One of the failings of blogging, especially its use for education, is how unsupportive it is to dialogue. Yes, there are comments, but once I leave a comment somewhere, it is a crap shoot whether I ever get back there to see any further dialogue or rebuts or agreement. Fire and forget, most of the time. Sometimes I’ll post a question and check back later, but mostly I don’t and mostly I just plain forget. I also don’t look at posts later on to see if what the author said was BS and spoken-to in the comments. I have to take posts largely at face value. How often have I posted on a Bruce Schneier topic that tends to have plenty of feedback, only to never look back at that particular comment thread again?
Forums promote repeated dialogue until a topic has run its course and slowly melts back down the priority list, replaced with newer topics. A regular reader/contributer can, in this way, watch discussions she may be interested in until they naturally conclude. Mailing lists are similar. IRC is somewhat the same way, as interaction and discussion occur right away. While those that idle don’t typically re-read old logs, at least discussions at the moment have some give and take.
Running one’s own blog is a bit of an exception, as here I tend to be able to see each and every comment posted, and thus have my full run of any dialogue. But how can one really capture this for readers? Email notifications on comment replies help, but only when one has already commented on a post. Anything not commented on gets no continuation. In that case, it behooves me to comment on every post on those blogs. Setting up an RSS feed for comments is another nice thing. Ha.ckers.org does this, but I have to admit there is no real kind way to present them. New comments on old posts get thrown into the middle of new comments on new posts, which really muddies the waters of trying to follow any sort of continuity. But for anyone who diligently reads the feeds, this can be an effective, if jarringly annoying, way to keep up. The author can re-post the articles based on comments and responses, but this just perpetuates the cycle until no comments are left (or all the readers have left!).
So what is one to do? Well, slowly I’ve been moving back into IRC and I want to get back into forums as well. Blogs have their high points, but unless one is a real fan of a particular blog and sticks around a lot, RSS feeds are just best suited to scatter-shot news posts and catching the latest releases in podcasts or tools than for real educational dialogue.
I think this is also why I maintain my blogs more like personal journals (and I prefer the term journal to blog), where the only real reader I’m looking to keep informed is me. Letting out my own ideas, thoughts, and otherwise documenting my own life and knowledge. *shrug*