How many times have you felt the impulse to leave a comment on an article or blog but then thought better of it and moved on?
Whether the piece is sheer brilliance or more internet garbage, there is almost always a section where readers can leave comments (often referred to as a combox). I have mixed feelings about the combox, but until I read Kristin Lamb’s recent post about “improving your likability quotient”, and Bob Mayer’s thoughts on your internet presence, I must admit, I wasn’t an avid commenter.
Here’s the thing: As much as I often think I have important things to say, when I see several hundred comments, I often feel like adding my voice to the fray won’t be a worthwhile contribution.
Oh how wrong I was.
I’m not sure about you guys, but I know I have a tendency to size up the world in an “all-or-nothing” mindset far too often. Here are a few of my usual inner monologues:
“If my blog post or comment isn’t going to rock the foundations of the literary world, well, then… I may as well not comment at all!”
“Oh, look at the flame war! I thought I smelled smoke over on WordPress… This fire has clearly burned itself out. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.”
“This guy clearly doesn’t have a clue, but he’s obviously too stupid to consider anything I have to say. I think I’ll go preach to the choir where I know people will listen to me.”
No, no, no.
You see, it’s called social media for a reason. Even when it appears that your thought may be lost in an ever-deepening sea of other comments, you never know who might read it. At the very least, the blog author will get another alert letting him know that you thought his post was worthwhile reading, and while busier bloggers can’t always read or reply to every individual comment, you have just given him a digital high-five of sorts and spread some internet cheer. We bloggers like being “liked.”
Secondly, whenever you leave a comment on a blog, you are leaving a virtual trail of breadcrumbs back to your own blog. As Nicola Morgan points out, Google loves it when you make its job easier. Every time you comment somewhere else, you leave a veritable trail of metadata in your wake, making your blog more likely to show up in search engines and, in a sense, casting your nets wide into the sea of the internet.
And lastly, while the internet is a big place, you are an important part of it. Sometimes, it might seem as if your contribution to the free flow of information and ideas is nothing but a drop in an ocean, but the ocean would be that much drier and shallower without your thought. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” (an aphorism of which I am in constant need of reminding). It was, rather, each individual stone in a Roman road which comprised the network that allowed the empire to stretch across Europe. And it was each individual citizen who came to debate in the forum which allowed for the republic to flourish into the classical civilisation to which we still look today.
Ready to join the legions of intelligent, articulate blog commenters currently amassing to redeem the internet?
I thought so.
- DO enable commenting on your blogs. Most platforms have sufficient spam blockers to keep the bots at bay. If people cannot participate in your blog, then you are basically having a conversation with yourself, and we all know that writers do enough of that outside the blogosphere as it is, right? 😉
- DO reply to comments within your own blog. This shows your adoring fans that you do, in fact, care about them and take the time to read what they say. Nothing builds rapport between a blogger and his audience better than
mingling amongst the commonersconversing with his readers.
- DO write thought-provoking posts that encourage conversation. Hell, write something controversial if its gets people talking! You might try leaving an open question at the end of your posts or inviting a guest blogger to provide a counter-post.
- DO take the time to read and comment on other bloggers’ posts. Far from fraternising with the competition, you just paid the favor forward and brightened someone else’s corner of the internet. If anything, he might feel indebted and comment back on your blog, but at the very least, you have shown that what you consider worthy enough of your time to read is also worthy of your time to contribute to, as well.
- DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
- DO read articles and posts carefully and analytically. Take the time to craft a thoughtful, genuine post that shows the author you have heard what he has to say and want to collaborate with him via a shared experience or constructive criticism.
- DO forward links from other relevant blogs in your comments if you think they will contribute to the conversation. Just be careful about appearing… spammy.
- DO click the “Like” button if you don’t have time to write a whole comment. This will at least let the author know that you read and enjoyed his work.
- I repeat DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
So, was this a cleverly-designed trap to lure readers into commenting on my blog and boosting my ego?
But really, it’s not about me (although notifications are gratifying most of the time). It’s about making the internet a better place for everyone. If you have been shy about joining the fracas, there’s no time like the present! So, please, take up that seat in the peanut gallery and fire away!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on your commenting in the blogosphere and what ideas you have to improve the experience. It seems to me that one of the huge problems confronting us is the general lack of civility in the comboxes. Thoughts? Opinions? Reactions? Criticism? Viewpoints? Convictions?
I’m all ears.