Comment is freeThursday, February 23, 2012
Most bloggers will tell you that comments matter. And if they don't, they're probably lying. In fact, I would go so far as to say they matter more than anything; more than visitor numbers, or pageviews, or sponsorship deals (a girl can dream) or any other arbitrary measure you might apply to a blog's so-called success. I love getting comments so much that I even put a comments goal on my life list, and when I hit that target I wrote a whole gleeful post about it.
Different blogs attract different types of comments, of course. There are the long, rambling discussion threads you find on sites like A Practical Wedding, where comments on individual posts regularly run into three figures as smart, feisty women share experiences and generally put the world to rights.
Then there are those hey-everybody-look-at-my-outfit blogs, which seem to elicit nothing but sycophantic "Love your look!" comments from a gaggle of blog-clones. This is only half the story, though, or so I've heard; there are also the comments you don't see, the snarky, rude or downright abusive ones that those bloggers, quite reasonably, send straight to the bin.
Certainly, getting no comments at all is better than getting ten mean ones. But if nobody comments, blogging stops being a conversation and becomes a sad, one-sided monologue. Or worse, a rant. Lord knows I like a rant now and then, but it's much more satisfying when you know people are listening. Instead of feeling like a crazy person standing on a street corner, yelling at strangers as they try to pretend you don't exist, you feel as though there's a supportive crowd nodding along with you, saying, "Mmmhmmm," and occasionally shouting, "Preach it, sister!". (I imagine. I don't actually know anyone who would say that in real life. But in theory.)
The trouble with commenting, though, is that it's annoying. It requires action. It also requires you to have something to say. And sometimes, there really is nothing to say. Sometimes I read a post that is absolutely excellent in every respect, and all I can think of to say is, "Great post." But I worry that will make me come across like some weirdo spammer who hasn't even bothered to read what they've written and is just trying to funnel traffic back to my own blog, so instead I say nothing.
Or I might have plenty to say, but lack the time or - more likely - the inclination. Since I read blogs via my Google Reader, commenting requires all the effort of actually clicking on the post, and then you have to type in your name and your email and oh God is that word verification and ugh that isn't even a word and then your comment disappears and you have to type it again and oh just forget it, I didn't really have anything that important to say anyway.
Commenting takes effort, and lately I've been lazy. I've consumed every word and given scant few in return, and that, my friends, needs to change. In the last couple of days I've been trying to up my comment game (did anyone notice?) and I'm enjoying the transformation from passive observer to active participator. I've said it before and I'll say it again: blogging is a conversation. And if you're not in it, then you're kind of like one of those creepy lurkers who hovers around the edge of a group at a party, laughs too loudly at all the jokes then skulks quietly away. And nobody wants to be that person.
I'm assuming I'm not alone in my commenting lethargy (because HELLOOOO blurkers - I know there are way more people who read this blog than comment on it) so here, exclusively for you, are my top tips for making commenting a little bit more appealing. You're welcome.
1. Be accessible! If you have your own blog, for the love of all that is beautiful, please DITCH THE WORD VERIFICATION. Seriously. It's an extremely irritating solution to what, for most of us, is a very minor problem. In my experience, Blogger correctly screens out spam comments 99% of the time (they're not exactly hard to spot). In contrast, word verification makes commenting frustrating and unduly time-consuming 1,426,793% of the time. Please do not question my maths.
2. Get chatty! Blogger has finally caught up with Wordpress and introduced threaded comments, meaning it's possible to reply to individual comments for the first time. As a blogger, this means I can respond to questions and engage with commenters in a much more direct way, and as a reader it encourages me to read through all the previous comments and jump into a conversation. Or tell them exactly why they're wrong and I am right. Ahem.
3. Click through! My number one barrier to commenting has always been the fact that I read all my blogs on Google Reader, which doesn't exactly entice you to click through to the post and leave a comment. Far easier to scroll down to the next post, and the next, and the next... There are all sorts of ways to get around this, but the one that I've been using in the last few days is the Next button. If you use Google Reader, go to Reader Settings and choose the Goodies tab. There you'll find a little bookmarklet - a sort of wee button that says "Next" - that you just drag and drop to your bookmarks bar. Lo and behold, when you click it, it takes you directly to the next unread blog post in your subscription list. Genius! You can even have different buttons for different categories if you're feeling fancy. I love it because you're taken to the actual blog itself, so as well as making commenting easier - the comment form is right there in your face at the end of the post - it also lets you enjoy some super stylish blog design instead of the dull list format of Google Reader. Bonus!
So there you have it. Sorry blurkers, no more excuses; it's time to step out of the shadows, grab yourself a drink, and join the conversation.
Images: Dakota & Elle Fanning by Mario Sorrenti for W Magazine via Fashion Gone Rogue