Monday, October 27, 2008

"good" posts

Ideal conversation should be a matter of equal give and take, but too often it is all “take.” The voluble talker—or chatterer—rides his own hobby straight through the hours without giving anyone else, who might also like to say something, a chance to do other than exhaustedly await the turn that never comes.
-Emily Post, 1922

Not to beat a dead horse, but one thing that I glossed over in summing up the commentary on Peter Kim's Influence post was the implicit assumption that blogs recognized as "Influential" will have "good content." That is, we expect them to be both impactful and "good." You know as well as I that definitions of 'good' vary widely, but it makes sense to assume that after reading a post by an "influencer," you would want to walk away feeling like you just had a good conversation.

Being a good conversationalist is challenging... Sure there are rules, etiquette, and feedback to let us know how we're doing, but still no precise science. Furthermore, as Sunday's NY Times article on Sandy Pentland suggests, we're typically blind to feedback, or "Honest Signals"- unaware when we're dominating a conversation, interrupting, or have waning audience attention. 

Luckily blogs bring some of these cues to the forefront... and as we've seen, lack of attention quickly leads to decreased content production. 

So what makes for good content? Can we measure it?

Here's, my stab at defining and measuring "good content." Note: this is an untested, hypothetical algorithm to generate more engagement, as defined by empathetic commentary:

  1. Authenticity
  • This would have to be measured over time-- a measure of consistency in linguistic style to guage whether you're being true to what you know.  Perhaps we'd also look for a slightly higher usage of first person pronouns (I, me, my) to relay personal thoughts and opinions.

2. Economy of Language

  • This could manifest via use of bullets and a low word count. Why? This not only generates intrigue, but shows your respect for your audience's attention. And conveys high status.

3. High Opinion: Question ratio 

  • Might seem counterintuitive, but a colleague and I have been playing around with this idea. Questions don't seem to elicit a reaction without first offering fodder for the reaction: your opinion. Like the above 2, this too can be measured pretty easily with a basic text analysis program.

Just a hypothesis... I considered a few others, like unexpected associations and original thought, but I'm going to standby #1 in the name of anything having the potential to be interesting and "good." 

Anyone want to make a case for other variables? What else might predict loyal readership?

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