« Davenport, IA (again) | Main | Stand back? »

The joy of comments

I don't know that this qualifies as big news or anything, but Jenny turned comments back on over at Stupid Undergrounds. And she had a couple of interesting things to say in this regard:

It's funny how quickly your body--seriously, I'm talking at the level of physiology here--gets used to the network(ed) feedback and movement of blogs....Blogs are so amazing because they are sprouts of network energy....many thrive because they continue to move and circulate with comments, threads, readers.

She and I talked about this a little during my visit, about how, when someone wants to "start a blog," what they mean is that they want to achieve that "thriving" state immediately, without realizing that, in most cases, it takes a lot of time and investment (and comments, threads, and readers). In this, it's not unlike people who decide that they "need publications." In other words, a publication is the result of a similarly intensive investment of time, energy, understanding, etc., an investment that can't actually guarantee success. The investment itself has to be its own reward, and often, if it is, the other stuff will come.

The issue of comments. Jenny's post made me think about the role of comments on blogs, and if I had the time or inclination, here's a little project I might undertake. It would be interesting to look at a set of blogs, and to track the number of comments on different posts, and then look to see if they function in a feed-forward manner. That is, are certain topics likely to receive more comments, and if so, do the bloggers return to those topics with more frequency? The common sense answer is "of course," but I suspect that it also is affected by each blogger's personal ratio of "self/other" writing, a ratio that itself can be affected by comments. As convoluted as this may sound, it might be a way of articulating that self/other ratio, or describing the evolution of a particular blog, based on more than just the anecdotal or intuitive perceptions of its author.

Hmm. That'd be a big project, and I'm pretty sure that it would only work for blogs of a certain size, but it might also apply to the teaching of writing in the sense that it could supply some general guidelines for how teachers might respond to student blogs in ways that would be most productive--more formative than normative, perhaps. The more I'm writing about this, the more interesting it sounds to me. Not that I've really got the time to do something like it right now, but still.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The joy of comments:

» The role of Comments from Mind Tracks
I stumbled upon an interesting discussion in The Joy of Comments which in part touched on something I have been thinking about for a while. Collin Brooke of Collin vs Blog suggests that the frequency of responses in the form... [Read More]


Part of the reason I switched to typepad was because I liked the "Recent Comments" add-on. It seemed to me that it helped the blog become a bit more "conversational" not just for the writer, but also for the everyday readers no longer having to dig through and remember each post they'd ever commented on to see if someone had responded to their comment.

The variable (may not be the right scientific method word, but I'm not an academic, so I don't really remember) in your study might be the degree to which a blogger writes items geared towards certain people. As I've gotten to know some of you all, there are certainly times that I've written something that I know would get a response from a certain person. "Lori would like this" or "Collin would find this interesting."

Anyway, just a few thoughts.

The comment feature on my blog does not facilitate regular responses, something I was happy with at the outset, because my purpose was more documentary than conversational. Now I want to find a way to get a functional comment feature on the blog.

Here's a hunch about your proposed study: "self" postings get more comments than "other" postings.

Yeah, as I think about it, the idea of a self/other ratio seems to make things a little more simplistic than it actually is for most of us. I'm more likely to re-read and comment at a post where there are several comments, where it feels more like a matter of conversing instead of responding (if that makes sense). I still think that this kind of comment-located momentum might influence writers, but I'd need a better way of tracking and/or defining it.

And Dylan, I like the recent comments function for the same reason you do. MT access lets me as author see where people are responding, but no one else has that option here. It functions almost as an energy signature for a blog--allowing people to see where attention is accumulating...

And now that I think of it, I'm going to try something today, I think. More on this in a little while...



Collin - I am sure it would be possible to trace a trajectory based on positive feedback from readers between writing to represent the self to the self and presenting the self in a manner that meets readers expectations - I intuitively feel it is tied to the social - ie we are social beings - I realise all language is grounded in the social but I sense that comments are a way measure and point to this.
this is an interesting question - I have teased it out a bit more on my blog