Monday, October 24, 2005

Comment-ary

Scott asked an interesting question about comments--

Why is it that so often the essays that one likes the best, thinks may be among the best things one has ever written, get no comments?

Answering this, I think, demands that we answer a big question, What are comments for?

If you read any Xangas (the blog service that most of my students use which I have quit reading for a time...you can know too much), the kids blatantly demand comments, and the ones that are made are mostly just "UR so amazing! muah!". I don't think any adult blogger wants that, at least they won't admit it. I admit that as much as I enjoy compliments about and on this blog, I always squirm a bit, afraid that I am fishing and that I have somehow coerced you with some adult equivilent of "comment, bitches."

Some posts ask for comments more tactfully. The post is some sort of question, and you are asked to answer. You'll have that here soon, hang on a bit.

And while we're talking about you, it's also worth noting that I have weird feelings about lurkers. Somehow, I feel like if you know me in real life, you ought to somehow let me know you're out there. When you see someone in a play, it's only polite to say something. It's a form of the same thing. This blog is my first effort at writing for some other than academic purpose and so silence somehow indicates disapproval for me. I admit, it's my fault for getting to know my stat counter so well that I know who some of you are. This sort of comment is minimal, "Hey, good to find you here". Mojo did it, why can't you?

But I think what Scott's looking for is real conversation. You read a post and something about it compels you to relate and interact with the writing and the author. It's a hard type of comment to have sometimes. Witness the 99/Anonymous debacle of earlier this fall. I so clearly imagined that post one way that I think I just wasn't planning a whole other slant on what I said (Don't let this stop any of you now, the meds are working again and I can handle polite society). It's conversation, but harder. We can't predict what others will say, but we get to hear another take on our writing. I think that's what Scott's talking about. It demands the reader will identify and feel what they have to say is vital enough to the conversation. Frankly, I don't always have that much time or confidence. Sometimes I don't look to the internet for interaction as much as entertainment. At times, we are all just passive readers.

What do you think? How does it happen that a person works for hours to define exactly what it is they feel about a vital topic and I shelp out four sentences about bookmarks in three minutes and get six comments? What are comments for? What makes you decide to interact with a post and an author?

But please don't think you have to comment. Fishing for comments is so very Xanga.

14 comments:

Jim said...

You're so awesome!!!

Okay, that was lame. Sorry.

I recently had a conversation about this very thing on my blog, in the comments no less! I had asked for comments about some serious issue and got a whopping two, maybe three. Anyway, this other blogger told me that one of the highest number of comments he ever received was on a humurous post about how the futility of folding a fitted sheet is a ploy of Satan. It was side-splitting, and the comments were even funnier.

I think there is something to the entertainment thesis. Then there are times when I simply don't feel knowledgeable enough to comment-- (an example would be your own Prayer In Schools Emails posts which I thought were great, but on which I left no comments). Finally there are times I disagree so strongly that there's no way I could type something coherent or nice or both (that's never happened here, don't get freaky).

Most of the blogs I read every day I also comment on pretty regularly. I often feel like I comment too much--like right now! But in the end, it's definitely conversation that I'm after.

zalm said...

Xanga frightens and confuses me. So does Livejournal.

I know exactly what Scott means. Blogging can be a decent medium for conversation, but I don't know if it's a great medium.

I tend to go back and forth between serious and silly with my writing. I think people tend to feel more comfortable relating and responding to silly. That doesn't mean that the serious posts don't resonate with people. But sometimes when I spend so much time getting every sentence just right and covering every base, I wonder if I'm not leaving many openings for people to jump in with their thoughts. And there's nothing worse than pouring your heart into something, then asking for feedback and getting crickets and tumbleweed.

That said, I'm as baffled as you when it comes to anticipating what post will get the comments flowing. When conversations spontaneously break out, I'm always pleasantly surprised.


uvdvhju = Onomatopoeia for a sneeze in Urdu

Anonymous said...

