There has been so much buzz about the Conversational Index idea, that many (if not most) people have lost the original context:
[from Blog Conversational Index: say what? by Jon Lebkowsky]
- This is an incentive to end the war against comment spam, because the more I get, the better my comment index. *8^)
- Am I more effective because I draw more attention from vocal people, and other bloggers? How do we measure the lurkers? How do we measure the quality of responses, and the cluefulness of responders?
[from Weblogsky: Blog Conversational Index: say what? by Nancy White]
Ed Vielmetti chimed into Jon’s comments with a good observation:
Some online conversations happen through blog comments, others through IM and email and in-person sideband and voice and … and …
No one index covers any meaningful part of it.
Stats lie. Using stats to measure utility just encourages people to game the stats. Not a game I want to play…
I added my agreement, noting that we’ve seen this metric come up in the “old days” of forum based online communities. Quantity did not equate to quality. It’s like confusing signal and noise. Unless you are going for pageviews for advertising models. And I thought we were “talking” about “conversations!” wink wink
The quality of a conversation is entirely contextual. Reducing it to a number does not give an indication of quality.
This goes to another assumption. Are all blogs about conversation? Are all conversations bloggy? Naw… we know they aren’t. But it is chic to glorify conversation the way we used to glorify “community.” (Yes, I’m getting snarky. IT must be all the SuperBowl testosterone floating around my house. I can’t help it!)
I’m not totally dissing the idea here. I find it very interesting to look at ways to discern patterns in blogs. There is value in looking at the ratio of post to responses. But it cannot stand alone as a measure of value. Conversation is still, thank goodness, a quirky human act that cannot be reduced to a metric.
Lots of good points. Yes, people will game any system. Yes, comment quality varies. Yes, people have tried to quanitfy the quality of conversation before. Yes, yes, yes.
But I do maintain that a healthy degree of conversational interaction is a necessary precondition for a successful blog, which was the original context of the idea. I noted that all the blogs that became successful at Corante — had steady link counts, regular readers, engaged authors — displayed a high Conversational Index (using Dodge’s variant of CI, CI=(Comments+Trackbacks/Posts)) from the very start, and maintained it.
Note that is may indiciate all sorts of causes:
- The author(s) of the blog may be tapping into an existing personal network or an existing community, and the blog meets the needs of that group.
- The topics being convered in the blog are extremely topical.
- The author(s) may be unusually gifted writers.
- The author(s) may be celebrities or may be involved in some controversy or scandal that leads to high traffic from the very start.
Not a comprehensive list, but good indiciators. Examples: Guy Kawasaki’s new blog has taken off, and the reason: a good writer who is a celebrity, talking about important topics. But the average unknown blogger, writing in the dark, divorced from a larger community of interested people? Hopeless. A relatively unknown genius, deeply thoughtful on the search for life balance and meaning, swept into the public eye by the Tsunami? Evelyn Rodriguez.
And of course, at least I hope, /Message, where the CI has moved up from 1.27 the day I wrote the first post about it to today’s 1.75, thanks to the lively conversation around the idea of the CI itself, and other posts, like the Cocomment release.
So, to put back into context: The Conversational Index is intended as a leading indicator of present and future blog viability and vitality. I don’t know whether an index of 3 would be twice as good as an index of 1.5. Perhaps there is some sort of reverse log scale involved, where 3 only indicates a slightly more engaged and active community than 1.5. But I do know, empirically, that those with subpar CI, where there are way more posts that comments or trackbacks, are unlikely to be successful in the long run.