Monday, March 28, 2005

Whither Comments?

Okay, I'm not a "comment whore" or anything (really -- I'm not!) but I do admit I do feel a slight flash of jealousy when I browse some other blogs and find that the number of comments they receive is consistently really high, especially compared to mine. (To wit: I've only hit double-digit comments once on this blog.)

But then I stopped to think what purpose comments really serve, and whether this little flash of jealousy I get makes any sense.

Let's face it, on some small level, comments can somehow serve as a barometer of popularity -- the more comments you get, the more concrete proof you have that you have a readership, and there are people out there who actually read what you say and actually think about it. Comments do something that site traffic statistics can't do: they tell you what some of your readers actually think. For example, I get a lot of hits from BlogExplosion, apparently, but none of those hits usually stay on for more than the requisite 30-second surf. It's the comments that tell you someone's paying actual attention.

But then when I started thinking in more detail about the comments left on some other peoples' blogs, I realize I have no real cause to be "jealous," per se. (This is how pathetic my life is: I spend my free time thinking about the social implications of blog comments.)

I like sites where the comments appear to be a somewhat interactive experience between the blogger and the readership. On some of the blogs to the right, it's evident (I think) that many commenters have never met the blogger in person, and the comment section is really a "get-to-know-you" through the usually not-highly-personal world of the internets.

Other blogs, however, appear to be a victim of their own success. Very highly trafficked blogs -- the ones which generate upwards of 40 to 60 comments on each new post -- don't have that give and take. While I still enjoy the material on those blogs -- whether because of a particularly evocative writing style or due to fascinating substance -- the comments sections bore me to the point that I have come to stop reading them. If there are 50 comments on a post, and all of them say "You are such a great writer!"... well, that's boring. Similarly, blog entries that really are nothing more than a picture of the blogger, with all the comments running along the sycophant lines of "Wow, you are so hot/gorgeous/handsome/pretty/studly/doable!" While I'm sure that's a great ego boost, that's not something I generally feel the need to be envious about. (Not that those words would properly describe any photo of myself I could choose to put up.)

I tend to only take the time to post a comment when I really have something to say. If I can't say anything too different from comments already posted, or if I can't contribute intelligently to an ongoing discussion, I'd rather not comment at all. I don't usually contribute to long chains of "You're so great!" -- I presume by the time I get there, the blogger knows it from his other comments. Another blog I check frequently is usually loaded with comments from regular readers, most of whom know the blogger personally, and whose comments are generally inane. (Why would you leave "Get well!" or "Good luck!" in the comments section when you know the blogger's phone number?) In which case "comment envy" looks rather silly.

Which leads to my last random thought: there's one blog I check -- again, a nameless one -- in which one commenter shows up often, but not so much to comment on the blogger's posts, but to send "private" communications to the blogger: "Call me this weekend!" or "I had fun last weekend. We should hang out again!" This only leads me to wonder why the commenter can't just pick up a frigging telephone. I know that if my friends knew about this blog and came on here just to post messages to me, my first reaction would be "Uh... you couldn't call me on my cell phone?"

13 comments:

ericorbit said...

Wow, you are so hot/gorgeous/handsome/pretty/studly/doable!

Steve said...

Yea. What you said... thanks for saying it. Oh yea, great post, and you are sooo totally hawt! ;-)

IA said...

Come over tonight. Wear that thing I like

p.p. said...

Um... doable? I thought only I was doable! haha...

Dennis! said...

Oh you big teases, the lot of you! (But hey, it did get me four comments in just over four hours....)

Matthew said...

"(To wit: I've only hit double-digit comments once on this blog.)"

It's been at least twice, hasn't it? You had a post from last week that hit double digits, and then the one you did about diversity and the Oscars hit double digits (I should know, that's the one where I got in minor tussle with another one of your commenters).

At any rate, a few things:

* I, too, suffer from comment envy, for a variety of reasons

* one thing I noticed (like a typical dolt, it took me way too long to realize) - I always expected folks to leave comments on my blog, but often forgot that they expect the same in return. Although I read lots of blogs, I sometimes neglect to leave a comment on them, most of the time out of laziness (or difficulty - Blogger really needs to work on making their comments sections run more smoothly)

* Speaking of quid pro quo, I've noticed that you've barely left any comments on my blog in recent months. I know you've given reasons why you don't always leave comments, but still... sometimes I'll go and leave simply because I know a person has put some effort into posting something. Remember: It's ok to simply echo a post, or to offer praise to someone, which leads us to our next point...

