Optional Words & Comments

Glass wind chimes in the Japanese maple just off our back porch. This is a double exposure with my Nikon DSLR; after owning the camera for years, I stumbled upon a setting that combines two shots.


As we surf the interwebs, we read and look at things that other people have created. We get inspired {Orly Avineri}... we draw bagels {Danny Gregory}... we buy pens {Fountain Pen Network}. It's a mixed bag. In turn, we have the option of communicating and providing feedback on things that people write, create and photograph. We ♥ photos on instagram, LIKE posts on Facebook, write book reviews at Goodreads. 

And comment on blog posts. Well, sometimes. It depends.

Many of us have rules about commenting on blogs, whether we have examined those rules or not. I can relate to the way Karen of I am Rushmore describes her thought process about commenting:

"I never comment on really popular blogs. You’ve got thousands of readers, what value do I add? Plus I’ve created this bizarre notion of celebrity in my own head, making some bloggers larger than life, and invulnerable to the doubts, fears and insecurities we all face with our art and writing from time to time. There are blogs I’ve read and enjoyed every day for years and never once commented on. Weird. If there are already 20 or so comments, I usually won’t add my own. I don’t want to leave the same generic “I love this!” comment all over the blogosphere, but I run out of things to say. Good comments take time to write, and time is limited, so I’m more likely to say nothing than to add vague/empty comments. And yet as a writer, I love knowing people have stopped by, and don’t judge them by what they say. I particularly value thoughtful substantial comments, but I also like the thumbs up comments, just to know I’ve got an audience."

At Daisy Yellow, comments feel like a pat on the back, and I adore them! For me, blogging is about community and not about marketing or selling. The reality is that I'm sitting here writing stuff, and it helps to know that people "get" my message! I had this outdated idea {so 2010's} that blog comments & emails were the most valuable feedback. But things have changed. There's a lot going on simultaneously and I interact with the creative community in a bunch of different ways. I receive warm emails from readers saying that they never comment, but are reading! I would do art no matter what, but I keep blogging about art & creativity because I have a core group of readers that I know are out there.

And as much as I LOVE the DY Facebook group, I am not in love with Facebook. I see it as a necessary evil tool, but I prefer popping around to people's unique and amazing blogs. Blogs designed with art, charm, a unique look and feel. Bloggers create spaces that represent them. We can't really do that on a generic Facebook page where we ask for fans. I wonder why we are trying to create a mini-blogosphere on Facebook. A funnel for all things on the web, like AOL when the web began. 

As Diane of CraftyPod notes:

"The conversation activity has all moved to social media platforms."

I started wondering what other trends other bloggers are seeing in comments, their blogging space and their communication process. I sent an email to a bunch of long-time bloggers and asked 3 questions. I deeply appreciate the responses and look forward to YOUR input on these topics in the comments. {In the comments, get it? Seems ironic, a play on words, a pun of some sort, an allegory, perhaps just metaphorical metaphysical meaninglessness.} 


Three Question Survey of Unquantifiable Scientific Value:

Q1: How do blog comments impact you as a creative blogger? Do they motivate you to blog more frequently? To be a better blogger?
Q2: Have you noticed a increase or decrease in thoughtful blog comments at your blog over the past 2 years?
Q3: How has Facebook impacted your blog or blogging style?


Q1: How do blog comments impact you as a creative blogger? Do they motivate you to blog more frequently? To be a better blogger?

➸ {Roben-Marie Smith} I love receiving comments and enjoy hearing from my readers but comments or lack of comments do not influence my blogging one way or the other. I don't consider comments a gauge of whether or not people are visiting or reading my blog. I continue to share what is important to me regarding my life and art and enjoy doing so. 

➸ {Mary England} As much as I know that you shouldn't base your content on the amount of comments you get, I really do love getting feedback. Leaving a comment takes a little bit of effort, so I know that if someone is doing that, they really enjoyed the post. I will blog every day regardless of how many comments I get in a week, but receiving more comments does make me feel a little more confident and excited to blog! 

