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Don’t Starve the Good Bloggers

This post is not meant to point a finger of blame.  This post is only meant to make you think.  To talk about that uncomfortable thing called low comments… or no comments… or low blog traffic… or no blog traffic… or that general feeling of frustration when your hard work or emotions are met with what you perceive as indifference.

good_bloggers

Okay, I had one last follow up to discussing where you are on the Internet after I read Tiara’s comment.  We need to own that we all play a role in the life of a blog.  Writers and readers.

Comments and readership fill a space.  You have all certainly made me write more.  If I know you’re going to be here, I’m going to show up here too.

But the opposite is true as well, if we stop going to a space or if we don’t comment, we inadvertently send a message and play a role in that person perhaps deciding not to write.  Which is not to say that I am assigning blame or fault: everyone needs to own their own actions and if someone decides to stop blogging, they have made that choice, no one else.  There is nothing stopping a person from coming back and writing because they love to write, even if they’re not getting other things they want from their space.

But we also can’t minimize the weight of our actions in not reading if we’re going to celebrate our actions in reading and commenting.  I’ve read so many posts of people explaining why they love blogging and the comfort they’ve received, and I’ve written those posts myself.  But if we recognize that as a truth, we also have to understand what our (inadvertent) withholding of those things does too.  It sends a message.  Do they end up thinking their words aren’t interesting enough or their project isn’t needed?

There is a balance.  People need to be realistic and know that there are many many reasons why someone reads or doesn’t read (or comments or doesn’t comment) on a post.  I’m not assigning blame.  But we also can’t pretend that we only have a positive impact on other people’s blogging experience.  We also sometimes have a negative impact, inadvertently.  We affect people with our inaction as much as we do with our engagement.  Maybe more so since like all negative things, inaction weighs more than action just as hurtful words weigh more than kind ones.

And it’s a strange weight that calls to mind that famous Elie Wiesel quote that “the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”  It is harder to write something and get no response than to write something and get an angry response.  Okay, maybe not on an individual, post-by-post basis, but overall, I think most of us would rather deal with anger from time to time than to deal with day after day after day after day after day of silence.

We have a saying on the Internet: Don’t feed the trolls!  Don’t give the trolls attention.

But we don’t equally have the opposite sentiment being used to instruct our Internet behaviour: Don’t starve the good bloggers.

If we’re not using up precious Internet time interacting with people who write inflammatory posts, why don’t we use that saved time to dedicate it to supporting a kind blogger that we want to have stick around?  If we’re not feeding the trolls, why don’t we instead feed one or two kind, thoughtful bloggers per day, giving them a comment or our attention?  Make a post go viral out of love instead of indignation.

Just as a restaurant closes if customers stop coming in for meals, there are blogs that close because the readers dry up.  While we don’t have a responsibility to read everyone who decides to write, we do need to be mindful that we run the risk of losing that person’s writing when we don’t read or comment.

People need to own the decision to write or not write their blog; you can’t place that burden on the readers’ shoulders.  You aren’t owed your blog to be read just because you write it.  But as readers, we do need to own that we play a role.  Not in the sense that we need to apologize for our actions or explain them to anyone.  We all know that everyone’s time is limited.  One person can’t save the blogosphere.  But we can step forward into the Internet noting which blogs are important to us and doing everything we can without driving ourselves crazy to make sure those blogs stick around.

37 comments

1 Jodi { 11.05.14 at 7:51 am }

it is interesting because when I closed jodifur down earlier this year I got a ton of comments on random places like Instagram and Twitter that said things like, “Please don’t go” and “I’ll miss you”. And my first thought was always, “wait, You are STILL READING?” Because it felt like an empty space for so long. And then months went by and some random spammer took over the url and people came out of the woodwork to tell me. I was like gang, I don’t own it anymore. So seriously people, if you are reading, you have to let people know.

