Atmosphere for Commenting

31-Day Comment ChallengeRather than posting for every day of the 31 Day Comment Challenge, I’m summarizing multiple tasks into one post as I did for tasks 2 through 8. Tasks 9 through 12 all seem to be about the atmosphere for commenting on your blog, so I’m combining these into one post.

Day 9: Should We Be Commenting on Blogs?

I think if the goal of the blog is learning, then yes, we should be commenting on blogs and allowing comments on our own. Allowing and even encouraging comments doesn’t prevent other forms of conversations (like linked blog posts) from happening. It does, however, allow people who don’t have a blog to participate in the conversations. I think commenting can also encourage interaction outside our usual niches. For example, one of my friends is a web programmer. He has his own site, but it’s very much focused on what he does. He has commented here before when he felt he could add to the conversation. However, his comment wouldn’t have fit with the content of his own site.

For purposes of learning, I think leaving it open to comments is very valuable. However, I do understand that people use blogs for other purposes where commenting wouldn’t make as much sense. Just because this is what’s best for me doesn’t mean it’s best for others. People are entitled to create a different atmosphere on their own blogs; it’s their space!

Day 10: Do a Comment Audit on Your Own Blog

In this task, we’re asked to look at six reasons why people might not comment on your blog.

1. You sound like a press release.

Nope, I don’t think I do this one. I certainly have seen it though. Blogs that sound like press releases don’t just discourage me from commenting, they discourage me from even subscribing.

2. You sound like an infomercial.

In my normal posts, no, I don’t think I sound like an infomercial. Sometimes when I’m excited about a tool I wonder if I do sound that way though. What do you think–do posts like Diigo’s New Release or my Synergy feature overview sound too much like a sales pitch?

3. You sound like a know-it-all.

This is something I know I do sometimes in real life, so it’s the one thing on this list that most concerns me. Michele noted that she gets more comments when she gives incomplete answers and asks questions. I’m looking forward to Task 18 where we try to look for patterns in what generates comments because I wonder if I’ll see the same thing. Without actually doing the analysis yet, my guess (or at least my hope) is that I sounded more know-it-all early in my blog writing. I’m much more comfortable blogging now, and that makes it easier to ask questions and put half-formed thoughts out there.

4. You haven’t showed them how.

I hadn’t done this until today. I copied Tony Karrer’s First Time Visitor’s Guide idea and included some directions there. It will be interesting to see if I get more comments that way. That idea worked really well for our team blog, where most of our audience (other employees in the company) isn’t familiar with blogs. After six months, the guide is still the most popular page.

5. You haven’t created the right atmosphere.

This is something I think I’ve improved over time, although maybe it’s just the issue of a blog needing time to build up readers and a community. I didn’t participate in the 31 Day Build a Better Blog challenge, but I did pick up tips from others who did complete it. One of those was emailing new commenters. That technique alone has done wonders for improving conversations and getting people to comment more than once.

6. You just don’t seem that into it.

Nope, not a problem. I think people can see that I’m a geek and that I enjoy all of this without any trouble. 🙂

What do you think?

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while and those of you who have just recently discovered it, how do you think I’m doing in these six areas? Have I been honest in my self-assessment?

Day 11: Write a Blog Comment Policy

Done, and included in my new First Time Visitor’s Guide.

Day 12: Make Sure Your Blog Technology is “Comment Friendly”

No captcha, no moderation. Akismet is pretty terrific at picking up the spam, so I don’t need it. It does occasionally flag things as spam that aren’t, usually because a comment has too many links. I do ask for email addresses, but I use those to contact new commenters.

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12 thoughts on “Atmosphere for Commenting”

  1. Pingback: Comment Challenge Catch-Up « Experiencing E-Learning

  2. Christy,
    Great suggestion to help people draw connections. It’s the curse of expertise, I see the connections to visual communication in everything we do. But you are SO right, few others do. We are doing a redesign offline, so I’ll add this piece to it. Thanks.

  3. @Christine, I think you and I have some of the same issues with our blogs because we both cross multiple domains. The visual aspect is what ties everything together on your blog; it’s the lens through which you see the educational and training pieces. But it’s different from the lens through which most of us work.

    You said yourself recently that you don’t really have a niche, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that others wouldn’t see you in the niche of edublogs. I agree that you model training as much as talk about it, and perhaps not everyone sees that connection. A list of interests, or even something like “These are areas I think can be enhanced by visual communication,” could help people make those connections.

  4. Christy,
    I like the tone of your visitor page. Welcoming, yet informative. It was also helpful to me to hear that the guide page on the group page was popular. I’ thinking I may need to add that to our ASTD chapter blog I admin.

    I was also struck by your list of interests and what you do. I’ve had people comment that I’m not an edublogger, which has surprised me. I think of my blog as a training space, but I guess I do it rather than talk about it much?

    Anyway, you’ve given me a lot to think about around gaps between what we intend and how we are perceived.

  5. I could see the value of an “asleep” folder instead of just deleting subscriptions. I still might delete them eventually, but I could use that as a “probationary” removal. When I add a new subscription, I use “maybe” folders to see how it goes for a while; this would be similar in reverse. I don’t use Google Reader as my archive though. I tend to use my Diigo bookmarks for that.

