Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Confession Tuesday

Confession, I wanted to talk about blog etiquette or more specifically the lack of manners in the blogosphere, and I was going to write a scathing commentary about a particular high priestess who writes from Mount Self-Importance. I was going to say the air at her temple must be so thin that the lack of oxygen surely accounts for her delusion that the rest of us are her underlings rather than her peers. Then I questioned if that was mean, inappropriate. Couldn't I just share what I think are the basic manners that we seem to be forgetting when we jump from one virtual island to another?

And don't let my fella get started on the pitfalls of the blogosphere (I made the mistake of sharing my topic for today). He thinks our virtual islands are eroding community and the network we say we want. He thinks cultivating community was better when message boards were the preferred medium for interaction. He argues that a message board community centralizes activity, responses are concentrated and this combination creates a distinct tone and allows for an intimacy that is difficult to replicate in a patchwork of blogs. I agree to a point. I also understand and enjoy the appeal of blogs.

I think each kind of community has its pros and cons. For today, I want to focus on a big sore spot for me: comments. Now, as my mother would say, some folks act as if they have no home training. Weren't we all taught that when you go to someone's house you greet the hostess and other guests? And weren't we taught that when we are the host, it is our job to greet everybody and make our guests feel welcomed? In my mind, our blogs are our virtual homes and as such, we should acknowledge our guests. And since we are communicating online, the only way to acknowledge someone is to comment. If a guest shows up at your home, takes the time to read and comment to what you took time to write, you the host should acknowledge the response. Now if you're inundated with responses, write a reply to the group, but say something. Honestly, if you can't be bothered to respond, I can't be bothered to read you. It goes both ways, sweetie.

And dear reader, I'm sure you have run into those folks who like to hear themselves talk, but for the rest of us regular folk, we really do want to hear from you. Your comments matter. And for me, I write expressively to interact with you. We are friends and peers. I already know what I think. I blog (a very public activity) because I'm want engagement, discussion, feedback. Talk to me. I promise I will thank you for taking time to comment, and I'll respond thoughtfully to questions or comments that ask my opinion.

I realize we have lives outside of our islands. I'm not arguing a reader should comment to every post nor that a blogger should respond to every comment, but I am making a case for more exchanges and replies than not.

And my last peeve is about what I perceive as a greater interest in getting attention rather than giving it: when you participate in a meme, remember to give what you want- comments. Don't drop a link for others to read you, and then fail to make a real effort to comment to several other participants. We shouldn't have to rely on tracking widgets to learn if we're being read. Exercise your digits and crank out a few dozen keystrokes. Comment, people. That's all I'm saying.

What's your view? I have very thick skin and prefer candor so tell us how you really feel.

If you want more confessions, visit January's place.


Serena said...

great post about the lack of commenting in the blogosphere. I try my best to comment upon posts I read, even if it is to say great review or something mundane. I feel like I took the time to read the post, so I should say something. I really hate when I have nothing come to mind for a longer comment....although maybe that just proves I like to hear myself talk...ugh...anothe faux pas. LOL

Anyway, I really liked this engaging post and agree.

susan said...

Hi Serena,
I feel guilty, too, about not writing something more substantive than "I enjoyed this" but when I weigh it against not letting the writer know I read and enjoyed their post, I leave the simple comment. Thanks for weighing in.

Thinking Aloud said...

I wholeheartedly agree!
I even make a special effort to comment on posts that have 0 comments. I want the Blogger to know that someone is listening and what they had to say is worthy of a response. I know that it is sometimes a bit disheartening when you go to your dashboard and it reads,"No comments to be moderated".

cupcakewitch said...

I think sometimes it is hard for people because they read SO many things on the Internet everyday... I love getting comments but I like it when they are above the usual "nice review"...
Its a hard debate though, quantity vs. quality...

Deborah Godin said...

Interesting thoughts here. My guess is that many blog readers have experienced reading a post where they just want to move on without saying anything, for whatever reason. Or maybe they simply leave a more generic or "calling card'" comment, just to say they were there. I leave those from time to time myself, but the real fun is finding a post that is so intriguing I *need* to leave a detailed comment. That happens the vast majority of the time with blogs I follow. On the other hand, I don't keep track of who comes to my blog with widgets or whatever. Even if I knew, I don't think I'd mind if some folks didn't leave a comment. Or perhaps if I *did* know about it, it would lead to the kind of dissatisfaction you describe! Anyway, I'm always delighted when I get interactive comments or feedback.

Giggles said...

Hi Susan I have left a few comments on your blog only to have them returned to my email. Not sure they even got published.So I'm wondering if you get all the comments you're suppose to!

People blog for different reasons, some for traffic, others for creativity, some as a journal.
I started my blog as a legacy for family. Comments are just a bonus! Blogging has bloomed into something completely different and wonderful than first intended. If there is a return email address, I will respond to comments, if not, then I don't.
Most of my blogger friends don't and there is an unwritten rule that bloggers are creative busy people that often blog and read on the run, apologizing as they go!

Enjoyed this post, great perspective. In a perfect world I would respond and comment on each and every blog,unfortunately at this juncture that's impossible! If a post really touches me then I make a point of commenting!