2 tigger62077 { 11.05.14 at 9:10 am }

There are reasons I hardly write anymore. After 8 years, I reached the point where I was tired of writing and not being heard. For 8 years I have had very few readers that I know of, and even less comments. I do have people who make a point to comment on every post and I love those people for it – at least I know someone is listening. But it’s hard. And similar to Jodi, if I post about struggling to fit in, I get a lot of comments about just making my blog my own space. It HAS been my own space for 8 years and…yeah, that doesn’t seem to work. I get that I’m not a theme blogger, unless you count my life as a theme, and so maybe it’s not interesting to people. But really…comments are the lifeblood of a blog. If people aren’t commenting, it’s like you’re dying, and who wants that? I’ve been temped to close my blog for good a few times in the past few years, but I haven’t because I need to know I have that space. *shrug* I am tired of shouting into the void.

3 a { 11.05.14 at 9:15 am }

I try to do my part…

4 Justine { 11.05.14 at 10:23 am }

The hardest part is the finding. If you don’t have a lot of time to mine, you don’t find the gems. You do a lot of curating for us, which is lucky for this community. But I also imagine lots of trees falling in the forest, which seem not to make any sound, simply because no one is there to witness them, because the forest is just too BIG. And if you write an anonymous blog, or don’t publish your blog posts to, say, BlogHer or Facebook, then if no one knows about you, it’s hard to make sure you don’t starve.

Also: if you HAD a community, but some of that readership drifts away because you don’t write about what they want to hear, even if some of it sticks around for your voice, then how do you re-build, if the spirit of the community still feels like home? I know we’ve beaten this horse, but it’s still trying to get up.

(Sorry for all of horrific metaphors today.)

5 Mel { 11.05.14 at 10:52 am }

I don’t think there is any shortcut to building or rebuilding readership. It’s getting out there. It’s engaging with people. I mean, think about how you’ve built any of your friendships. You stood next to a person and fell into conversation. Then you noticed they seemed interested in you, too. So you kicked up the engagement a notch — emailed each other or got together for coffee. I think that’s how you build readership, too. You read someone. You comment. You read them again. You comment. They notice you, too. They read you. They comment. You email each other. You friend each other on Facebook, etc.

I think the organic friendships are the ones that last because two people got together out of mutual like. Whereas if you went into each interaction thinking, “either this person becomes a friend quickly, or I’m done investing in this interaction,” I think that vibe gets sent out to the other person.

6 Tara { 11.05.14 at 11:42 am }

Couldn’t agree more. When you put out something that is heartfelt and important to you and you take the risk to show the world your vulnerability and you’re met with silence it definitely sends a message.

I remember a post you wrote long ago about how comments are blog currency. And how people who come along and read a post and then walk away without leaving a comment are essential stealing from the blogger. (I’m totally paraphrasing.) That rang so true for me and really stayed with me.

I know I have a lot of regular readers who don’t have their own blogs and so I guess they don’t realize the value of a comment. I feel like they think of my posts as entertainment, just like they would read the newspaper or a magazine article which of course they would never comment on or respond to. But my blog is a personal one with my personal life as a “theme” and while I do aim to be entertaining, it feels like people are consuming my words, thoughts and feelings then walking away without leaving anything in return.

7 nicoleandmaggie { 11.05.14 at 11:42 am }

I dunno, I think we want our readers/non-readers to have a low stress experience with us. Comment if you want, don’t if you don’t. No harm no foul. Respond to deliberately controversial posts or respond to the sweet harmless ones. Or nothing at all. No pressure. No responsibility. We love comments but we also entertain each other.

8 andy { 11.05.14 at 12:16 pm }

Thank you for the reminder! I had started this year off strong… if I read a blog I was going to comment so the person knew that I had been there…. alas, I have fallen short on staying on top of things. This is the kick I need to start again!

