Where the conversation is moving 2.0 next

9 Jul 2008

Finally conversation is fashionable again. Didn’t you get tired of all the stupid YouTube videos spammed to your funwall by friends or of taking the ‘Which Serial killer are you?’ quiz, and most of all, the static message board elements of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo?

The real action is happening over at conversation starting sites like Twitter, Friendfeed, and to a lesser extent Jaiku and Pownce, because people are rediscovering the value in conversation that can inspire, entertain or facilitate business opportunities.

Has conversation become sexy again?

“I never bought into Facebook,” said Conor O’Neill, editor of Web2Ireland.org and CEO of review site LouderVoice. “It wasn’t for me. It’s not that I didn’t buy into it as a concept, it just never appealed to me as a user.

“Things like the ridiculous vampire application where you bite your friends.” Every so often a new bunch of applications are discovered and people get excited for a while before getting quickly bored, O’Neill explained.

“I remember about six months ago people were bemoaning the fact that the level of comments on blogs seemed to be going down and down. I had noticed it myself, however the readership had not gone down.”

What is happening is that people are still reading blog posts and still discussing them but the conversation is moving to micro-blogging sites like Twitter, O’Neill observed. Conversation on the internet can start one place and quickly migrate to the next. It is nomadic and will go wherever the largest groups of people are.

At the moment, this seems to be Twitter, even though other sites may have more add-ons or technical strengths: “The benefit is the social network, it isn’t the features.”

What exactly is the point of starting or joining a conversation online? It is not just to have made the contribution but to reach as many relevant people as possible. So people are twittering for one and all to hear.

“It reflects the growing tendency over the past few years for people to write their own blog post from scratch rather than reply on someone else’s blog when they have something to add to the conversation,” O’Neill said.

The ultimate example of enabling this propagation of conversation across the web is to be found on influential blogs from people like Seth Godin, he said, because blogs are locked for comments so people must and do go elsewhere to discuss the post, but a trail of breadcrumbs is left in the form of ‘trackbacks’ to the original post.

“People like Godin are actively trying to encourage distributed conversation. They don’t want it happening on their blog at all.”

Does this go against the basic principle of ego where you want people to gather round while you tell your story, or maybe it is in fact more prophet-like where eager followers spread the word. And so the evolution of conversation on the web continues.

Having said this, it is still all early adopter stuff – Twitter, Jaiku and so on are not being used by regular people because they are more inclined to engage on lightweight platforms.

“The idea of SMS being a route in doesn’t scare people,” O’Neill said.

As people are introduced to blogging and social networking through the mobile phone, it becomes more of a normal thing like texting or chatting on the phone and less of a specialist activity. The conversation evolves further.

Now that people are having conversations on multiple platforms, aggregation sites like Friendfeed are becoming increasingly popular. Threads of comments, observations and conversations gathered from Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and Flickr are pulled into one platform where yet more chatter can be added.

Will Friendfeed be the sponge to absorb conversation on the net in the future or will we be talking about it the way we did with other long dead services. Remember IRC or Comic Chat?

By Marie Boran