Sincerely Giggles

susan said...


The point I want to stress is support your peers. Extend some courtesy. While the generic comments are generic, they are at least a communication, an acknowledgment, the reader is saying, "I want you to know someone is listening."

My spouse's problem with blogs is that we are engaging each other less than more. Our blogs are personal islands. Blogs create a space for one-way communication.

Part of the hoopla about the Internet was that it provided the means to connect. Are we interacting less now that we are spending more time accessing information?

susan said...

Giggles, there is an issue with my mail that I haven't been able to resolve. If you comment here, I reply. If you want to reach me via email, skip the email function and cut & paste my addy into an e-mail. I will respond.

I don't want us to get distracted here. Nowhere do I say comment to everything or everyone. I am asking for a greater level of engagement and acknowledgment especially when we're talking about personal blogs. If a blog exists as a portal of information or as zine or resource site or journal, then I agree; I don't think a reader needs to comment every visit.

I am referring to blogs and network of bloggers who are interested in fostering community among peers. I am talking about bloggers who are reinventing what used to exist in message board communities.

And frankly, anyone who is too busy to acknowledge readers isn't someone I want to read. I don't expect a writer to thank me excessively for just showing up, I do think it is common courtesy to acknowledge your audience.

Anonymous said...

getting ready to post my own confessions for the day (trying to get back in the practice!).

i'm guilty of both lurking without leaving comments and sometimes allowing comments to sit on my blog without responding. i go through phases: chatty and not. sometimes the chatty lasts for weeks; sometimes the not chatty lasts for months.

it doesn't bother me if people comment or not on my blog or if it's a community -- i am really posting for myself. the writing helps me. the poetry helps me. the ranting helps me. having a teeny tiny audience (which comes and goes casually) focuses my brain and makes it easier to have the conversations with myself i need to have. if there's at least the appearance that i have a sounding board, it's more like a conversation. whether it is or not doesn't matter to me. i'd do it even if no one were listening.

it's ONE thing in my life i'm very laid back about.

farmlanebooks said...

I think the problem is that I am reading too many blogs now. It would take an extra hour or more to comment on every post I read.

I do like message boards, but have found them to get bitchy, and quickly degenerate into places which aren't nice to be. Blogs, as you say are like people's houses, so everyone seems to be nicer on blogs.

susan said...


Hold up. Back up, friend. The idea is to comment more not to every post.

Maybe I should start a challenge where we challenge ourselves to comment to one post by 5 bloggers a week.

The call is to support not to make anyone feel guilty or burdened.

Honestly, I think we can find ways to address this without suggesting extremes.

Amias said...

My dear Susan, one need not have an opinion on this topic, when you have made it so clear that even my seven year old "over achiever" granddaughter can understand. I so agree with you!

farmlanebooks said...

Great - I already far exceed your challenge, so I can relax a bit! I do try to comment as much as possible, but sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed by the number of great posts I read each day. I often feel guilty about not leaving comments when I have enjoyed reading the post, but if I can't think of anything helpful to add then I don't bother.

Posts like yours add to my feelings of guilt - hence the comments!

susan said...

Guilt doesn't serve anybody. My aim is to foster community. My husband doesn't like blogs because he feels they allow us to further distance ourselves from each other. Everybody is talking but who is listening?

I honestly believe like Claudia. People crave engagement. I want connection and whether we openly admit it or not, I think this world would be a nicer place if we made just a little effort to remember what we were taught. Be kind to one another.

...deb said...

I go through guilt feelings all the time about this.

Sometimes I start thinking about what I think, what I want to say in response, and then the light goes out. Either because I have to get to something else, or I go to sleep, or get off onto another thing i absolutely must do.

I wish I were better.

And like Carolee, I go through more-chatty less-chatty times.

And your posts is getting me to thinking, and I will want to come back and say more, but ... I might not.

I think it is great when bloggers respond directly to each persons comment.

I always want to better at it.

susan said...

Deb, but you've already said plenty. Thanks for responding.

January said...

I have to say, I agree with Giggles and Carolee.

I started blogging to stay connected with my creative side. The comments are a bonus for me. It's hard to keep up and check in with responders. But I do, even if it's just a short, quick response. And sometimes I just read without responding because I don't have anything to say—it's unfortunate but it happens.

But this is one part of my life that is very laid back.

Anonymous said...

Susan, I'm really glad you posted on this subject. Being relatively new to the blogosphere and never having enough time to figure things out, I often wonder about the ettiquette! My guy is quite skeptical about the value of online interaction. He thinks I should be more out in the world with "real" people... that may be true, but you can find like-minded people a lot faster online... There are certain blogs I love to read, when time permits - like yours - but I don't always comment, partly because I feel I am learning and don't always have something interesting to say, or something that will contribute to the discussion. But I definitely hear you, I really enjoy it when people comment, and acknowledging comments seems the respectable thing to do.

Steph Su said...

