Thinking about our Dialogue: Comments

E-Mail Concept
(illustration from *here*)

Okay, quilters, fess up.  How many of you feel compelled to answer back every comment that shows up on your blog, whether it needs an answer or not?  Those comments land on our blogs, our IG feeds, and sometimes Flickr posts, then often make our way to our email boxes.  Do you need to respond to them?  Should you respond to them?

According to the 99U article on being efficient with our time, we should not respond unless there is a question.  Yet Seth Godin observes that “many people do, because there doesn’t seem to be a great alternative. It’s asymmetrical, and productivity loses to politeness.”

So according to Godin we choose being polite vs. being productive.  You should know that I am the Thank-You-Note Queen of the Universe, taught well by my mother.  I try to write a thank you to every gift, or acknowledge some kind gesture.  I believe in thank you notes.  But the digital universe is not the same thing as the real world.  I say, if the the comment requires some response or has a question, I try to answer them. However, I don’t write back to every comment on my blog because some are of the “drive-by” quality: “nice quilt,” or “great colors” or “Awesome!” I’ve left a few “drive-by comments” myself and I’m just acknowledging the blog post or the blogger’s work or the subject, and I certainly don’t expect a response.

In a related article, Elizabeth Saunders recommends that “Before you send a reply, ask yourself: are you responding just to reply, to show you’re paying attention, or just to say “thanks?” If so, you’re typically wasting time that could be spent producing something of value and only encouraging people to respond, thus adding more email to your inbox.”

She has a great point, but some of my treasured long-distance friendships have come about because of the correspondence that developed from their first comment, and I’m loathe to pass up a gold– or a silver — friend.  As Scott Belsky says, “My thinking: email may drive us crazy, but it is still a form of communication with people, and communication helps build relationships.”  It’s a balance. Often comments springboard me to a new post, as engaged readers have interesting things to bring to the conversation.  I often view this whole process as a dialogue, reading each comment carefully, weighing and considering what was written, enjoying our discussion.

What do you do?  Do those comments in your inbox nag you until you answer them all?  Or do you use Saunder’s advice, responding when needed?

27 thoughts on “Thinking about our Dialogue: Comments

  1. Okay, I fess up to replying to every, yes every comment on my blog posts! If someone has taken the time to comment in the first place, I feel I should take the time to reply! It’s all part of blogging surely. I stopped putting comments on a very popular blogger and quilters blog when I realised I wasn’t being acknowledged. I definitely feel it is a two way conversation. And I have another ‘rule’ of blogging ( you might hate this one!). I don’t publish a new post til all previous comments have been acknowledged!

  2. What a compelling post, Elizabeth! Yes, I do respond to every comment on my blog! Even those that state simply, “Great quilting!” However, I’ve seen a first comment and reply generate several subsequent emails. It’s almost like becoming trapped in a revolving door. In spite of that, 99 percent of these email dialogues have developed into new relationships which I am grateful to have in my life. Interestingly, and conversely, I don’t feel compelled to respond to every Instagram remark. Perhaps the brevity of the Instagram format demands less than the thoughtful and sometimes considerable time it takes to compose a blog post. I sure love that you brought up this topic, and will certainly be reading others’ comments. Oh… and please don’t feel obligated to reply. 🙂

  3. What an interesting post. I do reply to every comment made on my blog (aside from no-reply bloggers). People like to be acknowledged so a simple “thank you” in response to “nice quilt” is adequate. I view my blog as a conversation so if someone takes the time to leave a comment, even a brief comment, I take the time to reply. If I don’t do this my post isn’t a conversation, it is a lecture. Comments and subsequent email exchanges have been a great source of ideas for quilt alongs, tutorials and posts. They have also given me the opportunity to meet and get to know some wonderful people around the world. Today I’m sending a little package to a reader in Papua, New Guinea! This wouldn’t have happened had I not taken a few moments to say “thank you” to those readers who take the time to comment.

  4. I reply because I really do appreciate comments. They give me encouragement and let me there is an audience. But I see the point. Sometimes I think, instead of replaying to comments, I should post more….but then again, I enjoy weekly posts, not daily posts.
    I also would rather someone comment on my blog rather than spending time replaying to my comment on theirs. That would be a great agreement; instead of replaying, comment more on others blogs.

