First things first. I do not claim to be the most awesome blogger on the block. I don't claim to "do it right". I'm not writing this post as a blog author... except you know, in as much as I am currently authoring this particular blog post, but you know what I mean. I'm approaching this topic as a person who follows 148 blogs (through blogger, not sure how many blogs without that follower widget I have in my favorites, but the numbers are always growing) and reads a fair few posts every day. Of course, I am but one reader and these are but my opinions. Take them for what they are worth. This is my message to you, bloggers everywhere.
Things that Really Bother Me
Let's talk comments for a moment, because that's the catalyst that drove me to writing this post. Comments are one of the fantastic things about the whole blogging format. Being able to receive feedback right there after your post, and respond to that feedback, being able to communicate so directly, so easily with your readers, to engage in interesting discussions about the content you've posted. Comments are your first way to connect with your readers. There's so much opportunity there. But so often the comments seem to be a poorly used tool. For instance...
1. Word Verification
Yeah. I know. Spam. But, really? Are you attracting so much spam that you really need this? I know my blog hasn't been around long and doesn't get a ton of hits or anything, but I've never had word verification on and I've never had a comment from a spambot. I did once have blogger decide a comment from a perfectly legitimate blogger that I follow was spam for no discernible reason. I also once had someone post a comment on my blog to shill a contest he was running on his website, which I decided to mark as spam myself.
Honestly, I don't really believe that spam is that much of a problem. Not enough to warrant the inconvenience and annoyance of word verification. Please turn it off. I don't care if you embed comments or have a popup or a separate page for comments. I just hate word verification.
"Dear reader, please leave a comment! I love comments so much! They're the best! And you'll be the best for posting one! But first please prove to me that you're a human."
If I want to prove I'm human I'll go to the Bene Gesserit and their Gom Jabbar.
But you know what I hate even more?
2. Comment Moderation
This is the one that might cause me to snap and go on a bloody rampage at some point in the future.
I've read your post. It was a good post. I like you. I want to support you as a blogger and give you a little well deserved feedback. So I type out a comment. Maybe it's just a quick little comment to show you that I'm reading and enjoying your blog. Maybe your post has really inspired me or made me think. Maybe I write a long comment discussing the ideas expressed in your post and my own opinions on them. Maybe we could have an awesome frelling discussion. Except...
"Thank you for your comment. It might be posted after the author decides whether or not it's good enough for their blog."
I'm sure that's not what bloggers are thinking when they turn this feature on, but as a commenter it's what it feels like when I encounter it. And you know what? When I see this the first time on your blog, I'm about 95% less likely to comment again in the future. I'm also about 50% less likely to read your blog at all. Because you've effectively eliminated a big part of the point of blogs for me: connection and interaction through discussion.
I just, for instance, commented on someone's post that had been up since yesterday morning and didn't have any comments there. Then I realized why. They hadn't approved any. Wow. I'll think twice before commenting there again.
It doesn't get any worse than that. Though there's still...
3. Not Responding to Comments on your Blog
I think this is a really important thing and one that a lot of bloggers just don't seem to do at all. I read plenty of blogs where there are a bunch of comments but even a day later there's absolutely no response from the author.
And there's no excuse for that.
Some bloggers apparently respond to comments via email. Well, that's nice I suppose for those who regularly check their email. But only the commenter knows (if they've checked their email) that you responded. No one else who reads your blog know. To them (read: me) it looks like you're not responding. But even if I assume that you are responding with an email, it still looks to me like you're not interested in engaging in a discussion.
On the other hand, when I see blogs where the author personally responds to each and every commenter right there in the comments it seems like the author is open to discussion and looking for connection and interaction with their readers. In other words, it looks like the author is a more personable, engaging, person. I am more likely to read their blog. I am FAR more likely to comment on their blog. I would totally be up for meeting for lunch with this person and spending an entire afternoon in conversation about the ins and outs of the writing life. In other words, they seem like they could be a friend.
This is something I know I have to work on myself. I do put in an effort to respond to commenters and I say "Huzzah!" to anyone who really tries, even if they don't manage to respond to everyone. God knows that we are busy people. Sometimes I sit down after a long day and stare at the screen trying to think of how I can respond to a comment but my brain is so fried from dealing with demanding kids all day that I literally cannot put together two written words. But as with anything, it's the thought that counts.
And the principle stands: taking part in the comments on your own blog makes you look like a better blogger.
I love blogfests and I really enjoy participating in them. And I'm really grateful to the people who host them. I look forward to hosting some of my own someday. But let's get something straight. If you host a blogfest, you should comment on all the entries.
I know this isn't exactly a rule. It's certainly not written down anywhere. But it's basic courtesy. Yet recently I've participated in two blogfests where the host did not comment on my entry. One of those blogfests was hosted by multiple bloggers. None of them commented on my entry. That doesn't exactly make me feel appreciated for taking part. And if these bloggers hold blogfests in the future, I'm certainly going to think twice before signing up.
And that brings me to...
5. Ignoring the blogs of people who follow and comment on yours
Now, I'm not exactly the knight in shining armor on this one. There are some people who follow me and comment on my blog but I don't really follow them. Generally this happens when I just can't really find anything in common with them or what they write. Sometimes I go over to their blogs and read a few posts and I just can't think of anything to say. It happens.
I definitely do not believe in following someone just because they follow you. That's a hollow, meaningless connection. And I'll be honest, I only follow people if I enjoy their blog or if I feel we have things in common and especially if I think there's real potential for connection and friendship between us. I'm not looking for numbers here. I don't want people to just click that follow button like a robot, without thinking twice about whether there's something they like about me or my blog.
But I do seek out blogs that meet those criteria for me and I follow any blogs that do and I try to comment on any posts that resonate with me in anyway. But here's what happens sometimes...
I find a blog I really like. The blogger is a writer in my genre or a related one. I really enjoy their posts and their point of view. I comment as often as possible, especially whenever I feel I can contribute to an intelligent discussion on the subject of the post. But no matter how many times I do this... that blogger NEVER comes back and comments on mine.
And I'm not sure WHY. Do they even look at the blogs of people who follow and comment on theirs? Do they not see anything interesting on my blog? Are they not actually interested in getting to know other bloggers? What do they blog for then?
I don't claim to have any answers. But maybe at some point in the future I'll post a list of the things I think a good blog should do. (As soon as I make sure I do them all.)
In the meantime, don't forget to stop by this post for my first ever humble giveaway in conjunction with Sylvia Ney's Wonderland blogfest. You've got until midnight on Saturday to win!