What sets a blog apart from a book, or say an article for a magazine? I’ve long argued it is incompleteness. At their heart – however long or small – a blog post ultimately aspires to be a conversation — and a blog a conversation starter. That the technology we use connects, categorizes and distributes our content give these conversations legs.
Our medium also provides us with an out. We can be wrong. Right. Or, somewhere in between. But the onus isn’t necessarily on us to be complete or accurate. Every conversation represents a point in the evolution of the thought or idea. In fact, the quality of the circle with who you are conversing can illuminate and enhance our words. If you don’t value the conversation, you’ve switched back to transmitting content, becoming a web publisher.
I was struck by Malcom Gladwell’s view of his writing in a recent New York Magazine article (about his new book Outliers). He appears to view his work much in the same way as we might view a blog post:
When Gladwell’s critics themselves are world experts—as was the case when New York Times business writer Joe Nocera went after Gladwell for “conflat[ing] fraud with overvaluation” in a New Yorker article that argued that Enron’s misdeeds were hidden in plain sight—Gladwell retreats to the defense that his writing is merely meant to be provocative. “I don’t think it’s proper for someone in my position to be a definitive voice,” he says. “These books and New Yorker articles are conversation starters.”
How do you enhance a book and embrace the conversation? For most authors it appears impossible – without publishing it as a blog or wiki. For most they start the conversation but aren’t present for it, reinforcing the romantic notion of the isolated writer, lonely at work.
Clearly there are many opportunities to ignite a conversation – and many vehicles by which to do it. But to not participate seems like an opportunity lost.
Is the intent to start a conversation enough? Especially when your medium isn’t fostering participation?