Sunday, October 18, 2009

The C Word


I've posted about comments before; and BookNut also had a great conversation about comments, On Comments and Commenting. And at Kidlitcon 09, comments were brought up again, by MotherReader and Gotta Book and others.

Listen; I'm not disagreeing with Melissa and Pam and Greg. Comments are a valuable, important way to be involved in discussions; and it's equally important to go out to other blogs and talk as it is to foster comments at your own blogs.

Here's the thing. I think I downplayed some of my issues about commenting (or not commenting) in my other post, so I'm just going to say it.

I cannot comment on blogs at work.

When I see comments being given such a big emphasis, to the point where the emphasis has shifted from "commenting is good!" to "not commenting is bad" with a side helping of "you can judge a blog by its number of comments" with a twist of "you can judge a blogger by how many times they comment elsewhere," my back gets up.

I cannot comment on blogs at work, so to the extent I do comment, it's after work hours or a day off (or, perhaps, during lunch or a break).

You know what that means? Sometimes the conversation is over at that point. My point has been made by someone else, and I'm not a "me, too" fan, not to mention that reading and finding those blogs to comment on cuts into my limited time to do my own blogging and reading (and other real life things.) And if a person's question is particularly interesting where I would find myself leaving a long comment, I think a post at one's own blog (properly linking to another's blog) is just as valuable as comments.

I, and other bloggers, talk about how we do this on our own time. This means different things for different people; we each have our own lives, that are full, with jobs, work, family, friends, school, classes, etc. And we balance it in different ways.

And that's all well and good that some people have more freedom to comment than others. Or when they look at their hour to do blog stuff, they take that time to comment. That people are doing that is great.

I'm not saying I don't comment; I'm not saying there isn't value to comments. It's great advice to say, "you cannot sit at your blog waiting for people to come to you, you have to go and engage with people."

But I don't like seeing the number of comments used as a way to judge a blog or posts or blogger; and it's why I don't like seeing the number of comments being made such a focal point. Because, frankly, it becomes a matter of privilege; some of us do not have the privilege of posting comments as frequently and quickly as others, and those of us who don't will always be behind those who do.

I cannot comment on blogs at work. And in all honesty, one of the reasons I say to readers, "I understand if you don't comment, don't feel pressured to do so" is I know some of my targeted readers are teachers and librarians, and, like me, cannot comment at work and then don't have the time (or for some the Internet access) to come comment after work. I don't want those readers to feel like they are unwelcome because they cannot comment.

That others have the time, and use that time, to comment is wonderful. But please, as discussions are made about the importance of some things -- commenting, twitter, frequency of blog posts, number of reviews per month, number of memes participated in, etc. -- please include not the quantity of what someone does, but the quality.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Colleen said...


I would go further and point out that sites like Bookslut and Sarah Weinman's and Ed's and TEV and Maud Newton and on and on either do not have comments at all or receive relatively few and yet they are the ones getting visitors in five and six figures each month (not to mention reviewing for major publications, speaking at writing festivals etc.)

I email people direct on a post, or I link to it later, or I comment. But mostly I read and move on because if I take the time to comment everywhere then I'm not going to read many blogs - or get anything else done either.

And I find it hard to believe that I'm the only one who does this.

Lady S. said...

...with a side helping of "you can judge a blog by its number of comments"

Ouch! I'd have thought all the YA/children's books we read would have made people a bit more hesitant to judge the value of something by its popularity. If nothing else.

But yes, well said. Although it seems sad that you should be made feel so defensive that you have to explain why you cannot comment 90% of the time. Where's the room for different styles for different bloggers inclusivity?

Greg Pincus said...

Liz - as you know, the point of comments is participating in the conversation... and as you (and Colleen) note, there are many other ways to do that.

Popularity isn't really a key term on the web, I don't think. Influence and trust are. Comments, left elsewhere or on your blog, can impact how we're perceived, though as noted above, it's only one measure of that.

I think the key is conversations - whether starting them, as many of Colleen's examples often do, or continuing them - by commenting, creating posts, tweeting, or whatever other methods are handy.

Melissa said...

Completely understandable reservations. (Part of the reason I stressed commenting on less-commented on blogs is to get away from the popularity aspect of it.) And you(and Greg)are right: the value of a blog shouldn't be measured on the number of comments, but by the discussion. It doesn't change the fact, though, that I *like* comments and when people leave them on my blog. Human nature, I guess.

Liz B said...

I think we all agree that the connectivity of what we do online is important -- talking, relationships, interacting with people.

Do I like comments? Yes.

Do I like seeing people told they won't be read if they don't comment? No.

Do I like publishers being told to send ARCs to those with lots of comments, and being told not to send to those without comments? No.

Do I like seeing people complain that bloggers without comments get ARCs? No.

And I've read all of this, or heard it, both online and offline. No-one at kidlitcon said this! But I do see it being said and used as a value judgment on blogs and bloggers, rather than judging the content of their blogs and the totality of what they bring to their blog and the community.

SuziQoregon said...

I also don't like seeing the number of comments used to judge a blog or commenter. As you say we all have different levels of available time in our lives.

For me it's all about the conversation about books and reading. Some of that conversation takes place in comment threads, some of it takes place is a series of linked posts, some of it takes place on Twitter or in email.

A comment that is an entry for a giveaway is not conversation, it's a raffle ticket.

Bibliovore said...

Hey Liz

I agree with your points about limited time--in fact, I think we talked for a minute at the con about the pitfalls of reading blogs at work. I also agree that comments = popularity is a fallacy. You can have lots of quiet readers and they're still readers.

But I still feel like I'm missing out on part of the conversation by not commenting, like I'm holding myself away from others when really I want to be part of it. This is my personal feeling about my own commenting habits, by the way! Commenting habits are a matter of personal taste, like the books we like. But that's why I want to take more time to do so in the future.

And like Melissa says, I get such a thrill when I get comments, I like the idea that I'm giving that thrill to someone else.