Wednesday, July 28, 2021

A Comment On Comments

 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".

24 comments:

  1. "Your house, your rules."

    If I have nothing to say, I don't comment.

    Sometimes when I disagree with a post, that forces me to reassess my own viewpoints.

    Commenting has forced me to be a better writer. The old journalism rule of the five Ws is a good start.

    Why are typos invisible until I push the Publish button?

    I've stopped reading some bloggers because they don't ever acknowledge their commenters.

    Thank you for your insight and the amount of hard work it takes to write your blog.

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    1. John - Typos are, in fact, invisible to all of us that do not have editors. It heartens me that others experience the same thing. To be honest, I used to be a lot more hung up on this until one day I received a very pointed (and correct) alignment on my opinion. At this point, as long as it is not misspelled as cursing, it is al good.

      I am better about feeling like I do not have to comment than I used to be. But it is a learned reaction. And disagreement does make me think about myself.

      I certainly appreciate when bloggers respond to comments. Sometimes it seems to be a volume issue, but someone I really think is good at this are the kind folks over at Chanson du Depart. They respond to every comment.

      You are more than welcome. Doing this has helped me to think better and learn more, and I have met a bevy of delightful people on the way.

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  2. I like this. Very well put. I have heard that the writer's mind is well ordered. It takes work to communicate "on paper". Or on blog as the case is here.

    Comments are reactions, so they move a bit quicker, and some times, the first comment is the goal, not a cogent response. We have gotten comfortable with being able to spout without any real push back. I'll submit that when duels were outlawed, the first amendment suffered as a result.

    That may be a bit too Texas Friendly, or maybe Southern Hospitality compared to Be Nice or Go Home. Still and all a great waypoint for commenters.

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    1. STxAR, sadly my mind is not as well ordered as I might like. I have gotten better about organizing my thoughts. Sometimes now though, I will chew over it in my mind as I walk the dog or shower. It helps get it down.

      Comments are indeed reactions. That said, it occurs to me that in our modern society, we have become too used to blurting out the first thing that comes into our mind rather than thinking through a response. And we have come to accept this quick draw word response as the way things should be. Our conversation and our writing have suffered as a result, at least in my view.

      Dueling (Samurai culture was actually the same or worse for supposed slights; two scabbards accidentally touching could be cause for a duel) reinforces the idea that words and actions matter and that we are accountable for them. Surely there is a way that does not involve quite such finality that can be used to get this across.

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    2. There have been several authors I wished I'd met and gotten to know. I finally understood that to know them I could read what they wrote. That gives an insight into who they were. Trying to keep that in focus with the 5 W's has helped me a lot.

      I've learned about you in the same way. How you write, your word choice, the mood of the post, your book recommendations, all of it helps me understand. Your words are you, on this blog. It's how we've taken the measure of each other.

      And now, you know why God sent us His Word. So we could know the Unapproachable One.

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    3. STxAR, it is fascinating to me how much author's backstories influence who they are and how the right - not necessarily by direct knowledge of events (although London knew the Yukon and Dostoevsky the prison camps of Siberia) but by how their experiences shape their writing. I am no different, I suppose, although sometimes I wonder what it says about me (!).

      I hope the words are me. I try to make them so.

      And yes, the Word points us back to the ultimate Author of all.

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  3. I have started off on the wrong foot many times on a blog, especially over the last handful of years, when my first comment is of a political nature. Because I often point out the hypocrisies of one party or another, I automatically get lumped into the other "side" and trashed. It is only if I survive the initial verbal beating and comment enough times that some will accept that there can be those of us in the political gray matter between parties and be willing to understand that not everything in politics has to be black or white.

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    1. Ed, you are not alone in that. For me at least, that is why I tend to monitor the flow for a time to see how and what the flow of comments are, to find where the initial points of disagreement are allowed and how they are handled.

      If (at least for myself) I can get people past the initial need to "react" to my reaction, things seem to go okay. Then again over the years, I found that responding to political related blogs is something I do less and less, just because the level of angst all around is a little more than I need in a day.

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    2. I respond less and less to political posts as well. Occasionally though I do find blogs such as yours where the political discussion is very respectful and that encourages me to speak up again.

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    3. I hope so Ed. There is no reason we should not be able to discuss things reasonably. Although, as indicated above, I tend to cherry pick my subjects to things I do not believe will create a firestorm of controversy (it does not always work, however).

      At some point, if we are not to destroy each other, we will have to talk to each other.

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  4. I like your parent's sign.

    Summer heat in Louisiana now. Makes me praise God for our new home even more.

    Be safe and God bless you all, TB.

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    1. Linda, I have no idea where they found it, but I love it too.

      Yes, it is the hot season here as well. It always strikes me as odd that this locale is advertised as a lovely place to be active, but that only really happens in the morning or evening. Too unpleasant otherwise.

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  5. TB I am so sorry. It will not happen again.

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    1. Glen, I said it before and will say it again, you lovable scamp: We are square. No harm, no foul.

      (Besides, you are on of my most reliable commenters. I need you to keep my number up!)

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    2. I don't think you need my help with numbers, bud.

