Comments Conundrum

Posted by on Aug 23, 2009


My blog is now one year old.  Well, the official birth date was actually August 2nd.  Sadly, I did not make it a cake and allow it to be consumed in epically sloppy fashion while I stood by snapping photos of the moment.  I just let it roll by quietly.

The reason I even bring it up now is because I’m reflecting on the process.  On what I’ve learned as a blogger.  On what I want to do better.  On what I don’t understand.

The thing that jumps to mind most readily concerns comments on a blog.  Are they the reason I write?  Do I hope my thoughts will prompt your thoughts, and in turn, compel you to leave yours upon mine?  And by so doing, provide what I truly want, an opportunity for me to learn from you.  What is it that I assume or expect or even desire of comments?

I’m not really sure.

Will this post garner any?  I have learned this year that as I write this, I have no idea.

Is it taboo to even talk about comments this way?

Are the comments on a blog how I assess the usefulness or value or importance of a post?  What does it mean that one post this year gathered 46 comments while many drew less than 5?  Does it mean anything?

I know this entire process, the act of writing and interacting with an audience, is a very organic experience.  Things happen as they will.  I also know they say that only 5-10% of your audience, on average, will post a comment.  But that on average was very busted at least five times this past year when, statistically, over 50% of my audience commented on a post.

I’m wondering what that should tell me.  Everything communicates something.  What is it that my comments are communicating to me?

Thanks to AriCee for use of the Flickr image.


  1. JenW
    August 23, 2009

    Comments are interesting things.
    Sometimes, your post spurs a comment which drives the post even deeper than you had imagined.

    That is what happened with my 140 character post — — the first commenter blew it out of the water. Which was a bit ironic, if you knew the back-story of why the post was even written in the first place.

    Alas, I wander.

    I have never seen your blog as a comment solicitor in anyway — but have seen you use the comments to extend the conversation.

    To judge a post’s worthiness, based on comments, is not a fair assumption.

    There are a lot of factors that drive comments. Time of the year is an important once (right now people in the USA are scrambling to get everything done for school). Time of the day is another factor — do you post at night or in the morning. Also, the point of reference for each person is different. (your journey is not theirs and sometimes they have to let the post wander a bit in their mind before they post)

    I like what you have to say — and yet, do not always comment on that? is that wrong? hmmm, don’t think so.

    Sometimes, you just have to be happy with the post you wrote – regardless of the feedback.

  2. Hadass
    August 23, 2009

    I think you might be reading a little bit too much into the number of comments, Ben. For myself, yes, a blog has to engage me for me to comment – but that is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I just don’t feel like getting into a conversation. Sometimes the timing is just wrong and I am too busy to think about what you are talking about. These are entirely internal processes of my own that do not reflect in any way on the quality of your blog, except that if I am even considering commenting, I must have some reason for it.

    The other night I commented on a student’s blog in Australia, because I was asked to and I was feeling relatively energetic. If I had been very tired, I might have ignored the request. Tonight I am commenting on yours, because I don’t want you to feel bad that I don’t often comment on your blog, even though I read it faithfully. I didn’t comment on your polarized people post because I am an outsider and don’t feel qualified to comment on internal USAmerican issues, although I sympathise.

    Sometimes a comment is just a comment. Somebody felt communicative. It doesn’t mean that a blog post without comments is bad or boring. It might have just appeared at the wrong time.

    I’ll be interested to see what others say.

  3. Ben Grey
    August 23, 2009

    Thank you Jen and Hadass.

    I hope people don’t read me wrong in this post. I’m not necessarily craving the comments themselves, but rather, I’m trying to establish what I should learn from the comments.

    It’s not that I expect anyone to comment. I’m more than happy that anyone would ever want to even read what I would write. I don’t have any misgivings that anyone owes me a comment or anything of the like. I’m more wondering about the times when someone pauses to share their thoughts on something because they feel compelled to on their own, not out of a sense that they owe me anything.

    I’m in this space to learn. For me, I’ve learned the most when the conversations have become more about the people commenting than the actual posts I’m writing. It’s rather selfish, but I love it when that happens. Not because of me or my blog or my writing or even that I feel any satisfaction that people are posting on my blog, but rather because I’m learning.

    It’s interesting that even talking about comments on our blogs feels so faux pas. Why should it?

    For me, the comments have been the greatest thing about my blog because it includes the diversity of other voices. If I was really only interested in my own voice, I guess I’d just write all my posts in Evernote as I do and keep them unpublished.

    I hope everyone hears my tone for what it is here. I feel like there’s so much to learn through the way we all interact on blogs, and I’d like to be here to learn it.

    And I’d like to better understand what I should be learning about the way it’s all taking place.

  4. Chad Lehman
    August 23, 2009

    Ben, I often wonder why people leave comments or don’t as well. I think some of the reasons Hadass mentions are very true – not only for my reader, but for myself as well. However, I do like comments. For me, I think it shows that I prompted a reader to think and respond. I, like you, am not sure what prompts some posts to have more comments than others. Keep writing, if not for yourself, for those of us who read what you have to say, whether we comment or not.

  5. Paula Naugle
    August 23, 2009

    I have only just recently started a professional blog and can honestly say that I am excited when I receive a comment. Everyone seems so pressed for time that when a person stops by to read a post and then takes the time to add a comment I feel very honored that something I said slowed him/her down for a little while. I am always surprised to see what posts garner a whirlwind of comments.

    But I find the same thing happens when I post a tweet on Twitter. Sometimes I am truly amazed at which ones get retweeted by a bunch of poeple and which ones fall on deaf ears. I have looked for a pattern but have not unearthed one.

    Happy anniversary to you and your blog and happy posting – comments or not.

  6. Erin Murphy
    August 24, 2009

    Hi Ben,

    I’ve often wondered the same thing about comments. What do they mean necessarily? Sometimes I am seeking comments but only because I extended a question to the black hole of cyberspace hoping someone would bestow their knowledge upon me. Unfortunately most of those posts don’t receive comments back, so I may need to work on my presentation or like people have mentioned – I could just be posting at a bad time of day or year.

    It’s interesting for me that most of my posts that receive comments are the ones where I feel like I’m being the most human and transparent – telling a story, revealing aspects of myself, including humor or emotions. The ones where I’m regurgitating information that I’ve compiled don’t really spark conversation. It’d be interesting to look back on your most commented posts and see if there’s a pattern amongst the topic or writing style.

    I’m fairly new to reading your blog but really enjoy your style and your apparent genuine passion for the current “technologically educational revolution”. You do a great job of conveying your emotions and thoughts through your words.

  7. blog commenting
    August 30, 2009

    The commenting is actually internal processes of my own that do not reflect in any way on the quality of your blog. According to me, it shows that I prompted a reader to think and respond.There’s so much to learn through the way we all interact on blogs, and I’d like to be here to learn it.

  8. Miguel Guhlin
    August 30, 2009

    Ben, just enjoy the blogging and if the comments come, great. If not, that’s fine, too. The conversation is with who you are and what you think about what you’re writing about…how it changes you. Comments are no more a score-card than technorati ranking or your clustrmap. They’re nice to show others, adorn your web site like so much cobwebs on a tree, but the real growth is your’s.

    Blogging for 4-5 years,


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