* I noticed that the reasons you gave for not always commenting on someone's blog were all positive things! What's up with that? Why do people feel like it's corny or stupid or a waste of time to actually give positive reinforcement to others? Telling someone that they're hot, intelligent, a good writer, or that that make some excellent points should be something we want to do - not shy away from

* Probably my biggest pet peeve (and I mean BIG, is when I'll throw a lot of mental energy, time and effort into writing a post, and it'll just sit there, blowing in the breeze, crickets chirping in the night air. No comments. Nothing. Nada. A big, fat zero. Then, I'll make a quick post about something totally inane or stupid that I did, and the comments just pour in (another good comment collector appears to be simply throwing one of those quizzes up - people gravitate toward commenting on those like moths to a flame). *sigh*

Anyway, those are just some thoughts.

Take care.

Hope to see you in my neck of the net-woods soon....

Ryan Dunn said...

I agree with Matthew. Generally, if you comment on someone's site, they'll comment on yours or at least look at what you've had to say. I read lots of blogs but don't necessarily comment on all of them, and don't necessarily read all the blogs of people who comment on mine. But in general, commenting on other blogs is a good way to drive traffic to yours. I've found some of my favorite blogs via surfing to sites of people who have left comments on other sites I read.

But as to commenting on positive things, I agree with Dennis! that it's pretty inane, unless I truly know the person or want to give congratulations for a big promotion they just received that they've written about or something.

On the flip side, taking on a person, telling them that a perfectly healthy 30-something gay man shouldn't really be proud of his unnecessary liposuction, for example, in his comments probably isn't a good idea. But it was cathartic, let me tell you. ;-)

Ryan Dunn said...

I agree with Matthew. Generally, if you comment on someone's site, they'll comment on yours or at least look at what you've had to say. I read lots of blogs but don't necessarily comment on all of them, and don't necessarily read all the blogs of people who comment on mine. But in general, commenting on other blogs is a good way to drive traffic to yours. I've found some of my favorite blogs via surfing to sites of people who have left comments on other sites I read.

But as to commenting on positive things, I agree with Dennis! that it's pretty inane, unless I truly know the person or want to give congratulations for a big promotion they just received that they've written about or something.

On the flip side, taking on a person, telling them that a perfectly healthy 30-something gay man shouldn't really be proud of his unnecessary liposuction, for example, in his comments probably isn't a good idea. But it was cathartic, let me tell you. ;-)

anne said...

There might be two more reasons as well for the "lack" of comments:
1. You're very funny, and it's hard to comment after having snorted half my coffee out my nose... I got to regain some sort of dignity first.
2. Blogger does take an awful lot of time to load the comment thingy, so after a while, I just give up. I'm being VERY persistent tonight.

Jon said...

Hey Dennis :D

I agree with Anne, the Blogger comments suck ass. I've been trying to comment all day here, and it just freezes, or stops loading all together. If you switch to haloscan, things will run more smoothly, since everyone is bitching about Blogger comments throughout the blogosphere. The only disadvantage of haloscan is that they don't save commments that are more than 2 months old, but I never have a desire to read old comments.

Yup- I have no idea why 'Jim' posted about his steak dinner and the food stuck in his teeth. What does that have to do with my post about my step sister's sweet 16 party?

I also agree with one of the other commenters here- when I write about serious things, I get far fewer comments than when I rant. But the quality of blogs isn't based on the number of comments- it's the writing that counts in the end.

Will said...

I don't comment often as I should mostly because I'm convinced that only I find myself interesting.

p.p. said...

Dennis, double digits!!

Dennis! said...

It's kind of ironic that my post, which was kind of an introspective way of saying that I shouldn't care about how many comments other blogs get, just got probably the most comments I have ever received on a post. :)

But yes, Blogger has run like molasses lately, which is infuriating.

And yes, some of the more controversial, thought-provoking posts tend to gather fewer comments... though one of the Schiavo ones here broke 10. But the Ten Commandments posts got nothin'. Hahaha.

Not that I'm keeping stats or anything.

Dunner: Didn't actually see what you said to the guy in question, but my sense is that I would agree with you. I had all kinds of thoughts about it, including the oppressive superficial world of gay men, but I was new to the blog scene at the time and decided against making any comments.