back to that conversation if I want to go and add to it.

The automatic e-mail notification only works to comments directly under mine, though, so if Jane comments to Mary's comment to my comment, I won't get a notification with Jane's comment, although it might be of interest to me. For that, LJ has a special button (which looks like a pushpin) to tell the system I want notifications of all comments under the level which was pushpinned. So I can pushpin my comment on Mary's journal and get all the comments under mine, whether they respond directly to one of my comments or not. That way, I'll get to see that interesting comment thread Mary and Jane get going between them. Or I could just pushpin Mary's original post, and I'd get notification of all the comments made to it, no matter who made them.

I love the pushpin. It lets you follow long, multi-thread discussions between dozens of people.

At this point, though, I'd be really happy if Blogger (and other common blogging systems used out here) just had a system to let me know when someone's commented to one of my comments.

A couple of times I've seen a check-box with a label like, "Notify me of followup comments via e-mail." Whenever I've commented to a post where that option was present, I always checked the box. I've never gotten anything in e-mail from those posts, although going back and manually checking has shown that there were later comments.

Manual checking -- a couple of times a day, for a couple of days (or longer if we had a bit of a conversation going) -- was mildly annoying but not a major pain back when I only visited a couple of non-LJ blogs. Now that I have quite a list, though, it's getting frustrating. What does everyone else do? There has to be some trick to it. Is there a way to get e-mail notifications, something I just haven't found to click or check or sign up for?

If not, and if you're going back and checking for replies manually, do you have a system for that? How do you remember which posts in which blogs you've commented to and when? Do you write them all down? I've thought of that, but it seems to be rather a stone-knives-and-bear-skins solution to the problem. :/

Maybe this is why I see so few long-thread conversations on regular blogs? Any thoughts? Advice? Tricks or mechanisms I've missed...?



Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, this is one of the downsides to blogging when you have a lot of blogs you check and comment on. I confess that I just don't always keep up and probably miss some good commentary. But until the technology comes along to notify us I'll try to live with it.

Angie said...

Charles -- If you haven't found any trick to it either then I guess we're all just hanging on as well as we can on sheer memory. Mine's like a steel sieve so.... [wry smile]

I read somewhere that WordPress has a plug-in which allows e-mailed notifications for commenters, although I think you need to also install one for threaded comments. I'm not fond of threaded comments in general, but I'd be willing to live with the one to get the other. [ponder]


writtenwyrdd said...

YOu can forget where you said what, or find you can't remember where you were commenting and find it again.

I do enjoy the back-and-forth commentaries, though. Interesting tangents to the original topic are usually better than the original topic, too.

Angie said...

WW -- exactly. I try to remember but my brain doesn't work that way, really. :P There are two or three blogs I comment on a lot and I check those fairly regularly, but if I just drop a one-shot comment off somewhere, by the next day I have no idea where I left it. [headdesk]

And yeah, some of the discussions can wander off to some very interesting places.

I have to keep reminding myself just how young "blogging" is; it's reasonable that there are still ways it could be improved, technically, and I'm sure that ten years from now-- or five, or three -- it'll be much easier to navigate and track and backtrack and to maintain conversational threads. [crossed fingers]