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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Comments, commenting, and fostering discussion in blogland

I had a whole 'nother post in mind for today, but honestly, this discussion prompted by Jeana at Days to Come is much more interesting to me.

The question that spawned the discussion is this: What is the purpose of comments?

Jeana makes great points in her original post regarding how, when, and why the comment section of a blog can be used. I won't restate all of her ideas here (as it really is worth a few minutes of your time to read for yourself), but I think she sums it up nicely in this sentence: "The comment section is a good place to hold a discussion, add relevant points, express that you can relate, or bring up a different side of what is being discussed." Jeana goes on to speak to the idea of using discretion in evaluating a blogger's overall tone and purpose of the post in specific, as well as the blog in general, before leaving a comment for the author. Again, I agree with her on all of this, and so I thought it would be interesting to take the idea a step further.

My question is, what stimulates you - a blog reader - to leave a comment on a post you have read?

In other words, how would you describe your commenting personality?

Are you one who enjoys reading for the sake of reading and rarely leaves a comment anywhere? Do you prefer to wait for a post to come along that really gets you fired up before you say anything? Would you say you that although you read a diverse selection of blogs, you are more prone to comment on the blogs of people with whom you have established a relationship, or are you more likely to just comment as the mood strikes? Do the limitations of time affect what you say and where?

I look forward to hearing what you have to say because I am a bit obsessive over my audience. Notice I didn't say over comments . . . but I do think long and hard about my audience before I post anything. I suppose it goes back to my days as an English major where every. single. piece of writing was evaluated (at least in part) by how well it spoke to the intended audience. For me, comments are a reflection as to whether or not I spoke to my audience in that particular post. I have discovered that within my unique audience, some topics like baby names and extended breastfeeding tend to elicit more of a response from my readers than, say, poetic attempts inspired by a day at the playground. Does that sway what I decide to post here? Certainly! But not to the point where I am going to focus solely on controversial or inflammatory topics out of a desperate need for comments.

As for my own commenting personality - this is an area I struggle with because again, it all goes back to audience for me. When I subscribe to a blog's feed, I feel that I am volunteering to be that writer's audience. Hence, if that writer posts something, I am driven, compelled, to say something. Just as if she called me on the phone to share a new recipe with me, or tell me the cutest thing her son did that day, or tell me about her crappy day at work . . . I would never just listen and hang up without a word. Obviously, these are two different forms of communication and don't require the same manner of response, but I think it is that writer/audience relationship that drives my need to say something after a read a post, even if it doesn't actually accomplish a purpose of furthering the conversation. Just so long as I say something.

Alas, I am a human who operates under the confines of time and don't get to say nearly all that I want to to everyone who shares their thoughts with me via their blog. And because of that, I am a perpetually frustrated commenter.

And double alas - I have gone on (and on) about myself more than I had intended! I so desire to hear from all manner of blog readers on this idea - both my usual, wonderful, precious crew and anyone who clicks over here from Days to Come.

What role do you play in furthering discussion in blogland?