boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.



A few days ago, I was talking with my friend and fellow blogger Lou about comments. Not just random everyday comments like, "Boy, the weather's nice today." Or, "I think I'll have peanut butter and jelly for lunch." Rather, I mean comments on blogs. We both agreed that we wish people commented more often in response to our posts. We have the feeling that people are checking in on what we have to say, and we both wished that we could hear what they have to say. I myself am something of a serial commenter. I comment regularly on the blogs I regularly visit, and I even comment on random blogs when I'm surfing. Sometimes my comments are longer, more detailed, and better thought out than my own blog posts are. I think that's because the hardest part of blogging for me is coming up with ideas. When someone gives me a topic, I can usually b.s. on it for as long as necessary. So, that's been my m.o. with blog commenting.

I know that for some, refraining from commenting is a personality thing. It's just not your style. I can respect that--though, I'd still like to hear from you when you do get itchy typing fingers. For others, you just don't find my posts inspiring or interesting enough to comment upon. Believe me: I sympathize with you! But maybe for some of you, you hold back because you don't believe you have a worthwhile contribution on the topic. To you I say, that's completely beside the point! I rarely have a worthwhile contribution on any topic, and I've had my own blog for almost a year. Heck, the subtitle/description of my blog warns that all you will find here is "fruitless discussion and uninformed commentary". So, join in the conversation. Maybe you can practice here, hone your skills, and then take your blog-commenting prowess to more fruitful pastures.

For further professional instruction, check out this fun article about how you can develop the four techniques of blog commenting. While much of it is obviously tongue-in-cheek, maybe it will provide some inspiration for you.

p.s. I don't mean to intimidate. You are welcome to check in as frequently or infrequently as you like, even if you never intend to make a single comment.


W Sofield said...

I hate blogs that are self-referential.

Blogs are not really conversations. They never can be because one person controls the dialogue. Blogs are more like a lecture series. There are comments and questions, but blogs are not conversation.

Forums can be more conversational, but there, you still have moderators and dictated rules (which I think are necessary and helpful).

nickg said...

I grant that blogs are not the best format for conversation. But I don't think of them as lectures either. 'Lecture' implies a position of authority or expertise on the part of the main speaker that I don't think most bloggers claim. Some do--sports blogs, technology blogs, political blogs, in some of these the blogger might be said to have the intent to 'educate' her readers. But I don't make such a claim.

In some ways, all blogs are self-referential. You have to have at least a touch of narcissism to think that your opinions on whatever topic are worth much to complete strangers that you have no relationship with. That's why in my blog description I try to make light of the format and my place in it. However, in other blogs that I've discovered, I have found value in finding out about the perspectives and experiences of others. Though, that of course doesn't mean that they will find any in mine.

But, the way that blogging approaches conversation is for peoeple to exchange their ideas, opinions, and perspectives, whatever the topic and whoever brought it up. In essence, that's what a conversation is, I think.

W Sofield said...

Sure. I don't mean "lecture" in the sense of education from an expert, but rather -- there is someone who controls the conversation.

When you and I have gone out to dinner together, we talk and share ideas, and relate to one another as equals (in a manner of speaking), but that is impossible on a blog. And this can be rather intimidating for many people, I expect.

Even as I write this, though, I am very aware that there are many dynamics in process here that I am only beginning to understand. The internet is definately revolutionizing communication even more significantly than the telephone did. The implications are huge, and you're struggling to understand them -- I've seen some preliminary thoughts from researchers, but I don't think we've gotten a good analysis, yet.

Your question is a good one.

It feels to me like you are hoping to connect with people through your blog . . . no? Perhaps a blog is helpful, but it cannot hold a candle to a real conversation or a hug.

Speaking of which, we sure do miss you.

nickg said...

Fair points, all.

My friend Jeremy has said that at some point every blogger has a conflicted relationship with blogging. I think that's true for just this issue we're wrestling over. It is for me.

And certainly you're right; I'd much rather hang out with you guys on Sunday nights than keep up via blogs, e-mails, or even phone calls.

Mark said...