➸ {Brian Kasstle} I tend to get more comments when I blog more frequently. I do not create with blogging in mind. I post and if folks like what I post and say all the better. I tend to put a lot of thought into my blog posts. 

➸ {Leslie Herger} I love love love comments on my blog. They don't motivate me to blog more frequently but they can add fuel to the fire. I often use them for motivation for future posts. If I'm posting on a theme, like my recent series about art instruction, then I absolutely take them into account. I'll even refer back to the comment and the commenter in the next post.

I recently had a great email exchange with a reader who took one of my off-hand comments very seriously. I didn't realize the way I had stated something came off so hard nosed. I went back and edited the post so it better reflected my thoughts and didn't come across so restrictive. With her reflective, and considerate, input I was able to see some areas I had come across in ways I hadn't intended. It also has gotten me to slow down on my posting. It used to be that I'd post something the day after I had written it, but now I wait a few days before something goes live onto the site. I do this, in part, to temper my words and make sure they accurately reflect my thoughts. With this new buffer I'm able to go back and read a post again before I put it up. Often I'll change the wording and ideas so they are more accurate. I believe this has made my blog better, though I'm actually posting less. So, yes to the better, no to the more frequent.

➸ {Chris} What motivates me to become a better blogger is the art itself. As for whether comments motivate my blogging practice, I feel they don’t play a very big part, anymore. I really enjoy hearing from readers and fellow artists! To blog without a comments function (which some bloggers do) would not be satisfying to me.

But I have always had a love/hate relationship with comments. On the one hand, I LOVE being able to comment on others' blogs. And I love getting my readers’ comments. On the other hand, like most new bloggers, I would look at the stats showing the number of visits to my blog, and wonder why the number of comments posted was a tiny fraction of that total. I started comparing myself to other bloggers, and wondering why they got so many more comments than I did. It was almost as if I were basing my worth as an artist on the randomness of blog commenting.

Finally, I came to the realization that the blog supports the ART. Not the other way around. I wanted to grow as an artist. The blog is only one platform for documenting that evolution.

Because of the nature of human interaction and how it often distances me from myself in unhealthy ways, I made a personal choice to no longer focus so much on the comment content of my blog. I like allowing people the open door to remark on my work. It's always great to get a thoughtful comment from someone and connect with this supportive community. However, I don't worry any more about balancing the number of comments I get with the number I leave, or trying to guess why someone is or isn't commenting. Because, I know that: 1) I can't focus on that and still work on my art in a genuine and consistent fashion, and, 2) even if I did want to be a blogging giant in this community, there are just too many variables to the phenomenon of commenting for me to reach any lasting conclusions from those numbers.

➸ {Kelly Warren} Comments are important to me and they show me that people are at least reading my blog. I used statfinder to track my visits, but I'm not so sure that gives an accurate representation. I still blog regardless of comments, but it's so much more encouraging when someone actually takes a minute to leave a comment.

➸ {Carlene Taylor Simmons} For me my blog is mostly about a public commitment to my art. Like committing to a swap or challenge, it motivates me to keep making creativity a priority. But I also like to share and hope others will be inspired or motivated or just informed by a link I might share. For me comments let me know I'm not just talking to myself. I think if you blog you want community as well.

Comments aren't the thing I seek or measure by success by but none certainly can be discouraging. I have thought of turning comments off and directing communications towards Facebook/Google+. There does seem to be more of a conversation there. Sometimes I feel like blog comments are becoming just a nicety - like saying please and thank you. Then I read a blog and the comments are just as enjoyable and substantive as the post itself. I know I am not the best at commenting myself so I try to keep that in mind when I get discouraged and I try to take the time to comment on posts that impact me.

One blog I read has a like button. I find that interesting. Perhaps some would see it as a sort of cop out. But to me it's a way to give feedback, to say I read what you had to say and I'm shaking my head and thinking it over. 

➸ {Diane Gilleland} I love getting comments, as everyone does. These days, blogging so often feels like shouting into the wind - it's so hard to tell whether the things I'm sharing have any positive impact on anyone. When a reader takes the time to let me know he or she enjoyed a post, it makes me so happy.

