Saturday, July 04, 2009

Commenting on Blogs

I've been thinking about how I comment on blogs, about what sort of comments are helpful. I've tried thinking about the comments that I get that are helpful to me. (First, let me say that I have like 100 blogs in my Google Reader. I read all the posts. I click through and comment maybe four to six times a day. That means I don't comment nearly as much as I probably should.)

I think we all appreciate comments telling us that a post we wrote was good in some way. I know I like hearing that a post made someone laugh, or think about something in a different way, or just that they have found something I wrote helpful in some way. I assume I am not all that different from other people.

Comments of encouragement are great too. I've been exceptionally lucky in the past few months in that my children aren't putting me through the emotional wringer. Partly that is because they are making good decisions and partly it is because I am not letting myself get too worried about their less-than-good decisions. Still, when I have gone through tough times just hearing that someone is pulling for me, or has confidence that I am going to get through this, or something can be helpful.

BTDT (been there done that) comments are also often great. Sometimes just knowing that someone has lived through the same experience and come out the other side gives me hope. I leave those sometimes. I have absolutely nothing "helpful" to say to someone who is struggling, with a situation, but I remember being there. I got a response the other day to someone who said that my description of a similar situation made her laugh out loud. I don't think it was particularly funny, or wouldn't have been to anyone who hadn't lived through it. She was though, and my description made her laugh. I hope it helped her keep going, even if it didn't give her any idea of how precisely to do that.

I also appreciate, and sometimes leave, comments that I classify as "ideas, not advice." I TRY not to give people advice, particularly that advice that given with the tone that says, "this is what you SHOULD do." We only ever reveal part of ourselves on blogs. It is the nature of the beast. We certainly never give a complete picture in any one post, that would be impossible. I am a firm believer that the "right" approach is the one that works for this caretaker and this kid. Sometimes though what we are doing isn't working and getting a bunch of ideas can be very helpful. If someone tells me that I should absolutely do X, and if I don't do X I am a bad parent, i feel annoyed (or worse). I never feel annoyed when someone says that x worked for them and maybe it will work for me. Even when I think "nope, tried that, didn't work" I don't feel judged. So I try to leave those sorts of comments sometimes. I leave them more often with people who know me, or at least internet-me, fairly well.

Sometimes I have got, and sometimes I have given, comments that say, "I really think you are on the wrong track here." That is different from just offering up a suggestion. It is more direct. None of us LIKE those comments, but when they come from someone whom we really trust they are important. I try to take them seriously, though my insta-reaction is almost always, "well, she doesn't understand..." My second reaction is sometimes different. I don't think I leave those comments very often.

And there is one more sort of comment I appreciate, even need, sometimes. It is the "no, you are not a bad person" or "I understand this is what you need to do" comment. I needed those when I was writing about not being the parent Frankie needed. The only comment I ever got from Cindy was on a post like that. (The post title was "I'm not Cindy" which might have helped attract her attention.) During that time I got a lot of comments that helped me to forgive myself. I did get some comments expressing negative thoughts, but I don't remember any of them being mean. It probably helped that I had an established audience, had already parented a couple of kids from care. That I had met my limit in this kid, and knew that some other blogging parents would have been able to handle, was something that people accepted.

I've given the same sort of support to other people who have made the decision that they can't continue to parent a child. I think a lot of blogs end when people get there. Many bloggers have not been treated as well by their readers as I have been. (Most of the really negative comments I get are from people who clearly haven't been reading the blog. Those I can generally shake off. Fortunately I have never been targeted by the kind of troll that just keeps coming back.)

Though I am pretty free with the "here's an idea that might work" comment, I am very hesitant to tell people that I really think they are doing it wrong. Generally I figure there is more to the story than I am reading, or that they aren't likely to be receptive to comments that are based upon that premise. If they reject all my "just an idea" comments, they aren't likely to respond well to comments that are out and out critical. I've left them occasionally though. I've never been sure it was a good idea.

I'm thinking about this recently because I have been debating about what kinds of comments I should leave on blogs.

Generally if I think a blogger is making major parenting mistakes, I say nothing, but I am not sure where the limits are.

What sort of comments do you find helpful?

Do you ever feel like you SHOULD leave a comment on a blog even though you don't think the writer will be receptive?

I'm actually asking here.

Oh, and if you ever wanted to tell me that some comment or other that I left you was not helpful, now would be an appropriate time to say so.


  1. Anonymous1:07 PM

    What comments do I find helpful? The ones responding to a question that I have asked. Being a new parent I'm always asking for help or ideas though not many people post,those that do I am very appreciative of.

