Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 19, 2012 1:30 PM

This Disease Called Blogging

Why do you blog? Why should you blog?

One of my most favorite people is Gini Dietrich from Arment Dietrich and the always fun to read blog, Spin Sucks. Today, she published a blog titled, Responding (Or Not) to Blog Comments, in which she says: "...we ended up having a conversation about blog comments and replying to them. In fact, it's a conversation Mitch and I have nearly every time we talk. You see, he writes to write. It's like a disease for him. He has to get the words out of his head and onto the computer screen. He figures he's had his say by doing that and the comments are for everyone else to have their say."

No comments for you!

Gini goes on to define three types of bloggers and their level of comment engagement:

  1. The blog is widely read, but no one comments (Valeria);
  2. The blogger has his or her say and leaves the comments open for everyone to debate, argue, or agree with one another, but the blogger rarely responds (Mitch and Geoff); and
  3. The blogger replies to every comment left on his or her blog post (Chris and me).

Start with why...

Gini's description of me isn't (fully) accurate. I don't blog to write. I write to share my ideas. They happen to be on a blog platform. I don't consider my words final. I consider my words my own perspective on a marketing and media industry that is constantly evolving and very exciting. This blog is a mere publishing platform for me to do some critical thinking and share it with the world. Just because I don't actively respond to each and every comment, it doesn't mean that I am not reading them, thinking about the context and appreciative of the additional thinking.

The blog comments are not mine.

This is a bigger idea: I don't think that the blog comments are my responsibility. It's not a dialogue between the blogger and the reader. The blog comments are a space for anyone (and everyone) to add their opinions and engage in a discourse that goes beyond a digital two-way-dialogue. I believe that the best blogs are not the ones where a blogger responds to the comments, but where there are multiple people engaging with one another. I have the spotlight already. The blog comments are your space to shine. The blog comments are not about me and how I respond. The blog comments are about you and what you add to the discourse. For me, the best blog comments are the ones that add additional color and perspective. For me, the worst blog comments are the ones where the blogger is put up on some kind of pedestal and is gracious enough to be all self-congratulatory. That doesn't sound like a valuable community. That does sounds like a whole lot of self-validation.

When to respond.

I have not mastered this. More often than not, I publish a fully-baked idea. It has run its course in my brain, so whatever blog comments appear after that, I'm usually finding myself either nodding in agreement with or trying to better understand the differing perspective. I don't feel compelled to write a movie review after every movie I watch. I prefer to just let the content marinate in my brain. If something gets pickled, it either becomes an additional blog comment or a new and unique blog post. In short, I respond to a blog comment that stirs me to respond (and yes, I'm like that on my own blog and on all of your blogs as well).

A true sense of community.

A community is not built on my ideas and how you (as an individual) add a comment. My definition of community is a place where ideas are shared. If it's just my idea, your comment and me responding, that's not much of a community at all. If my blog post entices you to share it on Facebook, Twitter or create a video on YouTube, then that's the nascent stages of a true community - a place where ideas are shared. My writing isn't done to encourage dialog. My writing is done in the hopes that it encourages you to think differently about your business. In the end, this blog wasn't created as a platform for me to chat with you. It was created as a publishing platform to facilitate new thinking. I think this blog does encourage dialogue, but it's not between me and you... it's between us and the success of it is not driven by how many comments that I respond to, but rather how you think about your own business and where you want it to go.

The beautiful thing about it all is this...

  • If you agree, fantastic.
  • If you disagree, you are entitled to your opinion.
  • If you want to leave some additional commentary, please feel free.
  • If you don't, I'm not offended and I hope that you still get value from the content.

If everything is driven by how often and frequently I respond to comments, please know this: I am going to let you down. But, please know this as well: I read each and every comment and they all affect me (both the positive and the negative). Trust me, you don't need my comment to affirm you or your thinking. I'm not the leader of this community. I'm just someone blogging my thoughts. The community aspect (if there is one) is governed by all of us... equally.

Now, over to you...

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Mitch Joel

    This is an interesting idea - and I agree with you. But the rock and hard place in all of this is landing first of all on the content that encourages discussion (which isn't something easily found generally speaking) and what happens to foster the audience you need for said discussion. Is the secret posting about controversy? I hope not - not exclusively.

    Reply
    • I don't think it has to be controversial. I think it has to be relevant and engaging. That doesn't help much because a lot of it will be that undefinable "secret sauce."

      Look at me, responding to comments and such ;)

      Reply
  • Posted by Jack@TheJackB
    Mitch Joel

    My favorite commenting sections are populated by multiple people having a conversation that opens up and expands the initial topic.

    However I still like to see the "host" poke their head in too. They often have a perspective on the topic that warrants their continued inclusion in the conversation.

    Reply
    • I do my best to "poke" but I don't always do it as much as I would like. Finding the balance is not easy... even after ten years of blogging.

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        I don't believe in balance in anything in life. It's about embracing imbalance, walking one's own path and sharing and engaging in whatever way makes sense. I read each of your posts Mitch. Sometimes I comment, sometimes I don't, but I almost always share. Same goes for Gini's place.

        But it is kinda' nice to hear the blogger's perspective on it. With Gini, most people expect a reply, 'cuz that's how she rolls. Your stance is different. And that's the way the world should work. Different strokes...Cheers! Kaarina P.S. I "third" what TheJackB said:)

        Reply
      • Posted by Jack@TheJackB
        Mitch Joel

        I understand the challenges of finding balance. When I started blogging I only had one child and he was 3.5. The time constraints were different.

        But there weren't any other distractions. No Twitter, Facebook or G+. I went to blogs and if I liked what I read I blogrolled them and let it go.

