Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Blogging...Is This a Conversation or a One-Way Street?

I swear I am not a blogger who blogs about blogging...no matter how it may seem just now.

However, what started as an I-don't-know-what-to-write-so-I'm-going-to-write-about-this post has sparked an awful lot of thoughtful dialogue and the conversation has drawn out all these threads of additional possibilities I hadn't considered. So! Yet another blog entry about blogging. I'd apologize to you all but...

This is likely fortunate for you as I had intended to summarize Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism tonight...through interpretative dance.

I'm kidding. I don't actually dance. Not in public anyway. Not even for the cat...very often. It scares him much like the vacuum does.

Anyway!

So my friend, Mr. Finger, a fellow (albeit very occasional) blogger and I were talking about the premise of my earlier post - obligation to our readers - and he asked me an interesting question...

Is blogging a monologue or is it a conversation?

Finger felt like the answer to the question I'd posed laid in the philosophy of each individual blogger about how they saw their space and how they treated comments.

Now, of course, I know it is not that simple. Based on the responses I've gotten in the last couple of days, I know many people feel no obligation whatsoever - comments or no - to say adieu to readers when life gets out-of-control weird and complicated as it's wont to do. Others hadn't given it any thought but, upon contemplation, decided they did think some kind of farewell (with or without an explanation) was a necessary courtesy. Still others were surprised to think someone might care if they disappeared (this makes me want to hug you all like Naked Jen would).

But! I do think Finger had his astute finger (heh...sorry, I didn't mean to) on the pulse of truth. Particularly with his follow up thought which was this (I'm paraphrasing but pretending it's a quote...artistic license), "If a blogger puts out content and enables comments, whether anyone comments or not, are they not inviting discourse? Are they not opening up their lane to oncoming traffic? If they do this, then it's a conversation and, unless you're impolite, you don't walk away from a conversation unfinished."

Heh. There is (at least) one blogger I know intimately who is, right at this moment, thinking, "HA! Wrong!" OK well...she'd be much more eloquent in her rebuttal because she is the essence of eloquence but she's not here and I am. I also know what she's thinking, not because she's a good friend but, because the Divatologist has already explained (and re-iterated) her thoughts and policy on comments.

However...

1) The Divatologist is the exception to nearly every rule.
2) The Divatologist is awesome at boundary setting. Jane In Her Infinite Wisdom? Not so much sometimes.
3) While she's not much for goodbyes, I do suspect there'd be an epilogue of some sort simply because she'd consider it something of a gaffe not to - like forgetting to place appropriate punctuation at the end of a sentence. Maybe she'll comment and set me straight *laugh*.

Now, I'll admit, while I LOVE getting comments - even though they are typically few and far between - I'm often terrible about responding to them. The main reasons for this are because:

1) Many blogging platforms (like my own on blogger) make it nearly impossible to reply to a commenter directly. My comments get added in chronological order to all the other comments.
2) Unless you're particularly savvy about how to receive notification that a comment has been commented upon (and I am not savvy), I tend to think a commenter will never know I've had any kind of follow up interaction with them specifically.
3) I personally can't keep track of all the comments I've made on everyone else's blogs and make the assumption no one else can either. Therefore, I struggle with whether or not I ought to speak, knowing the other person has left the "room", and isn't likely to be back.

Except...

I realized today that replying to comments isn't so much about the reply itself...the original commenter probably won't be back to check to see if I've said anything. The reply is, in essence, for the next person who comes along and has something they're compelled to add to the conversation. It's a signal to the next commenter that I am, in fact, listening to what other people have to say, that I acknowledge it, and appreciate it.

Also? I kinda think it's the polite thing to do.

Bloggers tend to lament about our lack of comments even though analytics suggest we've got readers tuning in and then we yell and/or beg for people to just, please, comment!

What was my point again???

Oh. Yeah. So I don't always treat my commenters with the respect I ought to...not because I don't appreciate them but because I don't expect a dialogue between just the two of us. However, I do think of my blog as a conversation and not just me spouting my ramblings and blasphemy all over the walls of my cozy cubby on the internet (I have a glorious window though even if it is small) thinking no one else is reading or caring if they do. I do care. And I would, if I decided to (which seems unlikely), tell you all I was leaving and give you hugs - I'm a hugger - before I set off to sound my "barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world."

So...I'm asking you. How do you treat comments? Do you think of your blog as a conversation (even if no one comments) or a one-(wo)man show? If you view it as a conversation, do you or don't you feel obligated to appropriately punctuate the end/long-term break of your blog with a statement of "don't worry, I'm going away/taking a break/I'm [fill in the blank]"?

I believe Finger is on to something but, for now, it's a hypothesis. I'd like proof to formulate my theory - which would be a lot less dry than Weber's theory of economics...at least, I think.

Just so you know, while it'll not be interpretative dance, tomorrow I might draw illustrations for you.  This should terrify you. Vinny, the cat, likes my drawings about as much as he likes my dancing.

Case in point:

Me being attacked by spiders. I am, in reality, much fatter than this.

I (am potentially getting ready to break said) promise I will not be blogging about blogging.

10 comments:

NGS said...

I do think of my blog as a conversation, even though I am the only one conversating most of the time!! I run on the Blogger platform and responding to comments is one reason I've contemplated switching (although I've been contemplating for years, so I think the inertia might hold on for some time still). I usually respond in my comments section, but I also try to find a blogger's email and email them if I really want them to remain in the conversation, especially if they've asked a question or written something more than "boy are you a fabulous and wonderful author" or "I hate your site design."

Sometimes I do go back to blogs to see if my comment has been responded to, but not always. But if someone does email me, I will usually go back to the original post to see what else happened in the comments.