    Should I leave a comment if the person won't reply? I guess it depends on what the post is about. If it's a failed IVF cycle (I read a lot of infertility blogs) just an "I'm sorry, hugs" I think is appropriate even though it isn't helpful to the situation. Comfort comments are wonderful if you are going through a hard time. If someone is asking for advice and it's something I've gone through or know something about I'll leave some ideas even if the person won't respond. Someone else reading the comments may be able to use my ideas even if the OP (original poster) doesn't.

    Over all I'm a bad commenter. I don't do it much so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that people don't comment on my blog. But it's always nice when they do and I try to comment on their blogs.

  2. I pretty much enjoy all comments - but maybe that's because I haven't really ever had any negative ones! I especially like when someone responds with a "yes! you are on the right track!" - because who doesn't like some validation? :)

    I admit that I get horribly self conscious if no one comments on a post. I immediately think I offended my entire base of followers and second guess myself. But then I smack myself and remind me that I am not perfect. ;)

    I am also a negligent commenter - I have been thinking about weeding out my Reader... but just can't decide which blogs to part with! So, I speed through reading all of them and only comment occasionally. :(

    I'll be interested to see what others say about this!

  3. I rarely comment on blogs, but I read a ton of them.

    I don`t have much to say except that I think that even if a blogger seems to never ever take anyone's advice, and usually flat-out ignores it, people should keep leaving comments with their opinions. Silence can be taken as agreement, and then there will be no hope of them changing what they are doing. At least if they read the comments, even if they refuse to acknowledge them, the ideas are there in their brain and one day they just might finally decide to use them.

    Just my 2 cents!

  4. First off, your comments have always been welcome.

    My most hated comments? Unsolicted advice. Especially unsolicited advice that doesn't take into account anything I've written. (i.e., comments that say, "You should buy a new car" when the post is about how we don't have money to fix a car -- that's a fake example but stuff like that.

    I'm bad about leaving comments, too, also cuz of google reader. Now brett is hustling me out the door (4th of July BBQ) so I can't wax on. RAts.

  5. I don't comment often and when I do I try to be as positive as I can. I remind myself that I am not in the other person's shoes, and I don't live their life. I am only seeing a fraction of who they are based on what they blog.

    That said, I do not like to read comments that are antagonistic or argumentative .... though i do like to be challenged to think. You make me do that.

    I get very ruffled though when someone acts as though they know my life and my kids better than I do.... I think that's human nature.

  6. What I do when I feel I need to say something that I think will be received negatively is to email the blog writer rather than post a comment. I generally don't leave positive comments unless I'm really struck by a post (I think positive thoughts, I'm just to lazy to write them most of the time.)

  7. I think for me, it depends on the nature of the post. For some posts, I don't comment because I don't feel the need. I'm not one that lives for interaction, but I do really like to read and know whats going on in other lives. SOmetimes I don't comment because i've got a little one in my lap and reading the post is allt he time I have before his fingers start "helping"!

    I don't comment much. BUT- some things do make me comment, and then I repeat comment. Personal decisions (like buying something, changing jobs, etc) are not of much interest in terms of commenting. I like reading it, but don't care to influence a decision. But if there is risk of abuse or major emotional trauma, I tend to comment, especially if its a BTDT situation. Foster care/adoption/special needs sites are most likely to get a comment from me, because I know how limited and wildly contradictory the information out there is. Sometimes "knowing" somebody and their solution is helpful.

    Othertimes, I get frustrated. If someone posts "what do I do" and I take the time to respond, and then they blatantly ignore it, I get frustrated and may post again. Sometimes I just really want to help them, sometimes (if they irk my nerve and it seems like they're doing it for attention rather than a real crisis) I cut the blog from my reading list. That's rare though.

    You have tact- I've noticed that. I on the other hand, am a blunt oldest bossy child of 12. I rarely sugar coat anything, nor am I nice if you ignore me the first time and then still complain the problem exists. LOL Terrible, huh.

    Are you referencing any particular situation? I'm struggling over two, wondering if in one of them if any action is appropriate or if its time to ignore for a while and see if the situation gets better if the blogger gets no attention at all. In another, I have immense pity on the situation and want to keep encouraging.

  8. I'm always shocked if someone comments on my blog. I figure mine is so ordinary and for the most part not dealing with the levels of trauma or intense issues that I read on other blogs. I never really know if I should respond back to a commenter though. I freely admit that this part of blogger etiquette has often worried me! :-)

  9. helpful? Usually the ones that offer a different view/idea on something I'm going through or trying to figure out as opposed to those that tell me I'm doing it all wrong and I'm going to hell!LOL I don't need someone to always agree with me and many times their views will help me think of a different approach...I tend to do this myself as well...offer what I've tried or done to see if it works for them understanding that it might not as everyone's situation is so different.

