July 07, 2004

Comments Welcome

When I started this blog, way back in the Dark Days of Blogger, when my officemate Jen told me about this blogging thing and offered to build me a site, I most definitely asked her to include a comment engine.

It was the narcissist in me. It was the raging egomaniac in me. In short, it was the human being in me. Mostly, I just wanted to know if people were reading and get an idea of what they thought. Basically, I didn't want to do all this navel-gazing literary tripe unless I knew people were reading it.

Now, I've come to value comment threads for entirely different reasons.

There's the community aspect of comments, to be sure. Most people who comment here are folks in the blog realm I've come to know and respect. Comments from those people are kind of like a postcard from a distant acquaintance: nice to get, and it lets you know they're still out there breathing.

The whole Plain Layne fiasco (oh, and Odin's living vicariously through his Layne creation over here, if you're interested) really laid out the community aspect of comments out perfectly. I felt kinda at home in Layne's comment box, like I could kick off my shoes, grab a beer out of the fridge, and yell at the dog for awhile. I got to know the commenters there fairly intimately and, quite frankly, the comment threads over there were 60 percent, if not more, of the entertainment value of that blog. Seriously, if you read about someone falling asleep with a butt plug up their ass, and you couldn't comment about it, wouldn't that just drive you nuts? So, I miss the Plain Layne comment box considerably, and it's kind of weird to see Layne's loyal readers floating around without being able to find a comfortable home quite like we had at Plain Layne.

Then there's the investigative and information-sharing aspect of comments, which could, given the right people on the right scent, put the CIA to shame. Watching the uber-thread unfold on Joshua Norton's blog that picked apart the fraud that was Plain Layne was one fascinating and amazing phenomenon to witness. It was obvious, watching that dissection take place, that comment threads can be an incredibly powerful and useful tool for any number of investigative exercises.

Then, today, at A Small Victory, I read this:

personally, I see in our comments casual evidence of what the polling firms have been saying for some time: that left and right are becoming increasingly entrenched, and by extension, less tolerant and civil in debating opposing viewpoints. This is complicated by another factor: I believe “regulars” come to feel nearly proprietary ownership for the commenting forum, and they’re increasingly less likely to tolerate “outsiders” over time … because of the community blogs can create some come to see it as their sandbox, rather than ours. And if you buy that blogs (especially those with high readership levels) are points of collection for opinion leaders … well, it may be we’re seeing a leading indicator of less civil debate in our classrooms, breakrooms, and political conventions.

That's spot-on true, I think, and it's a big reason why I've backed away from political commentary here. The lines have pretty much been drawn for months now, so I'm either preaching to the choir or raising hackles at the church across the street. So, really, what's the point? In that regard, comments have pretty much lost their usefulness and have devolved into pissing matches that just seem to get both sides all the more angry.

Which is another reason why I miss the Plain Layne comment box so much. At least there, people could disagree and still remain largely civil, and maybe even fire out a limerick on occasion. I wish the tone of political discourse on blogs could be like that exchanged on Plain Layne.

Posted by Ryan at July 7, 2004 01:00 PM

I just wished that I got A comment every now and then on my site! :-) I'm jealous of all of you people that have a huge audience with many commentors. It shows that your posts are at least generating some thought, even if people only post to reinforce your ideas (or try to tear them down). I also like the community aspect but I was a commentor on another site and it got to be a problem where people would post comments with spoofed names/emails/websites so that they would appear as another person. Then the real person would come on to try to defend themselves, then the fake version of the person would comment and then it all lead to one big clusterfuck that made the comments worthless. So.... uhh... I completely forgot where I was going with this.

Posted by: Rick at July 7, 2004 01:58 PM

Rick, I've seen that happen too. The obvious way around it is for people to actually register accounts with usernames and passwords and stuff, but thats such a barrier that I think a lot of folks wouldn't bother commenting.

