(Updated for grammer. Not to self: don’t post to your blog at 2am in the morning.)
If there had been some big announcements or ideas to away from the Les Blogs conference, than this whole thing between Mena and I would have never been the focus of people’s attention. So, I’ve decided to suggest some talking points that I would have like to have seen at the conference (or perhaps at the next one).
I hope people will chip in with their views, either on the comments on this blog or on their own blog.
1. How do we enable “real conversations” in the blogosphere?
Those of us who are passionate about blogging are probably actually passionate about enabling, facilitating and partaking in conversation on the Internet. Blogging is just a tool that enables us to do that.
But let’s take a quick look at the state of the nation:
We’ve got a predominantly text-based medium that synonymous with email – it’s impersonal and very hard to convey emotion and tone. We all know this already from corporate email environments, etc. And yet it’s the predominate medium in which we are holding our conversations.
Text is simple to produce, easy to transfer and ideal for searching – so it makes sense to use it in this perspective. But what can we do to improve the medium so that tone, emotions and other elements of ‘real conversation’ can occur?
After our public spat, Mena Trott and I had a useful conversation in which we discussed some of the issues. We both touch on the issue I am discussing here, with Mena describing the problem as follows:
“We both came to a good question that could, in theory, sum up my entire speech:
“Is it possible to have the sort of productive face-to-face connection or conversation that Ben M. and I had offline in an online world? And what can we, as bloggers, do to facilitate that?”
Who knows why eBay really bought Skype – but the reason I see most analysts offering is that eBay wanted to improve the communication methods between buyers and sellers. eBay identified that a bit of a text in a website, on it’s own, is not the best way to describe many types of goods and services. So why are we doing just that with our conversations?
This all comes down to the way in which we gauge nuances around things like civility (heaven forbid) in “real conversation”. We monitor the tone of the other person’s voice and their body language and combine them with instinct – not use a list of prescribed rules and protocols.
So how can replicate or emulate those real-world conversation extensions onto the blogosphere?
2. Persona representation
As blogging matures, one of the biggest issues I’m seeing is persona representation.
A lot of people say that when I blog on this, my personal site, I am representing my employer (the BBC). I am adamant that I am not – and I have disclaimers to that affect.
But I can tell I’m in the minority on this view, with most people equally adamant that they cannot separate what I do at work and what I blog about on my personal site.
(To my defence I do criticise the BBC as well as praise it, but this issue is far bigger than just my blog)
I think it’s wrong to deny people the integrity of being able to own multiple personas and will potentially limit what people feel they can write if they feel they are always “on record” of their employer.
So I’m interested in hearing whether people think there are any frameworks or ideas we can setup that do facilitate separate personas.
3. The Place of Marketing in the Blogosphere
The blogosphere is clearly coming (if not already come) to the attention of marketers – looking for a new way in which to promote their wares that those of their clients.
I’ve already talked at length about Stormhoek and the way they have used the blogosphere to promote their wine (in a way I feel somewhat unpalatable). Recently bathroom cleaner Cillit Bang even went as far to create a fake blogging personality to engage with people blogs (often at a far too personal level) in order to promote their product.
I personally find both these campaigns disappointing as I feel they exploit the principles the blogosphere was founded on and manipulate them in a way that is not in keeping with the same spirit the rest of us engage with the blogosphere.
During the recent London Geek Dinner I had a conversation with Jason Korman of Stormhoek about the marketing of Stormhoek on the blogosphere. I came away from that conversation with the impression that Jason (a self-described “wine entrepreneur”) had no real threshold above which he wouldn’t consider marketing his wine (other than legality, I’m sure). From what I could see (in the context of the blogosphere at least), if it was legal – he’d consider doing it.
Which disappointed me as many brands take ethically and morally lead decisions around how they market their product in the traditional mediums – including choosing not to advertise near schools or during children’s television programmes, etc.
Of course, wine is for adults and this is the blogosphere – but it didn’t appear that any of the equivalent issues on the blogosphere were of a concern to Jason. His view all the way seemed to be that he’d do whatever and if the blogosphere didn’t like it than they would let him know via the very same medium.
Maybe they would – and so my rallying point here is to ask for people’s views on just how far is too much? We’re going to get many more brands piling into the blogosphere and so now is the time to decide where the acceptable limit lies.
These are my three talking points so far. I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on any/all of them. And any other ideas you think should be here too.