Welcome to The Art of Conversation

Welcome to all readers!  This blog is focused on a topic near and dear to my heart, and one that has finally begun to catch the attention of the larger world: online conversation.

More precisely, this blog is going to talk about Purposeful Online Conversation in Communities.  Each of those words is significant, so let me talk for a minute about why:

  • “Conversation” seems pretty self-evident, and everybody’s chattering about it nowadays.  “Conversation” is hot in the blogosphere right now.  But it’s being used pretty carelessly, so let’s be precise: it’s all about interactions between people.  Talking to yourself isn’t a conversation, and it isn’t very interesting, but a remarkable number of tools seem best designed to simply shout into the ether, rather than really getting people talking back and forth.
  • “Online”: we’re specifically going to be interested here in the conversational tools provided by the Internet, and how they affect conversation.  We may well stray from that focus here and there: really understanding online conversation requires looking at the old-fashioned, offline, face-to-face sort as well.  But we’re mostly going to talk about online conversations, because that’s where the most exciting experiments are happening right now.  (I can’t say the offline sort is completely understood, but it does have thousands of years of experimentation already.)
  • “Purposeful”: a lot of the talk about conversation right now is — well, rather unfocused.  Lots of tools and discussion about social interaction, but relatively little about why those interactions happen.  One premise of this blog is that conversation matters.  One of the most important questions is why people are talking and what they get out of it; we’ll touch on that frequently.  There are many possible purposes, from work to co-ordination to diarizing and simple social interaction, but you can’t really understand what’s going on here without spending some time thinking about what folks are trying to accomplish.
  • Finally, “Communities”. People talk airily about Community, in much the same way they do Conversation, but it gets surprisingly little serious analysis.  But conversations simply don’t exist outside of communities — they always have a context of the people engaging in them.  So we’re going to talk a lot about those communities, and how communities and conversations shape each other.

Hence, The Art of Conversation: like any art, it’s a big, fuzzy, delightful topic to feel our way around in.  We’ll inevitably wander in related territories such as Identity, but always with a focus on how it affects Conversation.

I’m looking to create a medium-frequency blog here, posting a couple of times a week.  I strongly encourage you to join into the discussion and comment — I find nothing more depressing than a blog that is simply an author talking to himself, and love to get other viewpoints.  Ideally, I hope to learn as much as I teach.

That’s the What — now a little about the Who.  I’m Mark Waks, better known as “Justin” to most of my friends.  (Long story, but suffice it to say it’s my usual online handle.)  I’m a lifelong programmer, one of those people who dove into the Net when it was still novel, and have been focused mainly on Social Tools since before the term existed.  In my dozen or so years of programming social tools, and my 20-some of using them, I’ve seen a lot of good (and bad) ideas float by; we’ll be discussing many of those here.

I’m also the CEO and Architect of CommYou, a small startup that is trying to put these ideas into practice, by creating a really good place to have conversations. It’s very early days yet, but the system is slowly coming together. For the time being, it’s open to new users, so I’d love to have you come and play as we figure out what the next generation of conversation tools should look like. I’ll probably talk about CommYou a fair amount here — hopefully this won’t sound like an extended advertisement, but it is my passion right now, and closely related to the subject of this blog.

(Oh, and I habitually abuse both parentheses and ellipses.  My apologies about that in advance.)

I’ll be inviting other authors in to post here from time to time; I’ll let them introduce themselves as they come aboard.  If you think you’d like to contribute, drop me a line and I’d be happy to talk about potential posts from you.

So howdy to all, and please spread the word.  I’d love to get anyone who is interested in this subject, in the hopes of collectively doing some deep exploration into the jungles of a complex subject…

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2 Responses to “Welcome to The Art of Conversation”

  1. metahacker Says:

    Hi. I made it.

  2. ChadBerg Says:

    I abuse parenthesis and ellipses as well. (Not to pick out the least meaningful part of this post, but you and I have had our introductions with each other and on this topic in the past. Howdy newcomers, you’re in for a treat!)

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