Why don’t people comment on my blog?
What a proposterously titled blog.
The only reason I’ve titled it that way is because I know that’s what most equally desperate people will type into a Google search.
And, as those of us desperate types know, those who need a quick fix will scan no further than the first page of results on Google.
I’ve been thinking a lot about blog commenting this morning. Commenting has always been a hateful subject for me. This stems from a nagging and overbearing thought that comments on a blog post somehow illustrate a successful blog.
Is not having comments a bad thing ?
If you haven’t got many comments, you can’t be that successful, that’s the thinking normally propagated by the over-bearing smug fools who reckon their way is the only way. Their message grates like the way my parents finger wagging did about my nail-biting. Well, they created the monster …
Blog comments are the statistics visible to the audience masking the truth of blog traffic which only the author sees. Nobody wants to reveal the real number of people who visit their blog. That would be too humiliating. Those who do have potentially risk revealing the high opinion they have about themselves.
But recently my thoughts have changed. I know I’d ought to be less shouty and a bit more collaborative.
This change of mindset may in part because of WordCamp Ireland’s presentation on building online communities. It might also be because of the distinct lack of comments on the BBC College of Journalism blog I work on (more on that particular thing later on). And, only this morning because of a comment begging for approval on a blog post I’d written about Ireland’s Eurovision hope for 2010 – Niamh Kavanagh.
The overriding question from all of these contributory factors revisits a subject I’d dismissed before. What is the point in commenting? Do blogs really need to have comments on them if they are to call themselves blogs? Should blog authors really worry about not having many comments? And, if they should then what can they do to develop what is often coldly referred to as an ‘online community’ ?
Commenters are nothing but lunatics
Blog comments show that readers have not only consumed your blog but they’ve felt sufficiently motivated to post a response as well. This suggests three rather dark things at work.
Number one, the blog author has deliberately adopted an extreme position on a subject in a bid to provoke a reaction.
Number two, the reader commenting has their own potentially extreme agenda which makes the opportunity of commenting less one of free speech and more a chance to engage in a spot of potentially anonymous and almost certainly remote and detached.
Number three, people use comments on blogs to drive traffic to their own blogs.
Little wonder Yelvington claims that on a blog where free for all commenting has been allowed to emerge, “the lunatics are running the asylum” and encourages blog owners to go some way to develop a commenting strategy.
Why bother commenting?
Those who did respond (to whom I offer my grateful thanks) contributed the following:
@capn_b “I see blog comments as a ‘right to reply’ or ‘solicit contributions’. I don’t think they massage the ego.”
But if as @suitov reckons, “comments are there for shouting ‘FIRST!’ … or at their best, correcting facts or adding to conversation,” commenting might be seen as nothing more than an opportunity for the commenter to massage his or her own ego.
@loveeurovision‘s view bears this out: “Rather than massage the author’s ego, in my experience blog comments are to shoot you down.” Does that therefore mean that a lack of shows tacit agreement?
@statefare could well represent that section of society who are more than happy to engage in a spot of ego massaging, but the flip side of this must surely be that the blog post runs the risk of turning into nothing more than an echo chamber.
@suitov‘s view that “blogs are expected to be opinionated and comments respond by agreeing or not” underpins that danger.
Just like having a conversation in a pub over a drink, there’s nothing guaranteed to bring a social occasion crashing to an end than if everyone agrees with each other. Discussion needs opposing views. That’s the foundation of panel discussions like the BBC’s Question Time and what producers have to bear in mind when they’re fixing guests. LBC‘s many phone-in shows would flounder if everyone agreed with one another.
I’m inclined to think that for anyone to engage in a conversation there’s got to something reasonably interesting kicking off that conversation. Something @brumplum touched on in his response. But what are the potential readers of my blog (or any other for that matter) interested in?
What floats their boat?
Asking such a question goes against my very core beliefs. I don’t want to tailor what I write about based what I know everyone else is interested in. There lies a market stall on which the only thing for sale is my soul.
Even so, I’m curious. What are my followers like?
