I couldn’t write a post about writing better blog content without also writing a post about comments. One of the things I love most about blogging is the comments. As we all know, it’s often in the comments where the real juicy stuff happens. For people who may not blog themselves, it’s a way for them to express their perspective on a topic, contribute to a discussion, and even meet new people. I gained a new client once because of a discussion I had with someone in the comments section of a blog post.

Online conversations are a funny thing. Because they are primarily in text, there’s a low threshold of tolerance for noise. So when I see a blog post where the comments say mostly “Great post!” or “You rock!” I tune out really quickly. I want to see the meat. I want to hear varying perspectives. I don’t want to hear a bunch of applause. I think sometimes, it can be difficult to know how or why to add to a conversation. Here are some things I’ve learned about being a better commenter.

Hold your applause.
Have you ever read a really terrific blog post, and then scrolled to the comments, only to see a list of 97 people saying “Great post!”? It’s always baffled me why people feel compelled to do this. Sure, we all want to appreciate the author of the post. But, is it really necessary to add to the cacophony of woo-hoo, yay for you, if you’re not going to add anything else? There are alternatives. For instance, you could add a few lines with some thoughts on the matter. Instead of just shouting a resounding “I agree!”, how about sharing a brief story of your own that drives home the point? Or better yet, add a different point of view altogether? You don’t have to disagree, but you could make an additional point, or even ask a question. The next time you’re ready to give the big thumbs up to a post, consider how you might add to the conversation instead. And if you want to praise the blogger, consider posting a retweet on Twitter, or linking to the post on Facebook, or your own blog. Link love means more to a blogger than 97 “great post” comments.

Keep it brief.
Nothing makes me tune out of a comment conversation faster than when someone drops in a 600 word comment. Hey, I think it’s great that it’s not a “great post” comment, but this falls into the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve started many a comment that, after typing a couple hundred words, I realize I’ve got a lot to say on the topic. At that point, I simply hit the copy/paste function and post it to my own blog instead. If a blog post gives you a spark, and you’ve got something to say, consider creating your own post, and linking back to the original post. I do want to hear what you have to say. I just don’t want you to drown out all the other commenters.

Be nice.
One of the best things about blogs is the opportunity it provides for people to share differing points of view. I love when people disagree with me on my blog. I encourage it. But there’s a way to disagree respectfully, and a way to do it meanly. Don’t be mean. If the blogger doesn’t use foul language in their posts, then don’t use foul language in your comment. Don’t call people names. Don’t be disrespectful. Disagree, even passionately, but ultimately, be nice. And don’t take it personally and get defensive if people don’t share your point of view. There’s plenty of room out here for everyone to have an opinion and a voice.

What about you? What kinds of comments do you like best? How do you think the art of blogging can be improved through comments? Have at it…in the comments, of course. Oh, and before you leave that comment that sarcastically says, “Great post”? Ha ha ha. 🙂

photo credit: Ben Haldenby on Flickr

19 Responses

  1. this never clicked til just now, but in face-to-face conversation we can nod our heads. It doesn’t create noise (no jokes here) but it provides affirmation of the point and acknowledgement that we are listening. What if “great post” is the text based equivalent of nodding our head?

    I understand what you are saying. And it wasn’t until you mentioned the text-based part that you helped clarify this for me. (that’s what a “good post” can look like)

    1. You could be onto something there, for sure. I think the Facebook “Like” button is a good alternative – people can nod and smile in a quieter way. And services like Disqus also allow for the ‘Like’. I do think that many people opt not to use it.

      I also think that a lot of people do the great post thing, particularly on the blogs of the popular folks, for the same reason they would try to get a real celebrity’s attention. Just to get attention. 🙂

      I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong to add “great post” to the comments. I’d just like to hear what you think too – I don’t want to do ALL the talking in the conversation!

  2. HaHa! Well, I know I’ve been guilty of the ‘long comment’ a couple of times 🙂 In my defense… I do try to keep it interesting and on topic.

    Also agree with you on the ‘applause’ comments. I don’t have my own blog right now, may have to get one again, but when I read a post and go to the comments to see what is being said (9 times out of 10 I don’t comment) I find it annoying to have to wade through all the ‘applause’ to get to anything meaningful. I stop at every comment that looks like a sentence in hope of reading something interesting.

    Thanks for opening this topic.

