Always Read the Comments

You maybe already know this but I needed to be reminded.

The good stuff is often in the comments.

I admit that I’m largely a reactionary blogger. Many of my posts are done in a spur-of-the-moment-I-think-this-is-interesting-or-I’m-ticked kind of way. I do have the odd reflective post that has been mulled over for a few days.  My recent pointing to Clay’s post was the former.  Sometimes that’s okay but other times it bites you in the you-know-where.


I went back to Clay’s post and moved past the regular, “great post”, “I agree” stuff (not that’s all bad but just less interesting) to some challenging thought provoking writing. Jennifer Jones, who is easily the most prolific commenter I know,  writes a wonderful, challenging comment that made me both hang my head in shame (for I was as guilty as Clay for not reading the study) but also shed light on a bigger issue. Brilliance. D’Arcy Norman, less prolific, more of a “cut to the chase” commenter, adds the pertinent information. Clay then respectfully admits errors, pushes back slightly but appears to be learning right in front of us and adds an Update at the top of his post alerted new readers to be sure and read the comments. Clay is great at engaging commenters. The whole conversation following the post is a great read.

I’m pretty sure this is what blogs are for. Good work people.

Image: Add your comment
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dharmasphere/20993325/

PS. This post is categorized under “I was wrong”. I’m sure this won’t be the last in this category.

Aside: I’m still struggling for a decent comment tracker. Cocomment really stinks, I just discovered backtype but I’m not sure it’s what I want and being notified by email is just plain ugly. Would love to resolve this.

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  • Hey Dean,

    A comment on your aside. Been using Backtype for a couple months and have finally got it working to do what I want (track my comments, track comments of conversations I want to follow and deliver both to me in RSS feeds). It’s not hugely intuitive but it can be done.

    To track your comments, after you log in, click your username in the top right hand corner. This will take you to your comments page. You can grab an RSS feed for your comments from there and stick it wherever you want (I use Netvibes as my aggregator).

    As for tracking any conversation (whether you have left a comment or not), use the Subscriptions. On the Subscriptions page there is a bookmarklet that you can drag to your browser toolbar. Whenever you come across a conversation you want to track, click the bookmarklet and the conversation gets tracked on your Subscription page. That page also has an RSS feed on the right hand side.

    It’s not completely intuitive to use, but once you get your head around what is actually being tracked and where, it seems to do the job.

    Clint Lalondes last blog post..The Internet, 1969 edition

  • Yep, I loved it too. It really does demonstrate, as you say, precisely how social media adds to literacy in a way that too many people don’t recognize. Posts start conversations, they don’t end them. That’s the difference.

    (I still say Science Daily deserved what they got, though – and since they get more traffic than Science, I was glad to give it to them.)

    Clay Burells last blog post..Eine Kleine Snark-Musik

  • Dean,

    Thanks for checking out BackType. Just wanted to stop by and let you know that we now offer subscriptions via RSS only — so you won’t have to receive all those e-mails anymore.

    Hope that helps!

  • @Clint, That’s valuable. Thanks for your insights.

    @Clay. While I didn’t specify that point re: Science Daily, that was another piece to the conversation. People that like black and white worlds, likely don’t appreciate the power, subtleties and beauty of blogging.

    @Christopher. How did you find me? backtype? 😉

  • Great post!

    I agree.

    But seriously folks – I’ve been thinking a bit about how being part of the edublogging community as changed over the years. Obviously there are more blogs although although, in my opinion, the quantity of new ideas/conversations has not increased proportionally. “Back in the day” I would actually visit every blog I was interested in (I could count them with two hands at that time) and see what was there. Then I found out about RSS aggregators and I used them to become a more productive reader.

    But every technology is a double edged sword. I was keeping up with more blogs, but tending to skim them instead of reading every new post thoroughly. I feel like that distanced me from the writer. Since I was just reading the feed, I never saw the comments to a post unless I went back to the original site. That distanced me from other readers of the same blog (I used to find a lot of great blogs by following the authors of comments back to their own blogs). In some ways the comments are the most important part of a post – people who read the post take the time to write a response. Another loss that has been on my mind is that I will follow some blogs without ever visiting their blog site more than the initial visit. Sometimes the way a blog looks and changes over time tells us something about the writer.

    I hadn’t heard of backtype – I’ll take a look and see if that helps cure some of my nostalgia for the old days.

    Rob Walls last blog post..PTO with Google tasks (and other Gmail goodness)

  • Dave

    As a reader, I really appreciate you making this post — I think honestly admitting a foible really builds credibility (not that I didn’t already trust you!).

    It’s exactly for reasons like this that blogs/articles without comments just make me roll my eyes or shake my head. Why bother reading it when there’s no good way to know if others believe it is inaccurate or if someone has a dissenting opinion? Life’s too short to waste time on online content that doesn’t allow commenting.

  • Feel bad being the first comment on this with a reply to the aside and not about the content. Hopefully people will take the post message to heart and read the comments, beyond the first one I left, to get to the real heart of the post.

    Clint Lalondes last blog post..The Internet, 1969 edition

  • @Clint – I set up backtype but did not play much. For general use, my feeling was I am too forgetful to remember to hit a bookmarklet when I want to track my comments. The concept of CoComment was nifty in that it tracked a comment w/o you doing any extra steps, but then it had some buggy periods.

