Blogs v. message boards
In the course of our internal blog proof-of-concept, the issue of blogs v. message boards has arisen. Ari, who is leading the blog POC, simply views them as two different tools used for the same purpose. This may be due to his experience with XOOPS, which he turned to after our disappointment with the lack of WYSIWYG editing in WordPress. XOOPS has both a blog and a message board, and users in the very small test group have been gravitating towards the message board.
As someone who has spent far too much time on message boards for far too little return, I don't really understand this perspective, although I've heard it before. The affordances of the tools are so obviously different to me that I haven't spent a lot of time trying to articulate what those differences are.
Obviously, I'm not the first one to attempt to define the differences. I really like this analyis of discussion and citation in the blogosphere by Tom Coates, and in particular this illustration:
Tom uses the following weblog posting typology, originally from a Microdoc News article that now 404's:
- Lengthy opinion and molding of a topic around between three to fifteen links with one of those links the instigator of the story;
- Vote post where the blogger agrees or disagrees with a post on another site;
- Reaction post where a blogger provide her/his personal reaction to a single post on another site;
- Summation post where the blogger provide a summary of various blogs and perspectives of where a blog story has got to by now.
Odds are, types 2 & 3 have less value to most readers. If posts of these types were made on a discussion board, readers of the thread would be obliged to consume them. Amounting to spam. Most people have enough spam in their lives. Tom notes that with discussion boards, either the thread is good or not.
Exactly. The signal-to-noise ratio is so much better on blogs than on message boards. You don't have to slog through the garbage to find the good. Instead, you are handed a map that gets you their directly. You don't have to read everything to find the good stuff.
This analysis by Common Craft is provides a different perspective. Rather than focusing on information filtering and mapping, it describes differences between blogs and message boards on nine different areas. I disagree with two of these: intent and tools.
Viewing the intent of blogs as "personal accounts, news, reflection" isn't that far off, although I do bristle a bit at personal accounts, which sounds a bit too much like the diary meme. What it misses is that most bloggers aren't (intentionally) posting into a vacuum. They are hoping for a thoughtful response, a give-and-take, an expansion of their understanding. On the other side, I haven't seen much use of message boards as decision making tools. I would also add that the lack of reflection is a detriment. Most message boards read like IM conversation logs. Posts are short, links are few, substance uncertain, and the level of discouse is low. As Adriana Cronin-Lukas says, forums are like a collective drawing, while a blog post are like a piece of art on which others comment.
While adding RSS and similar tools eliminates the need to visit the board to see what is going on, notification doesn't solve the signal/noise ratio problems of message boards. You still have to read through the "voting" posts in a thread, deal with multiple threads on the same topic, etc. You don't control the channel; anybody can post, and it shows up in your reader.
And that channel control is desperately needed, as The Forager points out in Comics Bloggery vs. Message Boarding Actions. While I have never been to a comics board, this experience echoes mine on sports boards:
The key to the problem is that message boards seem to encourage ever-escalating arguments, while bloggers tend to engage in more reasonable discourse. This is primarily because blogs are both more permanent and more personal than message board threads: bloggers (generally) don't write things about other bloggers that they wouldn't also say face-to-face.Now, in a corporate environment, the shouting match effect shouldn't directly be an issue, but you still may end up with more in the way of voting posts than real discussion. The bigger deal may be the perceived ephemerality of message boards, resulting more in reaction than reflection. More thought, more reflection, and more analysis go into a blog post because you know that it is permanently associated with you.
So, don't be confused. Blogs and message boards are very different beasts.