E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Are Blog Comments Worth It? Treasure the Conversations

Tenerife - Los Roques De García & Mount TeideWebWorkerDaily has got a very interesting and thought-provoking blog post where they are actually questioning the worthiness of having comments turned on in a blog, whether for personal or business use, given the recent happenings of very popular blogs finally deciding to turn comments off for now. That WebWorkerDaily article surely is a good read providing lots of insightful thoughts on what are some of the pros and cons of such a bold move. Well, here’s my take: keep them! Turn comments on. They are worth it. And here is why.

As most of you folks know already, I have been blogging for nearly five years externally, and for seven years internally, and even today I still think comments on blog posts are essential to the overall experience of blogging. I have always been thinking that a blog without comments is just another Web site. There is no interaction. No dialogue. No conversation. No reaction. No nothing. You just basically consume the content… and move on. Just like you would do with a regular (1.0) Web site.

However, think for a minute, the kind of impact you would be provoking if you open up for comments in your blog. You are opening your front door for other knowledge workers interested about what you may have got to say to share their ¢2 with you. To help improve the original ideas through conversation, through open dialogue, through constructive feedback; with as little barriers of engagement as possible. Yet, the outcome being tremendously much more powerful, since a good bunch of those comments are bound to improve the original blog entry. Beyond measure!

Who wouldn’t want to have that? Who wouldn’t want to open up the door towards a more open, and rampant!, innovation by brainstorming online in some really good ideas that may have been coming afloat during that fruitful exchange? Here is an example: check out this really inspiring blog post put together by my good friend, the always insightful and KM extraordinaire , Jack Vinson, under the title "Helping the Experts and Stopping the Email Chatter". Over there you can see how over the last couple of days we have been having a rather interesting discussion on sharing your knowledge, collaborating and re-finding the content shared. Specially when talking about experts engaging in Q&A sessions.

And best part of it, which is why I am still so fond of blogs, is the opportunity to keep the conversation going forever or to come back and re-pick it up again where it was left off and continue further as if nothing happened. Yes, you may not have comments to your blog posts just yet, or you may have a few them but because of whatever the circumstance you may not have had a chance to respond back, but that’s the beauty of it all: the door is still open for you to leave comments, whenever you would want to, or whenever you feel ready for it.

That’s why I am enjoying quite a bit that soft transformation of the new @elsua into a new blogging style, because while I was readying to embark into it I have also decided to do something I have been neglecting for a while now: taking an extra minute and enjoying, once again, the little pleasures of leaving comments behind the already existing ones that folks may have left behind the original blog entry I shared.

Indeed, for far too long I have been neglecting coming back to those blog posts and share a comment or two on the already existing discussions, but since I have decided a long time ago that my blog will always have commenting enable, I guess it’s time for me to return home, enter through the door and keep the conversations going. So, over the last few days I have been commenting back on previous blog posts and I am hoping to do that with each and everyone of them. Hang in there, if I haven’t gotten through all of them just yet. I guess we have got all of the time of the world to keep the dialogue going, right? I mean, it’s just like a good friend having embarked on a long long trip for a few months, then returns home, you get together to share a drink or two and carry on with the conversations you had before they left, as if nothing happened in between. Only to find out that the conversations are now richer and much more fulfilling…

That’s what commenting on blogs would do for me; that’s the kind of value they bring into my thinking and know-how; that’s why I treasure them much more than the original ideas shared across. More than anything, because they will always improve the overall quality of the original thought behind that post. Oh, and that’s why I am not so keen either on having a very popular blog. I want to enjoy that drink as it fully deserves. Time and time again!

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    1. Hi Tony! That’s also part of the equation! Although a blog doesn’t necessarily need to be incredibly popular to drag some comments along the lines, it’s always nice to have some kind of dialogue, even though it may not be immediate, at some point; that’s why I enjoy having a few comments here and there without having that overwhelming sense of hundreds, if not thousands of them; that’s when I think the conversation can start losing some of its original core value…

  1. There are two worlds out there: A world where blog comments are respectful and constructive, and they enhance the value of the blog. And the other world, were comments are often (sometimes unintentionally) abusive and often irrelevant.

    I’m regularly impressed by how well comments work within the community of Lotus Bloggers.
    This spirit of two way communications is hugely valuable.

    I think the tone was set by an early expectation that people making comments would use their real names: or at least give verifiable contact details to the blogger. That engendered a culture of respect that is absent in the blogs of newspapers, magazines and many blogs or discussion forums aimed at special interests.

    1. Hi Anthony! Thanks a bunch for the feedback comments and for dropping by! I think you bring in a very very good point as to splitting up the different levels of commenting and engagement there are out there.

      I have been blogging for nearly 7 years now and all along I decided to help facilitate the kinds of conversations you described above in the first case scenario; being capable of putting a name, and perhaps a face, behind a comment makes it even so much more authentic and relevant to the real thing: face to face conversations.