Plus, I've seen people make accounts that are almost identical to someone else's username on a forum, just to do the same thing.

Posted by: David Grenier at July 7, 2004 02:17 PM

Take heart, Rick. I've been doing the blogging thing now for over two years, and I'm just now starting to see visitor levels exceeding 200 or so a day. I remember all too well the consecutive days of 18 page visits a day, with 15 of those being me. And comments? Fahgetaboutit.

Posted by: Ryan at July 7, 2004 02:21 PM

Heh, I've also been at this for about 2 years, but the main difference is probably that I don't talk politics, which happens to be what most popular blogs are about. It is nice to see a link coming off of your front page to mine, though. You're the second site to link to me. It's a start. If you have any comments on my site, assuming you actually read it, as opposed to putting up a link to make me feel happy, please let me know. Feedback from a fellow Roch dweller is always appreciated. As for feedback on your site--it's a damn fine read!

Posted by: Rick at July 7, 2004 02:33 PM

Just to clarify and make sure my last comment didn't come off wrong or something, it should have had some :-)'s interspersed to denote lightheartedness. Work must be sucking too much of my life from me to allow me to type smileys.

Posted by: Rick at July 7, 2004 02:37 PM


In spite of my inconsistent tone, insulting opinions, and the generally sketchy quality of my writing, my regular audience is higher right now than it's ever been— about 160 people a day. How did I get there? Comments.

Commenting on blogs that interest me allows me to showcase my skilz or, alternatively, to annoy people so intensely that they come over to my blog to TP it. Several of my regular readers are people who linked over to me from the comments section of A Small Victory, where I spent an inordinate amount of time tearing into Michele's commenters and making fun of her politics. Other readers— lots of other readers —followed me over from Plain Layne, where I maintained a proud reputation as a towering asshole. Eventually people were, I think it's fair to say, sufficiently fascinated by the unrelenting fount vitriol that they felt compelled to follow it to its source. And thus did I acquire many readers.

This kind of works for Ryan too— I distinctly remember coming over here for the first time after seeing his biting commentary in the Plain Layne comment box. Of course, I wasn't sold on Ryan's writing immediately. But his political opinions pissed me off so badly that we quickly had several of the vicious insulting discussions I like to believe form the foundation of a really solid 'net friendship.

In conclusion, comments are more than just a place to insult and annoy people. They're also a place to expand your readership by annoying and insulting people.

Don't wait! Annoy and insult someone today.

Posted by: Joshua at July 7, 2004 03:34 PM

Of course, I wasn't sold on Ryan's writing immediately.


Them thar's fightin' words.

The "Of course," was a particularly painful cut.

*slinking off to mope*

Posted by: at July 7, 2004 04:00 PM

That was me, by the way.

Of course.

Posted by: Ryan at July 7, 2004 04:01 PM

Amen and hallelujah. I posted one small comment on Small Victory, and ended up getting flamed, and then supported, and then flamed, and then I quit looking. It kinda freaks me out sometimes that people can so mis-read you, when you are actually agreeing with them, and just go nuts about it.

Posted by: Donna at July 7, 2004 09:14 PM

I've tried reading A Small Victory but its just really kind of depressing to me. The deep seated fury and hate put a shit on any day I stop by (although Ryan has linked to some damned interesting and inflammatory posts). I like Michelle's writing but her audience is like a pack of pissed off attack dogs with someone tossing firecrackers at them.

Hit counts aren't the same as readers and I do try to remind myself often that my total hits for my angry little piece of cyberspace are less than some bloggers get in a single day. That said, I don't know how many regular readers I have a day, I know how much traffic I get and I am a shameless whore for it. But I'm cool with it. Just the other day, my hit counter rolled into six digits.

I think my main problem is that my blog isn't focused well at all. I write about anything and everything. I think that makes it hard for me to have too many regulars. But I've enjoyed getting to know Ryan and many others through blogs, I've even come to like Joshua.

