Here goes nothing:
I believe that I coined the term “conversational intensity” as applied to blogs, when I first used it in “Perspective: Investigating the Biblioblogosphere“–which was published on August 10, 2005 as part of the September 2008 Cites & Insights. (That essay, by the way, appears to be the second-most-frequently-viewed essay in the history of C&I, with just under 20,000 full-issue downloads and single-article pageviews to date.)
No, I’m not claiming credit for the term itself. It’s been used in social sciences for decades, but it’s related to things like the loudness of conversations within a party and the like.
Conversational intensity, if you’re new to this game, is a relatively simple metric for a blog: Over a period of time (I typically use a three-month period), it is:
Number of comments divided by number of posts.
That’s it. The higher the number, the greater the conversational intensity.
U’r doin’ it wrong
The earliest use of the term related to blogs that I can find, other than my own, is from Mitch Ratcliffe’s Ratiuonal Rants blog at ZDNet, as the title of a February 5, 2006 post. That’s half a year later (although I’m not suggesting Ratcliffe picked it up from me–that would assume that Big-Deal Bloggers pay attention to anyone else other than other Big-Deal Bloggers, which seems unlikely)–and his usage is, in my humble opinion, wrong wrong wrong.
To wit, he’s using this term as a synonym for Conversational Index, a metric proposed by Stowe Boyd. The problem with this metric is that it’s inverted (and includes something that I regard as peripheral to conversation, namely the number of trackbacks, which are frequently just spam). CI is
Number of posts divided by number of (comments plus trackbacks)
That’s counterintuitive: Lower is better. How many metrics do you know (other than error metrics) where lower is better, higher is worse?
Otherwise, if you take out the trackbacks, it’s exactly the same metric, but inverted: A Conversational Index of 0.5 is the same as a conversational intensity of 2.0.
So not much of anything. I explicitly disclaim any intention of trademarking the term, claiming proprietary rights, or hounding anyone who uses it without giving me credit. Period. It’s just a bit of recent history.
Now, if someone was silly enough to write a Wikipedia entry on conversational intensity, I would expect credit (and the September 2005 C&I would be citable as a source). But why would anyone do that? (And no, please Gaia, don’t go the next step and try to create such an entry for the unnotable Walt Crawford.)
If anyone has an earlier citation of this term used in relationship to blogging, let me know.