        I am on the same page with you regarding creating. I still run four blogs and a big part of the reason is because I need space to just let the words flow from my fingertips without a second thought or regard for anything else.

        Reply
  • Posted by Eden Spodek
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch, did Gini encourage you to engage more in the comments' section?

    I second Jack's comment.

    I have to admit, I read a lot more blog posts than anyone would know by the (in)frequency of my comments. I too like ideas to marinate and if I don't have anything to add to the current conversation, I'll give the blog author props by sharing on Twitter, emailing a client or telling someone they should ready the provocative post that Mitch Joel wrote today.

    Reply
    • She did not... I was simply responding to her definition of why I blog. I don't think there is one, clear way to do this and I was just pointing out my own, potentially unique, perspective on it.

      Reply
    • Posted by Theresa Letman
      Mitch Joel

      Eden - me, too. Thanks for articulating this.

      Mitch - I loved hearing how you define what community. From my perspective, community is also a place that inspires. Which means that sometimes you'll trigger an idea that comes to life long after your initial blog post.

      Thank you for placing your focus where it needs to be.

      Reply
  • Posted by Joseph Ratliff
    Mitch Joel

    Why is this even an issue at all? (comment replies and commenting, not commenting, etc...etc...)

    If you want to reply to every comment... do it. If you don't, don't.

    I can see the opportunity to reply to comments only when it adds value to a larger discussion, AND I can see value to replying to every comment when your audience wants to talk to YOU on your blog.

    It really depends on the purpose of the blog. Some are for expressing ideas, some are for developing communities, and on, and on... and some are a hybrid of many ideas.

    There isn't one set of nicely boxed rules that fits every scenario IMO.

    Reply
    • Take a look at the 120+ comments on Gini's post... tons of differing (and passionate) opinions. I'm often accused of "doing it wrong."... even when it feels so right ;)

      Reply
      • Posted by Joseph Ratliff
        Mitch Joel

        As long as it feels right for you Mitch, and right for the purpose of blogging (for YOU -- and I suppose Twistimage)... then it's right.

        Reply
      • Posted by Gini Dietrich
        Mitch Joel

        Before I write my own comment (no soup for you!), I want to be VERY clear that I don't think you're doing it wrong. That was my entire point. There isn't a wrong way or a right way. It's entirely up to the blogger. I read your blog every day. I rarely comment. I think I don't comment because I know I can talk to you in other places, but that I won't likely have a conversation with you here. I'm OK with that. It doesn't mean you don't provide awesome content or that I think you're doing it wrong. If anything, I'd like to blog more like you...but you already know I have a brain crush on you.

        Reply
  • Posted by ralph
    Mitch Joel

    Mtich, after reading your blog (and occasionally commenting) I finally understand you now. This is a good thing. For me.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark
    Mitch Joel

    There is another nuance to the subject.

    I respond to nearly every comment. The reason is simple. I am blown away that people are leaving me this precious gift. In our stressed-out world, is there anything more valuable than A gift of time? I'm so humbled by this. I can't imagine not saying thank you for that.

    Reply
  • Posted by Laura Click
    Mitch Joel

    This just shows there is no right or wrong way. Everyone has their own approach and it boils down to blogging goals and why you're doing this. Some people really do want to have a discussion with their community and that's why the spend time engaging. And that's fine. Others, because of goals, time constraints or whatever, don't. That's fine too.

    For me, personally, I like to see when the author shows up to share their thoughts. But, much like you said, sometimes the best conversations happen between community members. While Gini does comment a lot on her own blog, there is still quite a bit of discussion that happens outside of her participation. And, I think that shows a strong community.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It's always interesting to see how different people approach it.


    Reply
    • Mitch Joel

      Laura, people talking to each other - I've read it described as the difference between an audience and community. And it will depend per blog, blogger, if they're trying to build audience and/or community; it will vary per topic and post, the nature of the reply. Mitch's description of fully-baked ideas; some posts are open-ended, ripe for discussion while others when 'finished' - there's not much else left to say.

      I really value comments, encourage them. So as a blog host, I take the time to reply to comments and try to spark conversation between others. Were I to ask for feedback then ignore it, that'd be wrong per my approach to blogging. And that approach is changing as my business goals shift, my blog evolves. FWIW.

      Reply
  • Posted by Rick Barlow
    Mitch Joel

    Very helpful, Mitch. I have been working on a couple of blog ideas, and the issue of responding to comments has been unsettled in my mind -- up until now. Your approach sounds perfect. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Well, I think I just have a very different philosophy when I blog or when I leave comments. I don't view what I write as "having my say." I look at it more as me inviting people to sit down with their beverage of choice. I get to start cuz it's my house, and I say something. Then I toss it out to the other folks, whomever they might be. And it's a conversation.

    When I comment on another person's blog post, it's usually because what they wrote really sparked a reaction (good or bad). But I still view that as a chance to converse. So when I leave a comment and don't get a reply, I do admit I am kind of disappointed, not because I want the attention or because I think the blogger is a d-bag for not responding. It's just that I am out here because I like to exchange ideas. You say something, I add something, that makes you think of something...

    To me, blogs are organic beings that change and evolve as people comment on them. That's what I really really like about the whole thing. I don't get up to Montreal so I can't just say, "Hey dude, let's get a coffee." But I can come here and leave a comment and hope that it gives me a chance to converse with you online.

    Does that make sense?

    Reply
Add a Comment

Please complete all the fields below, including the spam filter (to prove you're not a robot).

  1. Fill in your email address to have your Gravatar photo included with your comment.
  2. Please type the word pixels here:
TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.twistimage.com/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/2898