Saturday, February 6

What's in a comment?

The whole issue of blogging and commenting is an interesting one. It's something I think about on and off and was brought to mind again by Jessica's recent post on the very topic. As she discussed it can be hard when people say things we don't agree with, or misunderstand what we've said in the post.

At the end of the day we all write the blogs for ourselves. We write what we want, in our own way and as frequently as we like. But despite that, no matter how bold the assertion is that we don't care what people think; we do. We want people to read what we've written and we need to know what they think.

I'm amazed at how much I value comments. Annoyed almost at the extent to which I get anxious about a post until someone has commented on it. Silly I know, but it's like a validation of what I've written: if it's good enough to comment on then I'm good enough to write it in the first place.

But what about negative and critical comments? Does it invalidate what we've written, and therefore us, or are we pleased that they've engaged? Happy we've caused a reaction? Do we respond, clarify or ignore? Do we go as far as to delete?

And what motivates readers to comment in the first place? There's been many discussions about what types of blogs and posts are more likely to attract comments. I've explained before that most of my comments are general waves of hello on the blogs of friends: I'm supporting you, I like what you write, keep going.

It's only the really thought provoking posts that get my total attention and sometimes I don't comment on those at all, so lost for adequate words. And when I do manage to respond to them it generally turns into a blog post of my own.

So even though I can see it both from the writer and the reader perspective I still have this need for validation, as do many other bloggers I suspect. Using stat counters to see how many hits we have, wondering in awe at the reach of our little blogs. In January I had readers from 89 different countries, including the Republic of Congo. I find that mind boggling. And it amazes me that there are so many of you who read and don't comment. Are you just stopping by once in a while or are you a regular reader? I'm so curious. You know all about me and I know nothing about you!

And then there's Winterbrook. We have a lovely band of regular commentators who we know well, but I suspect there are many, many more who read it silently. We don't have a stat counter on the site, so we actually don't know.

Not that we ever made a group decision not to have one, but for my part there's that fear maybe no-one is reading it at all. Maybe our writing isn't good enough, or we don't post as regularly as we should. Would it put us off to learn that only 10 people a week read it? Probably. Should it? Of course not. Would it put us off if we got continually negative comments? Probably. Should it? Of course not.

So commenting is a funny thing but I think I agree with Oscar Wilde: 'the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about!'


Indy said...

I was thinking to myself, wouldn't it be funny if this post got no comments at all?

But then I found I had typed it instead and pushed "publish."

Casey Morgan said...

Hell, yeah.

Abel1234 said...

OK, this cries out for a comment!

I guess my responses to others' posts fall into three camps:-

1) when either I particularly like a post (e.g. if it's thought-provoking, hot or original

2) when I particularly disagree with it (not that that happens here!)

3) when I think I might have something to add to the discussion.

As for getting comments on things I've written, I'm something of a feedback whore - and share your perspective that if I don't get any comments, the entry I wrote might not have been any good.

That said, when we launched Spanking Writers originally - at a time when there weren't many other literary spanking blogs around - I hadn't actually realised the extent to which we'd get comments, and to which the comments would actually become such a core part of the site.

Master Retep said...

Despite some protestations to the contrary, I think virtually all us bloggers are comment junkies. Hell, if we didn't care we wouldn't have hit counters and we'd just keep our diary with a notebook and pencil. This blogging thing is a mixture of showing off and social networking. And there's nothing wrong with that, no one is forced to read nay of this.

Like you, I was amazed when I recently put a hit counter on my blog, I had no idea so many people could even stumble on my blog. A technical question - does anyone know can hits can be attributed to visits by bots trawling for eMail addresses or other non-human readers?

But there definitely are more readers out there than we think, just look at how everyone's blogs attract a flurry of comments on "love our lurkers" day.

Keep up the writing, we really enjoy your insights.

Paul said...

EmmaJane, I comment because I enjoy your posts and the way you write them.
I also enjoy Winterbrook, as you know.
If I ever have any real criticism I would email privately, I don't envisage ever having to do that.
Warm hugs,

Henry Higgins said...

I don't usually comment unless I think I have something to say that adds to the discussion. In fact I very seldom comment the first time I read a post: but if it sets me thinking, I'll come back to it when I've had time to think about it. In fact I first read this post this morning...

The downside of this is that my comments are usually far down the list, and I expect that means that not very many people read them.

I haven't got the hang of commenting as a "friendly wave". I agree that it's a nice idea, and I know I appreciate it when people do it on my own blog. Maybe I can learn :-).


catherine said...

LOL as the first non-blogger to comment, I'm feeling a little behind the curve here. But I had rather assumed that part of the reason you guys post is that you have something to say, a discussion point to raise, and to have a public discussion - otherwise why enable comments? And - as I think littlenic posted on Jessica's blog, if valid and constructive (if sometimes dissenting) comments were blocked or deleted, those of us who do respond would get bored and stop reading.

As someone whose natural tendency is to take dissent or criticism personally (although I do try to sit back and reflect, and usually eventually figure that my critic has a point, even if I don't agree with it) I think bloggers are really brave to put their ideas out there for public comment. But part of that bravery involves accepting that public comment, reflecting on it, and maybe occasionally conceding that others' viewpoints are as valid as one's own - and then not sulking about it, which takes emotional intelligence.

So I guess as a commenter I assume that bloggers are total paragons - brave (for putting your ideas out there) and emotionally intelligent (for accepting and processing the dissenting comments). Oh, and I guess you have to have the spare time to read the comments and respond. We ask a lot of you guys, so when I do genuinely dissent, I do at least try to do it constructively and politely.

Big hugs


Henry Higgins said...

If someone disagrees withe me, or criticises me in what seems a sensible and legitimate way, then it's a fairly straightforward decision to leave their comment up. It adds to the discussion.

If a comment is seriously off-topic, or is clearly intended as an advert rather than a contribution to the discussion, then I don't hesitate long before deleting it.

But for me the grey area, where I do hesitate, comes from comments that I find squicky or distasteful, or say things I don't want to be associated with. For example, I recently deleted one that suggested a sexual ending to a scene I thought of as "sweet and innocent".

Now, I fully realise that in "censoring" such a comment I am imposing my own ideas of what is "appropriate". What I am not sure about is whether that is something I ought to do, or am entitled to do.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


Mija said...

I went into detail above on when and why I delete or don't delete comments. It really is only the blog owner who should make that choice, though I do think leaving spam up is irresponsible.

HH's comments about when and why we comment or reply made me think a great deal. I comment less than I should, partly because I read a lot at my university on a feedreader so can't respond without opening (sometimes very unwork friendly) blogs. But like everyone else I appreciate the occasional shout-out.

When I write stuff for the Punishment Book, I'm trying for things I think might prompt discussion (though it's very hit and miss). The comments there feel like more of the blog content than the entries themselves do. But when I write for my own blog, I'm just writing my own thoughts on something, either as a space to work them out or to record a specific moment I don't want to forget. Comments are great there too and make me feel good, but I need them less. The stat counter tells me people are reading in pretty large numbers -- otherwise I might think I know all the readers personally!

What's interesting to me is how often bloggers reply to comments. I've just started doing that, as I fear otherwise people have assumed I'm not reading comments which isn't the case. It's just, well, generally I felt like I'd written what I thought in the blog entry so unless a comment raised a new issue or asked a question, it seemed more appropriate to let them stand.

Sometimes though, replying to comments can take away energy for writing anything new.

Excellent and thoughtful entries btw!