Online Participation, Commenting and The Comment Challenge

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).


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).


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 🙂 ).

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11 thoughts on “Online Participation, Commenting and The Comment Challenge

  1. Thank you for sharing your lessons learned. I’d just like to add that I know many who are following along with us in spirit by commenting on the blogs they frequent but are not participating through our group. I think that speaks for itself on the value of this endeavor!

  2. I was going to do a video response but I have just lost my lovely new camera (which my family gave me after combining funds) on the bus. Gutted is not the word to describe how I am feeling at the moment.

  3. Lori,

    Yes I also know of people that are doing the same. Some aren’t able to join us because of time constraints but commenting instead. It’s great to know that the Challenge is making so many people reflect about the importance of blogging conversations.


    Thanks it is a really good post. I’ve definitely seen the graph at the top of the post in another posts but now can’t remember which. Thinking maybe Beth Kanter used it too as she has done a series on how long each tool takes.

    Definitely would be interesting to juxtapose this with the 4C’s — for me I’m thinking in terms of which phase a person would need to be in to be effective in each of Museum 2.0 category.

    Linda Hartley’s reflection from the comment challenge said “reluctant to post comments part because I worry about what people will think of me” and the role ownership and feeling safe influences her commenting practices. SO I’m thinking we also need to consider the issue of safety and ownership in these models as well.


    I’m totally gutted for you as I know how much this present meet to you. Have you contacted the bus company in case someone has handed it in?

  4. Now I am doing what we’re not supposed to do and go off topic, but I don’t care!

    My camera hasn’t been handed in but my insurance company will replace it. I thought I’d be able to sort it all out without my husband knowing. He’ll just go on and on about it if he knows. BUT its my baby’s 18th birthday on Tuesday so I’ll have to explain why I can’t take photos. So, looks like I’ll have to be honest after all. Honestly, I think the easiest thing to do is shoot myself now!

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