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Would It Kill Ya To Comment

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This article appeared in daily the Nation

One feature that distinguishes blogs from static websites, making them more interactive, is that blogs offer readers an option to participate through comments. Allowing comments is a matter of choice for bloggers, though. Bloggers can disallow other visitors to comment on weblogs, single entries or can authorize comments for all internet users, for members only, or make their blogs as read-only. Generally speaking, blog comments are what most keep most bloggers (including me) going.

Which is why, walking around the blogspshere reveals that most blogs have their comments option turned on, which permits users to interact with the bloggers and each other at their own pace. Some go a long way to engage others and solicit comments. I have seen permanent banners on many blogs that read, "would it kill ya to comment" or don’t "de-lurk" (meaning you must comment and not just visit the blog). In fact, a few famous bloggers celebrate De-lurking Days and Weeks to urge readers to comment.

In order to get more comments, some bloggers play games like asking leading questions and urging others to respond or offering different incentives like creating blog buttons or even promising gadgets like iPods to the winning respondents. Once I won a book on being first to comment on a blog entry. One blogger announced she would give one dollar for each comment on a particular post on a particular day to a charity. To date, she has received 171 comments and the number continues to grow.

The fact is that the thoughtful and witty comments, follow-up questions and extra information all add a lot to any blog and make it more meaningful. Comments by informed readers can add so many interesting and important components to any discussion. And given the blogosphere's potential to raise the level of intellectual discussions, the ideas are valued not only by who says them, but by their merits. The author of the blog more or less creates a topic and everyone else who visits there gives input.

Comment on issues of real importance may also turn into a global conversation and readers can draw inferences from it. The main value of blogs, as compared to other forms of media, is that readers can immediately see contrasting views. Moreover, for bloggers, counting flow of comments is an ego booster too.

In order to determine different views on blog comments, I discussed this issue on my own blog, in addition to blogspshere scouting and email discussions. I posted a series of questions on my blog, where I got a modest queue of comments, counter comments and some emails.

Muhammad Rafiq, an Internet user since 1999 and is an avid Pakistani bloggers. On the value of comments, he says, "I now have the unique ability to surf the net from the bloggers' perspective. One might label it as an invasion of privacy but then again the onus lies with the blogger who chooses to blog. “Blogging is indeed the future of social interaction, so standards have to be established,” Rafiq and another blogger Mark added, "blog commenting needs to be refined further and this phenomenon surely we will come to some conclusion soon."

Ayub Khan, another techie and a Pakistani (ex) blogger says, "Blogging and then seeing people contribute via comments is a fun and add new perspectives to the subject under discussion." How should visitors comment? Anyone who wants to comment should read the post first and then offer clued-up opinion or join in any ongoing discussion instead of just saying, "nice blog," "well done," "I was here," "you visit me there and so on."

Sarah, who is another blogger, however lives by her own rule for commenting. She says, "I visit the blog of the person who leave a comment on my blog (interesting or not) and leave a comment on his/her site too. You never know what you might find there. You might even meet a new friend there."
On the other hand, some bloggers do not want or encourage comment on their blog entries. For one thing, policing and sifting comments can be time consuming and an extra burden on the bloggers. If you do not want certain types of material or observations present on a site, then one has to constantly monitor comments. This can become tedious in case of blogs that attract a lot of attention and response. Open comment options also cause spam where people (or machines) keep offering Viagra, leave irresponsible comments or just mark their presence by leaving their own URLs in an effort to increase the page ranking of their sites. Some new bloggers may not know how to turn the comment option on (and off) in the first place, or are afraid that they will not be able to remove offensive comments or deal with them.

Famous gadget blog Engadget has recently closed down option. “It’s a temporary measure,” it says, “the closed the option because the tone in comments has really gotten out of hand.” Tom Johansmeyer, writer and a senior content director at enter marketing says, “I’m among the few who believe that comments add little value (at best) on a B2B corporate blog. It’s counter-intuitive and likely to get me beheaded by an angry mob of social media gurus. But, if you think through the dynamic, you’ll start to see the risk of leaving blog comments on? If comments require approval, you don’t need to worry about spam or criticism showing up. The problem is subtle. Allow comments, and you’ll have post after post with “No Comments” tattooed at the bottom of each. It looks like nobody is taking an interest. Or, you could wind up with the occasional run of “great post!” blather that doesn’t contribute to community enrichment at all. At best, there’s no benefit; a worst, it looks awkward.

As I confessed earlier, in this attention age, I live by comments. My comments logic is simple, “I comment on other blogs and want every one to comment on mine.” When I started blogging, the comments option had not been invented yet for the software I was using (it was back in 1999). I had a visible "mail to" link at my blog - if anyone wanted to comment, they could email me. That was somewhat tedious and only a few people reached out. Things have changed and in addition to every blog platform offering comment feature, there are so many software (like DISQUS) available that can bring discussions to your blogs. Now, I have enabled comments on my blogs and more people hit the comment button. The inputs from far and beyond sometimes clear my thoughts and help me see things from a different perspective.

My recommendation: Next time you browse through someone's blog, remember to leave meaningful and relevant comment, because for bloggers who post religiously, your logical comments might be the high point of their day in addition to adding your unique voice to ongoing discussion there. And yes, this is the shortest route to any blogger's heart.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, February 19, 2018,


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