Just Jane said...

NGS, I just seriously L.O.L'd at this..."I hate your site design." Because seriously...right?

nakedjen said...

Most of the conversation on my blog seems to have moved to other places. It happens on Twitter, it happens in email, it happens on Facebook. I do LOVE comments and I wish people would make more of them, honestly, because I feel like it creates more community and the thoughts of my readers are usually far more brilliant than my own.

Gaelyn said...

I love an audience, and therefor also comments. When comments come into my gmail I get excited that someone actually will take the time to converse with me. And if questions are asked I will try to answer them via email. Really drives me crazy when someone asks a question, not just rhetorical, and then leave no email address (the noreply thing). I don't visit my own blog very often so don't reply there. Guess I could but don't really expect anybody to check back. Yet there are a few bloggers I follow where I always go back to an old post because I know they reply there. I want to believe blogging is a conversation and not just me spouting off.

Just Jane said...

Jen: It's true, your community conversation has migrated. I consider myself lucky that you continue the dialogue even though you aren't blogging as much anymore.

Gaelyn: I hadn't ever considered the idea of responding to comments via e-mail! I'm going to have to consider that option.

alienbody said...

O.k., so..the second set of #1,2,3 - I am on the same blogging platform and feel weird about replying to comments because I feel it artificially enhances my comment count. BUT, then I feel guilty because I want to acknowledge all the comments, because I'm thankful someone took the time to do so. I'm SO small time that all my comments are still nice...no trolls. I'm also one of those peeps that thought no one would notice I stopped blogging (if I did), which of course your post changed. And, finally, I go back and check to see if my comment was replied to, because I'd hate to miss a question - if posed- and then seem like a rude loser. But oy, it's hard to remember all the places I've commented. I need some smarty pants to develop an app for that. *anyone listening or reading my comment that has those powers, well - git on with your bad self* I wonder how long it will take until you are sorry that I found your blog so that I can write novel length comments? ;-)

giaghani said...

Super interesting post! I like to think of my blog as a conversation and not my self absorbed corner of the web where I go to feel special and important.

I don't often respond to comments in my own thread unless the other person also uses wordpress because then it shows up in their dashboard (if they choose to look). But if there is a conversation brewing or I find something someone said interesting, I take it back to their blog and comment on their post. I kind of think of it like communicating in any other way, that person has opened the door so its up to me to follow it and go to their space. Like when conversing with someone, they don't settle into my brain to figure out what I'm about to say next, know what I mean? Probably not, that was a rather terrible analogy.

haha, but anyway, I enjoyed your post! Found you via BlogHer and looking forward to reading more! xo

Diva said...

I think I got to be the way I am about blogging and comments due to flame wars, starting with the bulletin board systems of old (was that really 20 years ago?!) to the average comments on any public site today. People can get nasty with each other out there; it's even recently happened on that pet project of mine, the Facebook page for The Church of Just Stop It (which is kind of beautiful in its irony, ain't it?).

If I've made it clear from the outset I don't care what others think of me and my writing, there are a lot less trolls and pointless commenting to endure. It's nice when people express their opinions once in awhile, but it's not the be-all, end-all of my existence. I can get external gratification on the social networks, or when I dress up and go out on a Saturday night.

I did check my web stats once..... because of a personal matter / psycho troll relative / finding an IP I had to block. Okay, twice, the second time at the Maestro's behest, with advertising dollar signs in his eyes. I put the kibosh on that REAL quick. *laugh*

So it's really a toe-MAY-toe, toe-MAH-toe thing, isn't it? Like in "Hamlet," both the monologues and the conversations forward the story. Equally important, just different perspectives. That, to me, is what this whole Interwebz thing is all about. *smile*

Diva said...

I think I got to be the way I am about blogging and comments due to flame wars, starting with the bulletin board systems of old (was that really 20 years ago?!) to the average comments on any public site today. People can get nasty with each other out there; it's even recently happened on that pet project of mine, the Facebook page for The Church of Just Stop It (which is kind of beautiful in its irony, ain't it?).

If I've made it clear from the outset I don't care what others think of me and my writing, there are a lot less trolls and pointless commenting to endure. It's nice when people express their opinions once in awhile, but it's not the be-all, end-all of my existence. I can get external gratification on the social networks, or when I dress up and go out on a Saturday night.

I did check my web stats once..... because of a personal matter / psycho troll relative / finding an IP I had to block. Okay, twice, the second time at the Maestro's behest, with advertising dollar signs in his eyes. I put the kibosh on that REAL quick. *laugh*

So it's really a toe-MAY-toe, toe-MAH-toe thing, isn't it? Like in "Hamlet," both the monologues and the conversations forward the story. Equally important, just different perspectives. That, to me, is what this whole Interwebz thing is all about. *smile*

simplyred said...

I would like to think of my blog as a conversation but I think in reality it is more a monologue. Since I use it primarily to post photos that I've taken or artwork that I've done, there isn't too much that really calls for dialog. But that doesn't mean I don't want comments, I really do. Otherwise I wouldn't be putting the things up for people to see. I recently had a post about the the possibility of discontinuing my blog because of lack of interest but had some friends who seldom post but apparently often visit talk me out of it. I'll never have a large audience, I'm not famous and not even remotely controversial, and the few comments I get generally don't need any answer. But if they do, I try to find an email address and answer them that way or I will answer their question in a comment on their blog since I don't think many people re-visit a post. And even for my small audience, I would post a "Gone Forever" or "Be Back Soon" if I were leaving or taking a sabbatical. It seems to me to just be common courtesy.

Just my two bytes worth.

(Ms.) Ernie