On commenting

      22 Comments on On commenting

A couple of weeks ago I asked if everyone who visited my site would leave a comment, and quite a few of you did. Thanks to you all, even the cheeky ones who decided to buck the trend and email me. It was all quite overwhelming and lovely and.. well.. ta! I do appreciate you taking the time to both visit and comment.

When I wrote that post I knew in the back of my mind that every blog goes through a lull, as does every blog reader, but I was genuinely curious to see who responded. It wasn’t JUST about stroking my ego, honest.

As ever some of you posted some very insightful comments and with some consideration I’ll admit that it was incredibly cheeky of me to “call you out” when my own commenting ratio has been slowly plummeting for some months now, but that was another reason for the post, could I ‘force’ people to comment? (guilt, what a wonderful tool).

There does seem to be a consensus though, and this is backed by my increasing use of Google Reader to read other blogs (on that note it’s very much a case of “if you don’t have an RSS feed, you ain’t getting read”), that we read too many blogs to be able to keep up. It’s hard enough reading the damn things, without having to visit each and every one to add a comment, presuming that you are moved to do so at all.

Is this the demise of blogging? No, I don’t think so, but I do wonder if it’s shifting from being a discussion or conversation, to being an open window or voyeuristic opportunity. You’ll happily stand there for days on end, soaking up the events and words as you peer in, only responding if prompted. No?

I guess it’s one of those things that ‘depends’ (ok ok EVERYTHING ‘depends’ but bear with me) on the number of blogs you try and keep up with. Beyond a certain point the basic logistics of commenting becomes too hard so you just stop trying to comment at all. “I suspect that people are reading more blogs than they used to, which leaves them with less time to comment. Which is a shame.”

And it is a shame, after all, it’s not very fair if you only comment on certain blogs but not others. I do find myself looking at my ‘blogroll’ and trying to remember who I last commented on, and whether I should ‘spread my comments’ around like they are rationed or something. Then I give myself a shake and remind myself that this is a hobby and certainly no-one will be offended if I don’t comment on their site as often as I do on others, right?? Ohh but I do hate to offend… and so on and so forth.

Thinking about it, this internal dialogue may be the REAL reason I don’t comment on as many blogs as I used to, “I don’t leave comments anywhere anymore. I’m shit at it. Busy things – sorry. Do read everything on GoogleReader though. But I suppose that doesn’t count. Boo.”

“Do you leave comments as much as you used to?” Is a valid question (although it’s “as many” not “as much”) and the answer is no. How can I? I’m far too busy to read AND comment, sheesh.

Perhaps the way that comments work is to blame then, after all if their primary aim is to create and further ‘conversations’ then surely it should be much easier to see what has been said, how far along the debate has been moved, before you delve in to add your own opinion. Or perhaps that is a little too grandiose a view of the content of most blogs, the ones I read anyway.

Ultimately I’ve reached the point, actually I reached this point sometime last year, where I don’t really care what my readership stats are, nor do I care if they are new people or the old faithfuls who’ll return here just because I’ve posted something (bless, they don’t get out often). I know people are visiting, and I understand why comments are down, and yes I’m taking the ‘summer lull’ into consideration.

My own habits have changed, my approach to this blog, and others is different today and it will be different tomorrow. The fun part is trying to figure out where it’s going to go next. Is twitter setting a new ‘micropost’ standard that blogs will head towards, or will it allow us to be free to write longer posts? Will comments die and discussions end? Or will we continue to observe and share, collaborate and discuss and reach the utopia some think this part of the interweb holds? Have I started wittering on and should stop drinking so much coffee first thing in the morning?

As the bloke with the funny accent who does the voice-overs for Big Brother says: “You decide”.

22 thoughts on “On commenting

  1. Dragon

    I was thinking about this over the weekend. Using a feedreader means I can easily see who is on my blogroll and who’s updated but it takes away from actually going to the blog itself and seeing the post as it should be presented and easily being able to comment right there and then. I comment rarely these days and rarely get comments back. Then again, I’m not going to stoop so low as to demean myself by begging for comments either! 😛

  2. Andy N

    I’ve been using Feedreader for ages, and I’ve said so here before.

    I know that IE7 and Firefox have readers built in, and now I have got Safari for windows too, so it will have a reader too.

    I don’t use facebook or twitter or delicious or even a live chat program like Trillian. I have skype – and one contact, my brother – but I have a question –

    How come Google reader? I have used Feedreader, and stuck with it through a number of versions, for a couple of years now. Should I look at Google reader?

