Dave Bouwman asks in his blog about why all these GIS blogs seem to start so few conversations. He offers two potential answers: we, the geospatial community, don’t have the numbers and we just aren’t blog savvy yet. Both are good thoughts.
I want to offer another perspective. Back in the day, when there were just a few GIS publications (print…) there was as I recall a lively set of Letters to the Editor. I take some pride in getting such a letter into GISWorld (now GeoWorld) in 1990 or so. It was new ground, there were lots of questions, lots of excitement… Look at today’s print publications. Letters to the editor are few, even though sending them, via e-mail is much simpler than the way I did it in 1990! Why? Part of it is content. There are few (and this is true on the Web, too, i think) GIS articles that spark response. Most report news, or detail implementations. A few ponder the future and examine technology.
When I started GIS Monitor in 1990 I didn’t consiously decide to spark responses, but I did share opinions. It took about a year and a half to build a healthy readership, but from then on, I recall only a handful of issues that had no letters. With near weekly editorials and other opinion pieces from our staff and contributors, Directions Magazine rarely has a week without comments on articles.
Now, those comments come in a few flavors: some agree, some disagree, some add more information, some are basically commercials for products and/or services, some are way off topic… I’m always suprised at which articles spark discussion. Recently, it was an article that discussed Canada’s role in open source GIS!
There are some technical and social reasons folks may not enter the discussion. Some blogs have comments turned off to protect from spam. Some require a login/password. Some require deciphering “captchas” (those letter number combos that are supposed to weed out real people from bots). From the social side, there are reasons for folks to want to remain anonymous and perhaps reluctance to say anything. Those who do include their name, can get into trouble with their employer, even if they don’t note the employer’s name. Several blogger remain anonymous - Darkside and Fantom Planet to name two - for whatever reasons.
Mostly though, I think Dave’s notion that this is just a new frontier is the best answer. People are deciding where they want to have these conversations. On blogs, on IRC, on discussion lists. Frankly, the best conversations are still the live, spontaneous ones. When I literally walked into some open source fans at our Location Intelligence conference two years ago, we had a great conversation that’d never happen on the ‘Net.