An observation on another thread that the comments on Harry’s Place seemed more ‘personal’ than those on Liberal Conspiracy has prompted me to think about the effects that the blogging – and particularly the commenting – physical interface can have on the tone of the discussions.
The front page of Lib Con is quite busy – you can see snippets of various recent posts, links to interesting stories elsewhere on the blogosphere, and a list of who has recently commented on what. When you comment yourself, you are still aware of much of this other activity going on. It’s there on the page in front of you as type.
On HP, by contrast, the emphasis is very much on the post you are reading at the moment – and the effect, in the comments box at least, is very immersive. ‘Cosy’ perhaps isn’t always the right word for HP-below-the-line, but there is something quite intimate about the atmosphere – by contrast with Lib Con’s interface which has the effect of reminding you that other people may be watching.
On some blogs – Bob from Brockley for example – if you want to leave a comment then you are whisked away from the post to a separate commenting space – I think this extra stage might incline commenters to be a bit more self-conscious and cautious – and I always seem to fail the ‘are you a bot test’ at least once, which fills me with Deckard-like anxieties.
Of course, there are many other more obvious factors which affect the tone of a blog – moderating policy, the presence or absence of a ‘recommend’ or brownie points function – but I hadn’t previously given much thought to the possible impact of a blog’s physical layout on how commenters express themselves, and wondered whether people could think of further examples.