    I have to admit that for me it also depends on the commenter...if I read their blogs and respect them (or they have a lot of experience on whatever issue they are commenting on) I'd be more likely to not get offended and take it into consideration

  10. I try to offer advice, or offer a different perspective. I can do the BTDT, but otherwise, I'm not good at leaving positive comments. It's just the way my brain works. I'm not interested in getting supportive back-pats myself (It's not that I dislike them, I just don't feel the need for them) so I forget that other people do often need them and look for them...

    I think these type of brief comments have a second function on the internet -- "phatic" communication -- representing bits where the listener needs to occasionally say "uh huh" and "ok" "right", or nod their head, in order for the talker to get the signal that the listener is still interested and they can therefore continue talking.

    We're all conditioned to expect phatic communication. If I started speaking, telling someone a story, but heard nothing but dead silence from them, I wouldn't want to continue. We take this habit with us onto the internet. Phatic communication for blogs can also include stats, "Follower" count, emails, links and so on. I don't care about brief comments, but I do look out for other ways that tell me some people are actually listening... I like getting emails and links.

  11. I love comments on my blog because it means that people are reading. And really, it's all about me, right?

    I appreciate comments on other people's blogs because that's how I learn about additional blogs that I should be reading. (Either because they are informative or because they are interesting diversions.) However, I only read comments when I plan to comment myself, as I read blogs in a reader.

    And I don't comment as often as I might otherwise (not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as I don't think that I write comments very well, and they probably come across much differently than I intend) because my reader is set up on my non-anonymous google account, and I comment using my blog identity. So commenting requires either two different browsers--which my personal computer doesn't like, and which until recently I didn't have on my work computer--or logging out of my gmail, reader, documents, tasks, etc. in order to log in with the other account. And that's just annoying.

  12. Your comments were always welcome back in the day when I was blogging more regularly. And I think that in general, your comments are always helpful and usually thought provoking, even for other commenters who read them.

    I also agree with Foster Ima that I love when people comment because I found other blogs that I wouldn't stumble on otherwise.

    Normally, if I really disagree with a post I do not comment, my rule is that if the comment I leave is not something I would say if we were discussing it in person then I don't post it as a comment.

    There have been a few (very few) instances when I felt like I HAD to say something, usually because the blogger either 1) had done something that I didn't expect based on my reading of them 2) had come to another site and attacked someone for not good reason or 3) was doing something that I really felt was harmful for the children in their care.

    Those instances are generally pretty rare though. Thanks for asking this BTW - really made me reflect on when (and why) I comment.

  13. I think everone's been fairly helpful with their comments with the exception of those that are just there to hurt or attack you.

    I've noticed that your comments are usually encouraging or you look at things from a different perspective which I think is the purpose of us sharing our lives in the first place on blogs. We want to know what others think and get that feedback.

    I try to only post positive comments or give advice when I have personal experience. There has only really been one blog lately that has frustrated me and I've wanted to say more than I've posted. In that case, I'm debating whether or not to continue following it.

  14. I also tend to lurk and not comment - I mostly comment if I think I have a different experience or take on the issue that hasn't been represented yet and might be helpful. Or if someone is specifically asking for advice on something I have an opinion about.

    I guess the one type of comment that sometimes bothers me (other than blatantly rude ones, that is), is when one post generates a whole stream of critical comments explaining why/how the poster should be doing things differently. Even if each individual comment is intended to be helpful and constructive, the weight of a whole pile of them seems like it could be overwhelming, and make someone defensive rather than encouraging them to consider the advice. Seems like if the first one or two comments have basically made the point, it's sometimes better just to shut up and let it trickle in.

    Not that I'm always particularly good about sitting on my hands myself, of course :)

  15. I rarely comment anywhere...but, I've been working on changing that. Maybe I'll become a writer as well as a reader...we'll see.

    As a writer, I've been envisioning that comments could help me create an anonymous type of conversation that would help me feel my way through challenges. I haven't yet decided if it will work for me.

  16. Thanks everyone. Reading your comments on comments has been really interesting for me. I want to have more to add, but I don't.

    I guess the next issue I have is etiquette for how to best respond to comments! I want to respond, but often have nothing more to say than, "Thanks for commenting! That was really interesting."

    So...thanks everyone. This has been really interesting.


Comments will be open for a little while, then I will be shutting them off. The blog will stay, but I do not want either to moderate comments or leave the blog available to spammers.