I announced last week that I’ve partnered with Matt Chevy to do a redesign of this blog. This week, I’m sharing 3 separate posts to get your feedback and ideas about how I can make it as valuable to you as possible.  Monday’s post focused on the content you’re after and want more of – if you missed it, you can read the post and weigh in with your feedback. Thanks to everyone that’s shared comments so far in this process!

Redesign topic #2: Focused on ConversationsDay 355: Magnified

I’m happy to take on the role of conversation starter, sharing news or case studies or ideas that are interesting and letting all of you run with it.  And that’s just what happens here most of the time: there are around 500 posts and over 3,700 comments!  Clearly there’s a lot more going on than just blog posts and I want to be sure that the redesign creates valuable ways to elevate and highlight the conversations and contributions from everyone visiting this space.

There are two focus areas below and some options for answers – please note there’s an “other” listed for both as I’m sure there are things I haven’t thought to include and hope you’ll feel open to listing them!

Focus: Content that’s conversation worthy

What helps or inspires you to dive into a conversation or share your own knowledge/experience after you read a post?

  • Questions included at the end
  • Seeing comments from others
  • Direct/personal invitations
  • Options to comment via other methods (Twitter, etc.)
  • Other

Focus: Finding and following conversations

How would you like to be able to find conversations or follow them either on the blog or using other platforms tools?

  • Recent comments highlighted in sidebar
  • Popular conversations highlighted in sidebar
  • Subscribe to comments
  • Options for sharing comment/post via social media
  • Other

Please share your responses in the comments – that way others can respond/reply to your feedback as well as leave their own. Matt and I will be both be responding, asking questions, and participating as well! Please share your ideas and feedback!

Blog Redesign: Focused on Conversation
Tagged on:                         
  • Blog Redesign: Focused on Conversation – excited to hear your ideas! http://amysampleward.org/2010/08/04/blog

  • Blog Redesign: Focused on Conversation – excited to hear your ideas! http://amysampleward.org/2010/08/04/blog

  • Meryn Stol

    I think you should keep the length of posts too a minimum. Don’t add too much value. For example, in this post you could have left out your current ideas, leaving more opportunity for others to contribute.

    I think that for conversational writing all that’s needed is a quick run-down of the issue at hand. This can be done with in two or three paragraphs, with links to background information for people not familiar with the matter. In some cases, you can an add an explicit challenge to the readers (What do you think? What would you do?). Sometimes though, just voicing an opinion can be enough to get many responses. You see this happening on Twitter all the time.

    It does not mean that you need to pretend like you don’t have ideas of your own. Just don’t state them up front. It gives the greatest chance for fresh ideas. Once the conversation has got off the ground, you can participate without holding back.

    On top of that, you may want to install an advanced commenting system like Disqus. It works really well for the community on http://avc.com/ .

    • Hi Meryn-

      Thanks so much for your feedback! I really appreciate your honest ideas and hear your call for less ideas up front and more in the comments. I always say that I am not an expert, and don’t really think any of us can be working in a field that is always changing, so it makes sense to not try to offer ideas up front.

      Though, folks responded to Monday’s post saying that they do come to the blog for my ideas and take on issues. So, I guess it is a matter of creating balance, and not entirely one way or the other.

      I really appreciate you sharing this and will certainly start integrating more quick conversation starters into my posting.

      • It is all about balance here – I don’t think you need to LIMIT the length of your posts, but it’s important to keep in mind that folks are reading a LOT on the web – so to come to a site and see a 1,500 word epic standing in front of them CAN be intimidating.

        One thing that I am religious about is breaking the content into sections with sub-headings throughout the post (similar to what you’ve done here with the FOCUS points – but with a slightly larger size). This allows readers to ‘skim’ an article and create points of reference.

        Great feedback to take into account here!

        • Hey Matt- great that you bring up the styling around breaking up posts. I usually try my best to provide some contextual headers or bold areas throughout a post but the current CSS is really poo and if I use h1 or h2 tags, the text gets pretty darn un-pretty. Excited to tackle this issue with you!

  • # Seeing comments from others
    # Direct/personal invitations

    and…

    # Popular conversations highlighted in sidebar
    # Options for sharing comment/post via social media

    🙂

    • This is all great to hear, Ehon! I definitely want to get better about pinging people that are interested in a certain topic if/when I post about it, and so on. But perhaps there are some more elegant ways to do that. I’ll noodle on it, and get Matt thinking, too!