What's really sad is when someone like me can communicate, or thinks he can communicate, better through a blog than in real life talking. Then the blog takes on an exaggerated importance and all sorts of silliness results.
Somehow I connect this to the way it seems like most novelists and artists actually end up becoming totally self-absorbed, ruined people. Thier creative outlet (in conjunction w/ their fallenness) actually ruins them.
It's a sort of virtual world.

Rachel said...

I'd also argue that someone/something always controls a conversation: speaking face-to-face means employing some kind of etiquette, and, more fundamentally, means two or more people have made themselves socially acceptable (depending on their circle) and use a common language. Maybe bloggers stress too much the idea blogging is artificial? If face-to-face contact is as authentic in contrast to blogging as bloggers often-apologetically claim, then why do so many people blog so much? And why the similarities in topics and expression among so many bloggers? I'm a a typical blogger, and I've had just as many conversations about authenticity/control in relationships "real life" as ever I've seen on a blog.

(I like getting comments on my blog because I know people are reading for sure beyond the hits on my stat tracker.)

Great, now you're gonna think I'm the psycho essay-length commenter who visits your blog once, rants, and leaves!

W Sofield said...

I disagree. In a face-to-face conversation, we share control. When you speak to me, you are constantly reading my expression, body language, etc. I can (and do) interupt you constantly. We each have constant feedback to which we are reacting. When I type, ":)" it does not mean the same thing as a genuine smile. I can't hug you through the internet.

I don't mean to say that blogging is a bad thing (check out my blog), but that it is different.

Blogging is like a quicker, less thoughtful(?) version of the pamphlet wars that were common in the 17th and 18th centuries. This comment has taken me much longer to write, and is quite a bit more considered than a comment I would have made in person. That's a good thing. Hopefully it has more substance.

Again, I'm looking forward to reaping the benefit of someone's hard work in studying this new communication that is blogging.

Mark said...

But...this sort of topic wouldn't be taken seriously if it was distributed in a pamphlet, would it? (rising intonation).

I think you're referring more to the news/political side of blogs.

They also have a personal side, where a discussion like this one, about wanting feedback, is actually legitimate.

In one sense I would have to differ with you about bloggers being self-referential. I think that's one of the attractions, even for the more information/opinion oriented blogs. You get the feeling that the writing is being done by a person.

But if you're talking about the complete self-absorbtion you see sometimes, where it seems blogs give a channel to a pre-existing obsession with one's own thinking or activities, or to self-exaltation and self-promotion, I certainly agree w/ you. I'm quite succeptable to that kind of thing.

As for why people blog (I think):

1. It allows them to talk at length, in a monologue, in a way that, if they were to do it in a face-to-face environment, would get them thrown out on their heads like Brainy Smurf. (Not sure who is right in this situation--I suspect Brainy Smurf and the ignorant, non-intelectual smurfs both have their faults).

2. It allows them to do this when they think of it. Normally, in real life, one thinks of an interesting perspective on something, and there are too many inturuptions, and the person one is with is too busy to hear it, and the thought goes unexpressed. Blogging is a sort of dump for those thoughts.

Also, about face-to-face conversation, the actual presence and body language of a person can distract one from a well-thought-out discourse.

W Sofield said...

mark, good points all around. I completely agree with you. As for pamphlets, I think they do not serve the same function anymore than they used to, so I suppose the analogy may be difficult at best.

I agree with you about the reason people blog. Uninterupted monologue at a convenient time. I think you make my original point that we ought not to confuse blogging with real relationship. There are situations that call for uninterupted monologue at a convenient time (books, magazines, blogs, etc.). But these do not constitute meaningful relationships. Blogging is more relational than book writing, but much safer (less relational) than the pain, inconvenience and risk of a real relationship. I would also say that real relationships are far more rewarding, too. If I had not spent hundreds of hours with Nick and Suzanne I would have dismissed his blog completely. This blog is helping us to connect, but I still miss him terribly, even though I'm here almost every day (I've never interacted with him daily).

Random thoughts.

Mostly, I'm trying to boost the number of comments on his post about not getting many comments.

Abby Normal said...

I didn't read your whole post--way too long. But I thought at least I would comment since that is what you wanted in the first place...

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."