I will always miss Plain Layne and the comments. I truly cared for what is now widely known as a hoax, my wounds are still fresh, I still wish a measure of retribution against the perpetrator. But I also found myself having a ball in the comment threads. It was a living room I was comfortable inhabiting and occasionally defending it.

The level of interaction, the general tone of the comments, the freak wild cards, the regulars. It made for an interesting corner of the 'net to call a home away from home. Nothing lasts forever, que sera sera.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at July 7, 2004 11:27 PM

Johnny Huh, just to let ya know, I'm one of your avid readers. Congrats on the new little one! I actually enjoy blogs that are more scattershot than focused ones. Since they are more random, I feel like I get to know the person more. In a very focused blog where only a few topics are touched on it feels like it's almost a news site about what's going on in that area with the writer's comments and/or bias tossed on.

So, in conclusion, I like scattershot blogs!

Posted by: Rick at July 8, 2004 08:16 AM

I too liked Layne's blog for the comments. It seemed that we would cringe, applaud, be disgusted, or moan at her in tandem. It was refreshing.

I don't read A Small Victory, but I heard that there is a schism going on over there, too. Maybe small communities of readers just need a place that they can bitch and not have people take it personally. I am pretty pissed off about the Odin Soli garbage, not just because we had our chains yanked, but because it makes those of us who write personal blogs have to defened that we are real, and this is not another hoax.

I write a personal blog, it is only a personal blog, and it will only ever be a personal blog. I can't be doing with arguing politics with people that I can't sit across from drinking a single malt whiskey with-I mean, if I can't convince them, at least I want to get them drunk.

And I have also given up monitoring hit counts and meters. Fuck it. If people read, comment, or email me, then I am happy.

Posted by: Helen at July 8, 2004 08:51 AM

I miss the fun of the comment thread at the old Plain Layne site. I miss Ryan hitting on young Meg through Layne's comments, I miss Joshua saying "heh" instead of "I told you so" and I miss the limericks and giving Ryan a bad time about the picture of his ass. I wish there ws some other blog with the same cast of commenters.

Posted by: amelia at July 8, 2004 09:08 AM

the blog can be many things to many people. the mint started out as a petri dish for a small group of frustrated web consultants. over the last two years, it has evolved into a forum for a wider (but still small) group to stay in contact with eachother. it fits this role nicely.

but with that, along the way, i have the opportunity to share an aquantence with some bloggers that are, in my opinion, far more articulate and eloquent than myself. i'll never forget the first time johnny huh made a stab at my spelling‚ which is atrocious. granted the comment was tongue-in-cheek, but it gave me sense that there are people out there that are able to be constructive. as opposed to people just yelling obscenities out their virtual car window.

joshua hits it on the head, comment on other sites as much as you can. it's the only reason i show up here and on the red pages, which may be regrettable by some parties.

ryan—don't underestimate the power of an occasional porn link. it might lighten the mood a bit. everybody looks at the nuddy-bar billboards on the expressways, they just don't all admit it.

Posted by: seed at July 8, 2004 09:10 AM

I think the first time I stopped by the Mint was when you'd just put up Big someone or other's Thong Gallery.

Skin is good, it keeps the conversation lubed up and interesting.

And Rick, thanks for the props! I've got you loaded up in a tab now and will read you in between running for things for my wife and the little boy.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at July 8, 2004 01:10 PM

I wish the tone of political discourse on blogs could be like that exchanged on Plain Layne.

Oh hell yes! Civility in political discourse - a concept that somehow seems to have gotten lost. If anyone knows of a moderately right wing (or even left wing, though I would just be part of the choir being preached to) blog with civil commenters (so LGF is *right out* on both accounts), let me know.

Other than that, I'm with Rick - I prefer blogs that are thematically all over the place to more tightly focused ones. Makes for far more interesting reading.

Posted by: Gudy at July 9, 2004 05:46 AM
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