      Thanks so much

      • Highlighting ‘popular’ conversations is a great takeaway – this is something I usually do not integrate into design but I see how it can be a great way to highlight current activity on the site.

        And of course, sharing each article needs to be simplified for all social platforms – we’ll be sure to integrate simple sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and all other social bookmarking sites (Stumbleupon, Digg, etc).

        • So glad to be working with you, Matt – glad you’re on top of all this! 🙂

  • I disagree with Meryn in one aspect: brief posts that leave out a lot (to be filled in by commenters).ne of the values of your blog is your very thoughtful take on…everything. I get a lot of value out of your opinions and analysis of current nptech issues and campaigns, trends, and groups you work with. That said, Meryn is right on the mark about getting a good commenting system (I also like Disqus). Mixing up shorter and longer posts addresses your different types of readers.

    Now – on to your questions:
    Why I’d comment:
    – direct, personal invitations always work!
    – I have experience with this topic/want to ask questions or comment from experience to add to the conversation
    – it is current an

    Finding conversations:
    – subscribe to comments (I really only want to follow the ones I’ve chosen to participate in.) That said, I think others may want to jump into other conversations so
    -sidebar with popular conversation

    • Hi Debra-

      Thank you for your support and feedback! I definitely take on board what Meryn says about leaving topics open to conversation, and will certainly start posting shorts topics to get comments flowing; but equally appreciate your comments about the opinion and analysis posts. I’ll strive for balance!

      It’s great to hear what gets you commenting and I’ll definitely work on being sure there are easy ways to people to spot topics of interest to them.

      Thanks again

      • Great thoughts Debra. I think it’s important to share opinion but for me, the real value in MOST blogs are in the comments section. The discussion is the meat and potatoes when creating an online community (again – my opinion).

        That being said – my highest traffic blog posts are the most emotional and opinionated – but I ALWAYS want to leave the post open for conversation and welcome it with open arms.

        Thanks for the great feedback!

        • I totally agree, Matt – my most-read blog posts over the years are by far the ones that lay out strategy plans or provide all personal opinion. And those actually have some of the highest comment numbers as well. I am taking the lesson to hear to work on being balanced and encouraging comments regardless of the topic or style of the post.

          Thanks again

  • A few thoughts:

    DISQUS is great for building conversation and keeping it going as it automatically notifies you of replies to comments. There’s less you can do from a styling and aesthetic standpoint, but functionally, it’s pretty solid.

    I would remove comment moderation on your site – this slows down conversation and (to me) says that you don’t trust your commenters to have their comments go up without you having to ‘approve’. You can ALWAYS go back and delete hateful comments should they come along.

    Highlighting recent conversation in the sidebar is good feedback, we’ll be sure to do that.

    Kudos to your great community here for providing honest and constructive feedback!

    • Thanks for weighing in about Disqus, Matt! Currently, the settings are such that if you have commented, and been approved, previously then your comments should show up without moderation. Unfortunately, when I have taken moderation off there does seem to be more spam than I would want to go back and clean up and instead prefer to catch it in real time. Happy to figure out a way to do this even better though!

      Thanks so much

      • We’ll get you set up with spam-blocking settings/plugin that will take care of that so you won’t have to HAVE comment moderation turned on (of course we can leave that setting alone if you like).

  • It has been awhile since I have written a comment on a blog. I decided to participate in this conversation because it was easier for me to comment when given multiple choice type questions. As a reader of your blog, this topic interested me.

    For the first question, I would have to say multiple choice questions and seeing comments from others. It would have to be a topic I was interested in for me to comment. For the second question, if it is a post I commented on, I would come back to see what other comments were posted. I mainly read blogs in a feed reader, so I usually don’t see comments unless I view the post on the blog. For someone visiting your blog for the first time, I think a sidebar with popular conversations is a good idea to have.

    • Great to see you back on this blog 🙂

      It’s good to hear that by offering some places to start, you found it easier to comment. That’s great feedback.

      I really like your clarification that you read blog posts via a reader (assuming something like Google Reader or Netvibes) – have you considered or do you already subscribe to comments feeds? For example, this blog has a comments feed for folks that want to be sure they get all the conversations as they happen – but it has far fewer subscribers than the blog itself.

      Will definitely ensure that there’s an easy way for new visitors to see conversation – thanks!