I’ve been thinking again about blogs versus discussion boards. I have always been very anti-discussion boards because personally I don’t like them as a reader or user. I find them aesthetically uninviting and their folded in structure always makes me want to give up. But last semester I had students who responded quite enthusiastically to an assigned online discussion group. The usual problems arose in many groups and much of the valuable content consisted of fairly isolated postings but in a couple of groups the dynamic really worked. I think this was helped by the fact that for part of the semester I used the same groups in tutorial discussions so the message board discussion became a continuation of the face to face work. A few students noted this in the evaluation session.
While thinking about this I stumbled across this posting by Lee Lefever (via Seblogging) which provides an interesting set of metaphoric differentiations that get passed some of the usual technical distinctions:
- A blog post says "Here it is, dig it"
- A message board post says "your turn"
- Comment implies "if you want, not required"
- Reply implies "I’m not done until you do."
- A blog is my back yard
- A message board is a park
- A blog has readers
- A message board has lurkers
- A blog is all about ME
- A message board is all about US
- When things go quiet on a blog, the onus is on one person
- When things go quite on a message board, the onus is on everyone
Sebastian Fielder goes on to make the comments:
Discussion forums and message boards require a consistent effort of a group to work. They fall apart if people sign off and go quiet or if somebody starts to get outright destructive.
Networks of Weblog authors are much more robust. If one goes quiet or produces rubbish nothing major happens to the collective or a single Weblog authoring project which can quite happily stand on its own and develop new connections… and cut off old ties that seem to have lost its value anymore.
None of this gets around the fact that in an educational setting facilitation and modelling is key to helping students get the most out of these types of projects. But I think that Fiedler and Lefever’s distinctions point to the fact that blogging is potentially more adapatable – although there is a definite me/us bias across the two technologies, blogging accomodates social networking more readily than message boards accommodate construction of individuated prescence.
This reminds me of the discussion at Blogtalk Downunder about comments: a number of people, but primarily Mark Bernstein, made the point that comments are not the real facilitator of dialogue, they can in fact be quite destructive and often are trivial. The real communicative element of the blogsphere – what Fiedler calls the "robust" nature of blog newtorks – lies in the linked communication that occurs between blogs.