Why I’m Bored with Blogging and the ‘Emerging Conversation’, and Why I’m Switching to Conch

It’ll be pretty plain to see that I haven’t been posting that much recently. Stuff happens, and, on top of that, I’ve been feeling a little faded/bored with it. By it, I mean blogging. And by blogging I mean, in this context, stuff connected with the ’emerging conversation’. Perhaps it’s just me.

I’ve just written a piece for Third Way – coming out in November – about Facebook, and other social networks. In the article I quote two things from Bauman’s Liquid Life. Firstly Bauman himself who writes that:

“flattened into a perpetual present and filled to the brim with survival-gratification concerns, [the world] leaves no room for worries about anything other than what can be consumed and relished on the spot”

Secondly, Bauman quotes a Stasuik, another cultural commentator, who notes that:

“it is highly probable that the quantity of digital, celluloid and analogue beings met in the course of a bodily life comes close to the volume which eternal life and resurrection of the flesh could offer.”

And what I’m feeling at the moment, springing out of these thoughts, is just the volume of noise in the blogosphere. I’ve likened it in the past to being at a party where everyone in the room is shouting, but no one is actually listening. Conversation is thus impossible. To converse we must be quiet and listen, and digest what others are saying, and reflect and then reply.

(By the way – welcome to those readers who’ve made it past the 240 word mark. You’ve done better than most web-readers do, according to studies)

For me the ’emerging conversation’ has become too much like a whole bunch of people mouthing off… Pretending to listen, by occasionally quoting others, but, for the most part, just yabbering on about their little world regardless of what others are saying. In the book I mention some of the conditions under which a system might become ’emergent’, or ‘self-organizing’, or ‘a learning system’, to use different syntax. One of the key conditions is an ability to sense and respond to its environment. And this requires careful listening. I think we’ve lost the art.

Conch1So I’m moving over to a new blogging-style system called Conch. The creators say that Conch is “designed to emphasise the connectedness side of being part of a network, not unlike sitting round a dinner table, where certain rules about listening before speaking are important.”

You thus start by creating what they call a ‘table’ of other members. Once your table is set, you can begin posting, just as you would with any other blogging system. The difference is in the discussion element. Conch uses an algorithm to detect how the conversation around any post is going, and table members can rate other members’ comments. These ratings are then used, along with the algorithm, to invite a member of the table to post a new thought once discussion around the previous one has died down. This member can then either: post a new piece or defer to someone else in the group who they feel ought to ‘have the conch’ that time round – the allusion obviously being to Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Such a deferral gains a member ratings; members can force a new post themselves, but doing so is ratings-costly.

Of course, for the small part of the bell-curve who made it to the end of a post this long, you’ll realize Conch doesn’t exist. But sometimes, amidst the noise and haste of a movement that appears to be whirling around in hyperspace like a dervish, constantly spinning and going nowhere fast, I wish it did. Thus ends, according to Technorati, the 17,754th post on ’emerging church’, the 100th in 24 hours, and that’s including a Sunday, when good bloggers like TSK don’t even post 😉


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16 responses to “Why I’m Bored with Blogging and the ‘Emerging Conversation’, and Why I’m Switching to Conch”

  1. Good post. I’m definitely sympathetic. I feel like the blogosphere noise has contributed to my life in some ways (staying it touch with people I know…leading me to meet some new people). Nonetheless, I find myself being pretty weary. I’m sure the gains are worth the cost. I blog in the hopes that I’m encouraging and challenging folks more deeply into the way of Jesus. But I’m sure for most folks that read my blog, it reinforces what they already believe. At this point, I feel like I write for those friends that appreciate what I have to say, as well as for the occasional stranger that feels encouraged or challenged. I myself read less blogs than I used to. I limit myself to those handful of thoughtful blogs that actually contribute to the development of my heart and mind.

  2. That is exactly why I stopped running the Emerging Church Blogs aggregator. The signal to noise ratio got out of whack and it caused me to lose interest.
    I’ve thought before of something similar to your Conch app although you flesh it out better than I did. Maybe someday if I get bored I’ll look to program it.

  3. How meta of you, blogging about a non-existent blogging platform to emphasize your lengthy blog post about how blogging sux. Of course the mere existence of this post proves that you in fact have NOT exited the “emergent” online conversation, especially since you did not put the word “good” in quotes in your last sentence. 😉 At any rate, that you hadn’t already moved on from this scene, particular once the Americans took it over, has puzzled me for some time. Other than for the purposes of book sales, of course…
    …the Conch logo was a nice touch, though.

  4. I, for one, am thankful that “Conch” does not exist. I prefer not having to sign up for another online community. The entire post all I could think was, “Lord, not another one.”
    Daniel, what do you mean by “particularly once the Americans took it over”? I take some offense (lightly), since blogs like this over the pond are what help keep those of us postmodern/post-Christian/post-evangelical Americans sane.