9 Cristy { 11.05.14 at 12:24 pm }

This post has given me a lot to think about. Since my twins were born, I do a lot of blog reading using a mobile device. This makes commenting extremely difficult it Capathca is enabled or it there are ads blocking tr comment section. A lot of the time, I find myself reading and then clicking away.

I agree with you that comments and readership keep a blog alive. It’s validating to know others are reading and sharing thoughts. But Justine’s comment also points out that bloggers need to make themselves accessible. This is something I need to work on (Facebook be damned) as the drop in readership is due to me not writing as much and also not reachin out as much.

10 Mel { 11.05.14 at 12:50 pm }

My sense is that people aren’t talking about just a drop in comments. I think we all know why there has been a drop in comments — it’s a natural outgrowth from people reading on mobile devices. The sense I’ve been getting is that people are talking about a drop in readership overall.

11 Elizabeth { 11.05.14 at 12:56 pm }

Is the blogosphere a free market, or what is the implied social contract in reading something?

12 Mel { 11.05.14 at 1:03 pm }

Is contract the right word? That implies something is owed. I don’t think anything is owed. But I think our behaviour affects others. That we can’t think that we only have a positive impact on bloggers; we also sometimes inadvertently detract from their experience.

13 Karen (River Run Dry) { 11.05.14 at 1:38 pm }

That’s the thing. I think if your purpose of blogging is to gain readership or increase your following… people can see through that. And then your reason for writing is gone, too, because the posts where you don’t get comments or clicks make you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere.

I really like the advice you gave me: use your blog for you, write about what makes you tick, use it as a warm up for the other writing you do (for me, my novel, though I confess I just don’t.have.TIME to devote to it right now, and it’s killing me).

You HAVE to write your blog for you, and connect with other writers where you like their stories. And yes, with those writers – the ones you read all the time, the ones you think about, the ones that write the posts which make you think, or stay with you – yes, you need to stop in and say hello, and thank them for writing, or contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way.

(And Cristy – if you have a hard time commenting via mobile – contact the blogger. A friend just told me that the way I had something set up made it hard to comment via her phone. I had NO idea, and I was very happy to change it!)

Those were the rules of blogging before readers and mobile phones, and I really don’t think they’ve changed. It’s just harder to prioritize where your time goes because there’s so much more out there.

14 Suzanna Catherine { 11.05.14 at 2:35 pm }

I appreciate these posts about commenting and how our actions (or non-actions) can be interpreted. It makes me sad to think that by my embarrassment over, maybe, writing the wrong thing , that I have contributed to the silence in many blog comment sections. It certainly wasn’t intentional, but now I understand that being a lurker was being disrespectful.

Because of Mel’s #microblog Mondays, I finally got the courage to start writing. It’s a very long story and I think I may use a few upcoming Mondays to put it out there, to explain how I came to be here and why.

In the meantime, thanks to all the commenters for telling what it feels like to think that you are “shouting into the void.” As a non-blogger and now a brand new blogger, it never occurred to me.

Since I joined #micrblogging Monday, I’ve been better at commenting, not great, but improving. And I’m trying to conquer my fear and loathing of commenting via my phone. As someone said, some blogs are really difficult to comment on. It sort of feels like jumping through hoops. If you are unsure of yourself (as I am) or the least bit careless (that, too) and push a wrong key, well your carefully crafted comment disappears.

This comment is much too long and probably confusing to read, but I’m afraid to edit it. So, I’m going to let it go as is and hope you understand what I’m try to say, which is thanks for pointing out the importance of commenting and our personal responsibility to to the success of everyone’s blog.