Interestingly, I used to blog mostly for my readers, choosing topics for them, and using their feedback to grow my blog in directions they'd like. But as comments have declined overall, I've taken to blogging more and more for myself. That's been a good evolution, because I'm not sure I'd still be enjoying blogging as much otherwise - there's just not a lot of feedback out there anymore.

➸ {Zom Osborne} Comments do motivate me to blog. It makes me feel like people are interested in what I am writing and it starts a conversation. That is probably what I prefer about FB, these days it is more of a conversation than my blog feels like. 

➸ {Quinn McDonald} My blog readers are amazing. They have a sense of humor and fun and they inspire me. Because my blogs are frequently more about creativity and the events in a creative life, my bloggers contribute their experiences, techniques and ideas--many of which I use and then blog about.
As a writer, I need to practice every day, and that's what my blog started out to be. Now it's a conversation among creative people--never boring, always interesting. I often have better ideas in the comments than I have in my blog writing! 

➸ {Karen Isaacson} Comments definitely motivate me as a writer. I like writing, and I suppose I largely blog for my own amusement. My blog has never been about selling or advertising or building an audience. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t keep it up if I didn’t get any response. I’ve made great friends through blogging, and that’s what keeps me doing it. Without comments and interaction, the friendships aren’t built/maintained, so I see comments as an integral part of blogging.

I’m conflicted on how to reply to comments. Truly, I much prefer to reply via email. I get comment alerts emailed to me as they come in, and it’s so nice to hit reply and answer the person. But more and more comments come from “donotreply” rather than an email address and it’s a hassle for me to click through to my blog, find the individual comment and post a comment below it. As a reader, I don’t really like the “in blog” reply to comments. Once I’ve read your particular post, I don’t go back to it. I have moved on. So I comment, you reply, and I never see it, and the conversation dies. I’ve tried subscribing to comments, but it floods my inbox with way too much stuff. As a commenter, I don’t expect or need the blogger to respond to my every comment. Only respond to my comments that make you want to say something – continue the discussion, share the joke, etc. I hate reading a blog with lots of comments and then seeing the blogger has answered every single one with something vacuous like “thanks for commenting!” It’s not meaningful dialogue and it slows down my reading experience. On the other hand, If there is a really good debate/discussion going on in the comments, it’s nice to see the blogger pop in once in a while with clarification or further commentary. 


Q2: Have you noticed a increase or decrease in thoughtful blog comments at your blog over the past 2 years?

➸ {Roben-Marie Smith} I have noticed a decline in blog comments. Posting questions will sometimes encourage interaction and comments. I think it helps to engage readers.

➸ {Mary England} As I get more traffic, it's difficult to determine if I would be getting less comments. However, I often get comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram instead of on the actual post.

➸ {Brian Kasstle} Actually more within the last year with the popularity of Facebook. I have friends that have stopped blogging and put their art only on Facebook. I still prefer to post on my blog, but I also post on Facebook, my tumblr site and my flickr account. I enjoy posting.

➸ {Leslie Herger} I think comments go in waves on my blog. I have occasional posts, like the Cult of Stuff, that really seem to strike a chord with people. These get the largest amount of comments. I really adore the comments I do get. 

➸  {Chris} Yes, a decrease. However, I think part of this could be that I don't blog as frequently and I fall off the radar. But even when I was blogging once or twice a week, I noticed a decline. People are not reading blogs or commenting as much. And an important point for me to make is this: I DON'T READ OR COMMENT AS MUCH. I am making art, sharing it on Instagram for the very easy and quick sharing podium it affords, and otherwise blogging about it when I choose to. Probably every couple of weeks, on average. When I read blogs, it has to be in short spurts and often my blogroll is only partially covered by these visits. I just don't have the time, because my art takes up much of the time that I am not at my job or sleeping or socializing. However, my decline in reading and commenting does not mean I don't care about other people's work. I follow people in many ways, both in their blogging, on Flickr, on Instagram, and try to maintain solid communication through that old black magic called 'the email.'

