Thursday, August 18, 2011

And Now, A PSA for Bloggers Everywhere

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.

4. Blogfests

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!


  1. I struggle with responding to comments on my blog. I don't know why. I read every one, think about every one--I just don't get around to responding. It is my biggest downfall and something I realize I need to start working on after nodding along to your post. So I start next post--responding to every single comment I get--even if it is just a "hazzah!".

  2. A lot of people have different objectives when it comes to blogging. One approach will not fit everyone. If someone follows me, then I will follow them. One guy stopped on my blog today and begged me to also follow his. So, I did. I try to give every new connection a month. I show up and see if the posts are interesting. If I have something to say I respond. I also see if others bother to show up on my blog. If I feel like I'm not giving or receiving support or haven't made a new friend, I can always "unfollow" later.

  3. Oh, man I had to laugh at this. I had almost an identical PSA written and attached at the bottom of my last post (about word verification, comment moderation and making sure there is a link in your profile so I can follow back). I thought I was being a smart aleck and erased that part, but I'm glad you posted it.

    I agree with you on everything but the follow back. I follow everyone back if I can find a link for them. Sometimes a blog I don't think would be for me turns out to be very interesting, and I'm willing to give the connection a chance. I also know that I don't like it when people don't follow me back. Especially if I go to their site and leave a few comments and get totally ignored. What's up with that?

    Now you better respond to this comment or else. *shakes fist* :PP

  4. First two I've never done.
    Third item - I always try to respond to comments with my own comments.
    Fourth - agreed! Sometimes it about kills me, but I visit every single participant in my blogfests.
    Last, I have my blogger buddies in a special file and I visit them daily. (And if you guys all posted on the same day, I don't know what I'd do!) I also try to visit the blogs of those who comment, although once in a while, I miss a couple. But I really do want to connect with those who've taken the time to connect with me!

  5. Heidi, I have always really struggled with it too. But all the bloggers I see who manage to do it consistently are awesome and attracts a lot of comments. I think readers feel more comfortable commenting on blogs like that because they know the author will see it and respond. So it's my goal to be as awesome at responding to comments as Alex Cavanaugh or L.G. up there.

    Isis, I probably made it sounds like I am really picky about who I follow, but I'm not actually. I mean, I'm following about 150 blogs and I haven't been doing this very long. I'm always finding new people I want to follow. And I always try to go to the blogs of people who follow me. (Though I'm only human and miss some.) And if ANYTHING about the blogger or the blog intrigues me I'll likely follow. It's just that the whole "I'll follow you if you follow me" thing feels like a game sometimes that I'm not inclined to play.

    L.G., oh I'm totally being a smart aleck I'm sure but sometimes you've just got it let it out. And yes, now I have to respond to EVERY comment on this post or look like a total hypocrite. No pressure!

  6. Great advice! Would you be a Blogger Mentor on my blog? I think you'd give everyone great advice.

  7. Alex, you are hands down one of the best bloggers out there. You are the role model for a lot of us new kids on the block.

  8. Excellent advice! First two I don't do, and I try to comment on the comments. I do wish Blogger had a better system that you could hit "reply" to a comment. If I'm going back to a blog that I commented on to see if the blogger said anything back, sometimes it's tedious to go through several comments to find if they did. A direct reply button would be ideal. I think it is good if a person hosting a blogfest visit all those that are participating. When I participate in one, I try to visit all the bloggers that are doing it. I may not comment on all the blogs I follow, but I do pop in daily if I can.

  9. E.R., I'm not sure I feel qualified for that. I'm just a gal with a lot of opinions. ;)

    Christine, sounds like you're doing great. :)

  10. Oh, sure you would! I have all sorts of different mentors. If you're a blogger with experience, you qualify. And it will give you a chance to show off your blogger self. Email me if you change your mind. erittelking(at)gmail(dot)com

  11. I can be an awkward comment giver-backer, but I do try. Unless I can't find anything to say that isn't extremely awkward. Lol.