  5. Each blogger has different goals with what they post. Some people are expressing themselves and truly don’t care what anyone else has to say about their expression. Who knows if they even read comments — they don’t respond. Some express themselves, mostly through eye candy, and their form of expression doesn’t inspire comments other than the “great quilt!” type. Should they answer to all those? I dunno. I’ve seen a few of those blogs with dozens of “great quilt” comments after each post. I don’t think I’d answer them, either. (But I don’t find those bloggers very interesting, and I don’t follow them.)

    Some bloggers are motivated to teach. Teaching is a two-way interaction. A lot of comments on these blogs should be answered, and IMO generally should be answered within the comment thread, not privately, so others can read the answer, too.

    And some bloggers are looking for conversation and interaction. Obviously they will try to inspire that with thoughtful discussion, questions of the readers, and the like. They follow up with answers or more questions.

    In my experience, the most interesting bloggers, in terms of what they post, generally are those who also interact. And the most interesting bloggers are those whose readers interact with more substantial comments than “great quilt!”

  6. I don’t have so many comments that it is really a problem, but I do try to reply to everything that seems like it is a conversation. “Nice Quilt” is what I would consider a conversation ender. If someone says something like “that’s a really nice quilt, I like the blah feature” then I consider that a conversation opener. If I were standing in front of that person IRL, I’d tell them more about it so I do in virtual life too.

    At the end of the day, I blog to make personal connections that can only be made if I hold up my end of the deal by respecting and recognizing the people that take the time to say hello. I’m truly honored that people would give me the consideration to offer thoughts and support and it really does means something to me.

    Sadly, I have a timing issue. Sometimes it is days before I can reply which is really lame. I’ve been trying to only post when I can be checked in which is leading to long spaces between posts! Eventually I’ll find the right balance. 🙂

    1. I think you’d get a lot more comments on your excellent posts if you had your blog address front and center. Not all go to the blog when it opens in a website – just saying.

  7. “Virtual” conversation/dialog is what I consider these exchanges to be and as such (and I am a “thank you queen”, also!) ‘need’ a reply/acknowledgement (IMHO). Yes, I do reply to all….figuring that,if they have taken the time to write, I can let them know I’ve seen it. I’m torn on my opinion of the “Like” that WP now has but it does allow the opportunity for me to let the blogger friend know that I’ve been by and read their jottings. We have our blogs for a variety of reasons: sharing and journaling are 2 of them. The first may prompt a response and the second may be more for personal organization/notation. Either way, what I view to be ‘courtesy’ wins and I MUST respond……….after all, isn’t that what friends do??????????

  8. Perhaps the question is “what are we trying to produce?” If its more blog posts or quilts or art, or whatever – then by all means skip the replying to comments. If we are trying to produce a sense of community, or friendship, or even a teacher/student relationship with our blog, then perhaps the replying to comments is productive.

    Myself, I usually reply to comments, unless I run out of time. If its been too long since the comment has been left (like more than a week) I usually leave off.
    Last week I replied to someones questions, honestly, and I’m pretty sure I turned them off, since no new followers and she never responded back.

  9. I try to reply, but if I’m doing a giveaway or something, I generally break the rule. Some times I just copy and paste “thank you” into each email if it’s a “drive-by” comment. I feel bad if I don’t, but then if I leave blog comments elsewhere I don’t know sometimes if I should have had a reply and didn’t because I’ve forgotten, and mostly I don’t expect one unless I’ve asked a question so it’s very lop-sided my approach!

  10. I have to respond to this Elizabeth. I always reply if I can hit reply and see an address. I appreciate every comment I get and it lets me know people are reading what I post. It’s encouraging. I comment a lot on others’ blogs, but am not concerned if I hear back. I comment because I like what I see or something I read.
    Enjoy your week, and happy quilting ; )

  11. Wow. You have a good interaction going with your post. I was taught to write thank yous to those who have shared something or time with me and still do that.
    I don’t get many comments on my blogs. If there is a comment, I reply at least in saying “thank you for visiting my blog” because, truly I am appreciative when people check out my blog (which is written once every 2-3 weeks).
    I like the interaction between people, albeit virtual, through blogs. I have made some blogging friendships of which I am truly glad. I leave comments about blogs that have given me inspiration, a lesson, beauty, a smile, or something to think about–the start of maybe a brief conversation.
    I think of blogging as a way to interact with others of like interests. In my smaller physical community, it is difficult to find the more artistic quilters or those who self-design, so I turn to blogs.
    I do not have Instagram, Twitter, etc. I have a Facebook account only to keep in touch with relatives and far-away friends and see what they are doing. I don’t usually post on FB and seldom reply.
    Thank you, Elizabeth, and all the rest of you for the conversation.