ThAt'S iNsUlTiNG!
UrSoAwSoMe!
<333

how do you define deism, and what's your view on it? i keep getting different definitions, and it's really irritating.

miss your class!

-syo

Scott Jones said...

Great post, and great comments.

If I am a regular reader at someone's blog, I feel an obligation to leave at least one comment, no matter how minimal every couple of weeks.

I do love when the comments of some blog turn into a great discussion; I live for those moments on my blog and on other people's. Sometimes, though, I don't enter in because I feel like I've said enough on that issue already, or I have nothing to add to what's been written.

I used to get more comments than I do now, or at least it feels like it. Some argued with me, which less people do now. Some were Xanga-ish (I had plenty of teens reading). The one's I liked the best where the one's when the person engaged in debate or conversation in a respectful way. I really do want people, and not lurkers but people committed to the blog as community, to say about a post: "Did you consider this?" or "What about this?" or "I think you got this wrong, because." And, sure I like the occasional, "That was well-written."

Scott Jones said...

Also, there is the part of me that gets a little envious. Greg can post a really provocative theological statement and get three days of debate with thirty people contributing. Maybe because I don't phrase mine in as provocative a manner means that I dont' get that sort of engagement, but I really want that sort of debate.

educat said...

SYO, we miss you too. I have so much filing to be done and no one as eager to do it. I also saw my plastic mosaic thingy you made me last week and said a small prayer for you. I so hope all is well.

But when you use alternating caps, you shall be insulted. Bank on it.

Email me off blog for deism talk. We went over this, remember!? It's the watchmaker god!

Scott, I wonder if the conversation at Greg's is as much about the audience as the writing. With the assumption that we are all thoughtful writers (and why would I assume otherwise?), perhaps it's just the right people seeing the right stuff. Sometimes, like Jim and Zalm both said, the posts that resonate most with audiences are left alone. For example, did I ever tell you how much I got from your very old post on "In Every End, A Beginning"? I passed it to a friend who then passed it to a couple of hers. This whole group was at various critical moments in their lives (such a hard sentence to make plural), and they still talk about those words. Now, I would thank you for the post both because I know you and because I am more interactive in my blog reading.

I am so much more comfortable in the silly that I never really expect debate on this blog.

Now, let's debate. Someone tell me I am totally wrong.

Scott Jones said...

Yes, you did tell me. And thanks.

I assumed the SYO was bringing up deism as a joke, to try to spark a serious debate.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yes, I sometimes feel like I am talking to myself. But it's okay. I feel saner when I blog, even if it's just for myself.

Besides I've been noticing that almost everyone in the edusphere has very few comments to their posts right ow. I think we're all in the doldrums.

okhfe: the $$$ they charge on the damn Turner Turnpike so that it can be continuously under construction for the past 40 years....

educat said...

How many times, Ms C have I hurriedly driven to Tulsa, most of the way shouting "I am paying to drive on this road!?! I pay for road like this!?!"? Plenty.

I am all full of energy lately but oddly have little to say on the blog. Eh, it all comes around.

Jim said...

Okay. You're totally wrong. Let's debate...

The problem is, you actually have to be wrong for debate to start. But you're right, so...

YoU RoCk!

BFMEC (that means Blogging From My Easy Chair).

Fearthainne said...

Well, I suppose I should come out of lurkitude and announce that I read your blog, Ms. O! But I'm sure you had already figured out that I did, or something along those lines.

And since I can't seem to figure out how to make the blasted thing say "Melissa" instead of "Fearthainne" ... It's Melissa N, y'know.

Yay for a mostly-useless comment.

Wasp Jerky said...

Xanga frightens and confuses me, too. I've also found that Xanga users feel compelled to respond to comments you make on THEIR blog on YOUR blog. Argh! That's not how this works. Hulk smash!

Scott Jones said...

WJ-
That really bothers me too.

Tack City said...

I've suddenly gotten some comments. Sorta mean angry ones. This is the first time anybody's bothered commenting like that on my "blog."
I'd just as soon not get comments as get ones like that.