Micro Engagement is Killing Our Edublogging Community

One of the elements I have noticed that has changed in out edublogging community is the number of comments that are added to blog posts. The lack of discussion and further conversation is something I have missed from the blogging experience. Writing and reflecting upon my own practice is great in itself, but the ensuing discussions that occurred as a result of sharing often helped deepen my understanding or challenge how I was thinking. This depth of engagement seems to be a fading part of our writing community.

Since starting #28daysofwriting I have been able to re-ignite my reading and consumption of other people’s thinking through the blog posts that have been shared. I have been grateful for the few comments that have been added to my own blog posts so far this month, but am relatively surprised by the lack commenting and engagement I see around the education blogging community.

As my colleague and friend Ewan puts it in his latest post:

given the number of comments left on the first 14 days of this 2015 writing adventure compared to the flowing discussions one might have seen 10 years ago, I’m not sure anyone cares about many blog posts any more.

The engagement from over 110 educational bloggers for #28daysofwriting would suggest that it is still a viable format for reflection. But whether we care enough about other blogs is another thing.

Perhaps this is to do with the growing number of blogs that are active and the quality and breadth of blogging tools we have at our disposal. It would stand that an increase in the amount of posts that are shared and the number of educational blogs, would challenge the number of discussions that can be started. Maybe it is not that people do not care about blog posts but they are much more likely to be using that energy on their own blog.

I made the following diagram to help me think this through.

blog post engagement

There is nothing wrong with the amber lit retweeting and sharing, but for many people we are sharing in an attempt to have the most impact on others. The micro engagement that occurs as people share without reading and, reposting content without engaging any further, is much more prevalent than the more in depth discussions of 10 years ago.

Aaron mentioned in a comment on a post the other day that the rise of the mobile browsing experience is also another reason why people do not comment as much anymore.

At the macro level, the full realisation of a blog post’s impact, teachers think differently after reading something and act differently as a result (with their colleagues or with their class). I have been fortunate enough to be able to share ideas that have had such an impact. The usual way I have learned about such an effect is by reading other blog posts, as teachers reflect on their version of things and how they have adapted my original idea.

Of course we need content to inspire and challenge us, so we need educators writing about their experiences in the classroom. I want more and more people using blogging as a reflective tool and practice. Perhaps what we need is a focus on discussion, on building on each other’s ideas and then reflecting ourselves. And maybe it is this closing of the loop that is the most powerful.

What do you think? Is this micro engagement something that is eroding the discussions present in the community or are they simply happening elsewhere? What’s your take on it?

On a post lamenting the lack of commenting it is of course now mandatory to leave a comment πŸ˜‰

  1. I’m very much a lurker usually, but since starting a master’s level course last week, I’m going to challenge myself to comment more often to help me to get into the habit of “critically evaluating” what I read!

  2. It has got more and more difficult to comment, e.g. here I have had to enter details – “sign in with Twitter” did not work for some reason. Tech failure means people start to comment then give up.
    Also many blog posts too long – people don’t always read to the end, so don’t comment. And worry that their digital footprint will leave that comment on, say, learning styles, floating online Googling up forever more.
    http://www.staffrm.com is a great new (ish) platform that makes it really easy to make simple posts AND comment. Solves many of these issues.

  3. Great post and even greater comment stream. It made me think about something that I have revisited recently- Leah Lievrouw’s 1998 idea of heterotopic Communication. That’s communication that is neither here nor there but simultaneously here and there. So we can be communicating about an idea across blogs comments,Twitter, Facebook, etc. and that is great in the here and how but not always easy to recall and find afterwards. We try to develop practices that ‘work’ for different contexts but there are these walled gardens that try to make it easier because they want to suck in our comments and links to add to their content. I am setting up my own domain to move my wordpress blog there and fedwiki and known are next on the list. @francesbell

  4. Of course, you then have to overcome the accent problem – or does that just happen to Glaswegians? πŸ˜‰

  5. It would be wise for these tools to explore voice commentary options. That has made a huge difference in mobile learning when it comes to learning management systems and feedback.

