Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Blogs: How can they be authentically provocative?

Rowland Manthorpe has asked:
"I do find it difficult to stimulate comments. I don't want to go all "look at me, I'm being provocative [six exclamation marks]", but at the moment I'm struggling to find an alternative strategy. Any ideas in that direction?"
As per my last post, I don't have all the right answers. But I do have some thoughts and would like some others.

On my own blog I've tried to be provocative in three ways:

1. Not pulling my punches.
If I don't like something, I say so - strongly and probably more strongly than I would in general conversation. So, for example, a dislike of comic relief becomes I hate Comic Relief. Of course the post-proper allows my to nuance the arguments but the point is made more strongly than 'on balance, Comic Relief is a little under-whelming and whilst I like the public effort, I'm disappointed that it doesn't increase charitable donations by more'.

2. Seeking out opposing views
To promote my post on Comic Relief, I found blogs that were talking about Comic Relief most of which were naturally supportive because they were tales of people who had done something positive to raise money. I expected people visiting my blog from those sites to be hostile and they were.

3. The hundred hits rule
I've not ever received a comment on a post with fewer than 100 hits. That's not to say that you need 200 hits to get 2 comments (that's partly because the 2nd comment should always be yours - replying to the first). Or that 300 hits get 3 comments. And blog posts with 1000 hits often have somewhere nearer to 20 comments.

I'm facing two particular challenges at the moment:
  1. Writing things that stimulates other people to write about the issue - critical to making your blog take-off
  2. Being provocative in a positive way. I set up my blog to be positive yet always write from a negative standpoint. More to be done.
However, I do always engage with commenters wherever possible so that when they start out negative, I can at least try to identify common ground and where we really disagree. See, for example, my exchange with Denis Cooper.

I'd be grateful for any other ideas on how to be provocative . . .

4 comments:

Rowland said...

Cheers mate. Although I do find it slightly spooky that you managed to blog about my blogging problems so damn fast...

http://www.rowlandmanthorpe.com/blog/2009/03/matt-to-the-max/

Matthew Cain said...

Of course, Rowland had written about me before I even had a chance to moderate his comment.

Thanks Rowland - and good practice in writing about other blogs!

Rowland said...

I didn't realise it was a race. But now I do...

jsam said...

To be provocative is simple. To be positively provocative I think one must offer an alternative. And taht can be quite hard to do succintly. An example.

I've grown to loathe the phrase "best practices". What assembly has decided "best" and using what criteria? And the mindlessness of citing the phrase as justification in itself is soul destroying. The absolute fundamentalism of the incantation is frightening.

Yet, the positive alternative? To think, to measure, to challenge, to invent, to adapt not just adopt. This is really hard to explain.

It's hard to be positive and pithy sometimes.

Don't you envy Ben Goldacre a bit with his sitting duck targets and a ready made, if anoraky, audience? He doesn't even have to be provacative - just accurate, angry and strident.

 
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