15 Kim Snyder { 11.05.14 at 2:52 pm }

I totally understand what you are saying. I have been blogging for over 8 years or longer. Sometimes you feel like just knocking on your computers screen to check if anyone is out there. It is really hard to get comments and to leave comments.
One of the biggest issues I have found is the fact you have to use plugins to block the trolls, and yet in a way you are also possibly blocking those who may want to leave a comment.
Now that many are reading blogs on their phones and yes I have no idea how leave a comment either.
I know a lots of bloggers who have just given up. They feel that no one cares or even reads what they have to say. So yes we do have a personal responsibility leave comments for those good bloggers. By doing so we help the bloggers know that what they are doing is helping at least one person if not many. So many amazing blogs go unread, we only have so much time in a day that those hidden gems get lost in the sea of big name bloggers.
Thanks for letting me leave a comment (found your blog on alltop.com today)

16 Jerimi { 11.05.14 at 3:23 pm }

I love to leave comments and encourage writers. I get very, very frustrated, however, when I type out a well-thought comment only to find that the comments are locked down to certain account holders. I don’t have a Facebook account. I don’t have a Google account. I don’t have a WordPress account, or Discus, or Blogger, or, or, or…. Requiring that a commenter have a specific account in order to leave a message definitely cuts down on comments.

I guess I’m saying that, if you’re not getting a lot of comments, make sure you haven’t made it difficult to leave them. 🙂 (This doesn’t apply to this blog, obviously.)

17 Elizabeth { 11.05.14 at 4:47 pm }

If you read something without commenting, are you taking something away from the writer? I’m just not sure if that’s true.

18 Alison { 11.05.14 at 6:40 pm }

I’ve always believed in some kind of interaction or engagement between writer and reader, writer and writer. If not comment, then share the post. If not share the post, maybe send an email the writer to let her know she’s read, her words are appreciated. As much as we tell ourselves (and are told) that we write for ourselves, we also write for an audience.

Loved this thought-provoking post, Mel.

19 Patient Subfertility { 11.05.14 at 8:08 pm }

An Elie Wiesel quote is a little dramatic for freaking comments on blogs. A lot of people just write to get it out there, not for your validation/thoughts/input. It’s not the end of the world if many of the billion infertility blogs (what is a good blogger anyway?) don’t get comments.

20 Gypsy Mama { 11.05.14 at 8:08 pm }

I’ve noticed that I had a lot more comments on my blog when I was writing about infertility and IVF. Now that I write mostly about parenting, I get a lot less interaction with my readers. I’m sad when I take the time and effort to write a post and hardly get any response to it. That being said, I’m guilty of reading a great post on someone else’s blog without stopping to leave a comment. I want to make more of an effort to comment, even when I’m reading from my phone…

21 lisa { 11.05.14 at 8:25 pm }

I can only leave a comment when I have something to say (Im the same in real life. Cant do small talk). I only read from my phone and Id say over half my comments get eaten by the internet. Its infuriating. I make an effort to always click to the actual blog from the reader though so at least I register as a page hit for the blogger.

22 emma { 11.05.14 at 10:18 pm }

GAHH! The internet ate my longish comment! Lets see if I can recap:

I agree with lisa 100%. I’m horrible with small talk, so I tend to comment when I really have something to say other than “I was here!” But really, I’d love it if someone just let me know they stopped by. So, now I wonder if I should just say “I was here!” even if I don’t have something else to offer.

I’m usually on my phone when I read blogs and commenting from a phone is a complete PITA! Usually when I get to my computer I have enough time to focus on commenting or write a post of my own. Writing for my space almost always comes first.

Just like IRL relationships, I think that blogosphere ones are a two sided effort. I know I need to work on this, and that’s why I’ve done my best to participate in IComLeavWe more this year.

I am not sure if I’m missing the point with this thought but, I wonder if linking posts to social media causes comments to take a hit. I am more likely to comment on a blog I follow via their FB page or G+ vs the comment section on their blog because it’s easier when I’m on my phone.

Aaaand hopefully all this made sense as I’m exhausted from lots of solo parenting this week. I’ve been thinking about this post all afternoon so I DID make the effort to hop on the computer to comment 🙂

23 Mali { 11.05.14 at 11:22 pm }

I love this, because as a reader, I do feel as if I’m invested in a blog, and need to let them know through commenting. That said, I know a lot of people read my blog but don’t comment, and I like the thought that I might be giving them some comfort, without needing to hear them say it. Interesting post AND an interesting discussion.