  5. Good call Daniel 1 – I can imagine it would just generate a whole lot of crap.
    And, Daniel 2, you hit the nail right on the head. The paradoxes are too numerous to even begin… But, in terms of the ‘scene’, trouble is, I actually believe in the root idea, and will continue to do so for a while. As I mention in the new intro for the book – I’d never heard of ’emergent’ when I wrote the book, and I didn’t aim to write an ’emerging church’ book… It made far more in-roads into the Anglican movement in the UK than anything else.
    Adam – I know what you mean. I find myself in tatters having to check email, f/b, blog, ichat…. when is some genius going to unite these things? Perhaps that would cause us all nervous breakdowns, which is where the more ‘monastic’ style platform that Conch is could come in…

  6. I’m just looking for some intelligent conversation, not chit-chat. So, I’m writing longer pieces – a recent one 2,200 words long – because I need to put my thoughts into words, hoping that someone will take the time to read it. A million people won’t, but enough for drinks or coffee do. I’m fine with that.
    What I’ve found is that the best way to have conversation as you describe it is to ask questions. It starts though with being more curious about what other people think than what we want to say. We need to listen and speak, and within genuine community, we approach some sort of balance.
    Wonderful thoughts.

  7. welcome back to the quiet life kester !! peace, julie

  8. How about we scrap the programming, buy a plane ticket and go find a conch on an island somewhere.
    Ironically, my sis is doing that in Lata (lucky prizes to anyone who can tell me where that is… post below). And what will she do with it? Write an email all about finding it.
    It’s all looping horribly, real/virtual. Vireal? Realtual?
    I’m calling my new blog-programme “pigs head”, fuck the talk, lets just worship and and dance naked. Cos the internet has never seen that before 😉

  9. Dancing on the beach… could end up looking like this though… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDqKN0a36vc

  10. Lata is like Fiji, only w/o Methodists.
    Blogging, for me personally, is keeping a public journal about a topic of keen interest. The public aspect keeps me somewhat regular (wouldn’t want to disappoint those two readers), and has over time opened up doors to many others with similar and peripheral interests. Intentional blogging is like sitting in a classroom each day – continuing education.
    But you’re right… finding gems in the blogging mud can be tedious and time-consuming. Yet those gems, once found, often motivate me to action in some tangible way. That’s good blogging: conversation that inspires ACTION, rather than just more talk.

  11. Nice post. That ^ is exactly why I killed my personal blog off and just post on the S1 one on the odd day I feel like it… Thanks for adding some noise to the noise to remind us to be quiet.

  12. brilliant post…the fact you told me i would switch off meant i didn’t!
    and while we need no more social networking “things” i agree with john l that “conversation that inspires ACTION, rather than just more talk.”
    and as well, finding the gems…and you’ve got one here…often find something to inspire other conversations which in turn inspires action.
    looking forward to the physical social networking though…conching (?) on a beach, or in the park sounds great – shame the pub is a bit noisy?!
    here’s to conversations being heard, action being taken, and more inspiring posts and comments!
    blessings x
    (100 words…that means what…60% got to the end?!)

  13. can i get an rss from conch ? are you planning on shellcasts ? maybe a clever promo, with swiggly cartoons or hip animation ?
    when did flannelgraphs stop being the primary method for reaching the youngsters ?

  14. I soon came to the conclusion that blogging was not about conversation but was more about letting friends know about what you are doing / thinking / reading at the moment. That may on ocassion lead to conversation, but generally (for me) that happens offline face to face when I pick up on a comment, book or movie a friend mentioned.

  15. I would’ve signed up for conch.
    I feel like I’ve been had. Like when I was a kid and realized that I wouldn’t be able to possibly meet Bart Simpson in heaven one day.

  16. I made it through your post, just not all of the comments. 🙂
    I’m glad you’ve written this. I have several drafts of a similar post on my blog writer, but never quite got it out. Could it be that part of the emerging church conversation is rooted in its development? Many have passed through the birth, which is messy, loud, and painful, and are now struggling with how the conversation must mature and grow.
    In many ways it feels like the emerging conversations are still in the childhood phase, mine included. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just the natural way things are progressing. Many people have ideas and like to mouth them, but the number of people actually living differently according to these new ideas is rather low.
    At this point in my life I feel like my thinking has changed dramatically, but I’m lost in a wasteland as far as practice goes.
    I have no interest in debates about whether the emerging church is good or not because I’m in no matter what and trying to figure out what’s next. Therefore I’m not too concerned about Driscoll’s remarks or whatever Pyromaniacs and Emerging Grace are sparring about with posters. Does that make any sense?
    Thanks again Kester for cutting through the mess and speaking truth and life. By the way, I’m also glad that Conch doesn’t exist. Facebook right now is putting me over the top!