Comments are the New Black

Posted on Dec 13, 2009 | 181 comments


black sweaterI’ve been thinking a lot about comments lately.  I recently wrote a post about how to get access to people at conferences and how to connect with people on social networks.  These posts encouraged groups of people to provide their thoughts on these topics.  As usual we began a dialog with lots of people sharing their points of view.

Arnold Waldstein, who stops by periodically on my blog and always leaves relevant comments, made the observation that, “if I want to connect with you, I’ll arnold waldstein fbengage with you on this blog …from there, a follow on Twitter, a link on LinkedIn are closing the loop of connection rather that opening a cold door.”  This is so true.

I got to thinking more broadly about social networks and the real-time web.  Many people who want to get to know me send me a LinkedIn invite, connect on Facebook or more recently follow me on Twitter.  On LinkedIn we rarely communicate with each other.  So being Linked seems nothing more than a status symbol.  Occasionally I’ll get an LinkedIn email from somebody saying, “I see you know such-and-such, would you mind connecting me?”  In a way, LinkedIn has become mostly a chore for me – a place to provide intros for two people that I know.

Facebook has much more value to me as a networking tool.  When I sent out 300 invites in early 2006 people thought I was crazy.  Given that I’m 41 most of the people I invited were 35-45 and hadn’t done much social networking other than LinkedIn.  At the time I proclaimed Facebook the new LinkedIn because you could do so much more and people were actually communicating rather than just having static links.  The power to me was that I had already been blogging about my personal life and my children as well as separately about my startup.  But I constantly had to remind people every time I updated my blog (very few non-technical people were using RSS readers and nobody had even heard of Twitter) and I thought Facebook provided a way for me to publish pictures, blogs or random thoughts into a community rather than the community having to remember to find me.  Powerful stuff.

And Facebook continued to innovate while all this time I have continued to wonder WTF LinkedIn was up to.  Facebook added obvious features like IM.  The smartest of networkers have realized that IM through Facebook, if used appropriately, is the best way to get through to people.  Send me an email and it goes to the bottom of a very big stack of inbound communications for which I’m already weeks behind.  Send me a sychronous IM when you already know that I’m online by my presence (side note: Facebook seems to often say I’m there when I’m not) and you have a greater chance of engaging me.

rajatThis is exactly how Rajat Suri uses Facebook as he outlined in his comment here on my blog.  Rajat and I have become friends this way and have now switched over to occasional phone calls.  It’s also how Jason Nazar and I started communicating.  He noticed that I’m often on my computer at midnight and he would shoot my little one liners about the great progress that DocStoc was making.

But you can’t really IM somebody you have zero connection with.  At least in my age & demagraphic it’s considered too forward – kind of like calling on me on my mobile phone unsolicited.  You have to establish a pretty good connection with somebody before you IM them.

And then there’s Twitter.  I’ve already spoke about one of the things I love the most about Twitter is that it is asymmetrical and doesn’t require a two-way follow to connect.  Using the @ command anybody who follows me (or even if they don’t) can send a little message that will go into my @ mailbox on Twitter.  I read almost all of these.  For any clever comment from somebody who I don’t know I will often click through to their bio.  If there’s a link I’ll often look at their blog or LinkedIn profile (depending on where the link sends me) and I’ll look at their Twitter stream to see if they’ve said anything interesting.

This phenomenon led Jan Schultink to comment that we increasingly size people up online in a Malcom Gladwell “Blink” sort of way and establish a sense of trust based on what we read about the individual, the type of comments they make and what they write about in their blogs.  This is how I met Tristan Walker.  He left me a comment on Twitter.  I clicked through to his blog from his Twitter profile and in a Blink evaluation decided to follow him back on Twitter and comment back to him.

trispic2One day I was in Palo Alto with an hour to kill.  I Tweeted that I’d like to meet somebody for coffee and had 6 responses in 60 seconds.  One was from Tristan.  We’d never met IRL but I felt that I knew he was a good guy from my Blink impression online.  We spent an hour together and then started doing occasional phone calls.  I love his initiative and now consider him a friend.  Strange – we’ve only met in person once.

