A short comment on comments, A rambling essay on why all this stuff fascinates me

A comment on comments: Yesterday, I wrote the following on Twitter:

“FriendFeed, Twitter, Seesmic et al, are pointing in the direction of something. They aren’t the destination.”

Because everything I post on Twitter (and other places) is mirrored on FriendFeed, the “tweet” appeared there at the same time.

If you look at the comments following that FriendFeed post, you’ll note that my friend (and I don’t mean that just because we said so on FaceBook) Dave Winer commented that he, “Totally agree(d) with this.”

Because so many people have learned that it’s important to listen to Dave (even when they disagree with him) his FriendFeed comment about my “tweet” led to a robust disussion that still lingers 17 hours later.

Which leads me to the topic of comments: A small group of the people who read this blog are currently obsessed with trying to understand where “comments” fit into conversational media. Even those of us who think we at least have a grasp of social media — who know its role in de-centralizing “content” — are fascinated (and some, upset) that comments on our blogs are now becoming de-centralized.

It fascinates me that some bloggers, who more often than not, are using their blog to comment on items they read elsewhere, are becoming upset that comments about their posts are taking place elsewhere.

As for me, I love that comments are finally being recognized as the treasure they are.

I don’t care where the conversation takes place. I want to understand it and embrace it.

Why I find all of this fascinating: You know that kid who loves tearing apart physical things to understand how they work. The one who can actually put the stuff he or she tears apart back together again. “She should be an engineer when she grows up,” people will say about that kid.

I wasn’t that kid.

But looking back, I was obsessed with tearing apart virtual things to understand how they work. I was never interested in how my television worked, but I was extremely curious about how programs were written and produced. I was never really that interested in printing presses, but I can’t remember a time I didn’t wonder about how reporters gathered news and editorial decisions were made. I was also fascinated with what today I’d call group dynamics and how teams and clubs and cliques came together and grew or fell apart. I was an organizer of groups and a conversation “moderator” decades before I even realized that groups and conversation need to be organized and moderated. I was fascinated with why fans become fans and what “loyalty” is all about. I was that kid.

For almost 20 years (back to the CompuServe days) the online world has provided me (and many others like me) with an amazing laboratory in which we get to tear apart the flow of information and the creation of conversation and community in an attempt to understand how they work. For some of us, that’s like being a kid in a, well, info-candy shop.

I’ll admit. I’m not merely doing this for fun. I have a business that allows me to apply what I learn in this laboratory to improve our internal conversations and community — and to incorporate what we learn into improving and enhancing the products and services we sell. But, I think it’s also apparent that I still have a child-like curiousity about the ways in which people use technology to share with one-another and to spread information — and create community.

The most important thing I’ve learned is this: It’s not about the technology. I know so many people who are “afraid” of something because they think it’s “technology.” Frankly, technology developers don’t help things by creating products that are driven by features and functions than by ease-of-use. It still amazes me that after 30 years, so many professional marketers don’t understand why Apple has a cult following. “Cool” is what marketers think Apple is all about. “Not corporate” perhaps, you know, that I’m a Mac, I’m a PC thing, perhaps. As a Mac-tard since 1984, I’ll tell you why Apple has a cult following. They make products for people who don’t give a rip about technology. They make products for users. And even though they don’t say it anymore, their products are for the “rest of us” who don’t really care how the technology works, we just want the technology to disappear so we can listen, read, write, create, share, buy, sell, etc.

I’m obsessed with what’s taking place here. But I’m obsessed as a user and “content” creator and “community” builder and participant.

That’s why I’m such a geek.

[Photo: cocoen via Flickr.]

  • I don’t know where to begin to comment on your comments. I’ll start at the end and try to work my way up. Users… That is how I describe myself, sometimes I say I am the consummate user. By that I mean that I am a fearless user and I always have been. It is all about the “userness” of anything that makes it a joy or a drain on the psyche. For me it is a mom cook’s best scenario. My first computer was a PC. That is what I learned on. It does almost everything I need with ease and grace…. OK ….there is no real grace…. But heck its home.

    I too go back to Compuserve and the 1st editions of AOL. I believe I had an AOL account in 1989. I consulted with them back then and they threw me a house account. Nice… What is it? Huh? E-mail in 1989.. Who ya gonna call? I was the only one with an address. But OH, my, those early days of wonder. I was delirious with the possibilities. ..still am.

    Comments on comments…. I love the process. I don’t know where I have learned more.. by reading great stuff or the comments afterwards. It reminds me … OK this old times.. but in college and even before we would go to an “artsy” movie like Bergman and that ilk,, and ok the movies were cool but the dialog and the conversation afterward was nothing less that glorious. The dissection of the philosophy, the meaning, intentions, implied or intended. Man I miss those conversations…. Sometimes they would last all night. Well, now I “converse” everywhere with hundreds, even thousands.

    Rex, you are an e-acquaintance. We have never met, yet we have had good conversations over the years…. I like that.
    Perhaps we should go to see “ The Seventh Seal” and have a conversation afterwards. Might be fun.

  • That would be great, Bo.

  • “FriendFeed, Twitter, Seesmic et al, are pointing in the direction of something…”

    I think I misinterpreted this statement when I first read it. I thought you meant that these services were pointing to the need for some as yet undeveloped collective information/intelligence system with a searchable database and plenty of room for analysis and conversation. Maybe all you meant was that we use these services to point towards other interesting stuff?

    As for the second part of your post, I believe that technology is just a tool to enable other activities. I’ve never been much of an Apple fan, nor have I used them to any great extent, but I think I understand what you are talking about in terms of having useful tools that work without a lot of hassle.

  • All I meant was that each new development is one step in a long journey.