Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

How to handle large conversations online

May 18, 2009
Standard layout of blog comments

Typical layout of blog comments, representing the 120 comments to this article

Same blog comments with color. Same color indicates agreement.

Same 120 blog comments with color added (Same color = agreement.)

Same blog comments mapped in DeepDebate

Compress the blank space top-to-bottom and it looks similar to our style of maps.



This is what the same 120 comments actually look like in a AthenaBridge conversation map. This looks complex, but compared to the comment section of this blog, which has the same 120 comments, it only takes up 4% of the vertical space. Most importantly, related comments are displayed right next to each other, to make browsing more efficient.


Blog comments cannot handle large conversations. The above images make a side-by-side comparison possible to see what the same conversation from the comment section of this blog looks like in an AthenaBridge conversation map.

There are several significant advantages of AthenaBridge over the format of blog comments:

  • Blog comments are trapped in the vertical dimension. They do not take advantage of the horizontal dimension, and therefore take up much more space on the screen (see the images above). In this particular example the AthenaBridge conversation map displayed the same amount of information while only using 1/25th of the space.
  • AthenaBridge conversation maps preserve context; related ideas are right next to each other. With blog comments, often related ideas are pushed so far apart from each other, they won’t even show on the same screen.
  • Blog comments are not color-coded to indicate agreement or disagreement. Color coding provides an executive-level overview to understand which comments are in agreement with each other even before you read them.
  • Unlike AthenaBridge, blog comments do not ask participants for a summary of their comment. Having summaries makes browsing the conversation much more efficient.
  • Blog comments are free-form and do not challenge the user to categorize their response. Simply asking participants in a conversation whether they agree or disagree helps to limit out irrelevant responses. This can significantly increase the quality of conversation.
  • The comment software on this blog does not have a rating function so, unlike with AthenaBridge, a reader has no way of differentiating between the best comments and all the others.

Case Study: 12 Angry Men

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

The conversation that we used in this case study comes from the iconic movie entitled 12 Angry Men (1957). This movie documents a jury’s deliberations in a murder trial. The movie provides a powerful example of what one person with conviction and logic can do to change the course of a life-and-death decision.

(Interestingly, the idea of a completely male jury wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows in 1957. It wasn’t until 1975 that the Supreme Court ruled that women should be allowed to serve on juries.)

The proposition– or topic sentence– in this debate is “The defendant in 12 Angry Men is guilty of murder.” There are eight primary arguments which support this proposition:

  1. The lady across the street saw the defendant stab the victim.
  2. The man living below the victim’s apartment heard the argument and identified the defendant running down the stairs.
  3. The defendant had a motive to stab the victim.
  4. The victim was stabbed in the chest with a knife that is traceable to the defendant.
  5. The defendant has no alibi, therefore he must be guilty.
  6. The defendant’s background indicates he is likely to be guilty.
  7. The evidence is sufficient to remove all reasonable doubt.
  8. The defendant had sufficiently competent legal representation to ensure a fair trial.

In total, there are 120 comments in this conversation and the entire conversation is displayed in the comment section of this blog. You’ll see a few of the comments multiple times because they are applicable in more than one place.

Once you’ve skimmed the comment section, you might want to look at the same 120 comments displayed in this AthenaBridge conversation map to experience the difference firsthand.

Also, you may be interested in these other articles about the AthenaBridge Philosophy.