    I’d originally intended to get entirely caught up on tasks in this post yesterday, then realized the post was getting quite long already and decided to split it. Keeping posts short usually requires more editing for me. In many respects, I’m better off publishing something a little long than getting overly concerned about editing. I think it’s better for me to head off the perfectionism early rather than give it a chance to start creeping in. I could definitely be more succinct myself though.

  6. Totally understand the slumps and that is when I force myself to write a post.

    I used my Google Reader as an easy reference source so if a blogger has stopped blogging I move their blog to my folder called asleep (which normally wakes them up). When I’m writing a post I often search my Google Reader to check for ideas and find posts that help me write — which is why I try not to delete blogs (unless they really aren’t working for me).

    Totally agree about the balance 🙂 . I suffer from long post syndrome so can’t comment 🙁 and totally agree with you.

  7. I went back to look at my stats again. It was November and December when my views were down, not December and January. Even though the total views were down substantially, I did still add about 10 subscribers in each of those months.

    Partly, I think the fact that I do the link blogging helps keep regular updates. It isn’t necessarily the best for comments and conversations, but it keeps the content fresh. The link posts provide a baseline for views and readers; how much and what I write for full posts is what brings it above that baseline.

  8. Whoops, I had fixed the link in the sidebar, but I completely forgot about the one in the post. Both should work now.

    As for frequency, I know that in December and January I hit a bit of a slump, as a lot of people did. I was out commenting on other blogs, but not posting so much on my own. I can look at the stats and see that less content = fewer views = fewer comments. Last month I had the highest number of posts I’d ever done because I was liveblogging a conference and posting multiple times in a day. (It didn’t hurt that Stephen Downes linked to be several times either.)

    This month I won’t have as many posts as last month though; the liveblogging was an exception. I try to aim for writing one or two non-link posts a week. That’s about what I’m doing now. It will be interesting to see if that pace continues to keep me at a similar number of readers and comments as last month, or if it drops significantly. So far, I seem on track with where I was last month though.

    It may be that there’s a minimum threshold for blogging regularity. If you go too low, you get out of habit and lose a bit of your voice. That’s where I was in the winter. Once you get to a certain threshold though, I’m not sure that more posts would get me more subscribers or better conversations. If I wrote 3 times a week instead of 1 or 2, would I have more traffic? I don’t know; I doubt it would make that much of a difference. I think I’d burn out though. I’d rather aim for a posting regularity that I can maintain over time.

    I think, Sue, that I just need to find the right balance–how many posts I can do on a regular basis, at a rate I can do over the long haul. Having some goal does help motivate me to write, at least some of the time.

    As for what I read, I’ve unsubscribed both for bloggers who write too much and too little. If a blog has gone a month or more without an update, it’s hard for me to get a regular feel for the writer. I’ve felt overwhelmed by people who write too much too, both in the frequency of posts and the length. Extremely long posts once a week are just as much of a deterrent for me as frequent posts, although it does depend on the writer.

  9. @Christy sorry but your link to “First Time visitor” still isn’t working 🙁 . However I did follow the link on the sidebar and you have written it so well. Like Michele the whole friendly, safe and inviting tone like a conversation has flowed through. Well done.

    Virginia made some really good points. Bloggers who respond back quickly to comments on their blog generally are very successful in building their blog community and you see that lovely exchange of conversations happening in the comments. Because of my own priorities I also don’t guarantee rapid response to comments but I do try to respond back to most comments.

    The whole debate of how frequently you blog really interests me. As I subscribe to more blogs I believe that the higher your blog subscription the less you consider a person’s blogging frequency. A bigger negative for a person like me are bloggers who blog too frequently or who upload too many posts on the same day (definitely in most cases a bad idea and better to space your postings over several days).

    High blogging frequency is a common strategy used by probloggers to build up readership — over time I’ve worked out for my blogs increased post quality has been better for readership than more posts.

    Well those are my thoughts I would love to hear all your opinions 🙂

  10. @Virginia, I usually reply to comments within 48 hours, but not always 24. That’s a good point though; timely responses make a difference. I do notice that when I’m less regular about blogging that I get both fewer views and fewer comments. Everyone in the comment challenge is working on commenting on other blogs, so I think we all should be demonstrating that interest in dialog. All 3 of those points are good though.

    @Sarah, thanks for letting me know about the broken link. It should be working now.

    Thanks to both of you for the compliment. I think I’m actually happy with the amount and quality of comments here. I do a lot of link blogging, and those posts don’t usually generate much conversation. I’m OK with that though. It’s always good to reflect and see if there’s anything I can improve though.

  11. I find your site very comment friendly. However, I think the list above leaves off three very important reasons why people comment.

    1) Do you respond to comments within 24 hours? Recently, my students did a week long assignment in which they had to participate in an online professional community. All the ones that complained about their “communities” stated that not receiving a response was their biggest complaint (something I wanted them to discover themselves so they will see the importance of responses in distance learning, thus the assignment) and those that felt welcomed did so because they were constantly being engaged in a conversation.

    2) Do you blog on a regular basis? People will feel more connected after reading for a while as they will get a better idea of who you are. If they know you are going to post once a week, then they will know to check back on that day.

    3) You comment on other blogs, thus showing you are interested in a dialog.

    Personally, I think your blog is very comment friendly and I don’t understand why you don’t have more people commenting.

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