What Makes Blogging Social?

Stowe Boyd and the team over at Corante are working on a list of answers to “20 Questions” about the business of blogging. The questions run the gamut from the basic (“What’s a blog (or, what’s blogging), and why should I care?”) to the more abstract (” How do we successfully prevent public-facing [business] blogs from being neutered or turned into a broadcast by the marketeers and lawyers?”).

In reading through the list of questions, the eponymously-phrased Question #4 is of particular interest: “Blogging has been characterized as a ‘social medium’: what makes blogging social?”

My take:

Blogging is ‘social’ for a number of reasons.

Although becoming an almost-overused term, the fact that blogs enable a conversation on a topic makes them social. In contrast to the one-directional nature of broadcast media and traditional print, the ability for readers to instantly engage in debate or agreement with the blog author and the other readers provides a fundamental social mechanism. A blog provides a watercooler around which everyone with an interest in a topic can meet.

Another reason blogs are social is their highly connected nature. While a single blog may be a watercooler, it also provides an easy way to point to all the other watercoolers where related discussions are taking place. An individual who enters the greater conversation via a particular blog can easily “move” to other connected places via the links and trackbacks that are contained in the initial entry point.

Both of the above points, however, are limited insofar as they relate to a single conversation, at a (more or less) single point in time. The third thing that makes blogs social is persistence of relationship. After engaging in a number of conversations over time, or even by simply reading a particular blog over a period of weeks or months, an individual starts to build an understanding of the world view and internal goings-on of a particular blogger. The reader may not agree with all of the points that blogger makes, but over time the reader begins to develop a much deeper understanding of the “who” behind a particular blog. The converse is also true: a blogger begins to develop a picture of who a particular commenter is as well, based on that individual’s partipation in the community over time (a great example is the Ed Cone post here). Additionally, the common practice of hosting a persistent blogroll as well the ability to subscribe to a particular blog are tactics that, by their very being, promote persistence and “social” links between the members of a community.

Some interesting discussion going on over there. Check it out.

(hat tip: NevOn)