I've been paying more attention to The Age's "what's on" listings and reviews while I'm actually in Melbourne, and noticed that their film critic, Jim Schembri, is doing a fine job soliciting responses on his film reviews. At the end of a piece on 'Bruno: Comic genius or witless git?', he asks:
What do you think? Is Bruno funny? Half funny? Not funny? What do you think of Sacha Baron Cohen? Do you agree with anything in this article? Does the author make any valid points? Is there skill involved in this brand of comedy? Or is he a middle-aged fud who just doesn't get reality humour?
What do you think of the Shock and Guffaw School of Comedy? Should ethics factor in to it? Or are the laughs worth it, whatever the cost?
And what did you think of the saturation Bruno media blitz? Did you enjoy it? Or was it a case of "enough already"?
What is you favourite Sacha Baron Cohen moment? Is there a scene from his films or TV shows that make you laugh every time you think of it?
And if you had to choose between Bruno, Borat or Ali G, who would you most take to: (1) a wedding? (2) a funeral? (3) a kid's birthday party?
Your valued thoughts are hereby sought.
These direct questions are a good attempt at provoking discussion. I'm never sure how well specific questions soliciting audience response work, and in this case I'm not sure what prompted them – does it lead to a more constructive discussion? Reduce flame wars or trolling? Your valued thoughts are hereby sought.
But this is the best bit, and the point I'd like to make to museum bloggers – he also responds to comments:
The design is subtly clever, in that the blog author's responses appear inline, but are distinguished from audience comments with a heavier typeface. They're also attributed differently – "Schembri note" versus the 'Posted by blah on blah at blah'. This provides a level of authority while allowing direct responses to specific comments. I'm not sure how he'd respond to a bunch of similar comments – does it work if it appears as a separate comment? Would it display differently?
It's a great example of starting a discussion and actually sticking around to listen to the results – it turns a blog post into a conversation.
The other interesting point is that there's a very similar piece of content by the same author, Borat's bro is fully sick in the film section of the 'main' site, and the sub-heading makes it sound like it's also a participatory piece – "Bruno: a comic genius or a witless git? You be the judge" – but it's not. And there are no links to the blog piece, so at a guess the majority of readers would never know they could comment on the film. Effectively, the discussion is isolated from the main site, the general reader. I can think of a few reasons why this might be the case, but a more interesting question might be – what effect does this have?
I'm still thinking this through (particularly in relation to cultural heritage and social media) – your thoughts would be welcome in the meantime.