June 5, 2008

Hello? Are you there?

Honduran chihuahua pupsOn the outside looking in

My question about why some bloggers don't respond to comments turned into something of a hot topic. It was taken up by Theresa in Mexico and other bloggers. Theresa and I both received some enlightening comments.

It seems that some bloggers just didn't see the importance of it or didn't think that readers go back to read the comments. Some new bloggers weren't aware when people left comments. Others felt that there wasn't much to say sometimes other than "thank you for commenting" and they worried that that would get boring. Some worry that they can't think of anything witty or clever with which to reply. And lots of us just don't always have the time and don't want to turn our blog into a job.

All good reasons and I've felt the same way many times. I certainly understand that not every comment needs a reply from the author nor is it expected by the reader. We all have to do what is right for us based on our own personal style. I don't think (at least that I'm aware) there are any rules of blogging.

I am sorry that the original question was twisted a little, sometimes through misunderstanding, but on at least one blog, a real spin was put on the question which sounded a little defensive. :-) Neither Theresa or I were suggesting that it is a requirement to reply to every question or that our feelings were hurt if a blogger doesn't reply to a comment, or that any blogger should feel guilty for whatever choices they make. That's just silly, as is talking about bloggers keeping score. I think most people agree that most of the time, they don't expect a reply or even return to read the comments to see if there is one. I think that most bloggers agree that it gets harder and harder to do the more popular your blog gets.

We were also both referring to bloggers posting a comment on their own blog, not sending a private email to the commenter, nor were we asking why readers do or do not leave comments. Lots of good comments were made about time constraints that I can really identify with. I'm getting to the point where I'm going to have to make some decisions about just what I can and can't do anymore.

said this: "I think a blog is a communicative social and interactive tool, if you are not going to reply to comments, you are closing that door. If you don't want to reply, then turn off comments altogether. Just my humble opinion of course." There is some expectation of interaction with a blog, especially when someone is writing about their own life. The ease of interaction is what sets apart a blog from a website.

I can't define when a comment should get a reply because there are so many variables. I doubt that most of my blog comments are reply-worthy but I certainly admire the people whose are! If I had any particular blogs in mind, it was some newer or lesser known blogs who aren't getting any or hardly any comments. It just seemed odd to me but I think thanks to the responses I now have a better understanding.

I thought of a couple of analogies that might help to explain what I was writing about. The first was those commercials on TV were the cell signal gets cut off. The person who has made a joke or asked a question is panicking because the other person isn't saying anything. If you give your opinion about something to someone over the telephone and there is dead air in response, don't you wonder if they even heard you, they aren't interested, they think you are an idiot, or just what the situation is? "Hello? Are you still there?" is the natural response. And, please, I'm not referring to "Great post" or "Good pictures" or "Love your blog" comments. I'm referring to a comment that really adds information or a different viewpoint to the subject at hand and deserves at least an acknowledgment in my book.

Another analogy is, say, a party. A blogger is like the host or hostess. You may get 15 comments over the evening saying how nice your house is or thanking you for the invitation, but common courtesy requires that you respond. You can't always think of something clever to say, but you can't just greet their comment with a blank stare, can you? Oops. Well, maybe some can.

Let's say at that same party, a dozen or so people are standing around discussing something. Since they have the benefit of seeing and hearing all the other people when they speak, they see a smile, a nod of agreement, a surprised look, a frown of disapproval, or hear a giggle or a hmmmph! or an opposing viewpoint. They get some feedback. Commenters don't have that unless the blogger replies.

Here again, let me stress that I think bloggers should do whatever fits their personality. Different blogs have different purposes. If someone wants to put an article out there and doesn't care to have a dialog with their readers, that is what he should do and not feel guilty about it.

However, the resounding theme from readers is that bloggers like to get comments and readers like to get replies. So maybe it's a situation where you gotta give a little love to get a little love. ;-)

Most expatriate blogs are more impersonal than a party (but less impersonal than a magazine, Bob!), so it isn't a perfect analogy. Blogs can be as impersonal as the author wants to make them and that is for each author to decide, but for me, greeting the readers who visit and participating in the resulting conversations that go on in the comments section is half of the fun. I am very happy for the friends that I've made over the years and I doubt that I would have gotten to know the people I have if I had seemed unapproachable.

Hey, if someone considers himself a magazine writer or only wants to converse with a select few, that's fine with me. As I said to start with, I was just curious why some bloggers never respond to any comments.

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