Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.


In studying blogs I have come to notice there are relatively few styles of postings.

In descending order of difficulty, they are:

Conversational: Asks for a response, implicitly or explicity. Often gets no responses but occasionally it hits a home run with a great discussion.

Informational: A "neat-o" style of posting that tells information but does not really encourage discussion. These tend to get links without comment. BoingBoing, Engadget, etc are very successful blogs of this sort.

Polemical: A posting that takes a strong opinion. These tend to get both responses and links. The responses, however, tend to be opinions. Can be dull unless you use it like a drunk leaning on a lamppost: More for support than shedding light.

Additions and comments welcome


In my view, blogging is online debating, or should be, that is, two-way (or multi-way) conversation. Someone puts up a post, could be a professional reporter, could be Roger Smith across the street, and if it's interesting we all discuss or debate it. Blogs that don't allow comments are not really blogs in my opinion. They're Spews; the people running them are spewing forth their opinion with no interest in hearing what anyone else has to say.

What amuses me is seeing people bring to their comments the unspoken rules that they've picked up at work. The truth is there are no rules and if you believe in what you are saying and that it is the truth, then there is no reason for not speaking your mind freely without fear of giving offense. If someone is determined to take offense when it was not intended, well, hell, it's just not possible to please everyone.

I guess it's like walking into a great big bizarre party filled with conversation, laughter and yes, the occasional regrettable drunk who falls over and smashes a favorite coffee table, not to mention the gate-crashing salesman who will inevitably be booted back out just as soon as the host fixes his beady eyes upon him.

Yes, a blog with no comments/trackbacks e.t.c. is simply an online book. It is, at best, more timely than conventional off line publication. Without interactivity, being one-way just like broadcast tv, magazine, newspaper, it is boring.

...and this post is all 3? :)

Kenjimori: You criticize blogs with no comments, but the top -ranked blogs are one-way only. (Boingboing, post a secret, etc)

Seems like one-way communication is not so dead.

I would like to say that I don't care how Spews are ranked. To me they are worth very little. Anyone can grab a soapbox, stand on the corner with a megaphone and blast the world with their perspective drowning out any responses or alternate points of view. If you have something to say and are confident that it's worthwhile, why wouldn't you be interested in having an open conversation with people? That's what blogging is.


You're right about how easy it is to spew (look at talk radio!)

I guess I am just coming to terms with the variety of blogs and trying to identify their styles.

PS: I really like your earlier point about unspoken rules adopted by bloggers. It will be interesting to see how blogging/bloggers develop their own etiquette over time.

Ok, I see. That is why they are categorized "informational." I guess they'd have no opinion and, hence, require no interaction.

But still can be popular.. interesting.


Maybe 'Confessional' could be a category on its own...

Then there are the cultural differences. In the UK, people tend to 'lurk' on sites.
For many of these people, it's about coming to terms with blogs as a communications metaphor and then figuring out what works and what their readers really want.

For a lot of business people, that's very scary. In my case - professional accountants who are not used to the sharper language that blogging encourages yet who could provide extraordinary insights into local matters in a way that commands attention.

These folk won't be dragged to the water, but they'll come - eventuallly - and will offer a myriad of variations on the basic types you've identified. We'll all be the richer for that. (BTW - I think mine's a mix if all 3, depending on how I'm writing at the time but comments are always welcome!)

To label blogs without comments "Spews" is missing the point of the Web.

So many people want the easy button push, the instant mouth-off, the self-important gratification of seeing their words up against someone else's on that person's turf. That's what forums like Slashdot are for, and what most blogs with comments turn into.

I don't think comments belong in weblogs. It's too easy to use as an avenue for flaming and mastubation in public.

A better avenue is to do a little more honest work and respond on your own blog, linking back to the original post. If you're really intent on getting in someone's face you can email them your thoughts and then post them in your weblog.

Cross-blog conversations are where it's at for intelligent discussion by multiple parties. You can't really discuss much in a two paragraph idea war contained within comments getting older by the post, but you can generate new posts in a continuing theme on your own weblog.

I think there's plenty of room for blogs with and without comments. It's not as if there's a limited amount of real estate on the internet or something.

Managing comments on a popular blog (from what I understand ;) ) is a pretty serious time commitment, for one thing. Just because someone doesn't have time to keep up with all that doesn't mean they shouldn't say their piece, or that they're "spewing."

I am very intrigued by the idea of cross-blog conversations. I've never done that myself, but like you I think that long blog conversations are often worth a new posting. Postings often work well with discrete ideas, though wanderings are also nice sometimes.

Vlad, I disagree. I think that if you have your own blog and don't allow comments, that's a much finer example, to use your imagery, of a public masturbation.

I've had many interesting discussions through the comments section of blogs. Rarely do I bother to take the time to follow the trackbacks which in my view are often little more than attempts to garner some attention for the linkers' blogs. I figure if they have something interesting to say, they will post their comment, and if it is interesting, I will click on their homepage to read more of them. Mutual appreciation societies do not interest me. Give and take open conversation on public forums does.

BuzzMachine ran a post congratulating the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, for starting a Spew and I made this comment.

Patrick, I agree. Someone not wanting to commit the time to managing comments should definitely be free to Spew instead. After all, it is not like we have to listen to them. ;-)


Very interesting conversation about blogs on the other site.

To resume the discussion, we still have three kinds of blogs, listed in descending order of difficulty to produce:

1- Talk - distributed conversation that reaps ideas

2- Inform - links to interesting things

3- Opine - Puts forward viewpoints

Are there no other kinds of blog?

