Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a meet-‘n’-greet sort of open house with Technorati, a company that is making really useful and fun tools for the blogosphere. I was honored and humbled to be at this event, given that the list of folks there read a bit like an impressive Who’s Who in geek lore.
Beyond all the cool info and group conversations, a chat that particularly stuck with me was one I had with Mike, one of the Technorati engineers. I learned that he has a blog on TypePad, and I was initially puzzled as to why someone so technically savvy would opt to pay a monthly fee for a hosted blogging option instead of just using a free tool like WordPress. I always viewed services like TypePad to be geared towards those folks who had lots of interest in sharing their writing and photos with others, but not much geek-knowhow to set up a site on their own.
What I learned from Mike was striking and simple: It’s the Community, stupid. Mike noted that when he was blogging ‘standalone’ with MovableType on his own site, he would typically get few, if any comments on his musings. With TypePad, however, he has enjoyed a much more active participation on his blog, because his fellow TypePad bloggers tend to follow recently-updated links on the service and strike up friendly conversations as they ‘travel.’
It was like a ‘duh’ moment for me. Of course, this would make sense. Look at LiveJournal, for instance, in which even the 7,419th (seemingly identical) teen posting about how someone is mad at their boyfriend is likely to solicit tons of sympathetic or tweaking comments in response. It’s easy to make fun of the stereotypical echo chamber with situations like that, but on a broader note, it’s both interesting and encouraging to see that even the less angsty-type notes by TypePad users are also swept into friendly conversations.
And indeed, this highlights what’s so starkly missing from much of ‘independent’ (non-centrally-hosted) blogging today… a sense of Community beyond the vast overarching uber-community of Blogging. Sure, there are the occasional blog rings, and yes, the same dozen or two A-List bloggers get 5,000 comments even when just posting what they ate for lunch. But for the new bloggers — the ones NOT already famous or posting about their sex lives or serendipitously capturing or landing upon some wacky niche or meme — blogging can seem frustratingly like simply typing into a vaccum.
The head of Technorati, Dave Sifry, both understands this concern and is thankfully committed to addressing it with his company’s services. And I’m confident he will make headway in exposing folks to interesting but-not-yet-household-name bloggers.
But in the meantime, services like TypePad and LiveJournal — and, increasingly — Blogger.com — are already paving the way. Via profiles and tools for interacting with other members, they’re facilitating the creation of micro-communities and giving people not only a voice, a platform… but also an appreciative and actively participating audience.
And it’s not just about numbers. Right now, I have about 15,000 visits to this blog monthly. Small compared to the A-Listers, but still pretty significant. But far less than 1% of that group ever comments here. This makes me, then, a somewhat popular Publisher… but it sure doesn’t make this a community.
I wonder if tools such as Movable Type, Expression Engine, and WordPress will ever more substantially facilitate Discovery and Community… and if so, how and when.
What are your thoughts on this?