Random thoughts on the attenuation of conversation

I’ve been playing happily with FriendFeed for over a month now, and quite enjoy it — the ongoing stream of conversation and links there, combined with the pokery of Facebook, give me the feeling of coming home to the multiuser chat boards of the early 1990s. I also enjoy the serendipity; I keep a FriendFeed window open that I dip into from time to time during the day, and always see at least one or two links/comments worth further exploration (or simple amusement!).

One thing that nags at me, though, is the way in which using multiple sites fragments conversation. Someone might comment on my Facebook status on FriendFeed, for instance, but my Facebook friends won’t see that comment or be able to join in the conversation. Someone might comment on a blog post on Facebook, but readers over here will miss that discussion entirely. (Let alone, I haven’t even made it to twitter yet — and probably won’t, since I can’t afford another time suck!)

Over at Walt at Random, Steve Lawson comments on the usefulness of FriendFeed, saying in part:

You will see that some blog posts that got very few comment have actually sparked a discussion on FF. Also helpful for blogs like Caveat Lector that don’t have comments enabled.

I pull blog posts into both FriendFeed and Facebook, and notice that posts (and Flickr photos, for that matter) that garner no comments at “home” may get comments elsewhere. This is neat, but again leaves no record here and doesn’t inspire blog readers to join in the conversation.

Ironically enough, I recently saw a link to the following on FriendFeed (there’s that serendipity again…)

Dear Blog,

I feel like I have neglected you to hang out on Facebook and even sneak off with Twitter.  I am so busy these days communicating about what I am doing, thinking, eating, watching etc that I really have little time for a deeper relationship like ours.  Oh, blog.  You were my first love (if you forget my youthful romance with bulletin boards, chat, and texting).  Well, in any case you were my only serious commitment but that was before I met Facebook. You see, on Facebook people actually communicate back to me but almost no one ever posts on you my dear blog.

I’ve been trying to get back to my own Dear Blog, but admit that the ease of a 2-second status update on Facebook is generally a more seductive pull — and that friends (or “friends”) over there are likely to comment, where here it’s a more hit or miss proposition.

Where these thoughts are leading, I’m not yet sure. But, feel free to subscribe to me on FriendFeed, and I’ll likely return the favor — and comment here, there, and everywhere! :)

One Comment

  1. walt crawford:

    This is an excellent and intriguing post, one that I really need to comment on in a post…or, possibly, in the talk & article I’m working on. (Talk for OLA, article for C&I February 2009).

    But for an introvert who’s a lousy multitasker (if I want my writing to be any good at all), it’s worse. I can’t keep an FF window open while I’m writing, any more than I could keep an LSW Meebo window open or a FaceBook window open.

    And I’m finding that, not only do blog conversations seem somewhat attenuated these days, but–so far–I have mixed feelings about FB and FF as substitutes. The noise-to-signal ratios seem so much higher than in blogs (even as I keep hiding more and more categories in FriendFeed–so far I don’t have any useful conversations in Facebook) that I’m already wondering whether it will prove worthwhile. Once in a while, it’s great–but there’s just so much!

    Somehow, even the 500+ liblogs I’ve been following (and I’m about to cut back on those rather severely) seem like nothing–after all, very few people post all that often.

    It’s not just fragmentation. It’s also attenuation. To use an in-person analogy, I try to avoid dinners with more than half a dozen people and prefer small social gatherings to very large ones; otherwise, the noise-to-signal ratio is just too high.

    That’s a quick thought. Maybe I’ll do something more substantive on my blog…but the article and talk come first.

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