The Situation About the Conversation

Apparently people in Northern Ireland say ‘situation’ a lot. Not that I’ve ever noticed, but just ask Dublin’s 98FM’s Toll Trolls and they’ll tell you. In fact if you’d like to hear the Toll Trolls give “people from da nort” a bashing then click on the video (warning, this might be offensive to some people and incoherent to most).

Well in the same way, I am starting to think all on-line enthusiasts say conversation a lot. In fact, I wish I’d counted how many times the word conversation has been uttered in our lectures since the beginning.

I can now add Shane Richmond to the list, after he told us during his lecture, The What, Why and How of Newspaper Communities, that journalism is now a conversation.

Blogs allow the writer to have a conversation with his or her readers, in turn allowing the readers to have a conversation with each other. This is the beauty of going on-line. If you’re either a) too lazy to blog, b) too busy, c) don’t know how to or d) wouldn’t know what to write about, then you can ride on the bandwagon of other bloggers and talk to their audience (there’s another word we’ve been hearing quite often).

Imagine walking around your work, your university, your local or even your city and listening to other people’s conversations, deciding which ones you are interested in and then joining in, without being invited. Obviously, you would either get a smack in the face or the police would be called, at the very least you’d get some funny looks. Well this is what the web, and more specifically, blogging allows you to do.

You can shop around, reading bits of this and bits of that, until you finally settle on something you like. The topic, or blogger, you like is more than likely going to have followers with similar interests to you, and this is when the conversation starts.

So the Internet gives people a voice (there’s another phrase we have definitely all heard before). Although is this always a good thing? Most of the time I think it is, freedom of speech is something we are all advocates of after all. But it’s the people who take this and run with it as far as they possibly can that give blogging, and commenting on people’s blogs, a bad name. From insulting the writer, to insulting other commentators, to using it as a personal space in which to vent their personal frustrations.

Here is a good example of this from former referee Jeff Winter’s website.

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Shane Richmond said blogs work best when they are opinionated, and gave Damian Thompson’s Catholic blog, Holy Smoke, as an example. My first thought was, how many readers of the The Daily Telegraph, a British broadsheet, are going to be Catholics? The answer is, probably not very many. But this is the beauty of the Internet and of The Daily Telegraph’s website specifically.

The Daily Telegraph could not have put Holy Smoke into their paper. Instead, they are able to put this opinionated and widely-read piece of journalism on the Internet so that people who want to read it, can.

And read it they do. One of his blogs on homosexuality, for example, had almost 400 comments.

I absolutely love the way his readers get so passionate about their opinions and those of the other commentators and address each other directly. This enables them to really say what they think. Most of the time, most people don’t seem to hold back.

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Would someone be so brutally honest, direct, and sometimes, downright rude if they were talking to that person face to face? Of course not. And this is the beauty of the Internet.

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