So how does this all tie back into comments?  As Fred Wilson pointed out, there is a community that forms on blogs.  Many of the same people turn up and they comment on my posts.  Sometimes they offer words of encouragement, sometimes they disagree with me and sometimes they form conversations with other people that regularly turn up.

It is far easier to build a relationship with me on my blog by commenting then it is to connect on a social network.  I see Arnold here all the time – more than I ever would on Facebook where I don’t spend as much time.  I see David Smuts, David Semeria, Eric Jackson and the many, many more people that stop by to leave their views.  I have now met many of these people IRL.

Comments are a gateway.  They enable you to more easily connect to people in more personal ways like Facebook.  They give you more permission to IM somebody through that channel.  They allow you to get to know how somebody thinks and draw you into wanting to know them better.  They are more than Blink – they are deep dive, continual and built over time.  Comments are the coffee shop banter that we miss being in this busy and digital world.

Disqus has enabled all this.  In a way, I think that the information that you can find in the “stream” of Disqus comments is far more valuable than that which you will find in Twitter.  It is a real conversation.  It is threaded.  It is already organized around vertical niches and topics.  And because Disqus has been built in a clever way it is portable, searchable and ready to be broadcast out via Twitter or other social networks.

Yeah, once we’re friends on Disqus through comments you can connect with me more easily on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.  But I think we’ll always know each other better here in my comments section.  Or yours.  Comments are the new black.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    David,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    You are the catalyst for a lot of ideas. And yes, 'Comments into communities' did spur some thinking on my part that drew real parallels between Disqus today and what early communities have been trying to solve for decades. http://bit.ly/1bfHWf

  • ldmangin

    Given the subject of the post, and the direction the comments have taken, it definitely feels appropriate i'd make my first contribution now!

    When i first came across Mark's blog a few months ago, I immediately went back the very first post and read everything I had missed. [Side note: I have been awed by the quality of the insight, the relevance of the subjects (to me as an entrepreneur) and regularity of new posts. Love it.] Eventually, as I caught on to the depth and breadth of community contributions and the discussions that would sometimes developed in the comments section, so I went back and reread everything again, this time reading all the comments too.

    What i've noticed is something which I believe is pervasive in the ‘blogosphere’, and which both bloggers and their community both participate in: People rarely asks questions… Comments usually echo (either for or against) the post – they do build on it, but in a very formal step by step process. When people asks questions, then conversations develop as a natural by product (like in this comments thread – as this community has matured, people have become more comfortable not having a rigid environment (i.e. social policies/politeness) control the interactions. It takes time and credibility to build the necessary trust to do so, but the results are evident when looking at the increased interactions the comments section has had here.

    This blog does a wonderful job of engaging its readers intellectually and with concrete wisdom, and hopefully gets them thinking about the application of this wisdom to their own circumstances, but it rarely asks the readers’ questions directly (it makes me ask questions of myself as an entrepreneur though which is why I love it). In general, a blog serves as a one way communication tool – one to many. In rare instances, you come across a blog like BothSidesOfTheTable, where the writer actively contributes not just posts, but comments to the comments as well (something that made me instantly respect Mark was how he would thank people for their comments). This definitely adds an extra dimension to the community, but, overall, it remains constrained by its origins (i.e. it is a blog not a forum). Taking it to the next level requires something more, in terms of concerted effort as well as core functionality.

    I therefore propose, as a response to Fred Wilson’s question of how you get the community to switch from passive to active, that the most basic solution is that, as the writer, you need to ask your audience questions and you need to encourage them to ask questions back.

    What do you all think?

