One of the best - and worst - things one can do is start following blogs.
Overall I have no idea if there are "more" or "less" blogs than there used to be - go to any site with a blogroll and there will almost inevitably be links that have blogs that have not posted in five years or longer. Life is like that of course, especially when 99.9% of the bloggers in the world write because of the love of writing or the need to communicate (or, secretly, we like to punish ourselves by adding another item to our "to do" list). Things happen, people move on. In that way, the Interweb becomes like a tropical forest, gently covering the ruins but always showing where they were.
Blogs have character. If you follow a blog long enough, you will begin to get a sense of not only how the writer writes, but how the readers respond. Some bloggers are fair "aggressive" writers, and their readers respond in kind (sometimes scathingly). Others are much more mellow, with readers commenting at a more leisurely pace. Yet others are narrow blogs, having a focus of a particular area of interest the write on and eschewing any and all sorts of controversial subjects (except in their area - and even then, things happen: gardeners and cheesemakers can rumble like no-one's business).
One of the sort of "rules of the road" that I stumbled into is that I will follow a blog for a while before I will comment, to get the flavor and flow of the commentary, what and how people respond, and what the general tone is. Some I will read and never respond on simply because I do not have the emotional willingness to sustain an on-line argument about something that, given three days, will be subsumed by yet another blog post (which, I suppose, we can disagree about all over again).
I am fortunate in that my readers (that is you, gentle readers) are some of the kindest and good-hearted people that respond on blogs. In my now 16 plus years of blogging, I have only ever had to delete two comments, one because it was downright mean (but I did respond with a post), and one because it crossed the line I have about politics and religion here (and we discussed it and we are all square about it). I am often surprised by new people that take the time to post (Thanks for stopping by!), both for taking the time to comment as well as holding to the (apparently written down somewhere but not visible to me) rules of the road, which I publish only at the beginning of the year.
You can say it is my choice of subjects. That probably plays a hand in it as well, as the few posts that I have tried which ventured off of my own rules tended to end poorly - or at least unsatisfactorily from my point of view as the proprietor of this humble establishment.
As you can guess, this is not just motivated by the fact I ran out of something better to write (well, maybe I did but that is besides the point). It happened because at the blog of two groups of folks I sincerely respect, a commenter or commenters made comments that, while not foul or angry, definitely put off the tone of the post for that day and the comments following it.
The founders of these fine publishing institutions are consummate professionals of course, and both situations were handled with politeness, tact, and skill. But it left a rather off taste in my mouth - not for me, but for them.
I had not intended this to turn into a lecture (as apparently it has become), and this is not directed inherently at anyone that comments here. You all are exactly the way things are supposed to work: We have discussions here, perhaps disagreeing in point of view but not to the point of questioning each other's sanity or basic humanity (which, of course, is precisely how I intend to keep it running as long as I am here). Just a couple of general thoughts on commenting on the Blogosphere:
1) Know Your Audience - As listed above, just read the comments for a while. The tone of the commenters - it should come as a surprise to no-one that in most established blogs, there are "regulars" - will act as a guide as to what is and is not permissible.
2) Do Not Comment - Or put another way, "You do not have to comment on every blog post you see and agree - or disagree - with". Mostly it is the disagree with, right? It is perfectly alright to have that scathing remark or witty comeback in your head. You just do not always need it to go out your fingers.
3) Be Thoughtful of Your Hosts - Every blog that is not commercially sponsored is written by someone, someone that has taken time out of their life (that they can never get back) to write a post. If you cannot respect the post or the opinion, at least respect that someone took the time to offer themselves to do it. If you really disagree or think what they say is wrong, silly, or terrible, you can always start a blog...
4) Be Kind - "This is applicable everywhere?" I hear you thinking. Yes, yes it is. Kindness costs one nothing, even when one disagrees vehemently. People will ultimately reject arguments made in anger and force of words, but will usually take the time to at least listen to a kind response, even if (as it true in my case) it is often wrong.
Personal blogs are a great deal like homes. In a way, it is like when we were children and learning how to visit the home of others: we took our cues from how the home owner acted and how others in the home acted. Some were the virtual equivalent of "Animal House"; others were as quiet and civilized as Sense and Sensibility. But in every case, we observed before we began to act.
Or, as the sign above my parent's house says, "Be Nice or Go Home".