Comments Vs. Conversations | Catavino
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Comments Vs. Conversations

I love talking to people who are off the “grid”, or at least off my grid. Sadly, and happily, I’m plugged into the internet more than most. Consequently, I have a drastically different view on Internet norms. For me, Twitter is an extension of my vocal chords, Gmail is an extra storage place for my brain, and Catavino is a soapbox for which I shout out from. And as a result of this online culture, a new language has been born. There are new verbs such as:

To Google: To search for something on the internet
To Blog: To write about something and publish is on the web
To surf: To wander about the web, often with the help of tools such as Stumble upon.

Interestingly, a few nights ago, we had some friends over for dinner and an interesting topic surfaced. Evidently, one of our friends had just left his first comment on a blog. I know most of you will at this point be thinking, “where’s this guy been the past 5 years?” But it turns out us web 2.0 junkies are still the minority, and the interactive nature of the new internet is still very novel to many. Feeling confident, my friend left a comment about a woman’s overly happy disposition on her video blog. What followed from that “comment” completely caught him off guard. At first, he was called a ‘troll’ by a fellow reader who didn’t like the fact he challenged this woman’s ‘life is beautiful’ attitude. Second, the blogger, in this case, a vlogger, responded, whereby creating a conversation of his comment. The entire exchange was over in 5-6 comments and was really a very minor incident, but the effect of this conversation on my friend was profound. He was shocked that a conversation was instigated, thinking that the ‘comment section’ literally meant comments only. Unabridged (v 1.1) – com·ment  [kom-ent] noun

    1. a remark, observation, or criticism: a comment about the weather.
    2. gossip; talk: His frequent absences gave rise to comment.
    3. a criticism or interpretation, often by implication or suggestion: The play is a comment on modern society.
    4. a note in explanation, expansion, or criticism of a passage in a book, article, or the like; annotation.
    5. explanatory or critical matter added to a text.
    6. Also called rheme. Linguistics. the part of a sentence that communicates new information about the topic. Compare topic (def. 4).
    verb (used without object)
    7. to make remarks, observations, or criticisms: He refused to comment on the decision of the court.
    8. to write explanatory or critical notes upon a text.
    verb (used with object)
    9. to make comments or remarks on; furnish with comments; annotate.

No where does it say: Conversation implies a back and forth, while a comment is simply a one-directional statement. Unabridged – con·ver·sa·tion [kon-ver-sey-shuhn] noun

    1. informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.
    2. an instance of this.
    3. association or social intercourse; intimate acquaintance.
    4. criminal conversation.
    5. the ability to talk socially with others: She writes well but has no conversation.
    6. Obsolete.
    a. behavior or manner of living.
    b. close familiarity; intimate acquaintance, as from constant use or study.

Synonyms 1. dialogue, chat.

What I find interesting about this, is its focus on “oral” or “spoken”, which makes me wonder if we can have a conversation online? For some of us, the answer is simple: we’re online all the time, and we know the rules of the web. Comments on blogs are really the beginning of conversations, but are we communicating this to people who are not “in the know”? Is part of the reason that so many non-web geeks are still apprehensive about the web, because they don’t know the lingo? And if we do want to start a conversation then why are we using terms that might lead someone who is not part of our bubble to be confused? A book I would suggest for people not fully understanding the idea is Naked Conversations. But even after reading this, I wonder if our vocabulary is really being used effectively.

I live in two bubbles, the Internet and wine. In both worlds, I have trouble stepping outside myself and being objective. This is why I’m glad to have friends who challenge me by asking questions that might seem initially, naive. And more often than not, I find that in the end, I’m ironically, the naive one. If you work in tech, have friends in tech, and dream in Technicolor rainbows, good for you. You don’t need to explain anything, and you can LOL all you want at the silly n00bs. But for those of us in the wine world, where we desire more people to enter into our online community, we may need to adjust our language. We need to make things clearer by removing barriers that may seem small and insignificant to us, but to others,they may make or break the decision for someone to participate.

That same night when my friend chatted with us about his drama of leaving a comment, I tried to convey to him that in the blogging world, comments = conversations. However, this was an idea he just couldn’t accept, but now I realize he was right. He shouldn’t have to figure out what I mean; and instead, I should make my expectations clearer. I know Gabriella and I want to have a conversation here at Catavino; hence, we’re going to make a change or two engage more participation. If you want to join our conversation below, we would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!


Ryan Opaz