    I don't like the word verification either. I sometimes forget about it and click away from the page, thus losing my comment. Heh.

  12. #1 and #2 are big pet peeves although I've mostly seen them on bigger blogs that I follow and maybe they do get a lot of spam but I'm in the same boat as you. I think I'd actually leave spam up just to pump my comment counts. Or try to email the bot and offer them a guest blogging spot. Moderating is totally bizarre. Unless you have somebody who is tormenting you through your blog I can't see what the point of this would be.

    #3 I try to respond to everything but my blog is pretty new so I know everybody who comments on it at this point so it's a little weird to respond to them since I'll probably talk to them on the phone before they check back at the blog. "Uh, hi, so I responded to your comment on the blog." "Oh yeah? What did you say?" "Uh, nothing much." "So I don't have to go back and read it?" However I do respond to often in preparation for when strangers do comment.

    #5. I always click on and try to find the blogs of people that comment on mine but it's about fifty/fifty on if I follow their blogs.

  13. Second paragraph, last sentence is barely English. Should read: I do try to respond to comments often in preparation for the day when strangers start commenting on my blog.

  14. I know I shouldn't, but I had a good laugh at this. Mostly at my expense.
    First, I do the word verification thing because I had far too many stupid spam-bots. Second, I tried the moderation as well as no verification at all and could not keep up with the one and had too much spam with the other.
    I also used to respond to comments in emails, but realized quickly how bad that looked.
    I do follow everyone who follows me and end up being a lurker on most blogs.
    But I do try to comment as much as my poor brain can take. I also, if I do join a blogfest, try to read everyone's post who is participating, but have a hard time leaving comments.
    I'm a writer! This isn't an excuse, but I have to admit I get burned out on commenting even though I know it is crucial to my followers and who I am following.
    I am always open to discussion, even if I do force you to prove you are human. Damn those evil bots. XD
    Thanks for venting, made me realize I do need to be a little more open and relaxed. I do need to follow up on comments and keep the discussions going. ;) Aren't soapboxes great?

  15. Cookie, I've done the same thing. That's the main reason I hate it.

  16. Caledonia Lass, well, if you're really getting that much spam I guess I'll let it slide. ;) And to clarify, I'm talking about people who HOST blogfests, not people who sign up for them. If you're the host then I think you absolutely should visit every entry, even if it takes you a while. (Though obviously things like the A to Z Challenge call for different handling.)

  17. I used to have Word Verification up; I took that one down for the A-Z Blogging Challenge since so many people were warning against using it, and didn't put it back up. Never moderated comments.

    I try to respond to every comment I get in the thread itself, though it sometimes takes me until the next day to reply to all of them.

    I do try to follow and comment back on blogs whose authors have visited mine. That's why I often get frustrated when they don't have a link in their Blogger or Google Friend Connect profile.

  18. Glad to see I'm not the only one who gets irritated when I see that my comment needs to be approved. It just rubs me the wrong way. Word verification, that depends on my mood. Sometimes I hate it, other times I just don't care.

    I know I don't always comment on people's blogs I follow but I do try to look at them, scroll through on google reader and see if any interest me. If I can't think of a good comment sometimes I just hit the g+1 or tweet it and try to include the person's twitter name so they know I saw the link and thought it was worth something.

  19. I admit it. I am a reply through email blogger. And I haven't even been very good at that recently. I go through spurts where I do really great, but then life happens and I don't blog at all, let alone interact with people.

    I do have to say I appreciate the references to Dune and Ella Enchanted. Some of my favorites.

