Your first time here? Welcome, I'm glad you've dropped in.... David Soul (aka Bricoleur)
Image representing Robert Scoble as depicted i...

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Robert Scoble suggests that back in 2000 (when there were few blogs) it was not unusual for a conversation to take place through the blog comments over the space of week. Now with twitter, the time shrinks dramatically. He then looks at FriendFeed and suggests that, with proper search facilities added to what is already there, the trend can be reversed and what he calls “the half life” (~20 hours in the example from 2000) will increase as older conversations can be found and referenced again.

I don’t like Scolbel’s use of the term “half-life” (perhaps because of my early training in physics) but I believe Robert is on to a very important thought here. I associate “half-life” with the time it takes a something to be reduced to half its size and think a more refined analysis will be required.

Off the top of my head,  I  think that a conversation that is resurrected (perhaps by just “bumping it” by adding a comment designed just to do this in the case of FriendFeed) will show a rapidly diminishing number of new posts for each ‘incarnation’… in its first go round say it brings in 30 comments… and then is bumped …it is likely that only a half dozen or so (SWAG) new posts will be made. Why would this be so?

Well, for one many of the original people that commented will see no reason to re-enter the conversation having said their piece and secondly this interested group is having “new and exciting” topics being presented in their feed constantly. This is simply a matter of available time in the information age. Overall, I suspect that on FriendFeed, the life of the conversation, and the number of new people that will re-join the conversation will likely be a function of:


popularity of original poster;
number of people that commented on the original pass;
number of “likes” on the original pass;
length of time since the original path;
willingness of original poster to re-engage in conversation;
new events in the “real world” that make the topic relevant again;
essay or video resources presented with the original post


I think the bold items will have the most impact. (the second bold item, “original poster,” is based on another assumption that “champions” don’t really lump on to FriendFeed conversations – if they are interested enough that they might become a conversation champion they are more likely to fork the conversation to one of their own starting.

In my mind a more interesting statistic feature (over Robert’s half-life) would be the progression of:

comment count first pass: comment count second pass…. Comment count n-th pass
combined with the time between the first post and last post…

A conversation that has a long time life (first post to last post), a high number of total comments, and for which the ratio comments (current pass)/comments (original pass) remains high is something that is contributing to learning in a very important way.As Robert says in his video the quality of search facilities will be a determining factor on whether conversations can have a long “half-life”  whether measure in Robert’s terms or something along the lines of my musing.

Bottom line: I think the time between first and last comment (Robert’s Half life) is of interest but it is not the story. I’ll be more excited when we can do a search and find conversations (along with our “topic” and date range criteria) that score high on the number of re-cycles it takes to reduce the additional comment count by say 75%.

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Tags: conversations, learning, stories

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 at 8:26 pm and is filed under 3rd Places of Learning. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One comment


Some second thoughts:
I’d like to see the ability to find conversation not only by date range/# of comments/likes (as Robert Scoble has suggested for FriendFeed) but also a measure of diminution- how quickly the # of comments is diminishing with each successive “re-incarnation” of a topic; if a conversation important enough that it is brought back to life and then generates a large number of new comments when compared to its original count it is more likely to be of lasting interest than one that got a lot of reaction at the time but no one found it worthwhile to go back and add to.

November 24th, 2008 at 12:07 am
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