  12. If I were quilting to make a living and blogging to promote it, I’d consider efficiency. I’m not, so efficiency is not my criterion for a decision. I think connection is my primary criterion. Digging deep now, I remember something from a semantics class about phatic communication, the Umms and Ahhs (among other things) that say, ‘I’m listening.’ It was a revelation to me, in those undergraduate days of taking-myself-so-seriously that I wanted to have only “meaningful” conversations. About the same time I read this: “Half of what I say is meaningless; I say it so you will hear the other half.” I wish I could remember who said it.

    I have changed my attitude toward “drive-by” comments. (Love that term.) Now I place them in the “phatic” category–keeping the channels open. I have noticed that getting a “nice quilt” comment gives me a jolt of pleasure, if not information. So I have changed my self-imposed rule of commenting only when I have something to add. I don’t expect answers. I don’t expect, but like, return visits. And my response to them is to visit the commenter’s blog, leaving a comment (or not) as I feel inclined at the moment. Or sometimes a private email about something prompted by that blog visit.

    I still prefer commenting when I have something to add (or receiving comments that add information) but I no longer reject the others. As to replying to these, I am more likely to when I feel I have something more to say on the subject or when the comment opens a new subject. To me adding information is more important than answering questions as a criterion. However, if a question is asked, I think it deserves an answer.

    All this assumes a normal day with a leisurely coffee break while I read email and blogs. Other days I skim and probably miss wonders.

  13. Interesting question. I always reply to comments on my blog. I don’t get a lot of them, so I appreciate each and every one because someone has taken the time to read and comment. Because of comments and replies I also feel like I’ve developed a relationship with some of my readers and in some cases a genuine friendship. (Think MCM and Four-in-Art here Elizabeth). I do find myself less inclined to comment on some of the “big” blogs because those writers rarely respond. I understand when you have as many comments as they do you don’t have the time to reply but it still feels like a one way street. The two way communication is what drew me to blogging in the first place. My biggest challenge is balancing computer/social media time with actually sewing and I’ve not been very good at all on either side. Time to go sew : )

  14. I’m not a blogger so I’ll turn the question on its head. I greatly appreciate a response to a comment that I’ve put a lot of thought into. It’s led to some very interesting back and forth discussions, one on one with the blogger. At the same time, there are few e-mails that bug me more than those of the “Thank you for the sweet comment” variety. They mean nothing to me but a waste of time — on the blogger’s part, as well as my own. Similarly, I try very hard not to leave comments of the “What a sweet quilt” variety. When I’ve put thought and effort into a comment, I very much appreciate feedback, but the identical impersonal replies that go out to 32 or 74 commenters are mainly irritating.

    1. A clarification: I do respond when I see a quilt I admire. But I try to spell out what it is I like — an observation that is specific to that quilt and that quilt only. I don’t feel short-changed if the blogger doesn’t reply; I do enjoy when they do and it’s clear they are responding to me and not to 50 commenters with the same line. I’ve talked to one blogger (who actually called me) who told me that she can respond to 5,000 e-mails in an hour. Those responses I can do without. I have, however, also received very thoughtful return responses from the same blogger, so I know that she reads her comments. Those I appreciate. And, Elizabeth, you know I appreciate your comments!

  15. I try to respond to all comments. I figure that if this person took the time to read my blog, I need to respond in kind. Single word comments are the worse. I don’t always respond to them. Then again, I don’t have as many readers as some.

  16. I do not have a blog but I read blogs every day while I eat my lunch (just so you know where I’m coming from). I do not expect the blogger to comment back if I’m made comments like: great quilt, pretty, etc. However, I frequently ask very simple questions (not “please write a tutorial on xxx”) and I am surprised at two things — how many bloggers do not respond at all and how many bloggers are set up that replies only show on their blogs (not in my email inbox) (I am not a no-reply bloggers because I get a lot of comments.) I cannot imagine why a blogger thinks a reader is going to go back to their blog entry and see if the blogger has answered their question. Talk about inefficient! I, too, send a thank you note for many things. I just assume (aside from politeness) that everyone likes getting something in the mail in a colored envelope!