This is a great topic for discussion. I agree that the point of having a blog should be fostering a community. I may not always be able to respond to each commenter's individual comments (that seems to be something you're wonderful at, though, Susan!), but that's because I can't seem to figure out how to keep track of where I have commented. Thus, I find myself not usually checking back on posts that I've commented on, to see if the blogger has responded to my comment. If I want to respond to someone's comment on my blog, I'll usually just write on his or her blog.

But yeah, it really bugs me that some of those well-worshipped bloggers do not deign to comment on others' blogs. In those cases I think it's pretty one-way. Sure, I understand that there are far too many blogs out there to be able to comment and build a strong relationship with them all, and so comments sometimes ARE unidirectional. But it never hurts to try to explore as many blogs as possible. You never know if you'll stumble upon a jewel, or a person with similar interests and attitudes.

Oh, etiquette. *sigh* Why don't they have a class on basic manners in secondary school?

Shalonda said...

Great post Susan!

I am so glad you wrote this. Sometimes I think we all need a reminder. I created that challenge for myself and so far I've failed. I think that your challenge to comment on at least 5 is definitely reasonable and one that we should all be able to accomplish.

I think that part of my problem is that I tend to be a lurker (like I am on your blog)--reading tons of blogs, but not commenting on enough of them. But I love to receive comments so I need to make sure that I'm leaving them as well.

And I love that you always comment back to your commenters. It's something that I try to do, but again am not always successful at.

I think you have the right idea here, we all love comments, so we need to leave them, especially because this is supposed to be an interactive community.

Great post, Susan! And I accept your challenge!

susan said...

January and others,

I hear you and you make a specific distinction: your blog is a personal, creative space. I'm making the argument, that you also made your blog a public space, you invited readers to check out your work. You provided the option and in my opinion, you extended an invitation for communication with the comment option. If readers take time to comment, common courtesy dictates we reply. And how is the point loss that I am not advocating 100% response? Are we too busy to acknowledge each other? Are we becoming islands to ourselves, oblivious to everyone around us?

I will say for the last time, I am advocating we make time to connect with one another. That requires nothing more than saying thank you.

susan said...

Readers, friends, lurkers. This is a plea to be kind to one another. Make someone's day and leave a comment.

My blog roll has 100+ blogs (I also participate in discussion forums and trading sites). I regularly make my rounds to all so clearly I don't comment to all bloggers all the time either. In fact,with all the political and most of the poetry blogs, I rarely comment because I can't put an intelligent sentence together. Still, I make a point of letting these blogger know that I'm reading them even if I can't say something impressive.

missalister said...

Oh Lord, well I’d for sure better comment! ;-) Now, now, it’s not only because of your topic, but because I truly enjoyed this. I was on the rollercoaster with it. I know the high priestess Susan speaks of! I said to myself. Then, Ooh, I hope she’s not talking about me! Same with the talking to hear oneself talk.
Ah, well, I agree with what you’ve said here as a whole, and I make an effort to adhere to it. Although I realize, as a human, sometimes perspective gets skewed—and the things I do can look better from the inside than from the outside—the desire is there as is the recognition of community as life-thriving.
I’m burning the candle at both ends these days with work and school and helping my aging parents, so I don’t comment as much, but on my site, at the very least, my goal is to give commenters a personalized response that’s real if not one that makes them want to come back for more.

susan said...

Hi Miss, trust me, none of you here are the priestess. She is someone who has complained about a lack of support and feeling marginalized by fellow peers at the same time confessing that she does not comment to her own readers and fails to comment when she leaves her personal space.

Thanks for coming by and weighing. Real life does limit what we can do, but who was it who said do what you can?

Claudia said...

Hi Susan, this post has been on my mind since you put it up yesterday! Thank you for starting this conversation - sometimes we all need to be reminded about issues of courtesy and mutual respect (especially in cyber-space where anonymous tempers flare so often).

My sister and I originally started our blog thinking that if no one else reads it but us, that would be okay. But I have since come to appreciate the dialogue and sometimes, yes, I just want to know - is anybody out there? anybody listening?

I also see your fella's point about the way blogs have become self-contained "islands" - that is always a danger - but sometimes my daily life and the routine of work/home has become so isolating that interacting is the only...uh, er...canoe? life raft? that I have.

And one last point: I have found that I personally appreciate those blogs that let it be known out front that they aren't really interested in comments (or in the case of mammoth bloggers like Andrew Sullivan - simply don't have the time to respond). If you're not interested and the blog is personal journal, then why not turn the comments feature off? Or get a tumblr blog that doesn't have a comments feature?

susan said...

Claudia, that's what I said to my guy: if you don't want interaction turn the comment feature off. When a blog functions as a media outlet, prompt hub or similar function I get limited interaction or no interaction.

Thanks for responding.

Carleen Brice said...

I don't always leave a comment when I visit a blog, and I sure don't mean any offense by that. Sometimes I just don't have anything to add to the conversation. So that's my addition to this conversation. :)

Lana said...

I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on blog etiquette. I know I'm always very excited to get comments of any sort (though I tend not to respond individually to the calling card types). It's great to know somebody is dropping by.

Lately I've been doing my best to 'speed up' my response time and to make an effort to visit & comment the blogs that are leaving comments (which is how I found this one). So I'm with you - more engagement brightens both our days :-).