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    First, thank you for deciding to contribute and thank you for the kind words. It's funny to me what you say because when I think about what to write I often think about questions I want to ask but when I get in my head during the writing process it never comes out this way. I think asking questions would be a great thing. I'll give it more thought. Some of the things I had mentally planned to ask people in future posts were: how often should a blogger write, should I write shorter posts or is the current length OK, should I cover different topics and on and on. Not just narcissistic questions about how people want me to blog but also about how others see the world. I'll try this out a couple of times in 2010. Thanks for the encouragment.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    And there are clearly related blogs that cover similar topics and it would be great if there was a cross-blog way to discuss topics more seamlessly.

    My Google analytics show about 40,000 / month to this blog and my “community” is probably 1,000 with hard-core more like 75-100. I find analytics very complicated because my WordPress analytics show about 30% higher numbers.

    I also publish on other sites as I'm sure you must and it would be great to have one big integrated set of comments. It's hard to always go and check CloudAve, Silicon Angle, VentureHacks, BusinessInsider, etc. I now need to be on a mission to get more people using Disqus.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    And it was your comments on my last post the spurred the ideas for this one. Thank you.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Rajat, OK, you have to give VCs some credit. re: NEVER happens I think I pretty much suggested you call me on the phone when we barely knew each other! I know others who do it. It's just hard because some people abuse the privilege and when you're dealing with large numbers of people it can create problems.

    re: one unified platform – use Digsby. It does what you're asking. I use it. When you IM me from Gmail or Facebook I never know the difference. It always comes up in one client.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    True. I hadn't thought of that. IM is usually more superficial. It is also 1:1 and not permanent. Comments on blogs require you to be more thoughtful and try to move the conversation forward. And, I must admit, I love occasionally not being constrained to 140 characters.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    You're right. It's an investment in creating new content all the time and you have to double-down to make sure you read all the comments, add back and keep the conversation going. I personally enjoy it. I'm sure Fred does or he wouldn't be able to maintain it as long as he has. But you do need some people committed to a community – just like in real life.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thanks, David. And add you to the people I've been lucky enough to meet in person as a result of conversations started here!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you. Early '06 were some crazy times. Bubble 2.0.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Ha. I had to find a way to flush people out of consume-only mode and get some comments going!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajatsuri rajatsuri

    Digsby – didn't know about that, will look it up.

    Re: NEVER – I think you're a pretty major exception Mark! In a lot of ways. Maybe it's just an East Coast vs West Coast thing, but it's far less common here in Boston for VCs to make themselves available. And they get a lot of stick for it too by the blunt startup reporters (see Scott Kirsner 's blog). In fact in Boston many of the VC offices are located something like 30 mins drive from Cambridge/Boston where all the startups live – so it basically costs us $30-$40 to rent a Zipcar for each meeting.

    But yes, there are a couple great ones here too.

    Also my comment was more to encourage the use of IM in addition to phone/email as a medium to build relationships between investor and founder, rather than a comment on VC availability.

  • http://disqus.com Ro Gupta

    yeah – while there's going to be a natural upper limit to participation, i think ldmangin is onto something. asking questions could be what helps get those long time/first time people out of the woodwork. i think bloggers like you, mark, probably assume that the implicit questions coming out of the stuff you post will be identified and discussed by your readers naturally, and they are…but if you're not explicit about it – i.e. talking in the second person with an actual question mark and all – it's less likely that that slightly more introverted cross-section will chime in. noodling on ways we can do more from the application side too. -ro @ disqus

  • http://snowcrashing.com Antonella

    Very thoughtful post. A simple and yet very effective Online Presence Management guide.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajatsuri rajatsuri

    Thanks for the nod for me too. I wonder at what stage in my career my exuberant profile picture starts to become a liability…. maybe that's how I'll know it's time to stop doing whatever, and go back to starting companies ;)

    Another trick I use apart from Facebook to build relationships via IM is to try to get the Gmail address of the person, since Gmail automatically adds you to Gchat even after you send emails.