    I am looking to do this later this month when I do my annual week of non-blogging and only commenting. I like to have a way to track my comments, the lamest would be tossing some hash tag into my comments and relying on google– or delicious-marking my comment links, all of which again are extra steps. Hmmm delicious would be ok if I remember to do it, and i get an rss feed.

    @rob- yes the comment activity has morphed a lot. I just ran my annula stats check on comments in my site in a year- total number of comments are up, but there are fewer per user (my top user in the past tossed in 90+ per year, and this year has fallen by 1/3).

    The game always changes.

    Alan Levines last blog post..TypePad = CrapPad

  • I use co-comment, but I comment sometimes from computers that don’t have it installed, so not everything is saved. Points I make in comments that I feel are important sometimes end up on my blog as posts too.

    And yes, Cocomment has been buggy through it’s life. I think my Adblock might fight with parts of it.

    Saskboys last blog post..Let’s Ban Fighting In Hockey, and on Blogs

  • Kia ora Dean

    Wonderful post – wonderful topic.

    Not all bloggers like people commenting, though. Some would rather commenters limit themselves to one comment, and a short one at that. I’ve come across some who have actually stated on their blog that they’d delete comments by a commenter who’d posted too many or ones that were too long. They are obviously not interested in conversation and certainly not interested in what others have to say.

    It is so funny. My suggestion is that commenters OR bloggers who don’t read comments should go back to web1.0. They should post and read web pages and stick with those. They should use RSS by all means, and if they don’t click the little (>>) button everthing will be sweet.

    There have been several conversations in the blogosphere on should comments be posted against the blog. The suggestion is that replies should be written as posts on blogs. It seems to me that this defeats the purpose of the comment, and is in the same cultural lock as the public notice and billboard. So funny.

    I believe that there is an art in commenting, just as there is an art in writing blog posts. Part of that art embraces reading what others have posted in their comments. BackType permits you to study the comments of others. From the semantic point of view it is very interesting see the varying styles. Notably among the most prolific commenters you’ll find the most popular bloggers. I found this fascinating.

    Anyhow, thanks for the opportunity to write a long, albeit relevant, comment. It is (wow) really good to have a splelchekcer on the comment pad too. 🙂

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Ken Allans last blog post..The Collective Effect

  • Jen

    Why didn’t we all have this conversation years ago? I guess we probably did, before we moved on to echoing about other things. I’m hardly a prolific commenter. You just happened to have read the 2 long comments I’ve made 🙂 I always find the etiquette of this space so fascinating. Someone encouraged me to post to my own blog, rather than in his comments, but that seemed awkward to me. I guess we really need to just learn to appreciate the nuances of text communication and recognize that everyone has a different approach and style. Thanks for moving the conversation forward and engaging your readers in the discussion.
    Jen
    P.S. I’ll need an S.A.S.E. for the newsletter.

    Jens last blog post..Onramp Installment 13: The Feedback Game

  • @Alan your top commenter is down by 1/3 because your blog was choking on apostrophes…

    D’Arcy Normans last blog post..sponsor me in the ride to conquer cancer

  • Rob wrote: Back in the day” I would actually visit every blog I was interested in (I could count them with two hands at that time) and see what was there. Then I found out about RSS aggregators and I used them to become a more productive reader. But every technology is a double edged sword. I was keeping up with more blogs, but tending to skim them instead of reading every new post thoroughly. I feel like that distanced me from the writer.

    This is interesting stuff to me, Rob, because I’ve made a decision to ONLY follow a small handful of blogs in an attempt to retain some of the sense of being a part of a community of learners. At any given time, I might have 10 blogs in my feed reader, but I’m probably only reading 4 or 5.

    While that definitely limits the number of new ideas coming into my sphere of learning, it also helps me to feel more connected to the writer and to the regular commenters. I get to know names and ideas—-and often find myself wondering how certain followers of certain blogs will respond to individual posts.

    For me, that sense of community is what keeps me coming back. Once blog reading drifts into an overwhelming, impersonal sift through posts by dozens and dozens of writers, I lose interest.

    Do you think there is a “right way” to engage in “the blogosphere?” Can some people feel community even as they walk through feed readers that are slammed with new writers and entries even though I can’t? Should we place a greater value on the number of new ideas that one is exposed to as opposed to the depth of the conversation that they engage in?

    I’m curious because I’m trying to figure out how to teach my students to build a learning network of bloggers and can’t decide on whether or not I should recommend that they limit the number of writers that they follow.

    Bill

  • The change in the blogosphere is inevitable. You could substitute “usenet” for “blogs” in Rob’s comment, and probably find an identical message from Way Back When.

    It’s like Shirky says: more is different. You can’t have 400 blogs in your reader and react the same way you did when you had 40, or even 100. It’s neither good nor bad; it just is. Same with Alan’s frequent commenter — he or she has likely grown, changed, widened horizons, can can’t really comment once every three days on too many sites.

    I do think the idea of revising the body of a post because of what you’ve learned from comments is terrific.

    I’d delete myself from CoComment, but it’s not worth the effort. I realize it’s a monumental task to try and track comments; I’m just sorry it’s so hard.

    I use NetVibes as my reader, and I group blogs on tabs — one’s for training/learning, one’s for science (mostly brain stuff), one’s labeled “not work.” I tend to visit the blogs on only one tab in any reading session. I suppose it’s like the old days at the Detroit Public Library main branch: I know where I can find stuff, and I go where I feel like going on a given day.

    Dave Fergusons last blog post..Using tools, or, the genuine article

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