Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.
One of the last sessions at Supernova 2008 was about “liquid conversations” – the discussions flow away from their original source to services like Friendfeed and Facebook. Dave McClure (500 Hats) moderated the panel of David Sifry (Technorati), Bret Taylor (FriendFeed), Matt Colebourne (CoComment), and Loic Le Meur (Seesmic). I’m not sure McClure knew in advance that this would be not easy as he thought it would be. Here’s what happened.
Each panelist introduced himself and the service he was representing. After some regular introductions by Sifry, Taylor, Colebourne, it was up to Le Meur. He decided to pitch Seesmic by showing a video about the… infamous g-spot. The video was compiled of video replies by Seesmic users from ten different countries and a sex expert – the hilarious type. Here’s the video.
The video was welcomed with several rounds of laughing, although I did noticed some people were a bit shocked. Yes, that’s what happens when the French arrive. Some prejudices are actually based on something.
Valleywag reporter Melissa Gira – “Reporter, Bad Girl, Sex Nerd For Hire” – asked a good question about the video – after answering a question about g-spots. She wondered why Seesmic invites an expert to the video, when the service is all about the conversations of their users. Loic didn’t really give an answer, so I will: It’s a great marketing tool to turn the comments into a show and spice it up with a typical weird sex expert.
Now over to the liquid conversations
Enough for the sex part now, as McClure raised an interesting question about online conversations. They’re flowing away from their original source to places like Facebook, Friendfeed, and Twitter. Friendfeed users aren’t commenting on a New York Times article on the site itself, but express their opinion in Friendfeed. They find like-minded friends there, instead of the railing crowd at the New York Times page. The same thing happens with discussions on blogs – to the discontent of some bloggers.
Sifry said that some bloggers feel like they loose the ownership of the comments. “It may appear weird to think of ownership”, Sifry noted, “but some people make money out of pageviews. So there’s a very real issue here to some of these folks.” However, Sifry believes that the liquid conversations actually have a benefit for the bloggers: “Personally I think that the more you allow readers to comment somewhere else, the more they will come back. And when more users are participating in these liquid conversations, more and more people will come and have a look at your blog”.
Matt Colebourne, CEO of Comment – a service that makes it possible to keep track of all the comments you make and discussions you’re participating in -, said that CoComment was never designed to take the user away of the original blog. “We don’t allow it”, he said, “although some users ask us for a feature that makes it possible to comment within CoComment, we won’t develop it. Users will have to go to the original blog to comment”. Colebourne chooses for this approach because he wants people to read the article they’re commenting on: “Otherwise it’s just a chat”. He believes that many people who comment on Friendfeed don’t bother to at least have a look at the article”. Taylor from FriendFeed didn’t agree with him, stating that you can compare the discussions on FriendFeed with a conversation at thome about an article in the newspaper. “We’re just addressing the needs of the users”, he said.
I believe the phenomenon of liquid conversations is an unstoppable trend. People are lazy, and they won’t take the effort to browse to another page to comment. Unless it has a certain benefit, like click-troughs to their own blogs. So I suggest you just take some advice from Mr. Scoble, who has once said: “I go where conversations take me”.
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