One of the features on IT Conversations that gets little attention from listeners is the forums. On each show's detail page (example), there is a link called "Discuss") that links out to a forum. If you follow it, you see a forum page just for that show.
The ITC system creates the first post for each show, essentially getting the ball rolling by posting the show's summary. But, for most shows, that's all that ever gets published. There's almost never any discussion.
This is a little surprising to me given the amount of traffic that ITC gets and the level of enthusiasm many listeners express for particular shows. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. For a medium that mostly aural, most people aren't sitting in front of their computer when they get excited about the content of a show and so the barrier is too high. I listen mostly in my car, for example, and so I've taken to carrying a small voice recorder with me so that I can record things I like about a show to comment on later.
Still the fact that lots of people do take the time to rate shows tells me that people do get back to the detail page for shows they like (or even hate). Consequently, there are probably some structural issues that are dissuading people from commenting. Here's a few I've thought of:
- The "discuss" link isn't prominent enough or doesn't give enough feedback (such as how many posts have been made on the show)
- The forum system, with the discussion happening off the show's detail page is too far removed from where people are putting their attention.
- Most people would rather comment on their blog and what we really need are trackbacks. There are thousands of referrals each day, so people do link to posts.
In general, I think we could do a better job of calling people to action--not just for discussing, but also for emailing, digging, posting to del.icio.us, and blogging posts. The "rating" feature is prominent, easy to do, and gives immediate feedback of what other people think. Those are probably all good reasons that it gets used.
One idea would be to add links for all of these "calls to action" on the recently heard page. This page shows you the last 20 shows that you downloaded or streamed. It's a nice place to see lots of information all at once and rate several shows in a quick, easy way.
If you've got ideas about how to improve discussion, or any other feature of IT Conversations, don't hesitate to contact me. I can't promise we'll get to every idea--our resources are primarily aimed at getting great shows up and ready to listen to--but we'll try to get at the ones we can.