    I really think IM is incredibly useful to build relationships – its a natural, low-pressure step in between emails/comments and phone calls/meetings. I wish it was actually seen as more 'professional' by older folks, and used in business more often. I can't imagine a VC saying 'stay in touch! I'd love to help! ….oh and here's my IM info so you can message me when you have questions' NEVER happens

    I try to get as many other founders of companies on my IM list as possible, so I can ask questions, do reference checks or just bitch about startup life ;) This is basically the only time-efficient way to build these relationships beyond casual acquaintances – there is no time at conferences, and exclusive meetings without a defined purpose are costly in many ways. (Why meet to shoot the breeze when you could be coding the next big feature or preparing sales materials?)

    Finally, at any given time on my computer, I have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail and Skype open each with their own contact lists and message streams. First thing in the morning I check each one in turn. It'd be nice to have all that on one platform, but maybe it'll never happen??

  • http://www.marketing.fm EricFriedman

    Comments also allow you to see how someone frames a problem or issue and responds to it. Whether agreeing or disagreeing over something its the “something” that counts vs. the typical banter when you first meet someone that doesn't show you how they effectively think through a problem or topic.

    Unless you are in an interview setting it can be tough to pry some of that critical thinking out.

    By creating good seed topics that have many answers or possibilities is a great way to spark a conversation on your blog – something that is happening now within this thread.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    I trust that this exchange will continue on and spur other ideas for both of us.

    Again, thnx for the gracious nod.

  • http://shanacarp.com/essays ShanaC

    I still wish I knew who that hard cores' twitter ids were….

  • http://shanacarp.com/essays ShanaC

    I prefer smalls personally when I am NY….

  • http://shanacarp.com/essays ShanaC

    I'm currently trying that with places I know have strong communal activity- problem is they are very SEO concious and they are complaining of rumors that Javascript linking is beating them down. And they don't have your profile either…

    Suggestions?

  • http://shanacarp.com/essays ShanaC

    Thank you for the complement. I'm bad about making content on my own blog. I prefer to comment, to be part of growing communities. It's an important way to be active in work. Free flowing thought is extremely difficult. Comments at least give you a way of getting started. It, along with wikis and other collaborative tools, are a great way of getting started about some topic or problem. It's just hard to implement well. We'll see how this all develops long run.

    I'm glad you enjoy it. It's not for everyone. I just wish disqus brought back permalinking from within the comments. Some of them I would stick in a resume -they tell more of a story about me and many people I interact with that I think it would be useful to have back.

  • http://shanacarp.com/essays ShanaC

    Oh you deserve it.

  • http://zaneology.com zaneology

    Now wearing Black. :)

    Great Post. I enjoyed your “early” '06 references…

  • ldmangin

    Given the subject of the post, and the direction the comments have taken, it definitely feels appropriate i'd make my first contribution now!

    When i first came across Mark's blog a few months ago, I immediately went back the very first post and read everything I had missed. [Side note: I have been awed by the quality of the insight, the relevance of the subjects (to me as an entrepreneur) and regularity of new posts. Love it.] Eventually, as I caught on to the depth and breadth of community contributions and the discussions that would sometimes developed in the comments section, so I went back and reread everything again, this time reading all the comments too.

    What i've noticed is something which I believe is pervasive in the ‘blogosphere’, and which both bloggers and their community both participate in: People rarely asks questions… Comments usually echo (either for or against) the post – they do build on it, but in a very formal step by step process. When people asks questions, then conversations develop as a natural by product (like in this comments thread – as this community has matured, people have become more comfortable not having a rigid environment (i.e. social policies/politeness) control the interactions. It takes time and credibility to build the necessary trust to do so, but the results are evident when looking at the increased interactions the comments section has had here.