  3. Gordon Post author

    I’ve tried loads of news readers over the past few years, including Feedreader. Bloglines almost did it for me but was just too damn clunky.

    Google Reader is fairly lite in terms of functionality but as it’s web based then I can use it from anywhere, and it does all I need. Let’s me check sites to see if they’ve updated and read the content that’s published.

    The main selling point for me is that it’s online. I use google mail, and the calendar now so thought I’d give the reader a run and it’s kinda stuck with me.

    I’m still not 100% ‘rss-ed’ but I’m getting there..

  4. Andy N

    Interesting.

    At the moment I don’t need anything web based to use from anywhere.

    Perhaps I should think about that contingency, use a USB key based system, or go entirely web based.

    Better still, both.

    Don’t know yet.

  5. Adrian McEwen

    I do think that reading blogs in a feed reader makes me less likely to comment. It’s that extra step to visit the site in order to post the comment that gives me that bit more time to decide that I haven’t got much to contribute, or that there are too many things I could say which would end up in me waffling. As this comment is proving 🙂

    Tools like http://co.mments.com/ make it easier to continue or follow the discussion, but don’t help with making the initial comment.

    For a while I contemplated writing a usenet interface to my blog to see if that encouraged discussions, but I’d need a lorry-load of round tuits before I’d get down to that on my list…

  6. anna

    Blimey, no wonder people don’t leave as many comments (as much) when you take first chance to grammatically correct them when they do…

    Sheeeesh.

    (annoying smily face here)

  7. Misssymartin

    I think that comments are worthwhile taking the time to leave. As a result of leaving comments on blogs I like, I have gained more actual readers, met other bloggers, discovered some great blogs and I hope encouraged new bloggers to post more.

    I am always delighted when someone takes the time to comment on something I’ve written and I hope that even once I’ve been at this for years that I will always still be delighted to welcome a new reader. It’s good to know that people are interested in what you’ve got to say. In fact, it’s crucial to keeping up your enthusiasm and momentum- particularly in the early months. I always check out the blogs of those who have commented me.

    Recently I have commented and linked to a couple of good new bloggers. I would hate good new bloggers to give up because they thought no-one was reading.

  8. Gordon Post author

    You are quite right, and I meant to touch on this in my post.

    I, and others, have a tendency to visit other blogs if they leave a comment on mine, and I’ll happily admit that a large part of my motivation, certainly in the ‘early days’, behind leaving a comment was that it usually garners you a return visit.

    After that it’s about content and maintaining that finely balanced relationship with your readers, but yes, feedback is important. Does that necessarily mean comments?

    As has been discussed on this site, and others, before, perhaps a simple “click here if you liked this” type system, alongside the standard way to comment, would be beneficial. If I just want to flag that I’ve read something and enjoyed it but I don’t have much to say then surely it must be possible for a simple ‘vote’ type system to register my ‘approval’. Although that means storing your details and such, or you end up having to fill in a form just to press a ‘tick’. And you end up back in the “ohh I’m too busy for that” quandary.

  9. Adrian

    I never got full RSS’ed until I started using Net News Wire . It’s definitely made things easier to keep up with.

    The problem is a read too many blogs. And two nights out in a row means by the time I get to the weekend I have 100-200 unread posts and I spend more time trying to read everything than commenting.

    I also think ATOM could stand to be extended to include comments.

    It’s very hard to keep up with a conversation when you have to keep going back to the site to see the comments. That said I keep a tab open in NNW with any blogs I want to see what happens in the comments with. That’s still very much like pre feed days, manual refreshing.

    There should be a way of linking a feed to a comments feed. Then the reader can pair up the two and show comments on a feed at the click of a button (pulling from the other feed) as well as having different ways to show comments being updated to main posts. I know this is technically possible and the concept is not so hard to understand. I’m just hoping someone else figures that out too.

  10. Misssymartin

    Comments are not the only way to give feedback, you are right. In fact me and Meeester M had this dicussion after I was having a wee moan about My Myspace blog. I post everything I blog up there too (as well as Blogspot). I actually have more readers on Myspace as that’s where I started blogging about a year ago. These are readers that I know wouldn’t be arsed to remember that I was on Blogspot. But they don’t comment as much, they just read. Most of them are not bloggers, just people I know.

    I put a note on Myspace (admittedly in a wee bit of a huff) saying that I was not going to blog anymore on Myspace and move all operations to blogspot. Well…. I got phone calls! I got emails! People at work sought me out and the message was this “Don’t stop posting. I don’t comment but it doesn’t mean I don’t read! What are you doing? Calm down you maddoe!”

