I was having a debate about whether we should add a blog feature to our website – which already has a discussion forum. The comment made to me was:
Maybe I don’t understand blogs … but what is the difference between what we’d say in blogs and what we say in forum posts that we initiate?
That’s a very good question, and indeed one that I have seen asked in many ways on many different blogs and forums on the net.
From a technical point of view, there are some obvious similarities, and some obvious differences, many blogs with a lot of comment traffic end up being a bit like a forum, and indeed, you could make a forum act like a blog without too much trouble too.
However, if you take a non-technical view at a higher level, the differences between blogs and forums is really pretty subtle, but somewhat profound at the same time.
From my perspective, the main point is a slight (or sometimes not so slight!) difference in emphasis between the two forms of conversation … and it largely comes down to who is in control.
A blog is where the conversation is about the blogger (or the blogger’s point of view), with any comments referring to the original blog post. Think of it like the blogger standing at the front of a large room giving a presentation and then answering questions – being in control.
A forum thread is more like a group conversation – no one in particular leads or “owns” the conversation, and it can go any which way. Think of it like a bunch of people sitting around at a restaurant talking about stuff over dinner.
You may get the same net result – but there is quite a bit of difference in how the conversation will go.
It comes down to what you are trying to achieve.
In many cases, a blog isn’t really necessary – a forum will do it just as well. But equally, there are times when a forum tends to lose a bit of the finesse of a blog – it’s much more of a blunt instrument.
The main strengths of a blog is that you can keep the main story (what the blogger writes) in one, easy to follow spot, whereas a forum will tend to see a conversation get lost in the noise – a forum is not really designed to provide a structure to a series of conversations initiated by the same person (or group of people).
Again, consider a seminar with a series of speakers (the blog), versus the discussion that happens over morning tea between seminar sessions (the forum).
While at first glance these differences may be too subtle for many people to appreciate, in practice, I find it makes a lot of difference to the end result and to the way you interact with your site’s community.