Blurring the Line Between Weblogs and Discussion Forums

Mark Carey at Web Dawn has set up his weblog to look like a bulletin board or discussion forum - with the entries organized into columns and rows with the number of comments displayed with each blog heading. This simple reformatting shapes the perspective of the reader and puts some of the focus on the discussion as opposed to the writing of the blogger.

Blogging Goal: Readership?

One of the first things that got my attention regarding weblogs was the potential for an individual to build an online community around their site and their writing. If they publish interesting and provocative entries in their blog- a community can eventually form around them.

This happens all the time in the world of Weblogs- they get a community of devoted readers who link to them who and come back regularly for more perspectives from the person behind the weblog. This is the goal of web logs, right? Readership?

I would think that every blogger wants to see more readers. The blogger gets satisfaction and validation that what they are writing is appealing to a community of people out there. The style of the normal weblog reflects this viewpoint- where the author's content is primary and the comments/trackbacks are secondary or auxiliary.

Alternative Goal: Discussion?

Now, check out the forum view at Web Dawn and think about what seems most important in this view. To me, viewing a blog in the style of a bulletin board shifts (some) of the focus from the author to the participants. The focus becomes a nearly-equal combination of the author's content and the subsequent replies.

These two alternatives illustrate a choice for bloggers depending on their goals for their blog- and I think it's evolutionary. Bloggers would not start a new blog with the forum view- it would be useless. But, if discussions began and became high quality and popular, a forum view might provide the blogger with another level of visitor participation that isn't possible with a normal blog view. Visitors would start to see the blog as a discussion forum where the participation of the visitors drives the value.

It's really interesting to me how co-opting the forum discussion style can affect perceptions of the goals and focus of the blog. I'll be interested to see if more bloggers start to use a forum style and if blogs start to morph into online communities in the future. Or, are the already online communities?