    This blog does a wonderful job of engaging its readers intellectually and with concrete wisdom, and hopefully gets them thinking about the application of this wisdom to their own circumstances, but it rarely asks the readers’ questions directly (it makes me ask questions of myself as an entrepreneur though which is why I love it). In general, a blog serves as a one way communication tool – one to many. In rare instances, you come across a blog like BothSidesOfTheTable, where the writer actively contributes not just posts, but comments to the comments as well (something that made me instantly respect Mark was how he would thank people for their comments). This definitely adds an extra dimension to the community, but, overall, it remains constrained by its origins (i.e. it is a blog not a forum). Taking it to the next level requires something more, in terms of concerted effort as well as core functionality.

    I therefore propose, as a response to Fred Wilson’s question of how you get the community to switch from passive to active, that the most basic solution is that, as the writer, you need to ask your audience questions and you need to encourage them to ask questions back.

    What do you all think?

  • http://www.dantiernan.com/blog/ dantinpa

    I'm betting you have a lot more hard core readers than a couple of hundred. A LOT of people, like me, probably read and enjoy – but don't write alot. What can you do to make it easier for people to comment on contribute in the conversation in someway? simple surveys?

  • http://avc.com fredwilson

    hmm. that's like clay shirkey's assertion that social nets are like
    parties. they are great until they get too big

  • http://avc.com fredwilson

    talk to daniel at disqus about one comment thread for multiple cross posts

    i've been asking for that feature for years and it's available via a hack
    (business insider uses the hack when they run my posts there)

    i think if it were productized, it would be huge for bloggers like us

  • http://avc.com fredwilson

    that's the question i've been pondering

    on tumblr, people like and reblog as lightweight ways to interact that don't
    require as much time as a comment

  • http://www.dantiernan.com/blog/ dantinpa

    The best thing about Linkedin, unlike the others, is that it is GREAT for helping you find/connect with people that have special skills or knowledge outside your domain. If you are focused on a certain market, industry, etc., this is not as much value. However, if you are getting into pharma marketing analytics and you need to find someone with this experience, it is much better than Facebook or anything else. I connected with the head of Informatics for Kasier Permanente in CA via a friend in MN like this. I also found an amazing marketing guy with HR/recruiting app credentials in Seattle who was 2 degrees away.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    First, thank you for deciding to contribute and thank you for the kind words. It's funny to me what you say because when I think about what to write I often think about questions I want to ask but when I get in my head during the writing process it never comes out this way. I think asking questions would be a great thing. I'll give it more thought. Some of the things I had mentally planned to ask people in future posts were: how often should a blogger write, should I write shorter posts or is the current length OK, should I cover different topics and on and on. Not just narcissistic questions about how people want me to blog but also about how others see the world. I'll try this out a couple of times in 2010. Thanks for the encouragment.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Rajat, OK, you have to give VCs some credit. re: NEVER happens I think I pretty much suggested you call me on the phone when we barely knew each other! I know others who do it. It's just hard because some people abuse the privilege and when you're dealing with large numbers of people it can create problems.

    re: one unified platform – use Digsby. It does what you're asking. I use it. When you IM me from Gmail or Facebook I never know the difference. It always comes up in one client.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    True. I hadn't thought of that. IM is usually more superficial. It is also 1:1 and not permanent. Comments on blogs require you to be more thoughtful and try to move the conversation forward. And, I must admit, I love occasionally not being constrained to 140 characters.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you. Early '06 were some crazy times. Bubble 2.0.

  • http://twitter.com/KenMcArthur Ken McArthur

    Fred,

    I'm pretty hard-core for reading your blog. It's the first thing I do every day, but this is the first comment I've made — and it's on another blog.

    That's not because I'm not hard-core. It's because I want to make sure that the value of whatever relationship we develop remains high.

    Increasing the community is about having a two-way conversation that compels people to chime in and tell others.

    It's a value proposition and a factor of the viral coefficient. If there is no value in spreading the word the community won't grow. To make it grow it need to have a viral coefficient above 1.0.

