Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When the Blog Becomes the Community

News this morning that Movable Type has released updates to its free and Pro products. The pro version has an interesting feature: it enables "social blogging."

I've seen this principle in action already: it's been up and running for a while now on SB Nation, which hosts one of my favorite baseball blogs, Lookout Landing. The feature, in essence, is this: readers of a blog can (within certain limitations) blog themselves within the environment of the larger blog. Got that? It's easier to understand when you see it than when you read about it. In a nutshell, I can go to Lookout Landing and read the main blog there, which occupies central space, but as a registered user I can also create a "Fanpost" which is, in essence, a mini-blog within the blog. Others can read and post comments to my Fanpost, or they can create their own posts with comment threads attached. Social blogging takes the one-writer-many-readers model of most blog platforms and modifies it into one-primary-writer-many-readers-who-occasionally-write.

It's a very useful feature, and it has the potential to greatly expand the vitality of the community around a blog. I know from personal experience that, if I visit Lookout Landing and there is no new post in the main content well, I'll often browse through the Fanposts to see what's cooking over there. Frequently the author of Lookout Landing comments on Fanposts; sometimes he even creates Fanposts if the material isn't enough to merit an entire blog post. From a traditional baseball blog, Lookout Landing has evolved into an active community, and to a large extent because of that one feature.

Of course, if you're already struggling with the task of moderating the comments to your blog, the last thing you want is to worry about moderating the comments to all the posts your users might make (let alone the posts themselves). However, it's a feature that probably adds enough value to make it worthwhile. Social blogging makes a blog that much more interactive, which should make it a lot more sticky.