      That’s why all along those are the comments I care about and participate quite gladly. They are the essence of social software interactions and a clear sign that blogging is healthy. No need to get hundreds, nor thousands, of them, but surely a couple of them here and there are the right step forward.

      That’s probably why the Lotus community has always been so engaging and responsive; hiding behind anonymous comments has never been a thing that’s been promoted and encouraged, so it does help having such kind of virtual interactions that can then be augmented tremendously when meeting face to face at events like Lotusphere 😉

      Glad you have made that distinction, sharing across the kind of commenting we should all aspire to. In my opinion, it’s always been more about the quality than the quantity 😀

  2. Good point, Tony. Even if I don’t always get comments, if I didn’t think I had people reading and _potentially_ commenting back (or writing on their own blogs – boy I wished Trackback worked properly), then I would have much less motivation to write.

    1. Those are some interesting thoughts, Jack, adding further up to what Tony also mentioned, but here is a question that’s been in my mind for a while now… I usually don’t post entries with the aim of getting comments, even if I don’t!, but I eventually share those posts more as my Personal Knowledge Management strategy; therefore my blog becomes my default PKM (Or Personal Knowledge Sharing) system.

      Would I be looking for comments with that flavour for the posts I would regularly share? Somehow I feel that need may not be that much of a need anymore… Thoughts?

      1. I see two main reasons for comments. One is for the blogger to learn. I make no secret of the fact that I started my blog in the hope that I would learn about what other people in my position are doing. It’s completely selfish.

        The other reason to allow comments is so that your followers can communicate with each other. Knowledge improves through discussion.

        1. Those are some really really good points, Tony! And funny enough it all comes back to the beginnings of Web 2.0: me, me, me … but with a social context of wanting to learning more engaging with others are part of that knowledge exchange, rather between you and your audience or the audience amongst themselves.

          That’s how I have always seen blogging myself; a learning experience where everyone interested can take part and add their ¢2 as part of that continuous learning activity of bouncing back and forth an idea 🙂

  3. Agree that comments are important … BUT, I tend to comment on other people’s blogs way more than I expect comments on my own – in no small part due to the fact that I never started blogging for others; I started blogging for me; the comments were a nice addition, but lack of them isn’t a problem.

    I know, however, that I’m unusual in that – hence tending to comment on a fair proportion of what I read – as I know most bloggers blog for an audience. So I like to let them know I was there!

    1. Thanks for bringing that point, Emma, and for dropping by letting us know “you are here!” 😀 I agree, that’s, in part, how I think about blogging myself all along; if I were just blogging for an audience, I would have abandoned it already a few years back! I still do it every so often as my own Personal Knowledge Management / Sharing system where I can dump thoughts I would want to come back to at some point in the near future.

      If folks comment on those blog posts all the better; it adds further up into my original thinking, but if not, it’s ok. I will be developing that thought at a later time and if folks comment then that’s fine. If not, I will keep maturing that thought even some more.

      All part of my PKM and learning experience, I suppose; but one I have learned to treasure over the years 😉

  4. Luis, I guess there are other parts of the equation too, one of the most important is the style/size of the audiences you reach. Just imagine hundreds of comments to any of your blogposts made – would it be the same? Like if you write a post on losing weight (or something that everyone has an opinion about :), it pick-uped by the media and now all kinds of random people are coming to comment. It’s one story if you enjoy that, but if you don’t have time to participate on that scale and don’t care about offering others a space to talk between themselves, why keeping the comments open?

    In my PhD I distinguish between uses of a weblog for publishing, conversations with self (~inward focused part of PKM) and conversations with others. If publishing (and reaching audiences as big as possible) is your main interest than comments are not necessary. Conversations, especially those with others, are totally different story – in those cases comments are essential.

    1. Hi Lilia! Great commentary and very thought provoking, indeed! I am wondering though, why would I want to close off comments on a blog for that kind of publishing of getting hundreds of comments if I can let (Or even better, facilitate) multiple conversations to happen. Yes, I am not involved in them myself, for sure, but doesn’t mean that other folks may be interested in them and accordingly keep up with them.

      I am sure you must have seen how different blog posts get “hijacked” by an audience engaging in those conversations without you having much more to add, or perhaps nothing at all due to time constraints. I think in that context having comments enable is still a good thing to do; it’s part of the conversation.

      I think the challenge would be to set up the right level of expectations with your readers as to how you would best engage in those conversations yourself, i.e. commenting on each and everyone of those comments or only on the ones you feel most compelled to comment on.

      One thing I know for sure, specially after the three years I have been involved with micro-sharing/-blogging is that I don’t need, nor want, to be a bottleneck for those conversations; or to close them off altogether; better let them be and see where the conversation flow.

      Agree with you that things would not be the same anymore. It’s like a “private” conversation amongst just a few going crazy into the hundreds / thousands, but still a conversation, don’t you think?

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