24 MrsH { 11.06.14 at 12:44 am }

For the longest time I have written a diary, and the blog just took the place of that diary for me. Yes, true, there are many things that I cannot be as free with on the blog as on my own diary page, but at the same time there is so much to write about, I simply pick a topic that I know would not hurt anybody if I were to discuss, and write my own feelings and thoughts about it. It is exactly like writing a diary but with some restriction on the topics that I can choose, or sometimes on specific details that I can disclose. If the readership were to die out, I would still write just for the sake of writing, exactly as I have been doing since I was 12.
That being said, it is really obvious that if I am not active by writing and by connecting with other bloggers via comments, the traffic does go down, and the readers are the icing on the cake, the comments are the chocolate shavings on top. I like these niceties and I cultivate them by taking appropriate action, but for me they are not the cake itself.

25 Mel { 11.06.14 at 9:47 am }

MrsH, I love this: “readers are the icing on the cake, the comments are the chocolate shavings on top.” Perfectly put.

26 Morgan { 11.06.14 at 1:36 pm }

I love this. As a fairly new blogger it has taken hours and hours of dedication to commenting and following and more and more comments just to build my tiny little community of followers. I do it willingly because I am genuinely interested in other’s lives and what they write about, so even if it’s just a small comment (one sentence) I’ll leave it because I want them to know: hey I was here, and I care! I try to not take it personally when my own blog’s comments are lacking but I get discouraged. Great post, and I love all the comments. Super interesting perspectives and thoughts! Love it! XO

27 Mrs T { 11.06.14 at 1:59 pm }

Because I’ve chosen not to make my blog google-able, the only way I get new readers is when they find me through twitter or through a comment I’ve left on someone else’s blog (or one of the many community-building things you do here, Mel!). So, I do notice more traffic and more comments when I’m more active in others’ spaces. Blog karma 🙂

28 Aly @ Breathe Gently { 11.06.14 at 7:52 pm }

I relate to this well, which is why I find ICLW so useful – as a reminder for myself. I look forward to that time of the month, when people can get involved and my comments go up that wee bit – it makes me so happy.

I’m notorious for reading on my phone, and meaning to come back to comment…. and nope, just forgetting. I’m working on it!

29 Rachel Lewis { 11.06.14 at 11:45 pm }

Oooh. Good one Mel. I’m reposting this. And I’m going to have to read through this one a second time before a I can post a more insightful comment. 🙂

30 Jamie { 11.07.14 at 12:52 am }

I think the blogging relationship between readers and writers follows similar patterns of friendships over a lifetime. Some people are long time friends, some are casual friends, and some are work friends. Some are neighbors or people you have met through a common interest, like going to the gym or taking an art class. Some have that instant kinship or that feeling like you have been friends your whole life even though you just met. Others are significant, but maybe they were only meant to be in a chapter of your life, and then a new chapter begins. They will always be dear to your heart and you might miss them. Some friendships ebb and flow where there are periods of closeness and periods of distance, but then closeness again. People’s lives change and we may go down separate paths. The most fortunate of friendships are the ones that you can pick up right where you left off, no matter the time between.

For me, I feel like I am in a very small niche of the IF community. When I started my blog, it was after the active TTCing and shortly after my marriage had ended. It was and has been a way for me to process what I went through and the lingering shadows that follow me now. I had made friends in the IF community from another source of support online before everything fell apart and followed them here. So, upon entering the blogging community, I started with a very low readership because I was not actively trying. It has never been huge. Who would read about “their worst nightmare?” But, I keep writing for me and maybe, maybe it might be of help for someone out there.