    The value can be an outlet for anger and frustration or a chance to spread our own self-importance. Or it can be the wonderful feeling that we get from having a chance to help others.

    The types of value we get from communities is endless, but whatever the value needs to be pointed out and nurtured. At my joint venture events the conversation is all about the family and not so much about the dollars. I point out that value every time talk about the community.

    It doesn't always build the comments, but it does expand the community.

    All the best,

    Ken

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajatsuri rajatsuri

    Digsby – didn't know about that, will look it up.

    Re: NEVER – I think you're a pretty major exception Mark! In a lot of ways. Maybe it's just an East Coast vs West Coast thing, but it's far less common here in Boston for VCs to make themselves available. And they get a lot of stick for it too by the blunt startup reporters (see Scott Kirsner 's blog here: http://bit.ly/4fInp5 ). In fact in Boston many of the VC offices are located something like 30 mins drive from Cambridge/Boston where all the startups live – so it basically costs us $30 to rent a Zipcar for each meeting.

    But yes, there are a couple great ones here too.

    Also my comment was more to encourage the use of IM in addition to phone/email as a medium to build relationships between investor and founder, rather than a comment on VC availability.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rajatsuri rajatsuri

    Digsby – didn't know about that, will look it up.

    Re: NEVER – I think you're a pretty major exception Mark! In a lot of ways. Maybe it's just an East Coast vs West Coast thing, but it's far less common here in Boston for VCs to make themselves available. And they get a lot of stick for it too by the blunt startup reporters (see Scott Kirsner 's blog). In fact in Boston many of the VC offices are located something like 30 mins drive from Cambridge/Boston where all the startups live – so it basically costs us $30-$40 to rent a Zipcar for each meeting.

    But yes, there are a couple great ones here too.

    Also my comment was more to encourage the use of IM in addition to phone/email as a medium to build relationships between investor and founder, rather than a comment on VC availability.

  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com awaldstein

    “Cross blog way to discuss topics”–interesting.

    I can follow my friends movements by subscribing to their Disqus page I believe and see what they are commenting about. But the other side is intersecting communities, sort of a crowd sourced information community where topics aggregate into a new hub. Technically feasible. Dynamics are a bit boggling to image.

  • http://disqus.com/ Ro Gupta

    yeah – while there's going to be a natural upper limit to participation, i think ldmangin is onto something. asking questions could be what helps get those long time/first time people out of the woodwork. i think bloggers like you, mark, probably assume that the implicit questions coming out of the stuff you post will be identified and discussed by your readers naturally, and they are…but if you're not explicit about it – i.e. talking in the second person with an actual question mark and all – it's less likely that that slightly more introverted cross-section will chime in. noodling on ways we can do more from the application side too. -ro @ disqus

  • http://www.logicalconsensus.com Lucas Dailey

    “- Blog frequent visitors should be more or less on the same stage of a learning curve: complete newbies, and complete experts do not create good discussion with each other”

    I wholeheartedly agree with the rest, but on this point I disagree.

    The best blog and comment conversations have different levels of discussion that provide a continuing educational resource. As a new entrepreneur I was lucky enough to find this blog early and it has been highly valuable to me as I grow. In contrast there are many blogs I read when starting off that I don’t anymore because they only addressed a single stage of experience.

    Marks’ writing is great because it has that scalar quality, which helps foster a rich commentator base. These posts and threads are often still rewarding with additional readings because of it.

  • http://www.logicalconsensus.com Lucas Dailey

    “- Blog frequent visitors should be more or less on the same stage of a learning curve: complete newbies, and complete experts do not create good discussion with each other”

    I wholeheartedly agree with the rest, but on this point I disagree.

    The best blog and comment conversations have different levels of discussion that provide a continuing educational resource. As a new entrepreneur I was lucky enough to find this blog early and it has been highly valuable to me as I grow. In contrast there are many blogs I read when starting off that I don’t anymore because they only addressed a single stage of experience.

