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!