Commenting: A Followup

Before I say anything else, I would just like to express how honored I am to be Freshly Pressed a second time and how touched I am to receive such positive feedback from all of you. Thank you to everyone who contributed to my recent post about commenting and to everyone who now follows my blog.

I actually read every comment that was posted, and I’m still getting several streaming in. Several of you asked some very good questions regarding commenting, so here are some of the most common questions along with my responses.

You mentioned that the blogger should respond to comments to interact with his readers. Should the blogger respond to every comment?

  • The answer is an emphatic “No.” While it is important to maintain a relationship with readers, the blogger’s primary responsibility is to provide good content for his audience. The combox is a great way for the blogger to clarify points or chat with readers, but usually, it serves as a place where readers can generate their own discussion about the material. Especially on posts with hundreds of comments, it is simply impractical for the blogger to reply to every single post. It is my opinion that the blogger should only reply to comments as he sees fit, but most importantly, he ought to remember that while social interaction is a key component to a successful blog, his primary objective as a writer is to provide the main content. Too much time spent commenting detracts from that responsibility.

You encouraged us to comment even when we feel shy or when there are many comments before ours, but I’m hesitant to appear boorish by repeating what may have already been said.

  • In the case where there are several hundred comments, it is unlikely that a reader will sift through every single one to determine what has already been said, nor should he be expected to. Thus, even if what you write has already been said, perhaps in skimming the conversation, a new reader will see your post instead of a previous one and be able to keep the ball rolling from there. And besides, great minds think alike, so consider it less like appearing uncouth and more like bolstering an argument by reaffirming a common truth.

It’s difficult to track a conversation and be able to contribute meaningfully, which is why I often do not bother.

  • I agree that it can be mind-numbing to try to hold a combox argument coherently in your head while formulating a cogent response. While my previous post exhorted readers to comment whenever possible, remember that Prudence is the auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues), and that often, it is “better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and prove the fact,” as Benjamin Franklin said. If you do not want to join an ongoing conversation or are unsure of what has been said already, you can always leave a positive note of encouragement for the blogger, since those will never go to waste.
  • Additionally, if you would like to follow a certain thread of conversation in the comments section, there is often an option when you post a reply to receive alerts of followup comments via email or the hosting platform itself (Blogger, Livejournal, WordPress, etc.)

As you can see, I could not reply to every post, but because so many people were willing to leave a comment– even at the risk of sounding repetitive– I got a good sense of what the general blogging population was thinking, and in so doing, your input led to the creation of this blog post. See how even when you think no one can hear what you have to say, you are helping to build the blogosphere?

What other topics would you like to see discussed regarding writing and blogging? Are there other questions you have about how to become a better blogger? If there are other experienced bloggers reading, how do you balance the social and creative demands of being a successful blogger?

6 thoughts on “Commenting: A Followup”

  1. I hear a lot from my friends that reading blogs gets to be too much. I only post on my blog once a week. But the traffic and frequency is what drives the search engines. So is there a “magic balance” for optimal posting?

    1. That’s a really good question! I’m interested in people’s takes on this as well. As someone who rarely read blogs before I started one, I can empathize with readers feeling too inundated by frequent posts. I also want to focus on quality over quantity with my posts.

  2. Good post…again. The above responses intrigue me as well. How much is too much? It might be a personal preference and depend upon the blog. Some posts can seem so long that I might skim over them…and then the next day I see another longer post; that can be daunting. Yet other blogs I will read every word each day because the content is fun and educational at the same time (those I actually look forward to new posts).

  3. That is true Char. I do read blogs I’m more interested in more carefully, so I guess the real answer might be to focus on good content…and everything else falls into place. And I guess the old Abe Lincoln quote is relevant here: “You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

  4. Good points. I am really enjoying learning more about commenting, and I like that you clarify the blogger shouldn’t feel compelled to answer back to every comment. I don’t get many comments, so sometimes I feel bad about not responding when I can’t come up with a reason.

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