➸ {Kelly Warren} I have definitely noticed a decrease not only in comments but also in visits. I remember Google reader going away not to long ago and heard talk of that affecting blog visits, so I'm not sure if that's it or if it is the greater use of Facebook, or what. I still follow all my blogs through my Blogger account, so I'm still able to check in on those I like to read. 

➸ {Diane Gilleland} Definite decrease, although I have a beloved little core of people who take time to say hello regularly, and I appreciate them so much! The conversation activity has all moved to social media platforms. Given the speed and fluency of conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the "old" mode of formally writing a blog post, having someone formally read it, and then having someone comment, almost feels like too much work sometimes. That's not to say that I think blogging is dead. I still think a blog is an important place to collect the ideas and images that matter to you, and the act of blogging is still an incredible journey of growth and discovery. But blogging is much less of a community sport than it used to be. 

➸ {Zom Osborne} I have noticed a huge decrease in my blog comments and I do think that is partly because of Facebook. But I also have to consider other factors, I am going to blogs less and commenting less. Commenting seems to be very reciprocal, and fair enough. I am also blogging less. This is a lot because I am creating a new website and will have a blog there, just related to my art practice. As I teach regularly I find that the art journaling info is going to my students and I feel less interest in blogging about it. I am more interested in writing about my studio art and the refashioning that I do as a hobby. It will be interesting to see how much I post on my new artist blog as I don't expect lots of comments these days. I don't think the lack of comments will stop me there somehow, perhaps because my art practice is so vital to my sense of myself. 

➸ {Quinn McDonald} Over the seven years I've been blogging (5-6 times a week), I've always had thoughtful comments, but I have a lot more of them now. Last summer, when I taught at Madeline Island School of the Arts for a week, I had trouble creating blog posts and left one that said I was living in the moment at the art retreat and would the readers please entertain themselves--they did! There were discussions and opinions, questions and chats for me to sort out when I got back. Most of them were very funny and thoughtful.

➸ {Karen Isaacson} I can’t say I’ve noticed a change in the number of comments I receive on my blog. I have a core group of commenters, and they are steady in their support. I’ve been blogging less than three years, so I can’t compare the trend to the “heyday” of blogging as others can.

The demise of google reader has sadly impacted the way I interact with other bloggers. Changing readers made me purge a lot of blogs from my list because it was just taking too long to go through all the posts, and the interfaces of other readers just aren't as user friendly as google reader. I find myself commenting less. Even though I know how much comments mean to bloggers, and how important they are to that sense of community that I depend on. 


Q3: How has Facebook impacted your blog or blogging style?

➸ {Roben-Marie Smith} I continue to focus my efforts on my blog and use FB only as a secondary way of posting. I link to FB via my blog and Instagram. 

➸ {Mary England} I promote each of my blog posts on my Facebook page, and there are lots of people who will click through to my post, come back to Facebook, and comment there. I think people feel like their comments will be better heard if they post them on Facebook. Which may be true! I'm sure more people look at the preview of my blog post on Facebook than actually read it. We have all these other ways to connect through social media, commenting isn't the only way to interact with the blogger. If my content is getting read, then I can't be picky about where people choose to comment!

➸ {Brian Kasstle} I actually think Facebook has driven people to my blog. I've noticed lately I get more traffic from Facebook that from other sites.

➸ {Leslie Herger} It hasn't really. A lot of my readers don't have Facebook. Many of them hate it. I try to have the best stuff on my blog but sometimes I'll share process stuff on Facebook. Later I'll compile those images to a single post on my blog, specifically for those readers who don't have Facebook. I'm wary of investing too much time into Facebook, after all, who actually remembers and uses Myspace, Orkut, or LiveJournal? I was active on 2 of the 3 and haven't logged into any of the 3 in years. Mostly I use my facebook page to share interesting sites, images, and blogs. Sometimes I feel like it's shouting into space. Especially now that FB makes me pay to reach my full audience.