    1. It seems that different communities of bloggers want responses in different ways. My first blog is a family history blog and they tend to be no-reply bloggers (and they come back to my blog to read my responses to their comments). In some ways I like that better because everyone can join in the conversation — as in this post. It turns out to be a cumulative effect with comments and knowledge added by each commenter. (I’ve returned twice to read the conversation.) When I started my second blog readers complained to me that I was a no-reply blogger and they couldn’t answer my comments. So I change it.

  17. I have loads of guilt around this! I feel like I should acknowledge every comment, but sometimes I just can’t. I feel like it is rude not to reply. And then other times I just don’t for no reason!! I try and reply to comments on IG but not the driveby ones. Or if there is tonnes, then it just gets too much. I still LOVE to receive them though (which is why i feel guilty)

  18. It is VERY rare that I don’t reply back to a comment, no matter what form of social media I’m on. Blog, Ig, flickr, fb – I answer everything. (giveaways are the main exception) Even a ‘flyby’ comment means someone took the time to look at my stuff, and for that I’m appreciative. If it means anything to me, my involvement in social media is about the community. That’s why I started blogging, and yes, that’s why I sometimes spread myself too thin. But the community inspires and encouraging me to the point that I really want to ‘care’ for it the best way I can. And sometimes, that is by a simple response that I heard you. I will point out that I reply in an email back. If it’s a no-reply blogger, I move on. That’s usually where I draw the line tho it’s frustrating sometimes when I’d really like to continue the conversation. Also, for folks that reply to my comment in their own blog comments, I never see that, as I never go back. Bottom line, as another of the commenters here already stated: the relationships I have on social media pretty much all started with one comment.

  19. Whether someone “waves” or “stops to chit chat” I will try my hardest to wave back at least. Like several have observed, many of the more popular bloggers have never even waved back. I get it, if they have lots of comments on a certain post, but sometimes it’s just a few. Then I wonder why they blog. Apparently, not to make friends, which is a big reason that I do .So, I get the message. I also wonder, as someone else did, why a blogger would expect me to go back to her post to read a reply. Life’s too short for that. Thanks for the thought provoking post. (No need to reply!)

  20. It does take time to respond to comments but I certainly appreciate a response when I leave a comment on another’s blog. There are some bloggers who never respond and I tend not to leave comments on those blogs. I also usually don’t bother to leave a comment if a dozen or more people have left a comment unless it’s a conversation.

    On my own blogs I love comments. It tells me others are actually reading my posts. I find it’s easier to respond to comments when I can respond by email but when I can’t, I go back to the blog post to leave a response. (As I said in a reply to someone above, different blogging communities prefer different types of response methods.) There have been a few times when I have missed responding but I do my best to respond within a day or two. (Which I’m sure some things is too long a time and very poor manners.)

  21. You certainly hit a nerve with your post–lots of good, strong responses here! I do respond to comments. I love comments and I do what I can to encourage them. I’m in blogging for the connections with other human beings–if I just want to chronicle my accomplishments, I can do that in the personal journal I keep. I do what I can can to keep the conversation going!

  22. I have mixed feelings about this and I do some of both. I do like to respond to all comments, but sometimes I just don’t have time. And I don’t want to sacrifice what little sewing time I have or time with my kids to respond to comments. So I try to respond and then I try to not be hard on myself when it doesn’t happen.

  23. Hmmm, well it is a surprise to me to hear that if I take the time to go from my reader to the actual blog and then click to comment and then I say what I feel which often is “great quilt” or “beautiful quilt” that some folks consider that a drive by comment with little value?? To me commenting is about the connection. I try to answer when I can, but sometimes run out of time to do that and then I don’t for that post. It seems that most folks put up with my level of communications. I don’t comment or reply out of politeness, however. It is to make a connection with that person whose post I enjoyed somehow or who took the time to post even a simple “cool” or “nice” on my blog.

  24. I try to respond to as much as possible…but sometimes it’s just not…possible. So this post made me feel a whole lot better. I’ll probably still feel guilty when times get so busy I can’t get to my inbox for days, but now when I play “catch up” I’ll just reply to the questions!

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