I realized something while attempting to digest the recent conversation about “use-whenever stats” started over on Ryan Macklin’s blog, and continued in part over on GamePlayWright. It has to do with how the comments are or aren’t nested. (If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s sometimes referred to as “threaded” comments, when you can see what messages someone is replying to.) This blog allows for comment nesting too, but only to a limited depth (I forget if it stops at replies-to-initial-comments, or at replies-to-replies — one or two nested levels deep.)
My experience with the two conversations was markedly different. Over on Ryan’s blog, because the conversation was active, and the nesting ran several levels deep (deeper than it gets here), I actually ended up intimidated by it. “Too much to take in!” Which is odd, because threading conversations like that is meant to make it easier to keep track of the various threads of thought going on. Contrast this with my experience of GamePlayWright, where there’s no threading whatsoever. There’s the post, and there’s a “flat” stream of comments below it. But I took the time with that one to read the comments and then say something at the end.
I think my reaction has to do with the many-nested-threads presentation being — in essence — unique to digital conversation. It’s a kind of metastasis, where the conversation can bifurcate and subdivide and so on until it’s this big and (for me) intimidating mass of chatter about the topic at hand.
The GPW conversation could run the same risks for some — it’s big, and it’s undifferentiated, so you can only really take two tacks with it: read it beginning to end, read only the post and respond to that, or read the post and the end of the comments and try to jump in hoping you’re not repeating yourself. But you know what? That’s a fair bit like a real-life conversation (albeit an asynchronous one where you can start listening in to the whole thing at any time), and that I think is where I ended up feeling like I could participate there, but not over at the place where it started.
Makes me ponder the degree to which I allow nesting/threading on Deadly Fredly.
How about you? How do you react to these modes of online discussion? How do you prefer to configure it in your own space?