      My issue is that I have grown up being lectured about civility and being nice by people that absolutely refuse to practice what they preach. (I am NOT talking about you). I have seen them literally tear their families and communities apart as they frantically try to do what's polite and courteous rather than doing what is right. This happened in my own family, and it leaves me bitter sometimes, and forgetting where I am and who I am talking to.

      I will not apologize for the opinions themselves, they are based on unpleasant truths and are reasonable as far as I can see. It is an unpleasant experience to have your nose rubbed in them as I have... and I forget that from time to time. Many in christian circles are insulated from them and maybe that is a good thing. I get that you don't want to confront that sort of thing here and will confine my comments to the harmless stuff.

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    3. Glen, I get the issue of civility. I read about it quite often through experiences such as your own and have probably tuned out more relationships than I probably consciously know of because of this. We have become a frighteningly uncivil society - good heavens, from what I read of pre-Christian societies, they were more civil than we have become.

      There is no need to apologize for your opinions, at least from my point of view. And to your point, I lead a pretty insulated life in that respect, but a lot of that has become by choice. In my case and with my mental disposition, I would much rather walk away from a relationship that is difficult in that aspect than stay and argue in it. But that is not always the right answer either.

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    4. Glen and TB, the repartee between you two is one of the highlights of my day now. I'm a relative newcomer here, only in the past year or two, but I've read enough to get a sense that you both have good hearts behind the snark and sarcasm. And the deep empathy you have for your doggos shows that most readily.
      Thank you both for your time and effort in keeping up.

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    5. Greg, to be honest between the two of us, I am not sure who is snark and who is sarcasm (Glen, maybe you have a better sense).

      But the reality is that people of good hearts and good nature (no matter for us, how deeply buried) should be able to have conversations, disagree, make points, and learn. The rather unfortunate reality is that much of what passes for conversation now is really just the ability to get one up on the opposition or shout down your opponent. The ability to listen and learn - nay, the willingness to do so - is very absent.

      It pleases me beyond words that this adds something to your day. This makes all the effort worthwhile, and you are of course more than welcome.

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  6. You've given a good list of things to consider before commenting and I'm glad you're a blogger who responds to most every comment. Since I enjoyed the "social" aspect of blogging (I'm far from social in my real life), I liked having dialog with others in the comments section. Besides, I had many themed posts over the years that begged for "audience participation". I also felt like I should acknowledge everyone's comment, even if it didn't require much of a response (and they never came back to see it). These days it's a moot point. I don't post often on my main blog and when I do, it's not usually the kind of post that inspires comments. I just keep the comments turned off. My faith blog, however, has a different purpose for me. While I welcome and read any comments that are left there, I don't always respond to them.

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    1. Kelly, were people to actually meet me, they would find me to be one of the most non-social people around: other than volunteering at the rabbit shelter and my Iai class, I spend most of my time at home with my family.

      For myself, I feel like responding to comments is the polite thing to do. Other people have other feelings about it or may even lack the opportunity to do so (with a busy blog, I can see where that would be a burden.

      One of the interesting things for me as well is noticing which posts generate a lot of comments and which generate a few. I am sometimes surprised at what I think will be "discussed" but is not, while other things are almost throwaways in my mind but generate a lot of comments.

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    2. You're right. It can be interesting to note what interests our readers (and what doesn't). I learned years ago to stay away from push-button topics for the most part, since I always had a fairly diverse readership. (left to right and everywhere in-between) Though if you were to peruse the category selection at my blog, you might find a few "controversial" topics shown.

      This exchange has reminded me of how much I use to enjoy my interactive posts (favorite fives, ponderings, etc), so I've decided to jump back in and try a new one. Feel free to stop by and join in. (I might have run off all my readers by turning off the comments!)

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    3. Kelly, it is struggle sometimes, knowing what to post. NO different than everyone else, I have opinions on matters. The difficulty is finding a way to discuss them that does not evoke an immediate reaction but rather thought.

      Excellent on the post! I have commented! If helpful for context, I get the same eyes from the rabbits when I cut an apple...

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  7. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Blog do have a flavor. Quite introspective, in your face with political chatter, farming on small homesteads, former military and people with interesting lives. Started with Pioneer Women way back when. Transitioned out of that to what turned out to be a wider world that I couldn't have imagined. Where else can you find 3 people from South Africa, England, Canada, a Navy Seal, Pilots both male and female. But of all of them, some I've read for years my comments are almost non-existent. For every post is 25 deletes. Where else can start my morning reading about atomic reaction and move on to someone moving the calf's to a different field and planting 5 acres of potatoes? I love to read and learn and you've all taught me so much. I found you through a comment and wondered what it meant. And that's how it starts. A new flavor to add that complements the end product.
    Margi
    P.S. Tell Glen that I enjoy his comments. Have been to his blog more than once.

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    1. Margi - Everything that you have related (and thank you for the story) is exactly the power of the Social Internet: people writing, posting, discussing, hopefully thinking, and certainly learning. In some ways, I would guess this the sort of thing is exactly what the creators of the InterWeb were hoping for, not the sniping and what seems to be increasingly closed minds and conversations of Social Media.

      I, too, am fond of Glen (That can be our secret. No sense in telling him...)

      Thank you for stopping by!

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