Say What?

As one of the Community Facilitators here a big part of my job is keeping an eye on the overall culture of Commons and working on ways to cultivate a better sense of community.  I’ve long been puzzled now by how to generate better discussions in the comments of members’ blogs.  Initially I felt like what we needed was a way to call more attention to certain blogs that were ripe for discussion.  I started writing Footenotes as a way to recap the week and, hopefully, call out some great posts that may have been buried down the blog roll.  Footenotes has been something of a Sisyphean feat.  We have a few tools at our disposal that help us watch traffic come through the site and it’s easy to see which blogs are getting love for the week.  What I’ve learned is that even if a certain blog gets a boost in traffic (either from Footenotes or being linked from elsewhere) it still doesn’t always do much to drum up discussion.

Lately I’ve been of two minds about it.  On the one hand, people don’t necessarily blog for response.  A personal or insightful post stands on its own as an instrument of communication.  You’ve got something to say, you say it, and the community reads.  Comments aren’t validation and often a blog entry is written as much for one’s self as for an audience.  In this instance I have to pull the camera back a little and think of ‘community’ in much more general terms.  On the other hand though, I know that I personally get a small thrill when someone I don’t actually know that well stops by here or Footenotes to chime in or just say hello.

I think part of this relates to a discussion that’s been going on within the Commons team about how people use the Commons.  There are plenty of members who have very specific reasons for being here, usually a group or committee, and once that business is done they move on to other endeavors.  This, of course, is absolutely fine – it’s what the Commons was built to do.  That being said there’s also a lot of people here who routinely reach out across the Commons and interact in a variety of ways that helps to create a unique social space that I really enjoy.

I bring all of this up here because Ground Control is our tin-can telephone to you and I want to know what you think.  Comments or no your blogs are definitely being read by both the CUNY community and beyond.  Thousands of hits each week mean most current blogs are being seen by someone (lots of someones!).  What I’d really like to know is how you feel about blogging here versus other places you may blog at.  Is there something we could do to make this part of the site a better fit for your voice?

Going forward I’m going to move Ground Control up to Wednesdays and next week: The Wiki!

4 Responses to “Say What?”

  1. Brian Michael Foote September 26, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    I agree with Maura that blogs are mostly about keeping people writing. I think that’s evident for someone like Helldriver who writes fantastic blogs that get great traffic even though their aren’t a ton of comments. In fact, a blog like Tony’s Thoughts often gets more hits than anyone in the week and those post don’t usually spill over into the comments. I think what irks me is that I’m not sure how to keep a pulse on vibrancy when you don’t see it in dialogue. Of course, having just typed that sentence, I can think of a ton of examples of posts getting mentioned in other posts so…well so there we go.

    Matt, your emphasis on dormant over dead is well taken. Since this is specifically a blog about transparency and the community I think it’s ok to mention that when I came aboard I was a little headstrong about pushing out dead spaces in the beginning when I should have thought it through a bit more. I’ve since re calibrated my feelings on those groups and blogs that haven’t lit up in a while. That aside I still have high hopes for a culture here that’s more chatty in a public way. A big part of a community is the in-jokes, argot and insight that naturally tail big discussions. I have to remember to consider all of that in light of the relative infancy of the project. I feel like in a lot of ways everyone’s still getting to know each other, it’s only been a year and some change.

    Howdy, I’m Brian.

  2. Matthew K. Gold (he/him) September 20, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    So even though I don’t blog that often here, I appreciate the availability of this space.

    This is an important point for the Community team to remember. There is sometimes a tendency to consider blogs or groups that haven’t been active for a while as “dead” spaces, but I really don’t think that is the case. Maybe “dormant” would be a better word, since they are just a step away from being activated. As we continue to explore various metrics of site activity, we need to remember this point.

  3. Maura A. Smale (she/her) September 19, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    These are all good questions to think on, Brian. I have a couple of places that I blog, and I use each of my blogspaces for different reasons. One’s more personal, and another is more of an academic librarian community.

    I blog here on the Commons when I have academic and/or library stuff I’d like to write about that is more general and/or seems like a good fit with the Commons community. So even though I don’t blog that often here, I appreciate the availability of this space.

    As far as individual posts go, I tend not to sweat the # of comments. Sometimes folks comment, sometimes they don’t. As is probably apparent (and not at all original), the reason I blog is to keep myself writing, so it’s at least as much for me as for any readers I might have.


  1. » Notes from the SubCAT ground control - September 26, 2010

    […] couple of weeks ago I mentioned I’d make a post about the Wiki and then I opted instead to ramble on a bit about what some […]

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