    Marks’ writing is great because it has that scalar quality, which helps foster a rich commentator base. These posts and threads are often still rewarding with additional readings because of it.

  • http://www.giarty.it Francesco Giartosio

    Mark – your blog, including the comments, is becoming a lot of work, just after Mashable. Thanks for the Disqus hint, precious, and the whole Comments Cloud concept.

    May I take advantage of your post to ask a side question (to anyone who wishes to answer): should I use Facebook Connect or Disqus to build traction for an online community I’m launching? From the above comments it seems Disqus has the same advantages of FB Connect (in particular it leverages the strength of FB, though with a couple more clicks) without the disadvantages (other networks are allowed, and I own the comments – no more risk of losing everything any moment).

    Thanks.

    (P.S.: I feel an idiot but I don’t understand what black means …)

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you, Lucas. I do struggle with how advanced or beginner I should make things. I sort of like allowing for a more advanced discussion in the comments section because I feel the newer people can learn from hearing what other people discuss but I like trying to keep the topics relevant to a wide audience. But this is, of course, in addition to anybody being able to ask any question without feeling judged. I also get a lot of private emails from people who would rather ask the basics 'offline.' That's OK, too.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    You're right. Occasionally I'll end a post with, “what do you think” but in general I sort of assume that people will feel like they can add any comments to what I write. Often people expand on the topic in ways that I wish I would have in the post so it's very helpful. But I'll keep in mind that I need to be more explicit about asking questions. As I said, one goal for 2010!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Yeah, you're right. There are many great reasons to use LinkedIn and I didn't publish all the ways I use it. But I will in a future post. The thing is – it's more of a networking database for finding sales leads than it is a social network IMHO.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    thanks for the input, Ken. And make sure to leave similar comments over at avc.com!

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    I think Disqus (commenting system for blogs) and FBConnect (the ability to scrape a pre-existing social graph) have very different use cases so make sure what you want to achieve and map the functionality to that. They are quite different products.

    re: “black” … well … Everybody in New York (or many urban environments) seems to wear black all the time. So every year designers would come out and say things like, “brown is the new black” or “purple is the new black” as in the staple you wear all the time. I'm sure somebody can give a better explanation than that but that's how we use it in the Suster household. It's the new staple you're going to use everyday. And we now use it mostly jokingly.

  • dereklicciardi

    The other way to engender conversation is to simply take a stand. When a binary topic presents itself to you and you feel like blogging about it, take a stand and pick a side. Blogs are personal. Leave the unbiased reporting to Fox News and CNN. (yes I know that's an oxymoron) I don't read blogs for a description of the problem space. I read blogs for someone's opinion on how to approach the problem space with a solution. It can be about starting a company, building a web site or designing a user interface to a game. All that matters is that the author take a stand and clearly define his/her position on the topic. If your blog has a following, then that in and of itself should be enough to get people to agree or disagree and talk about it in the comments.

  • http://lmframework.com/blog/about David Semeria

    Facebook Connect is a useful authentication tool. It allows you to quickly sign-in to dedicated commenting systems, such as Disqus.

    Black refers to the dippy fashion industry, where every year a new colour is deemed “the new black”.

  • RichardForster

    The combination of Disqus and a blog owner that tends to the comments is hugely powerful in creating a community.

    Personally I think Disqus could add on a bunch of social tools that would make it far more attractive to me as a social network than the current combination of Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, all of which I find unsatisfactory to a large part in interacting with people on a professional level.

  • http://bothsidesofthetable.com msuster

    Thank you, Lucas. I do struggle with how advanced or beginner I should make things. I sort of like allowing for a more advanced discussion in the comments section because I feel the newer people can learn from hearing what other people discuss but I like trying to keep the topics relevant to a wide audience. But this is, of course, in addition to anybody being able to ask any question without feeling judged. I also get a lot of private emails from people who would rather ask the basics ‘offline.’ That’s OK, too.