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One Year Anniversary Review: Comments on Comments

Comments were one of the main reasons I started exploring various Content Management Systems (CMS) a few years ago. After 10 years with a static website, I wanted feedback. I wanted interaction. Sites were just beginning to offer comments outside of guest books and contact forms, and I craved a responsive and interactive audience.

A website that just sits there, hosting information, is little better than a billboard along the information highway. A page in a book at the back of the library. It may get read once in a while, but do we ever know what people think about what they are reading?

Comments change how you write and what you write. I suddenly wasn’t writing static information. People could question what I said. They could make me think and reconsider my point of view. They could offer more information to add value to my words. And most of all, they could inspire me to write more. Comments made writing come alive.

I started writing to encourage comments, to ask questions of my audience, to inspire them to comment and consider the words before them as more than just static words on a virtual page. They had to respond.

As my writing on this blog expanded beyond the technical aspects of WordPress, the issues of comments kept coming up. I needed to learn to include managing comments into my daily online activity and blog management. I had to learn to deal with comment spam, but I also had to learn to deal with people saying nice things, making me blush and feel unworthy. I had to decide if what people asked or said was worth investigating fully for a new article or simply referring them to someone else, or just letting it sit there for someone else to answer.

Comments started to impact my self-esteem. If I wrote something that attracted a dozen comments, it was an adrenaline rush. Addictive. I wanted more. Then I’d get no comments for a week and feel ignored and slighted. No one cared. I’d then get excited about comment spam. It was a response, right?

I loathed people saying mean and nasty things, or at least inappropriate to the topic. I hated the internal debate I underwent to decide if their inclusion on this blog was for “freedom of speech”, “fear of retribution if deleted”, or of any value at all and worthy of removal.

As I processed the issues around comments, I shared my thoughts and lessons with you, my reader. We talked what comments are and what kinds of comments are left on blogs. How to decide if a comment is worthy of public display, and how to remove it, as well as how to establish a comment policy on your blog so those decisions are consistent and purposeful.

Over time, we shared opinions and information on the growing freedom of speech protections on blog comments, and the growing loss of freedom of speech on those same comments, battled in the courts and governments around the world. We discussed the types of comments we like, how to encourage people to comment, how to defend ourselves (or not) within our comments, and how to respond to comments.

Notice that I’m saying “we”. The biggest change on the Internet in the past three years is the “we” factor. We’re not just interconnected with links, we are now having a dialog with each other. We make recommendations on what to read and write about. We share our thoughts and opinions.

And the world has gotten smaller with this new “we” factor that arrived with the blogging phenomenon. My Sitemeter account has a feature to show you who is “online on my blog” at any moment. It’s an amazing thing to see one person from New York, the next from Alaska, another from India, then Australia, UK, France, Sweden, Netherlands, California, Singapore, and all the different countries from which my visitors sit in front of their computers and read my humble words.

These people are talking to me through my comments. I’ve gotten to know them, some well enough to call friends. We discuss these topics. We take turns adding to the conversation, exchanging ideas, challenging thinking, and participating in the process.

My site isn’t about “me” or “my opinion” any more. It’s about what I have to say and you say back and I say, and then she says, and he says, and he says to her, and she reconsiders, and I jump in with my two shekels, and then he responds with another view…and it keeps going on. Some of these conversations never end. I’m still having discussions on topics I wrote 11 months ago.

Over the past year we have shared a lot about our thoughts and feelings about comments and here are some highlights:

Articles About Comments

Have comments on your websites and blogs changed your web experience? Are you writing differently with comments in mind? How do you challenge your readers to write back? Is it important to you?

If you have been around long enough to remember static websites verses interactive blogs, how have comments changed your online experience? Do you have any comments on comments?


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

4 Comments

  1. CVK
    Posted August 18, 2006 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Hey Lorelle, this is not directly related to your post, but I wanted to share with you a useful plug-in I found recently. (I’m the one who asked a few days back whether you were using some kind of plug-in for your “related articles” section.)

    There’s a plug-in here that I just installed:
    http://erwin.terong.com/2005/09/24/wp-plugin-related-posts-link/

    On the “Write” page, it creates a link on the upper right-hand corner, if you click it, a pop-up window comes up with all your past posts. You can check the boxes next to the posts you want to appear in the “related posts” section, and it’ll populate it automatically.

    Also the nice thing is that it only shows up on the single page/post view, so you can avoid cluttering your homepage too much.

  2. Posted August 18, 2006 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Neat. I’ve been using the WASABI Related Posts WordPress Plugin for ages on my other full version WordPress sites. For the most part, I don’t have to do anything. The Plugin automatically generates a list of related sites based upon keywords. Like other template tag driven WordPress Plugins, you can also put it where and when you want your related posts to appear.

    It works really well, though I like the idea of choosing my related posts. Wish there was something like that for WordPress.com blogs.

    And yet, while I think about it, on this blog alone I have over 800 posts so far. That means that popup window would have a VERY long list to plow through. Without search functions and categorizing of the posts, this could be a huge task.

    I ask so much. ;-)

  3. Posted August 18, 2006 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Wow! So true. I started blogging as an adoptive parent to encourage others going through infertility and considering adopting, etc. etc. Through the comments on my blog I have gained a deeper understanding of adopton and learned from the perspectives of those on “the other side” so to speak. I am doubtful this would have occurred in my life had it not been for my blog and those that have bravely commented and challenged my thinking.

    I had started a static website, and meant for the blog to simply be an extension of that. Instead, I have virtually abandoned the static site and focus all time & energy available on the blog. As mentioned above, it has not only changed my online experience, but my life as well.

  4. Posted August 18, 2006 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Comments started to impact my self-esteem. If I wrote something that attracted a dozen comments, it was an adrenaline rush. Addictive. I wanted more. Then I’d get no comments for a week and feel ignored and slighted. No one cared. I’d then get excited about comment spam. It was a response, right?

    So true. Some people blog for the ad money, some people blog to earn more hits – but for many, it’s all about the reader interaction and focus on ‘community’. A lovely post Lorelle :^)


13 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  5. [...] Lorelle explains how a blogger writes to encourage comments: Comments change how you write and what you write. I suddenly wasn’t writing static information. People could question what I said. They could make me think and reconsider my point of view. They could offer more information to add value to my words. And most of all, they could inspire me to write more. Comments made writing come alive. [...]

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