Blogs vs. Discussion Groups

Tony Karrer links to Michele Martin’s post about a discussion (on a listserve) discussing lists and blogs. (in this case, discussion groups are email based).
Michele makes some very pertintent points, such as

Blogs offer a place for individuals to process information and put ideas out into the world. I can’t imagine posting some of my blog posts to a listserv–they’d be considered “off-topic” or inappropriate because I’m not asking a question or furthering a discussion.

listservs can create an environment that isn’t always open to “conversation.” Over the years we’ve had many times when lurkers and newbies came out of the woodwork to report that they weren’t participating in the conversation because the list was dominated by a few very opinionated writers who had no qualms about starting flame wars.

and

On many lists I find that some of the most (to me anyway) inane topics will take up HUGE amounts of time, while other far more interesting and meaty conversations will quickly sink to the bottom or have to go off-list to continue.

I’m a member of a listserve (one that has nothing to do with work!). Discussions can get heated, people sometimes take offence and leave. Listserves, as distinct from discussion boards, are generally non-editable. Once you have said it, you have said it! With discussion boards, it’s quite often the case that members can edit their posts, or, if they don’t have those rights, moderators can remove/ edit posts. There is, of course, a debate about whether editing is “right” or not, but we all make errors when writing. On reading, it’s often possible to realise that what seemed to make perfect sense on writing, might, in fact be confusing, or even potentially “flaming”, when that was never the intention.

Blogs and lists are very different beasts (with discussion boards generally more akin to lists), both have their uses and places. When it comes to the “community development”, both have a role to play. A list that is dominated by a few can be very intimidating, a list that is supportive, inclusive, tolerant of newbies, presents a very different face. Equally, bloggers who never link to other blogs, who don’t read their comments (or don’t control the spam, or just ban comments) can be quite hard to start to form links with. Bloggers who answer comments, link to other blogs, start to put out tentacles, from which communities may develop.

One of the reasons that I like Elgg.net, is that as well as the tools on offer supporting community development, the fact that it is heavily used by Educational technologists/ lecturers/ related people does mean that the chances of you finding interesting people is increased (though one could argue that one is limiting oneself …) Having said that I would put “discussion boards” more in the realm of lists than of “blogs”, I’ll be interested to see if people start using the “Community Blogs” in Elgg in a different way, now that they can be displayed as a forum, rather than as a blog. For those who are not used to Elgg, a “Community blog” is a blog that any member of a community can post to. From my own point of view, I have found that I tend to be the main poster, however these are class blogs, which are not compulsory. Personal blogs are compulsory, the class blog is extra. I wonder if the usage would be different, were I to compel them to use it… Perhaps next year!

Tony has some useful links at the end of his post (though note that quite a few are to his posts!). Nancy White’s set of 5 posts last July gave some very useful overviews of how blogs can be used to develop a community.

Via: Steven Downes

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