I’m after a tool which analyses the tweets of my followers. I want to get an impression – a word cloud – of the kind of words which frequently appear amongst the conversations of my followers. I want to bug their conversations, in effect. My lack of patience means I haven’t – as yet – found such a tool.
The closest to what I’m after is Twittersheep which analyses the biographies of followers and returns a visual representation of words common to all of them. My Twittersheep word cloud shows something I hadn’t really expected: a preponderance of the words media, social, news, music and web.
If those words reflect the industries my followers work in then I’m surprised. I’ve always considered myself a square peg in a round hole in nearly all of those industries. The shouty man in the corner interrupting the busier people with his constant whining. May that says more about me – a little too much perhaps.
Back-of-a-fag packet analysis
Thinking about it, I’m not about to start analysing everyone’s conversations. Nor am I going to track those conversations. I haven’t got time. And I’m not one of those internet lurkers either.
But, if my Twitter followers represent the most tangible evidence of my own community, what conclusions can I make based on hastily drawn up profiles of them?
- Media people are usually busy people who aren’t participating in conversations so much as trawling them to find material to inspire their own output.
- “social” in that word cloud must refer to “social media”. Itt doesn’t require a graduate in media studies to work out that social media experts are interested in sharing their social media prowess with other people on the internet who they perceive to be lacking in knowledge. They’re less interested in conversing. Perhaps they’re more like the bores who dominate the conversation at a party. It’s one view.
- News people are just a subset of media people and seeing as careers in news are dependent on good reputations amongst peers (and some of those newshounds have values like impartiality and objectivity built into their DNA from birth) it’s unlikely they’ll do anything more than lurk in the shadows listening in to what others say just like your stereotypical hack does.
- Anyone who blogs about music or who participates in messageboards will tell you that one of the inherent difficulties with music is that it’s a subjective thing. So I could expect some conversation surrounding music if I thought more carefully about expressing a provocative statement about something musical. At this moment in time there aren’t many blog post ideas which meet that criteria filling up my notebook.
OK, so it’s hardly what one might label quality investigative journalism but the bottom line is that it helps me understand. That’s what this blog is about primarily … me. Maybe that’s the fundamental problem.
But those followers are there. If Twitter is like a massive cocktail party, then having some idea of the kind of people the attendees are might help start, engage and maintain conversations amongst them.
So, the point?
This post was kicked off fundamentally by a question about why people aren’t commenting on various blogs I work on and in particular one attempt by someone somewhere on the internet to drive traffic to www.escireland.com. It seemed like a shameful attempt on the ‘commenters’ part.
Why aren’t people commenting on my blog?
- I suspect its because the stuff I write isn’t conducive to a conversation.
- I suspect I’m broadcasting rather than engaging and I think that’s probably reflected in the style of writing.
- People may not want leave comments and reveal their identities (in a BBC environment this is no surprise)
- Maybe it really is to do with size. Maybe I’m not as interesting as I think I am.
But increasingly I’m of the mind that online communities don’t start and finish with the blog. Participating in online communities shouldn’t be seen solely as a way of driving traffic. Indeed, driving traffic shouldn’t be the sole motivator for writing a blog. Surely the point of asking a question and engaging in a conversation is pursuing greater edification? Isn’t it?
Community isn’t only blogs. Necessarily it’s now in a supra-virtual world, spanning a multitude of different platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Bebo and old school messageboards. Where those conversations are conducted depends largely on the audience you’re reaching, the way in which that audience engages on the web, the way in which that audience consumes content on the web and the kind of return some audiences expect on their web ‘investment’.
Put very bluntly, there’s no one formula to success and it’s not an overnight one either. Like nearly everything about the web, communities need to be nurtured and nurturing takes the kind of time which belies the superficial immediacy inherent in all the tools we find ourselves using in our day to day life. Authors need to think about their audience every time they write something. And authors can’t start thinking about their audience until they understand something about them.
And that, in itself, is not anything new. Personally, it’s more of an epiphany. And it’s enough to put me off blogging full stop.
Best carry on regardless. Something of this research must have rubbed off on me.