A blog, by any other name …

So what maketh the blog? This topic came up at the Blog Meet a little while ago in conversation and it has come up for discussion on TechCrunch. A debate about whether the Google blog really is a blog sparked the debate. The Google blog doesn’t permit comments although it does list blogs that link to its posts and the question asked is whether it could be considered a blog in the absence of a comments feature? There are other blogs that work in a similar way. One of these blogs is Seth Godin’s blog which generally only permits trackbacks:

I think comments are terrific, and they are the key attraction for some blogs and some bloggers. Not for me, though. First, I feel compelled to clarify or to answer every objection or to point out every flaw in reasoning. Second, it takes way too much of my time to even think about them, never mind curate them. And finally, and most important for you, it permanently changes the way I write. Instead of writing for everyone, I find myself writing in anticipation of the commenters. I’m already itching to rewrite my traffic post below. So, given a choice between a blog with comments or no blog at all, I think I’d have to choose the latter.

So, bloggers who like comments, blog on. Commenters, feel free. But not here. Sorry.

(Permission to republish this extract from Seth Godin’s post kindly given in an incredibly speedy response to my email. All rights remain reserved by Seth Godin)

Blogs are conversational tools but what happens if the conversation is one sided? Is the site still a blog because it uses blogging software? I suppose another question is what you need in a site to have that conversation. Must there be a comment feature or is the ability to leave a trackback sufficient? It is arguable that being able to leave a trackback allows you to continue the conversation offsite. If that is enough to keep the conversation going and qualify the site as a blog, what about sites that don’t have trackback addresses or comment boxes and simply use a service like Technorati to indicate who is linking to that site?

Of course this all assumes that the conversation must be evidenced on the site itself in some form or another. What if the conversation is offsite altogether. Is it still a blog if it uses a restrained version of WordPress or some other blogging platform?

Arrington reckons that a blog is not a blog if it doesn’t allow for user comments. I am not so sure I agree. I think a blog is a blog if it somehow participates in the conversation. As I pointed out above, a trackback allows you to take the conversation to your blog. That is enough for me to see a blog like Seth Godin’s blog as a blog. I suppose you could draw the line at a site that gives no indication of incoming links (which would allow you to visit the referring sites and see what they had to say) and doesn’t allow comments because that site is really not much more than a traditional website.

What do you think?

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