And I’ve kept up in reading this blog, because I enjoy what Mel has to say and because I have found some voices who have been through kind of what I am going through and are on the other side, the side without children. It gives me a light in how to live right now as a childless person. I may get another chance to try to be a mother, but not at the moment. I find comfort in knowing if I have the opportunity to try to be a mother, I am connected to a place where others are actively trying. But, it is also a space that if I remain childless, that there are women here to show me I’ll be okay.

31 Persnickety { 11.07.14 at 2:41 am }

Interesting. I do sometimes struggle to find a comment that is simply I was here and enjoyed your post. But sometimes that may be all that is needed.
I am inconsistent about who I am writing for on my blog- sometimes it is a diary, and sometimes it is for someone else to read and say that they hear my voice.

32 Tiara { 11.07.14 at 7:29 am }

Such a great conversation here & so many good points. I really re-evaluated why I blog & if I’d continue. In my heart I knew I didn’t want to stop & also knew that the bottom line was I did it for myself. So if it wasn’t about comments, why post publically at all? So I have focused my time more on my personal journaling. But I do keep up my blog & try to write things that can be interesting to parents, single parents, those who conceive by donor means, etc…after reading your post a few times this week, I’ve changed my perspective just a bit & tell myself that though I may not get the attention I need when I hit post, at least the information will be there for the future readers who may get value from the info then.

33 It Is What It Is { 11.07.14 at 2:19 pm }

Yes! Yes! Yes! I have been out of touch (really for the first time in the decade I’ve been reading blogs) with reading, commenting AND blogging. Then, when my reader has over 100 posts to read, I get stressed and end up only perusing a handful. Add to that that commenting from my phone is cumbersome at best and unavailable at worst and, well, I feel so disconnected from the community I’ve come to regard as my URL family.

I have over 20 posts of yours to read, trying to get through as many as I can. I have to also say that the title of a blog post becomes even more critical in our fast paced, sound byte lives, to give your reader cause to pop over or to accurately reflect what you’ve written.

I have a book review that I’m overdue on not to mention a myriad of posts I hope to write/finish publish. I feel all sorts of out of sorts.

34 sarah { 11.07.14 at 11:33 pm }

I agree with Mrs H – write for the love of writing. Write for yourself. All these expectations about being a good reader or a highly commented on writer create too much stress. And honestly I’m not so crazy about “successful” bloggers – they eventually get sponsors, they feel like mini-celebrities, they don’t hold the same authenticity as your less read bloggers. This self-published, social media, reality tv world leads to a lot of crazy making IMHO. What really counts are your own thoughts and your own love of the craft of writing.

35 Bronwyn { 11.08.14 at 2:42 am }

I have to say the not-reading had a lot to do with drifting away from the old site. I mean, I get it – a lot of those I used to “hang around” weren’t even blogging any more, or certainly not on the same subject. Rebuilding at the same spot was kind of like bringing all your baggage up front into a new relationship. It’s hard to transform a personal-crisis-driven blog for that reason I think.

And then at the end of the day there didn’t seem to be much point if nobody was going to read. Luckily there’s plenty of real estate in blog land to set up a new shop.

36 magpie { 11.16.14 at 10:47 pm }

it feels a very fragile thing these days – and i can’t put a finger to why, except Facebook. and though i think feedly is all well and good, i miss google reader for really not any good reason. feedly maybe makes it too easy to skim and read, without actually jumping to the post to comment? and then there’s the real life messy life that gets in the way. and all of the books that have to be read. hi, mel! i’m still here. and there, writing when i have to.

37 Amber { 11.22.14 at 1:31 am }

I’m the same as Gypsy Mama. I had a lot of blog friends and followers while blogging about infertility and treatments, but once my babies were born and it became more of a parenting blog, my readership and comments have dropped off. I miss the friendships/connections I had made. I LOVE comments and always try to leave a comment myself when reading blog posts. It’s not about having a space to write for me. It’s about connections, the community itself.

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