Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Importance of Comments and Followers

I realized i wanted to write this column a few weeks ago, but then decided to wait until I had hit 100 followers before I wrote it and posted it here. Since this afternoon I hit the "100" mark (and hopefully I'm still at least there when you read this), here it is.

It struck me one day that being a "columnist" sort of blogger, which is, I suppose, the way I fancy myself, is like writing an editorial column in a newspaper that you own. Yeah, you're now a "published columnist"...but who's going to stop you from publishing? Who's vetting what you write? You might get an editor to look over the column before it goes to press, and that person might tighten things up a little bit, but no one's going to tell you such and such an article isn't print-worthy. It's all the implicit permission, none of the earned privilege.

User-generated web content is the hallmark of the Web 2.0 revolution. You are no longer limited to being a passive commuter driving along the "information superhighway", you're also an architect. building roads and exits and cul-de-sacs, taking people places you want them to visit. If those places are your MySpace page or your Facebook profile, no big deal; those resources are largely there for the purposes of social networking, and self-expression there is informal at best.

Not so with blogging. Although the "blog" grew out of "online journal" services such as LiveJournal, it has become less and less an online diary (although many people use it for that purpose, and that's perfectly fine) and more as a semi-formal soapbox / democratic forum / editorial mouthpiece where any one person or group of people can put forth an idea to the entire world. Although a lot of people don't think this is a big deal, or feel much weight of responsibility, I think just the opposite - it means what you put out there in your blogs is actually very important, and whatever you write should be published with the understanding that, once the various search engines get their hands on it, anyone in the world doing a web search may come across what you've written if they use the right keywords.

All right, I'm beginning to ramble here about the qualitative obligations inherent to Web 2.0 publishing. Moving on...

The point I am trying to make is, we are all blogging. Some of us do it once a month, some of us do it every day, some of us even do it multiple times a day. We write whatever we want about whatever we want to talk about, and it gets "published" for the whole world to find and read. At the end of the day, without any feedback, constructive criticism, or support, many of us can feel that we're just talking to an empty room, so to speak. I'm fortunate enough that most of my columns get at least a couple of comments apiece, some more, and a few don't get anything but that's the exception to the rule.

I've been to other people's blogs, however, where there have been dozens - sometimes hundreds - of posts, and there is almost no commentary feedback and no one "Following" the blog, at least publicly. First, I am impressed that the authors of said blogs are able to keep up the posting for so long without substantial feedback. Second, I always wonder if THEY wonder if they're just talking to an empty room. I know that if I hadn't started getting comments posted to my blog within the first few weeks of writing, I might very well have let it die off, or at the very least, only posted something here once every couple of months.

At the end of the day, feedback is important. "Followers" and even more importantly, comments, are a tangible, quantifiable measure of the worth of what you have to say to the world, and believe me, they do matter to people. Every time I find a new blog and I like what the author has to say, I make sure to leave a few comments, just to let them know "Hey, someone else is reading this, and found it worthwhile". I make doubly sure to do this for new bloggers that don't have a lot of followers or comments - do unto others and all that jazz.

So after more than two years, one hundred followers, and a goodly number of comments (several hundred, surely, since I've got 168 posts counting this one, and each post averages at least 2-3 comments), I just want to thank everyone who's followed this blog or posted a comment here, positive or negative. it shows that I'm not just talking to an empty room, or writing a column for my own newspaper.

And last, but not least, I want to urge everyone who reads this to go out there, find a blog that's interesting to you but doesn't seem to get a lot of traffic, and post a few comments just to let the writer know that someone else finds value in what they are doing.

Here's to 168 posts down, hopefully hundreds more to go.


Christopher B said...

So do I have to tell you that the purpose of this comment is to act as an approving nod for this post? Or does just leaving a comment achieve that end in and of itself? ;D

Robert Fisher said...

Google Analytics lets me know that people are reading, even if they aren’t commenting. For whatever reason, a significant number of readers almost never comment.

Timeshadows said...

The more I piss-off guys in the OSR, the fewer comments I receive, yet my site meter continues to click over in the hundreds of views a day range.

> shrug <

I often decline to reply if I disagree with a poster, or if I find no immediate use for the content, so I assume it is the same with others.

Amanda said...

I think lot of people are just more comfortable with lurking. There's a certain safety in anonymity and if you never say anything you can't sound stupid. :P

greywulf said...

Amen to that. Comments are the food of blogs. They are what turn a blog from being a diary into being a community. The first is good, but the second is (usually) better. Unless what you really do want is a diary, of course.

It annoys me no end when folks insist I have to register before leaving comments. That's like they want me to talk to them, but I have to jump through their hoops first to do it. No thanks.

If you have a blog that requires people to register before you leave comments - that's why you don't get comments. Simple, really.

@Timeshadows Disagreement is good for the soul, even if neither party realizes it at the time. I'd be happy for you to stop by and disagree with me sometime :D

Trey said...

Comments and followers are certainly nice--a validation of what you're doing,and a chance at least for discussion. Like Robert and Timeshadow say though, I think a lot of people just aren't motivated to comment, for whatever reason.

