take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Can o' worms 

It seems that by writing a post about "How to be a popular blogger", I have inadvertently made my blog more popular (note that I said "more popular", not "popular"), though I realise this is likely to be a short term thing. I have had mentions on a couple of (popular) blogs, both of which have brought in a number of new readers and led to increased traffic.

My referrals show that some readers arrived by googling "most popular blogs" – the beautiful irony that they should end up here is certainly not lost on me.

I'm not sure that we reached any conclusions in the comment box discussion which ensued, other than that there is no magic formula and that I am a bit of a fool for worrying about popularity at all, but a couple of comments in there have opened a whole new can of worms for me which could best be summed up by the words: "comment anxiety".

Now, imagine if you will that you see a sign on a house saying "Friendly gathering – everyone welcome - come on in". At first, you'd think: "How odd? Why would someone open up their life like this and invite anyone in to poke around?" You puzzle over it for a while and notice that more and more houses have such signs - it becomes quite a common phenomenon. One day, curiosity gets the better of you, and you peer into the window of one of them and listen in to the conversations, although are careful not to be seen. You come back time after time to feed your intrigue. You pick up the vibe of the gathering, you find out what makes the host or hostess tick, and you decide that you like what you see. You note that people seem to be having fun in there and, one day, you finally pluck up the courage to go on in.

Imagine now that you've made that effort, you've turned up at the gathering, carefully wiping your feet on the doormat. You've brought a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates for the host or hostess, you go up to them and you say: "Hello, my name is... ".

What if the host or hostess then just ignored you and continued chatting to his or her little clique of friends? You would probably be a wee bit offended.

In likelihood, unless you were made of strong stuff, you would not want to return to that unfriendly place.

This is my attempt at an analogy of how I see *my* (and the emphasis is important here) comment box. By creating my virtual home on the internet and posting my thoughts here for all to read and comment upon, I see it as a little gathering to which everyone is invited; an open-house. If you have taken the time to read my thoughts, formulate your own and put finger to keyboard to contribute to the "debate" ( i.e. you have brought "wine and chocolates" to the gathering), then frankly, I think it would be rude of me not to acknowledge your existence.

Which is why my personal commenting policy has evolved over time so that when I see a comment from someone whom I don't recognise, I will at the very least say "Hello".

This is all entirely dependent on how you see your comment box. I see mine like a friendly conversation around a dinner table: intimate and relaxed. In real life, we would have the benefit of glances, gestures, nods and smiles to ensure that people's contributions are being taken in. We do not have this benefit in a comment box, which is why I make the effort to ensure that newcomers are acknowledged in writing. That is my virtual smile, if you like. Because of the nature of my blog - a small gathering of mostly like-minded people - it is easy to recognise newcomers.

I realise, of course, that whilst my approach works very well for my blog, it cannot and should not always apply.

For the more humorous, witty, entertaining blogs, the comment box may be seen more as a free-for-all at a comedy club, where subsequent performers will step up on stage and add to the "show". Some will have a compère on after a few acts but not always, and they will not want to disrupt the flow by welcoming each new performer onto the stage.

Some blogs are reminiscent of an art gallery. Many people go along to admire, but the "artist" is distant and may not engage with you, the visitor, at all. However, you appreciate the art, so you return.

I would liken the comment boxes of some of the very big blogs to bustling bars in a city, heaving with cosmopolitan people who may be organised in groups, chatting amongst themselves or shouting across the bar to make themselves heard. The atmosphere may be intimidating at first if you are not used to it. The bar owner is unlikely to be able to talk to all of the people who enter the bar due to sheer numbers, but may recognise some regulars and build a rapport with them.

So when you ask me to write a post on commenting etiquette, through thinking about it and writing this, I now realise that it is actually an impossible task. It is a "local" phenomenon - i.e. entirely dependent on the nature of the individual blog and its audience. All I can give you is *my* policy which applies to *my* blog. It has evolved over time as the blog itself has evolved and it may of course change in the future.

As we travel around Blogland, we may find other commenting cultures which differ from our own. It can be hurtful if you are not treated on someone else's blog as you would treat someone on your blog. But we must remember that our policy does not apply to all. And if there's a golden rule I've learned of late, it would be that we should certainly not take these things personally.

<< Home

<< Home