PS: As to trackback from AccMan Pro comments, I am not saying that a single blog cannot mix all three elements.

Writing this posting from Cartesian France, I am trying to categorize things in order to understand them!

In my opinion, there is one kind of blog and it involves someone putting up a post and inviting anyone to participate in a conversation about it online.

If it doesn't do this, it is a website or what I term a Spew, though I recognize that some people may still get value from it, in the same way people like to read books and newspapers. But I would not say that a newspaper or a book or a website that does not allow comments is a blog.

As for the different blog categories - I think there is no limit to what we can discuss on blogs so why define them? Why not just enjoy the conversation?

Thomas - I see no problem in categorising - I'm merely intrigued about what works and what doesn't. Current experience says - content, content, content - however that manifests itself...but...I see value in using a 'type' analysis if that informs the direction though I suspect that readers are the ones that really matter.

I think there are tons more blog categories than those three and they are growing as fast as the software can keep up with them.

I mean, if you paint with broad enough stokes those three might work, but there are more and there will be even more in the future in short order. It depends on what you consider a blog to be. I think it is any page with dynamic, dated content. Meaning craigslist is dynamic, but not a blog (it has a blog, but it isn't a blog by itself, despite the dynamic content.)

1. Talk(discuss) 2. Inform(non-responsive) 3. Opine (strong opinions based polemical)

4. Organizational - Lots of non profits are getting into this format, but it is hardly limited to that. Its not strictly inform or discuss, although it uses elments of both. I mean things like "What should our next event be and when, and where?" are not really meant to "hit[s] a home run with a great discussion." Its meant to , well organize, perhaps motivate.

5. Personal - Updated weekly so Joe can keep in better touch with his friends and family and share his vacation photo's. Not informational inthe sense of engadget, boing-boing, definitely not to inspire a rousing debate. Probably of no use to most of us...unless you know Joe. I know and and a few others. You may think, who cares this doesn't belong in our discussion. They fall in my definition of blog. I use them. The category is Tresler's Life at

6. Business - No not Spam. Spam needs to be intentionally sent to aomething (blog, e-mail, etc.) A lot of businesses are creating blogs to get better relations with their customers. I put these into a different catefory, because while they are pretty much exclusively made up of Informational blogs, that only want discussion about how great they are, they are just different from that. Boing-boing puts up a lot of cool stuff, without expecting response, but it isn't a completely self serving function. Here is a
real estate blog that a friend of mine does. He uses it as a tool to put info out there and make sales, and to get new listings fromhis viewers "oh this apartment is just like something else I just saw" - Coca-cola probably has something like this. But it is much more effective when it is the general store on the corner in a community. "What do you think should be on the new menu at Joe's busy Deli?"
If you don't think this is catching on here is a recent Lifehacker Post regarding small business blogs.

I could probably name a few more if pressed, but the point is that A) It depends on your definition of blogging (it appears that the wikipedia currently is having trouble defining it and wants a contributer...hhmmm) and B) How broad a category are you looking for? Calssifying the base nature of a blog by its structure we could say there are commented blogs and non-commented blogs and both are valid, being blogs by their mutual "updated content" quality.... but if you include Opines (3) then you open up the door to non-structure related categories. Maybe put Opine blogs, Personal blogs, Business blogs, and Organizational blogs into a seperate "type of blog?" subcategory. Your tree then looks like this:

I. Blogs
A) Structure
1)Commented and interactive
2)Informational and non commented (including Spews)
B) Types - Main point of blog
1) Political Opines
2) Orginizational - Book clubs, Non-Profit Groups, etc.
3) Business promotional
4) Personal life tracker for friends and family
5) etc. etc. etc.

This interests me particularly because I am i the process of redoing my blog to include a taxonomy system that allows people to write comments in a discussion format (think of it as a site menu format where you can "draw" links between comments. If I respond to comment number 3 and 16 A user can see it visually that comment #26 is in response to 3 and 16 and follow a discussion thread a lot easier, also self promoting the topics that get the most response and demoting dead end conversations. I also am incorporating a Media Review so people can link to movie, product, Album, and book reviews in their comments easily. Making it easier to reference other media in your blogging experience. Its going to take me a while, but obviously categores is important to that whole process.

Wow, I'm not sure how that just happened but I accidentally linked t Joi's archives! that was supposed to be Josh and Frank Instead of a 65 word link to Joi's archives.

Gotcha. absolute paths only.... Josh and Frank

And the lifehacker link. Sorry if I caused work or viewing displeasure for anyone.


Very interesting analysis.

I would divide it up a little differently, however. We both could be right, however, since it is an exercise in categorizing to better understand.

I'll kick it off in a new thread on the site.

This information is really interesting to me,a baby blogger. I'm in the USA, but most of my readers tend to lurk. I don't know if it's because I'm a self-centered writer or simply they take my words as informative. How do we get other writer's to comment on our writing? I'd like to see more info in the blogosphere about that.

Blogs began with Tim Berners-Lee's "What's New" page at CERN.

Thus, they were Link Logs, brief announcements of new URLs to check out and tech info postings. Soon, more commentary was added. Then, with Justin Hall and etc., more confessional material surfaced.

A blog without comments is either a Link Log (Doc Searls, Robot Wisdom, etc.) or a farcical preaching platform.

Aside from the legit link logs, the Pseudo Blogs Without Comments are implying the bloggers fear remarks, fear looking stupid against smart critique.

why would you not allow readers to interact? Blogs are an evolutionary progression from static web sites that are boring as heck.

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