  6. Thanks for involving me in this lot – it’s been an interesting excursion into a new format. I clearly need to meet more savvy edubloggers again to catch up on what’s available!

  7. Having occasioned that lovely idea of a “religious pace” I think you’d be amused at the liveliness of the discourse! Since more of my time recently has been taken up by things like the fight for equality in the church, I’ve become involved in some very heated exchanges on blogs – and more aware of blogging as a political tool to ensure that those at the top know what I’m thinking (so tagging carefully is very important).

  8. Hi Dave, appreciate your comments RE Staffrm.io (you’ve given it a bit too much ‘oo’). The difficulty with opening up comments is that it leaves the conversation massively vulnerable to spam. And that’s one sure way to end engagement. Authentication is important if you want to have a decent conversation on the internet these days. For example, you and I both signed up somewhere/somehow to leave these comments.

    The RSS feed thing is a different problem. In many ways, Staffrm is more like a long-form Twitter than a Blog. You wouldn’t want an RSS feed for someone’s tweets, you’d just follow them. The same is true of Staffrm. Or at least that’s my understanding of it at the moment anyway!

    One thing I’m trying to get my head around these days is how Staffrm fits into the quasi-democratic ecosystem that is the blogosphere. WordPress is a great example of what can be achieved with open source, but it comes with it’s own set of limitations, especially when we’re talking about helping teachers fluidly share practice. I may be wrong, but it feels like there’s always going to be a compromise at some level.

    Anyway, it’s very early days over at Staffrm. It’s less than a month since we launched out of BETA and I’m sure things will change a lot over the next few months. So all I can say is: watch this space πŸ™‚

  9. @Dave Stacy I am with you on the concern of members only and other medium like spaces. Look nice, you own yr data but…
    Also like the point about comments not being a good measure, or at least take some comfort!

  10. Heh, I’d take 2 comments.
    Known and webmentions are really interesting, but would need some sort of standard or for different systems to accept them. I was hoping that since my known reply was to this post it would turn up here…
    brid.gy mentioned in another comment is also interesting doing out of indieweb too.

  11. Oh, and I’m not sure that the two amber statements in the box are equal. I’d actually have the last two as red – I think actively sharing something you’ve read is a step above just reading. I think quite carefully about which things I share back to Twitter etc, and which ones I don’t.

  12. Great to see a discussion going on here at least!

    I completely agree with what many others have said about the practical difficulties in commenting, especially from mobile devices. That was ever the case, but now it’s easier for comments to take place on Twitter, Facebook, wherever else the original content is linked to. Yes, they may lack the depth, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening. In the context of UK teachers I think I’ve actually seen more blog posts about other blog posts in the last two years than ever before. In other words, short form follows the path of least resistance and long form heads to the commenters blog for the conversation to continue there.

    I also think we need to mindful of the fact that comments have probably never been a very good measure of impact. I find it much easier to share blog posts with colleagues, discuss them face to face and implement changes based on them than I did when blogging was very much a minority pursuit. Isn’t it something like 1% of Wikipedia readers ever make an edit? I think we need to be mindful of that when we’re putting our stuff out there.

    My real concern is the growth of ‘you’ve got to be a member to comment’ platforms. It’s been great to see the numbers of teachering in the UK using staffroom.io to engage with the #28daysofwriting, but I do have concerns that you have to be a member to comment, and you can’t subscribe to an RSS feed yet. I’ve resisted it so far, largely out of some principle I haven’t quite got my head around yet, although I suspect if I want to engage I’m going to need to hang up my principles and create an account.

    For all of that though, some kind of collective move towards more commenting following this renewed burst of blogging we’ve seen this month would be a very welcome development.