  3. Blogging can and must be improved through comments. Blogging could be a way to iniative a discussion, to share experience, to learn each other. Comments as questions in real way are a way to make the dialogue more real. On the other way, comments help to know better what readers want.
    Anyway, a reader couldn’t be a person that know well the web or work in the sector. So he/she has the right to comment freely how they prefer.
    Anyway, great post 🙂

  4. Great post Sue! I just couldn’t help myself ha-ha-ha.

    Seriously though, I usually only comment when I have have something to say to further the conversation. There are a few times when my comments were lengthy and the blogger appreciated it, but I like your idea of writing a post for my blog and then linking back. In comments I often add links to articles that help to support and or strengthen what the blogger is say.


  5. If someone’s going to leave a novel of a comment (you know, those really lengthy ones), might as well turn it into a blog post and link to the original author that inspired the response. #justsayin

    As for the short: “Great post.” Not much there. When I can’t think of anything to say, I just don’t post a comment.

  6. I think a lot of people write well done etc. as reading a blog is still in some ways a spectator sport. The discussion may go on in the brain after the fact. In writing a response one is still coming from the same mode..

    long replies..I have done that

    My first experience online was in a very active community on FB were the leader used notes to engage very lengthy in depth multi layered conversations that were woven together by all the participants that replied. It was a very exciting 3-4 months. I have never seen it repeated. I do think if the blogger can engage a community of readers in this manner a lot of life is given for all even the silent ones.
    One important point that I would like to add is that things work better if the blogger interacts with those that comment. (this may be one of those long posts so you can erase it if you feel so inspired)

  7. Agreed, agreed and agreed. 🙂

    Comments are just as important as posts for building a reputation as a sound, dependably interesting voice on t’Tinterwebs. They demonstrate you’re a good debater as well as good speaker. And, hell, they’re just good fun.

    The stay nice thing…a few days back, a certain gentleman with Nomadic in his name posted something that got people riled up. The good comments were the ones that disagreed with him while remaining civil, and they helped develop a fascinating comment thread. But behind the scenes, he was apparently fighting off a lot of abuse. Eventually he killed the post, apparently for this reason.

    That’s just ugly when it happens. Fact is, commenting is a privilege. We’re invited onto someone else’s forum, into their virtual homes. We should behave like any good guest would.

  8. I guess comments should be a way of interracting and changing ideas and ultimately getting inspired. A good example could be te reaction to wanderingearl’s post “Has travel made med umber?” “Great post” could indeed be (as Jon and you pointed out) just a nod with no further consequences. How about “keep it up”? I love that phrase…:)

  9. I pretty much agree with your points although I do not mind the “great post” comments. I don’t see the harm in them and people need encouragement. I try to remove any barriers to people posting. I want conversation and therefore I do not moderate unless it is blatant spam or harmful. I do get a bit frustrated when I see folks take over a post via lengthy comments. For myself, if I find I have a lot to say I will reach a point where I stop, cut my post and copy into my own blog as a post of my own. In fact I am working on a post that outlines how I turn a lengthy comment and make it instead into a blog post. You would not get up on a table at a friends party and begin giving a speech, so why do it on their blog. I could write so much more but I will stop there. 😉

  10. Let commentators be as long as it’s not hate or spam, no? Sometimes we judge situations but can’t always tell the bad from the good, even though we think we do. I’ve done that before.

    There are many bloggers who’d love some “Great post!” comments on their blog! 🙂

    A good strategy might be for the author actually to interact more with your commentators and ask them questions like “What was your favorite part guys?”

    Sometimes people use simple comments because they want to express agreement but don’t have a whole lot to say, but there’s nothing wrong with that all the time.

    Other times, people may feel like the author is distant and doesn’t interact with the audience so they just want to drop a line and move on.

  11. This is a timely post for me. I just shared my blogging New Year’s resolutions with my readers and one was to do a better job at commenting. You have some great tips that I will work on. Thanks.

  12. Your comment about “Keep It Brief” reminds me of a story about Thomas Jefferson. He is walking down the street in Philadelphia and a man he knows approaches him from the opposite direction on the sidewalk. The man says, “Mr. Jefferson, I would like you to speak at my club.”
    Jefferson responded, “When?”
    The man said, “What difference does it make?”
    Thomas said, “Short is long and long is short.”

    There is a lot of meat in short post. You must have had time to prepare it. Thomas would have been impressed.

    With respect,
    Daniel McNeet

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