Let me be the first to note that in the last year or so I’ve been a lousy commenter on blogs. I read many, and I bookmark a bunch of stuff to write about later (which I never do), but taking a moment to write a thoughtful comment? Or even a not-so-thoughtful one? Yeah, not so much. This is a sad state of affairs for me (which I aim to remedy), because I firmly believe in the blog comment as an integral part of creating a community, expanding that community, and furthering discussion on topics of interest to said community.
This topic is especially important for me now, as I am co-teaching a course with Dr. Kristin Arola called Electronic Research and the Rhetoric of Information. While instructing students in the ways in which the self and society shape and are shaped by the information networks we use, obviously we have to teach them how to use those networks. As you might expect, our students are blogging, and are supposed to be commenting on classmates’ blog posts. This is all well and good. But what I see in their work—and the other blogging work I’ve seen students (here) do, is a disjointed and disconnected sort of blogging. I’m putting that on the list of things to write about next—ways in which I see blogging used and misused in the classroom—but in this post I’m going to address the feature (for I do see it as a feature) of commenting on blogs.
If readership, conversations, and connections are the goal—the “social” of social networking—one way to increase readership, invite conversation, and make connections is to allow users to leave comments on your posts and to participate in those comment threads yourself. Comments provide an outlet for users to weigh in on posts you’ve written, to offer alternative perspectives on situations, or to tell anecdotes that might offer guidance in some situations. If you have a very popular or controversial blog, you might attract a swarm of negative and nasty comments—hence the usefulness of comment moderation. Heck, you might attract such swarms despite your traffic levels, if you blog on hot keywords.
Comment areas also allow you to discover new blogs because users typically include their blog URL as part of the signature/identifying information in their comment; other people reading the comments also discover these new blogs, and the community grows. Additionally, trackback pings can continue a thread; when a user writes a post that references another blog entry, the author can send a ping back to the original entry, indicating the thread has been continued on another own blog. Readers interested in the topic discussed on the first blog might see the trackback ping and follow it to the second blog, and so on and so forth.
I’ve always viewed blogs as virtual salons, which means participation by all parties including the host(ess). What’s the point of a salon in which no one talks, or doesn’t talk to each other? I mean, I suppose it could be the frilly clothes and French things, but…I prefer the talking.