Monday, 17 February 2014

No Comments

You will probably not comment on this post. I'll explain why, with a particular focus on why you're even less likely to comment were this a post within a serial story, or a 180 blog.  (Aside: For those who don't know, in the US there are 180 teaching days, and a 180 blog tracks them. Kind of like a "reality" version of a serial. For a list of some, check out the sidebar on this 180 site.)

Now then, here are your excuses:


This is, of course, an artificial excuse. After all, if you had a few minutes to read the post, an extra thirty seconds to post up a comment is inconsequential. It could be done. Don't pretend otherwise. Let's look at more plausible reasons.


It could be that someone else has already remarked on exactly what you were going to say. Jumping in with "me too" doesn't really further the conversation, so you demure. This does, however, require others to have commented previously. I believe that's not often the case. Let's move on.


Now we're getting into more valid reasons. This post may not register with you personally. To spark a comment, the post author must overcome inertia. They must somehow fan the flames of the single spark of agreement or disagreement which brought you to the post in the first place. If your reaction is merely "That's interesting" or "I disagree"... well, there's no inclination to actually say so. For a couple reasons.

The first reason: Merely commenting "that's cool!" fails to further the conversation in the same way that "me too" is unhelpful. It may even annoy and frustrate the original poster, who would want to know exactly WHAT was cool. Saying "that's cool, I liked the use of metaphor" is better, but still doesn't invite much in the way of author response.

So what do you think is better - silence, or someone saying only "interesting perspective"? Many choose the former.

Ziggy says this image makes
perfect sense in context.
The second reason: Lack of context. Which I think is big in serials. You have no inclination - because you don't know the backstory. That being the week of planning that led up to an activity, or the two months spent building to the story's climax.

Granted, every entry should stand on it's own, but an author can't recap at the start of every post. That not only insults regular readers, it makes for dry reading. Yet as soon as an author says "And here is the culmination of everything to this point", you, the reader, may interpret "If I comment on a problem I see here, it may be something they dealt with last week. I'll both annoy them and look like an idiot". 

Again, what do you think is better - silence, or someone revealing their ignorance of your earlier posts? Many choose the former.

It's a pity, because ignorance of the earlier posts is itself useful information. Why were they not read? Or rather, why was THIS post read? What CHANGED? What drew you here?? We may never know.

Of course, if someone does chance to comment despite the lack of context, I admit my first inclination would be to say "Excellent point! I considered that in episode 185.", where my mind is going 'I hope you'll now read that part too!' while your mind can interpret 'He thinks I'm ignorant, I'll move on'.

But let's move on to another reason why you won't comment.


This is probably the real reason for those of you who say "no time". You have an opinion, are even inclined to say something, to offer encouragement or otherwise... but you're not sure how. You can't articulate your feelings in one minute or less. You don't have the words, and there isn't the time to THINK of the right words.

So you don't comment at all.

I'm guilty of this. Lots.

The context aspect of a serial plays in here as well. But this time regular readers have the bigger problem - after all, you've been following along, you've seen everything posted up... but you don't have anything new to say about it. You may sympathize, even empathize with an issue, but you've previously expressed those sentiments. Expressing them again doesn't further the dialogue, or help in any way. Does it?

Note: I'm not saying regular readers will be the ones with no insight, whereas spontaneous hits will be the ones with no inclination. The streams cross. In fact, here's the thing: I suspect the trick is to somehow GET them to cross.

Should the spontaneous reader become inclined to comment, it may spark an insight in the regular reader. Similarly, if the regular reader makes a comment (perhaps connecting the current post to prior context) it may break the ice and allow the spontaneous reader to offer up some new perspective.

What do you think?


Of course, if there's anything to that theory (and there may not be), the question becomes how spark the first comment. So here's some possibilities:

1) Vary up social shares. Break the routine. New platform, or change the time when you send something out. Last week, Megan Hayes-Golding tweeted out that publishing later in the evening garnered more readers. Alternatively, I don't post every entry of my web serial to my personal Facebook page - only the ones that I think have particular impact. CAVEAT: Don't change things too drastically, for instance the actual day when you post. That may throw off your regulars.

2) Vary up an entry. There's something to be said for sudden shock value. Perhaps every post has started what you had for breakfast, or included images of you. This one doesn't. Interesting. Why the change? Or suddenly you're writing in the third person. Don't explain it - see if anyone asks. If no one comments on the modification, draw attention to it yourself, ask outright whether people noticed, and if this is something they would like to see more of.

3) Demand comments (nicely). This can work if you don't abuse it. That is, if you're ALWAYS asking for comments, that's routine. "Carrie's at it again!" However, if you judiciously choose a few posts where you really NEED someone to say SOMETHING, they may stand out. This also forces you to really think about what you're writing. Of course, in the heat of the moment, it ALL seems important, so maybe once a month, pop up your highlight reel.

Of course, there's one other problem. Those who don't actually read in the first place. This is a HUGE problem with serials, in that one's instinct is to start with Day 1 and move on from there. But where do you find the time to read 180 posts?! All I can say is, that's another place where a highlight reel could come in handy. I've also tried video recaps, but (almost) no one's watched them.

More food for thought: This article in The Verge titled "You're not going to read this". They say there is no correlation between social shares and people actually reading, hit counts be damned.

That said, aside from the all too plausible reason of "the internet ate my comment when I tried"... we're done! Feel free to leave a comment now, telling me why you're not leaving a comment. Paradox is fun.


  1. Yup, that pretty much sums up why I'm not leaving a comment.
    That and the fact that my wife just reminded me that I should be getting ready to leave and not blogrolling...

    On a constructive note: would it be possible to start a post with a link to "The Story So Far...", better known as "Previously, on Taylor's Polynomials..." which could be a link to a page that gets updated occasionally, or the link itself could get updated. Then you can your dry-read cake and skip it, too.

    1. A linking page... well, that's kind of brilliant. I've even seen it for webcomics, so I'm not sure why it didn't occur. I guess the only trouble would be someone stumbling into the middle of a series, but then getting spoilers as the recap updated to cover later things. Don't know how likely a scenario that is, of course.
      Thought appreciated, hope it didn't delay you too much!

  2. This is not a comment. I have nothing original to add, not even this joke.

  3. For me, it's usually that "everything is covered well", followed by "I don't have the inclination" and "I'd say +1 but that's trite". By nature, I tend to lurk, so I need to be a) moved to b) think of a comment that no one else has said.

    Lack of feedback is discouraging. It's hard to improve when no one says, "Work on this more," or, "Keep this up." At the same time, "You suck!" is a guttural response, and not getting that means you're doing something right. Sometimes, a lack of feedback is feedback of its own, but it's a mess to try to figure out. I'd love feedback on my own blog, but I don't have that many people following. There may be a critical mass of followers needed, but I have no idea what that is.

  4. Having given this some later thought (while looking through other blogs), I think I was a bit harsh in dismissing the time factor. There's something of a different mentality between READING and WRITING... and if you're planning on doing more reading, stopping to write a comment tends to shift your focus, insight or not. Which does take time. I still feel like there has to be some way to cross the streams though.

    As far as being discouraged by lack of feedback, yeah Scott, I think you put that well. Even though we may think the worst, better to assume the best.