  13. I have similar posts @disqus_2IzmJDVjOB:disqus around this blog over the years. The content is just consumed. I suppose for me I am not surprised when it is posts that are not needing discussion – when you genuinely invite ideas and see nothing you realise it is fading from our digital space.

  14. Thanks Monika I think a focus on discussion and commenting is a good next step – in many ways it is much harder than just writing your own content. Engaging in meaningful ways though comments takes a different skill, we have to assimilate the original content and share our challenges and questions.

  15. I hope we can do that Stephanie, I think it would be a good follow up too – commenting for a month. Whilst a new bunch go through the writing month too – what do you think of that? So you have a crew doing the March writing days and a crew signed up to a month of commenting everyday.

  16. Thanks Andrew – yeah that thing about RSS readers has been something I have long been dissatisfied about. The experience of reading is nice, say in Feedly, but having to move out of that to comment always feels clunky. I would love to see that solved in some way.

    I appreciate that conversations about the things we publish may occur elsewhere, but unless that dialogue or the ideas developed is fed back to the blog author in some way it goes unnoticed. For example if a long discussion occurs on Twitter or in a Fb group without the author they cannot learn as well. Always good to loop people back into discussion so that they can continue to learn too.

  17. Absolutely. I know that’s why I stopped writing as much. But if 28 days of writing can get us writing maybe a follow up to this would be 31 days of commenting? Sharing the love with others.

  18. I would take 20 comments instead of 100 RTs anyday. I know which one I gain most value from in terms of adding to the conversation and building on ideas.

    I do hope we see the return of the long form – we need to invest in it and tend to it, we need this part of our edu culture to grow back. Whether commenting will do the same, who knows. The more I think about it the more I want to run a 28 days of writing alongside one supporting commenting. I want to see people doing that old thing of “I just commented on…” type social share.

    John you pinged me on Twitter with that tool – Known http://known.johnj.info/2015/tombarretts-post-about-the-lack-of-commenting-gathers-a-fair

    Looks really interesting and I hope I can discover better ways to draw the conversations together from across the web. Any other ideas would be welcomed.

  19. I think there is lots of room for better commenting tools to be developed. Just had a search through some blog plugins for WordPress and there is not that much. Disqus is in fact a pretty solid tool compared to what else is there. Sorry you lost a comment, always painful, I have made it a habit now whenever I am commenting to copy anything I have written before hitting submit. Saved me many times.

  20. We at least commenting is not dead on this post;-)

    Tech solutions will come (and go) but @christine_mcintosh:disqus is right about the culture. The long form seems to be having a bit of a revival for reading, I wonder if more long form commenting is coming behind?

    Strangely the old, name, email & url drill is simpler than disqus or Ewan’s typepad for that matter. And in the middle to typing this I got a popup invite to subscribe to the blog! on a phone I’d have given up. (The popup may be designed to make me get to the point, I’ve been here ~10 minutes;-))

  21. Yep, much harder to use a phone. Especially if you want to start adding references, loggin in to disqus or handling captchas.

    I wonder how we could move away from twitter speed to a more religious pace. A tweet is so easy…

  22. I’m leaving this comment because I’m now off my phone and using the desktop. The commenting process seems much simpler like this, and as a result I’m feeling more favourably disposed to the medium (disqus is new to me). I still blog when I have something I want to say, and am still pleased to have comments left on blogger rather than on the F/b link, say – but I know that since my first aggregator vanished I’ve tended not to keep up the way I did. You may be interested to know that @thurible’s blog still attracts strings of comment for many of his posts; it may be that the church community is less in thrall to twitter and f/b and the instant gratification of a “like” or a share.

  23. Yes John the commenting or dialogic tools we have for blogs are pretty crude imho. Would be great to try some new plugins and ideas. I have always liked the commenting by paragraph tool that i see around the place. Maybe it is not the intent that is wrong just the designed commenting experience – see the other comments for a reinforement of that.

  24. Thanks Kevin, I have long been relatively dissatisfied with the commenting tools for blogs that are available. I often wish there was a better way. As ever John’s insight is usually a strong indicator of the next web.

