I just finished reading Meg Hourihan 2002 piece "What We're Doing When We Blog". I think anyone who has read my previous posts know that I disagree in principle with her highly positive assessment of the bloggers and their readers. I won't belabor the points I've already elaborated in the past few days. I also don't have any quarrel with the more descriptive elements of her post. However, I will briefly make one point though.
As anyone reading this blog will have noticed I've been quite caught up in the recent Digg.com controversy. As each day seems to bring an endless commentary on the situation , something of which I am a party to, much of my morning surfing has been dedicated to keeping just up with the debate. This morning I was reading a particularly well written article entitled "Digg's Design Dilemma". While I can't say that I agree with the authors overall conclusion, for reasons which I will spare you, he did have a number of interesting things to say. Particularly relevant to Hourihan's article was his comment on diggs ease of use.
specifically he points out that a creditable argument exists that the more difficult it is to comment on something the better the comments themselves tend to be. This is not the first time I have heard the case made for making individual participation more difficult. In political science their is a substantial school of thought that views the ease of use problem as the strongest argument against the use of phone, mail or internet voting systems in elections or referenda. Make things too easy and people stop thinking about them, be it the comments they leave on blogs or the votes they cast in an election.
Houriham's suggestion that comments allow for a dialog to emerge on a blog is indubitably true. What isn't so clean cut is whether the dialog created by a blogs comment feature actually lends itself to a better intellectual product in the end? What might have begun as a potentially valuable protothought on a blog could easily devolve rather then develop when contorted in response to a series of thoughtless comments.