    I felt a little spoilt and silly after that.

  11. James

    I try to only keep news-based sites in my feed reader and actually visit blogs and such in my web browser.

    Comments are great and I’m over the moon whenever I get them on my blog so I try and leave comments on other people’s, if I can ever think of something to say!

  12. diamond geezer

    I like the way you include a link to every post’s comments in your RSS feed – that’s got to be the best way of attracting otherwise passive readers.

  13. David

    “Do you leave comments as much as you used to?” Is a valid question (although it’s “as many” not “as much”)

    Actually [don’t you just love comments that start with, “Actually…”, you just know they’re going to be pedantic points, but you started it], no, it’s “as much”.

    If you substitute the activity leave comments with, for example, go swimming, it’s easy to see that “as many” would be wrong and the sentence should be, “Do you go swimming as much as you used to?”

    If you wanted to us “as many”, you’d have to rewrite the sentence as, “Do you leave as many comments as you used to?”

  14. Chris

    Does no one just save a blog on their list of favorites anymore? I mean how hard is it to click a link? Really…

  15. QE

    Part of the problem I have with commenting, especially at the more well read blogs (including this one), is that by the time I get there I have little to say that isn’t already in one or other comment.

    For example, mainly I got all the way down to the comment form because I wanted to say what David did in #14.

    The fact that I’ve recently taken to feed-reading doesn’t help the commenting, but it does let me keep up with a lot more blogs, so it’s a fair trade-off.
    It would be good if more people published feeds of their comments; that would make a big difference even without any changes to the format standards.

  16. Andy N

    I found a well organised list of RSS resources at

    http://mashable.com/2007/06/11/rss-toolbox/

    That will keep me busy for a few days.

    When I did have my now defunct blog, I was commenting for the same reason as Gordon did, to provoke visits and hoping for comments back.

    I comment on blogs I like nowadays, obviously without expectation.

    (Rushes off to DG’s blog……………)

  17. Blue Witch

    I think the whole essence of blogging has changed. To me, the whole purpose is about a dialogue. I’m not convinced that is what motivates most people these days.

    I only read a limited number of blogs regularly, and those I do read are generally written by people who raise issues intelligently (so inviting dialogue), and I don’t read through a feed reader (that would, for me, just end in overload and unnecessary stress).

    Those I read tend to be those that were around when I started. I don’t like reading without commenting. Stuck in a rut? Maybe, but it suits me.

  18. Cat

    I think I’m a bit of a luddite in that I don’t have a clue about feeds or the like. I use my links as bookmarks – and thus probably look like a stalker when I regularly “check in” on blogs to see if they’ve been updated.

    I wrote my blog for over a year without a single comment, other than those asking me to buy viagra and the like. At that point, I didn’t read any other blogs either, and had no idea of the etiquette of linking, commenting and the like. Even without any comments/feedback from readers (and I knew there were readers) I enjoyed writing the blog.

    Naturally, I very much enjoy getting comments and the interaction with the readers, but I hate, hate, hate it when people whore for readers/comments by randomly commenting all over the place. There’s one particular person, we’ll call them J, who comments at my place, and every time someone posts a comment on my site, or I add new links, a comment from J immediately appears on their blog, regardless of what the subject matter is. I’m sure I’m being mean-spirited, but it smacks of desperation to me.

  19. Cat

    No. It did just vanish.

    Basically I said I wrote my blog for a year with no comments, but I like when people do. But I hate people who whore for readers/comments, by randomly commenting all over the place. I have one reader who does that on every blog I link to/every commenter’s blog, and it drives me nuts.

    I said it much more eloquently in my original comment, but I’m too lazy to re-type it all.

    GORDON SAYS: Sorry about that Cat, your original post was marked as spam for some reason. It has now been resurrected.

  20. Gert

    I have an unmanageable list of blogs in bloglines, but I am now resigned to accepting that it will always be out of date. I am currently looking at those that 30+ or less than 4 unread posts, which, surprisingly, has a logic to it. At least I get a mix of old and new.

    I have ended up in a position where I almost never comment on those blogs which get 60 comments saying “You’re so ace” because, actually, that isn’t a conversation. I get the most enjoyment in being the only commenter on a post, and then I feel a connect with the blogger. I decided to shut comments on a post where the number of comments went over 40 because someone was leaving comments – and also emailing me – that were nothing less than a personal attack on me (albeit not the nastiest of personal attacks I have experienced!)

    (Please delete previous truncated version. Note to self, don’t use the ‘less than’ sign cos it looks like an html tag)

    (EDITORS: OK< deleted)

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