What happened to leaving comments on blog posts?

It’s true. Like so many other people, I will often decide if I really want to read a post based on its title. If it can grab me, I might read through the first paragraph. From there, I decide if I want to invest in anything more that it might have for me.

It’s rare that I make it to the second paragraph on anything. By the time I’ve examined the title, consulted the image, as all major sites must have at least one image per post, I’ve made my decision. I’m either already into the third paragraph, carefully reading what was written, or I’ve moved on to something else.

That’s the way I imagine most people consume blog posts too. Unless it is by someone they know will be interesting or is trusted, or maybe even recommended reading from friends, it’s easy to quickly scan through a post for something interesting like words in bold or something italicized before jump to the next item. It’s often some type of personal game to see how much can be parsed without actually reading any of it before finally getting to how other people reacted to it.

It’s personal. Maybe that’s the problem. On most of the posts I look at, it’s rare to see a comment anymore. Sure, some of the major sites have extended threads, but I don’t see them on the blogs I read. If there are any comments at all, it’s a quick affirmation, basically the phrase equivalent of a “Like” or “Favorite”. It’s nothing extended.

To leave a comment is to commit a reaction from a post into words. There’s this thought that it has some type of permanence.  After all, with the services most sites use to combat spam, anything you submit is tied to your account. It’s forever a part of that you.

I’ve tried to get over this discomfort myself recently and have been leaving more comments more often. If a post made me think and I think I can add something useful, I try to respond. I write out how what I read intersected with my own thoughts. It’s trying to make the statement that “I read what you wrote and you made me think. Here’s what those thoughts were.”

Still, it’s weird. With the rise of social networks, it’s become increasingly uncommon to try to have a dialogue with the original author of a piece. It’s all secret gardens and gated groups. It’s sharing to a few, with posts gathered more than discussed. It’s passed around as the latest shiny-new of the moment.

With the few people I feel comfortable with leaving comments on their work on any regular basis, I’m usually quite verbose. Like, hundreds of words verbose sometimes. I try to treat the comment space as a way to have a conversation. I’m not just asking a question, but posing new ideas and my own take on the topic.

Is that narcissism? Maybe. I’m not sure. I don’t think of it in those terms, certainly. Since I’m not just disagreeing with a take, theory, or position, but posting my own thoughts, it could be seen that way, I guess. However, it’s also privileging the author too, in a way. Maybe what I write in a comment will provoke a thought in the author for some later elaboration or another future post. That’s the hope anyway.

Yet, without others doing it too, I feel almost bad about it. It’s like I’m committing a faux pas of blogging to respond in a comment without arguing with or trying to correct a perceived mistake in the material. In posting a comment, it’s presented as nearly a type of supplication to be considered as worthy or not by the author. Should they bless such an offering through moderation, it’s content will appear with the author’s own.

The functionality is there though. There’s this space for a response, a defined area for content. Might as well use it.

5 thoughts on “What happened to leaving comments on blog posts?

  1. I think at this point the old comment functionality has moved almost entirely onto social networks. I know that when I want to talk about a post, I’ll share it to a network and add a comment, and more often than not be able to exchange some thoughts. Sometimes the author of the post is even involved!

    1. Dan Cox

      Yeah. I’ve certainly seen than happen on Google+ and even Facebook pretty often lately as the original post won’t have any comments, but it’s G+ thread might have upwards of a half-dozen. I’ve also seen a few people, Raph Koster and Daniel Cook more recently, completely move to G+ as a proto-blogging platform instead of something like WordPress. They will post something and then, as the comments come in, refine their thoughts through public editing and responses.

  2. I certainly appreciate the comments you leave on my blog. I honestly don’t know what comments are like in a lot of places – in general, I never even look at the comments – but I can think of a couple of blogs that friends of mine run that seem to have pretty healthy, thoughtful commenting communities. (Quomodocumque http://quomodocumque.wordpress.com and mathbabe http://mathbabe.org ) So it’s still possible to get that in this day and age; I’m not sure what Jordan and Cathy are doing to encourage that, but whatever it is seems to be working? Or maybe mathematicians just like leaving comments…

    1. Dan Cox

      Yeah, after thinking on it some between classes yesterday, I think you and Roger both hit on what is actually happening: people comment where they are are comfortable doing so. For most, it seems that’s on some other platform where the permanence of their response and the pressure to actually add anything to the discussion is very low. They can “Like” or “Favorite” something to show their interest without committing to any writing. And few hours later, that post will be down stream anyway; something else will have taken its place as the newest item of interest.

      I certainly wasn’t calling you out, David, but this post did come as a response to the comment I left on your blog — and the one I left on another blog right before that. By the time I’d gotten to thinking about this post, I’d written probably written upwards of a thousand words total in various comments. It was that, combined with the “low standards” idea, that made me want to finally write something again outside of the code stuff I normally do.

      If I knew an easy way to endear myself to others, to write that I actually *like* having a written discussion within the comment space of at least my own posts, I would. I’m just now sure how to do that exactly. Plus, as is probably evidenced by this comment too, I tend to get rather verbose when I am passionate or excited about something. I sometimes wonder if I am scaring off people with long comments. It does tend to end a thread when the post author like me leaves a several hundred word answer in response.

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