Padre said...

There are a lot of blogs I view, but don't have time or motivation to post on all of them. I think I came across this blog as a link off of another and enjoyed the name and content, that was enough to add it to mine to keep track of postings. Thanks for the blog and your content.

Lord Gwydion said...

As one of those bloggers who gets few comments, I gotta say I do appreciate the ones I get. And Baudelaire, thanks for being one of those guys who was commenting early on, and kept me from just shutting down after a few posts.

On the other hand, while I try to comment often, I find that many posts just don't inspire anything that I feel I need to say. It's the catch 22 of blogging. I'd love more comments on my posts, but at the same time I don't like just posting a "me, too" type comment on someone else's post just to post something.

Well, maybe I should do a bit more of that anyway. :)

Stuart said...

Don't forget that not everyone who reads your blog will be on Blogger, or Facebook, or Google Friend Connect - so your actual readership could be larger than you think.

And most people don't leave comments. Although sometimes you get email out of the blue about posts that are 5 or more years old saying thanks for posting an article. :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't really believe that anyone was reading my blog until I want on the Roleplay Media Network channel on IRC (irc.sorcery.net #RPMN if you want to drop by) and found a BUNCH of people that read my blog. I couldn't believe it at first as I'd dismissed my 15 hits/day or so to random people dropping in and leaving, which was backed up by the number of hits I got from stumbleupon or the 'show me a random blog' sites. My girlfriend is still the only one that comments on it regularly though.

My question is how do I take the fact that my most viewed post is the one that took the least amount of time? A collection of links to maps for Keep on the Shadowfell? More then double any post with my writing in it...but I'm glad it is useful


Rook said...

Thanks for this up-lifting post. I am all too familiar with that 'talking to an empty room' feeling. So, spread the love and take the time and effort to comment on someone's post. It is always much appreciated.

Blair said...

As a lot of my blog content in design work, I thrive on the feedback loop that comments/followers provide.

Timeshadows: ?huh? You have opinions and you're not afarid to express them, but pissing people off?

Badelaire said...

Thanks for everyone's feedback. Just from the posts here, I've found one new blog and have made a note to comment on a couple I haven't visited in a while.

@canageek: Of the four posts that have generated 20+ comments here, the latest was just a couple of quick paragraphs on people's choices for their favorite potential Historical Campaign setting.

You never know what'l' generate comments, but sometimes the shortest or simplest columns are succinct enough to give impetus to comments while not being too long or long-winded to discourage a reader from just "skimming" and not being invested enough in the post's subject matter to comment.

NetherWerks said...

Comments that are pertinent to the material, constructive in their content--that'd be cool and is always appreciated.

The lurking morons who are in a hurry to drop a oh-so-(NOT)-witty bon-mot that only they think is either funny or appropriate...not so much.

I'd like to think that someone reads my stuff, but in either case I'm not waiting around for them to get around to it. I have some goals in mind and I intend to keep on working away at things one way or another. Besides, I haven't been at this very long yet.

@Timeshadows: I'm sorry to hear that you honked off a few of the fragrant fraternity. I like what you have to say more often than not, and I appreciate your work on Urutsk a great deal. I think you might have run into jealousy.

"Girl use big words. Make Og feel bad about self. Og poop on girl. Og much better now."

That sort of crap is all to common on the internet, in or out of the so-called OSR...whatever the hell that really means.

sirlarkins said...

"I know that if I hadn't started getting comments posted to my blog within the first few weeks of writing, I might very well have let it die off, or at the very least, only posted something here once every couple of months."

So very true.

I'm always surprised by what generates comments and what doesn't. As for my own commenting habits, like others have mentioned, I usually won't comment if I don't have anything to say, or at least nothing beyond a "me too."

Badelaire said...

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating "me too" spamming or drivel posts.

I'm advocating taking a minute to comment on something you thought interesting on either a fledgling blog you've found, or a blog that just seems to not get the commenting it should.

Call it "do unto others...", call it "pay it forward", call it helping out a newbie or someone who isn't getting the attention their work deserves.

I sort of equate it with tipping at a restaurant. If I read something that interests me and I get something out of it, I feel it is worth taking a moment and thanking the author for taking the time to write it. Simple as that.

Timeshadows said...

NetherWerks: Thank you for expressing you like of Urutsk, and spelling out that possible reason.
--I apologise if I am one of those too-brief a replier on OSH, NW, or Riskail. :(

Col. Corbane said...

I'm a great believer in you reap what you sew, so I comment on loads of bloggers. I tend to work on the basis that if I read it, then I'll comment, it only takes a mo.

PlayinitCool said...

I'm listening =)

Barad the Gnome said...

Yes - you have expressed what many are thinking. Keep writing, I read when I can and post when I have something relevant to say.



Nathan Abrahams said...

Now that I've revived my blog, I'm trying to go out and find other good blogs to follow and comment on.

The way I do most of the work on my blog, feedback is extraordinarily useful. A lot of my posts are pondering, and without feedback, the pondering often ends there.