  20. Kayeleen, did I reference Ella Enchanted? Referencing Dune was conscious, but I can't see where I referenced Ella.

    I hope my little rant isn't making everyone feel like they need to defend their blogging habits. I'm really not trying to point fingers. And I'd say that the majority of bloggers I've encountered are great. :)

  21. I pretty much feel the same way you do. I haven't participated in any blogfests yet, but if wouldn't make me feel good if I wasn't acknowledged.
    Sometimes I don't leave a reply to comments on my blog for a day because, like you said, there are times when we're so tired it's hard to form a decent sentence. The point I can relate to the most, though, is the last one. I've also had this happen to me, leaving comment after comment, but never once having that blogger reply or stop by and say hello. Like you said, it should be interactive, unless the blogger has thousands of followers and then it's understandable that they can't reply to that many people.

    I think you'd be great a good blogger mentor on ER KIng's blog. You definitely make a lot of excellent points.

  22. Lyn, blogfests are a blast and a great way to meet new bloggers. It gives you a bit of common ground from the start- whatever the blogfest was about. I almost always walk away from a blogfest with new followers and new blogs to follow.

  23. I don't mind if they don't comment on my comments as long as I get an email or something. Ditto on the verification...I hate that...and when I have to wait to have my comment approved before it's I'm cursing onto a page. I know it's part of blogger...makes me wonder if they just don't realize they can change it. :)

  24. I disabled the spam captcha thingy on my blog for the reason that you mentioned -- it's off-putting, and an extra step that people shouldn't have to take. However, wordpress has akismet spam-blocker installed for every site, which usually catches the spam messages I'd otherwise receive.

    I do have comment moderation turned on, but it only alerts me when there are new commenters on the blog. I actually like this feature, partly because I have a fear of trolls coming around to spoil the party, and I'd like to stop them in their tracks before their yuckiness gets published. I also like it because it's an easy way to track new visitors to the blog. Once a commenter is 'approved,' so to speak, they can reply without any moderation necessary.

    And I do try to respond to everyone who comments (thanks for your comment a few days ago, btw!), though there's sometimes a lag time. Some days I'm just so wiped out that I can't string together a decent sentence. I do wish that there was an easier way for me to track whether or not someone has responded to my comment without having to subscribe to EVERY comment that is left on that particular blog post. For that reason, I've found Twitter to be a much easier means of actually having a conversation.

  25. Laila, it's possible that they don't realize. I don't remember what the default settings are. Maybe I'll manage to educate a few people with this post.

    Jamila, can't you just see all the comments on your dashboard? Yes, that means you have to check it, but you have to check something anyway. Personally, I can't stand Twitter and will never use it.

  26. :-) This nails just about everything, and I appreciate that it was written in a diplomatic way rather than as a cussing rant. I'm guilty of a few of these things, but I do try to correct them. (Look how long it took me for to get here! Sorry...) I would like 2 make 2 points:

    1. I have run across a handful of people who comment but do not leave a link to their blog, and when I click on their profile there's no link to their blog either. I have, on occasion, taken the time to Google them and track them down that way, but I really don't have the time to do that for everyone.

    2.I do try and reply to comments, as well as keep up with blogs (like you, I probably follow 150+.), but when time is crunched and I can only do one or the other, I will generally place a priority on visiting their blog and commenting.

    3. I do really loathe those Captcha things. I've had comments I left (long ones) lost because of it, and I don't bother to redo it. It's frustrating.

  27. I know it's been a few days since you've posted this, and I already commented--I just wanted to drop you a line to say that this post really changed my view about things. I've been responding to every comment on my blog, and I LOVE doing it. I always saw it as work before, but I was so wrong. Thank you!

  28. When I started my blog a few weeks ago I turned off comment moderation. Then spam started appearing, a little at first, then a lot. I haven't seen word verification on Wordpress, so I turned on first time comment moderation (only check the first time you post, once approved, always approved).

    Because I'm getting twenty something spam posts a day now. No idea why. It's annoying enough to find them in my inbox. I'd totally hate to have to go and remove them from the site.

    Just wanted to provide an alternate perspective on why some kind of verification is necessary. If you have alternative suggestions, I'd be interested. I'd just as soon not have to continuously deal with all the spam.


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