Personally, I'm saddened by the wave of people shutting off comments on their blogs and youtube. I think the conversation is one of the many reasons I've been so involved with blogging over the years. Sure you'll get some people posting hate, but I find that it's pretty rare, and that's coming from one of the few openly gay youtube art people. I think that more often than not, the people who have closed off the comments on their blogs/YT either don't want to be bothered with them or don't want to face some of the real criticism that comes about when you post inauthentic or stuff that appropriates the cultural heritage of others. I could go on and on about that last topic, but that's likely a post I should get on my blog. I think that's a HUGE conversation that we should have in the online instruction world. I tried to have a conversation about it at one point and it didn't end well.

➸ {Chris} Not at all. I don't use FB in any significant way. Occasionally I will go there for pictures of friends who no longer share pictures through email. But that's it. Frankly, my emails from friends have declined significantly since FB came on the scene. And if I don't visit FB, I don't hear from some of my friends who are on there, unless there is a specific topic or event we connect about through email. I don't care whether my readers are on FB or whether artists whose blogs I read have FB pages. I basically don't care about FB. 

➸ {Kelly Warren} I think Facebook's impact has been more on lack of visits to the blogs in general. Facebook is such a quick response system, I think many people just look at the picture you may have posted in Facebook and might leave a comment or "like" there and never visit the blog. I will still continue to blog as I like that it serves as a reference point for myself if nothing else. I like searching back through posts and seeing where I've been, where my creative work has come from, etc, and I'm hoping to just leave something there for my girls. In the ever changing world of the internet though, who knows if Blogger will just one day disappear.

➸ {Diane Gilleland} I despise Facebook. All I do there is feed my blog posts over. Seriously, trying to use that convoluted mess of a UI for even a few minutes turns my stomach to knots. So it hasn't affected anything for me. Twitter and Instagram have led me to write somewhat shorter posts, and write grabbier headlines that are more likely to get clicked from the social media space.

I actually love Instagram for the reason many bloggers probably like Facebook - it's a much more active conversation space, and one where I'm not asked to do much reading. I think that social media has cut into my blog-reading time significantly - I have an RSS reader stuffed with blogs, but I don't read every new post on any of them. Instead, I make periodic scans and read only the posts that grab me. And I don't think I'm alone in this by a longshot. Which is why we're seeing such a decline in commenting. I just think we're a lot of information-overloaded people, coping as best we can. The world wants so much more attention than we have to give, and this means everyone is getting less attention than they might want online.

➸ {Zom Osborne} One of the things that I find disappointing about Facebook is how few people are willing to go to my blogposts from there. I can't know for sure but it seems that way. And Facebook, well with the ad thing it is hard to even get onto people's news feeds. That is very sad.

➸ {Quinn McDonald} Facbook has widened the audience who visits the blog. It's made the conversation more diverse and far more interesting. But while many people are mourning the end of blogs and reading, I'm having fun with some smart, articulate people with strong opinions. It doesn't get better than that.

➸ {Karen Isaacson} Facebook hasn’t changed things much for me. I never blogged “pre facebook” and don’t use FB for blog related activities (I do maintain a Mail Me Some Art FB page, but I'm terrible about updating it). As a reader, I’ve noticed some of my favorite bloggers write/post less than they used to, because they are posting on facebook or instagram or flickr or twitter. I poke into those arenas every once in a while, but cannot possibly keep up or participate in all of those places. It’s overwhelming. I love blogs and love interacting with people through them, and that’s where I keep my focus. I think I'm part of a dwindling group who feel that way.

All of those social media sites let you browse quickly and show support with a single click (a LIKE or a star or a plus 1 or a favorite or a retweet, etc, etc.) but those quick clicks really don’t promote interaction. But I’m as guilty as the next person of just giving the quick thumbs up to let you know I’m here, and not adding to the discussion. 


I hope you enjoyed this LONG post! You are welcome to respond to any of the questions in the comments, or let others know how YOU feel about all of this.