  25. That was exactly my experience this morning. Many people have given up commenting on blogs because of difficulties, real or perceived.

  26. I’ve found that I don’t comment on blog posts as much as I used to on the actual post. That doesn’t mean I don’t comment. I participate in a Facebook group and a Twitter group of AP teachers, many of whom I’ve connected with at the Readings. What tends to happen is that an article is referenced in that community and it can spark an hour or even sometimes days worth of focused discussion. That discussion is focused around a shared need or application of the ideas and is free from trolls. Also, as Monika mentioned earlier, in the RSS readers, it’s easy to share, but you usually have to leave that interface for the original site to comment as I had to do here.

  27. Here is a perfect example of why I lurk more than respond! I just wrote a response to @DrewMinock on his post about the app Threering. I am using an iPad. When I clicked submit, it asked for my Google credentials. After I logged in, my reply was gone. Since I had just read your post, I came here to comment. I tried to sign in with my Google credentials and was made to create a Disqus account. The cog to show I was successful setting up a Disqus never stopped spinning. I x’d out and came here anyway, where it showed me as logged in. These are the types of macro-blocks that impede some amount of response. While I see the need for some protection, it can be very frustrating. I did not rewrite my response to Drew because my daughter has been waiting not-so-patiently to have her hair brushed while I have been on this odd journey. I had just read your blog post just prior to Drew’s, so I had to come back here to post. Thanks for the opportunity.

  28. Hi Tom,
    I’ve been thinking along the same lines for a few months. As you have pointed out, blog engagement is being replaced by a quick RT, G+, Like or pin (love the diagram by the way). Of all the blogs I visit and follow, there are a mere handful that have discussions along with the post. A few years ago when I was blogging more frequently, I would usually be sat at my laptop reading and replying to posts. Faster and more powerful mobile devices have given people the ability to read on the go but replying on the go just doesn’t go hand in hand.
    I’m intrigued with John’s mention of the indieweb movement so I will have to take a look around for that. See, if I didn’t come to read your post and the comments I would never have discovered that!

  29. Hi Tom,
    I commented on Ewan’s post too;)
    This business of writing on ine is changing fast and it is still early days. Some major bloggers especially in the tech world have turned comments off.
    If I blogged for comments I would have given up a long time ago.

    The idea of what online writing is is changing, lots of folk talking about ‘writing’, some moving to Facebook or Twitter, others silos like Medium ( I read quite a bit there).
    Personally I am most interested in the indieweb movement which is developing interesting ways to link and discuss posts. Also work by Dave Winer (the blogfather) in holding on to your own data is exciting.

  30. Yeah, commenting is dead – if it was ever “alive”

    My best read post was on uses for Minecraft – over 1000 tweets and FB likes.
    0 comments.

    People just want to sit in the back and consume. Watch you staff meeting – it’s the same.

  31. Great point you are making – and yes, I believe this is the first comment I have made on any of your blog posts! Since I started reading blogs on feedly I have found it more difficult to leave comments and have as a result really gotten out of the habit – yet I keep on telling my schools how important quality commenting on blog posts is to provide an authentic audience and spark more learning! Somehow I keep on coming back over and over to really treating educators as learners; therefore I will take your post to heart and endeavour to comment more regularly on posts of blogs I follow like yours πŸ™‚

7 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. A reply to @pepsmccrea from staffrm.io #28daysofwriting – blog. mrstacey. org.uk
  2. 2015 week 8 in review | D’Arcy Norman dot net
  3. We can’t all be right all the time – why a little bit of online conflict is a good thing | Teaching the Teacher
  4. My Reflection on #28daysofwriting - The Curious Creative
  5. Is online sharing about the journey or destination? | Teaching the Teacher
  6. Digital Footprint – Challenging belief systems | The Liberation of a Luddite
  7. To Comment or Not to Comment, Is that the Question? | Read Write Respond

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