Pete at Slings and Arrows has been doing a lot of reflecting about blogs, and in particular, the interactivity and possibility for dialogue and discussion.
Here's an excerpt from what he's written:
"More problematic in my view the the arrangement of comments in chronological sequence, and the lack of any threading. Interaction is extremely limited - basically commenting, rather than dialogue is taking place. It is all very linear and fragmentary. A comments, then B comments followed by C. Even if A comments again, it is not immediately clear to see how the comments relate to each other. For interaction to take place I think we need to be able to comment on comments. It is not that this is impossible, it is just that the way blogs are designed / set up discourages this. When I look at the comments on a blog, I don't feel much like commenting because it seems so one-dimensional, when compared with other tools. "
It's interesting for me to read Pete's point of view, as it is completely different to mine. I really don't like the kind of threading you find in online forums. Having to click through all of those threads really puts me off contributing, and I found this kind of online discussion quite stale at the best of times. What attracts me to blogs is the individual blogs and the wide spread of information. Take your blog post, for example, Pete (of course I'm going to have to leave a comment on your blog about this to let you know that I'm picking up on your discussion) - I'm replying to your comments on my own blog. And you in turn (if you so wish) can post again on your own blog. Why have I done this? Well, perhaps it's not so much discussion as reflection to other people's reflection. But this is something that attracts me to the blog format.
I'm having problems putting my finger on this (help me out someone?), but I find the sense of 'ownership and publication' that a blog gives you is far more compelling than writing a post on a discussion forum or email list. Maybe it's just me, but I also feel that becasue of this, it's a tool that has far greater potential to engage our learners. When I first started becoming involved in encouraging students online, I tried forums and email exchanges. There was a novelty factor at first, but suggesting we 'post to the forum' in particular was soon greeted with collective sighs and moans.In contrast, I have had success with students chatting and blogging.