Monday, July 23, 2007

It's the Conversations

While I was reading Harry Potter on Saturday, Brad Feld was commenting on comments. Once again, I have to say, he's right on target.

Like Harry, I want to see all of it and learn the real truth (as much as that's possible anyway) - even the parts I don't like. By Sunday, when I'd finished the book and was curious about others' reactions, I went looking around for some. The review I read was, quite frankly, riddled with inaccuracies and spoilers - with some inaccurate spoilers for good measure - and didn't seem to really get the point of the book.

It was the comments, though, that helped me put the review into its proper context and provided me with a window into what everyone else was thinking. Just be prepared to do some wading and some thinking for yourself to weigh the different points of view.

My own comment yesterday to the tall person in our house was that where critics used to hold a great deal of power before, it seems that the commentors wield equal or sometimes even greater power now. It was sort of interesting to see a critic subjected to some of his own medicine. I just hope he didn't choke on it. I'm sure JK Rowling is mostly unhurt by his words.

If we thought blogging leveled the playing field before, commenting on blogs and articles and whatnot takes that notion a step or two or three further. Commenting is the new blogging.

In fact, I frequently find now that I learn as much or more from the comments than from the original post. Although it takes some perserverence and quite often some teeth-gritting (especially when the topic is particularly polarized), it's in the comments where I find the shades-of-gray middle ground I seek and trust so much more than the lambasting, "I'm right and you're wrong" blacks and whites that so often show up under some byline. I realize there's plenty of lambasting in comments too but that's not all that happens in that space.

I have always found the same to be true in business too. I can come up with some pretty decent ideas on my own. The ideas get better when I engage others in conversation and we comment on one another's trains of thought.

As a manager, I always made better decisions when I heard the different comments from various members of my team. I don't mean in a push-me-pull-you kind of way where my opinions would swing wildly, depending on who I'd talked to last. Instead, I always did my level best to carefully consider the different points of view and the points worthy of merit that were raised and responded to in group discussion.

In the online world, this kind of group discussion takes place in the form of comments more than anywhere else. Whatever it is we're commenting on is just the starting point. Brad's idea that we should be able to manage comments the same way we're beginning to manage other sources of information is a good one.

It would be nice to find all of the comments by an individual (to assess how on target the person tends to be overall), across sources and platforms. I'd love to see us be able to somehow tag and organize various groups of comments and perform searches on the resulting data.

I bet if we were to discuss it further, we'd come up with even more ideas about how to use comments better. If you have comments or ideas about comments, send them to me at and let's get a conversation going.

How can I make comments contribute to furthering the discussion and growth of ideas?