Online Participation, Commenting and The Comment Challenge

What an amazing week! Last month working with Kim Cofino, Silvia Tolisano and Michele Martin we created the concept of the Comment Challenge which started this month.

Why the Comment Challenge

I knew from personal experience that commenting on blogs is a crucial aspect of blogging conversations for achieving the greatest learning. Trouble is factors often limit people’s commenting practices so they don’t experience this learning and fail to appreciate it’s value.

Kim Cofino, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and I hoped a challenge that involved a month of focused commenting would help participants appreciate it’s importance and the benefits of learning as a community.

Comment Challenge Progress

The Challenge started on May 1 with Michele Martin posting tasks daily. The number of participants is still increasing and currently there are 116 adult participants and 12 Student groups (over 200 students).

You can check out the latest posts by participants on this page of the Comment Challenge wiki or comments by participants here! Much of my time this week has been making sure it is all happening by visiting participant’s posts to check out their progress and leave encouragement, troubleshooting challenges of technorati and fine tuning the wiki.

The behind the scenes tasks have left me little time to write my own reflections so I thought today I would play catch up using Comment Challenge Day 7: Reflect on What You’ve Learned So Far but reflect the three lessons I’ve learned from my experiences so far in terms of being a coordinator of the Challenge.

#1 Commenting & Participation in Online Communities

It didn’t surprise to me that many participants response to “How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week?” was rarely. Concerns of saying the wrong thing or feeling their comments mightn’t be worthy were the main factors why they rarely commented. This surprised me because I assumed time was the main issue since majority are bloggers and use twitter.

It does have me thinking more about online communities user participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute)
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs

And Derek Wenmoth’s The Four C’s of Participation in Online Communities:

The 4 Cs are an attempt to illustrate the fact that most people appear to operate predominantly in one or other of the phases in their journey to becoming online citizens, and that there is some sort of progression that characterises this growth.

Below is Derek Wenmoth’s diagram that highlights the progression through the phases. Take the time to read his post to obtain a clear understanding of his thoughts (click on this link to view the larger version of the diagram).

four-cs-small.jpg

I’ve always considered the implications of both online communities user participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule and Derek Wenmoth’s The Four C’s of Participation in Online Communities when using social networking tools with students and educators. Time constraints and not being a contributer (i.e. since majority blog, use range of social network tools and twitter) aren’t the barriers to why people don’t comment more.

Lots of food for thought with no answers but definitely a greater understanding, after 7 days of observations, of why people do/don’t comment on blogs.

#2 Technorati Continues To Mock Me

With over 100 adult participants and 12 student groups (over 200 students) , combined with the desire to encourage the community aspect, an RSS feed from Technorati was the easiest method for helping participants easily find each other and interact (we have the feed coming into our wiki). Best way to do this is to agree on a common tag term prior to the event.

Mistake #1 – Make sure the tag term is unique!

(DUH Sue!) I should have done a technorati basic search for the tag term comment08 because unfortunately test comments from cocomment’s blog were picked up with this search term.

Mistake #2 – Test Technorati easily picks up the tags prior to starting such a large project

After quite a bit of research over the weekend I discovered that technorati wasn’t picking up posts unless:

  • Participants had joined and claimed their blog’s at Technorati
  • Technorati hasn’t been pinging their blog (some of the blogs hadn’t been pinged for 90 days which meant we weren’t seeing any of the posts they were writing)

Also I discovered we had to refine the Technorati tag search to ensure it found all posts.

If we had known all this prior we could have given more detailed instructions to participants on how to tag (for each of the different blogging platforms) and for ensuring their tags were picked up by technorati.

Better late than never — Here’s my instructions for participants on using technorati.

#3 Community Learning Happens When Encouraged

True I did know this but have been pleasantly surprised, with the right circumstances, how rapidly this can develop considering it has only been 8 days. It’s impossible for me to showcase all the examples however I think what happening with video and video commenting — and the increased connections as a results — is pretty cool.

Kate Foy’s set up a Flickr Group and being using Seesmic to create video posts and use it for readers leave video comments. Greg’s being debating the pros and cons of video commenting. Kevin’s did a video tour of blogs he visited which inspired Silvia to create a video to summarise what she has learnt in the past 7 days. Apologies I’m sure there are more videos (please let me know any I have missed).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Still time for you to join us for 31 Day Comment Challenge — just add your name to the participants page. It’s okay to combine several tasks and do in one day 😎 .

Would love to hear about the connections you are making, and the community learning that is happening, as a result of the Challenge. Also your thoughts on online participation and commenting (and off course how you are going 🙂 ).

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Why Does Technorati Mock Me?

Admittedly people might question why I should worry about what Technorati thinks of me. To be honest, I don’t care, but I do care that many of my favourite bloggers prefer to read posts by subscribing to technorati tags than to blogs. So if I want them to read my posts I need to understand how this blog search engine works. Also people use blog search engines to locate blogs worth reading – so I need to make sure my blog is showing up in blog search directory for my niche area.

Mistakenly I thought everything was okay since I had seen my posts on Technorati.

Advanced Blog Searches

WRONG – When I did an advanced blog search using the term m-learning my sites were not being listed.

tech

If I want to have my blog to appear in technorati blog search directory I need to join Technorati and then claim my blog (and podcast sites).

techclaim

I also needed to use variations of the same tag term to ensure my blog is easier to locate.

techtags

My blog and podcast site can now be located in Technorati blog search however ability to locate in search directory is affected by which variation of a tag is used in the search.

If I use:

  1. m-learning : both sites rank highly
  2. mlearning : my podcast site ranks and not my blog site

See how Technorati mocks me? Both sites have been tagged on Technorati with m-learning and mlearning, so I have no idea.

Basic Post Searches

My original reason for searching Technorati was for my Day 14 task (Analyze Your Blog’s Competition for 31 Days Blog Project). While I read a lot of blogs I wanted to read more blogs in my niche area (mlearning), and I wanted to work out how bloggers are subscribing to Technorati tags.

So I inserted the term m-learning into the search area. After several frustrating hours, of not being able to work out why all my search attempts using m-learning were giving me posts that had absolutely nothing to do with m-learning I realised that unlike their blog search, their basic search was not recognising m-learning as a search term. Instead it was giving me any post that had the term learning in it. Change the search term to mlearning and now I found the posts I wanted.

technorati

But just to totally annoy me if I change the search term to “mobile learning” my search results were totally different.

Technorati’s basic search appears to search for the terms within posts. So I need to have a good think about terms used for both tagging my posts and words used within my posts or alternatively I could start adding the desired technorati tags into my posts.

techtag

Subscribing to Technorati Tags

You can subscribe to technorati tags by clicking on the subscribe icon and adding to your Feed Reader (or if your Feed Reader automatically locates the feed copy and paste the tag URL into your Reader).

Screencast on Using Technorati

There is no way I can cover all the things you can do with Technorati.. Check out Demogirl’s screencast of How She Uses Technorati. While you are at her site – do a search – she has excellent “How to” screencasts on a range of topics. 🙂