To reply to blog comments or not to reply to blog comments. That is the question.

Cattail

I’ve been pondering this one for over two years.  On and off.  Mostly I keep deciding to continue replying to blog comments, but sometimes it seems more prudent to just stop.

Here’s the scenario.  We write our blogs.  People comment–or they don’t comment.  The blog writer reads the comments.  The blog writer then replies to blog comments–or she doesn’t.  It depends on your Blogging Orientation.

One of my primary motivations in blogging is to develop relationships.  Start conversations.  Keep the energy moving back and forth with new ideas and new ways of looking at the world.  In addition, I was blog-trained in the spiritual community of Gaia (now defunct in its previous on-line form) in which long conversations almost always ensued after blog-writing.

Statistics on this blog say there have been 10,053 comments in the past almost-fourteen months.  Sounds like a lot of comments, right?  But keep in mind–about 4,500 of those comments are replies from Yours Truly.

Bursting cattail

When people comment–I reply.  Usually I cannot, like some people, reply in one or two sentence snappy answers.  No.  That doesn’t happen.  I reply in book-length form.  Novella form.  Respond to what the person says.  Add a personal experience or two.  (OK, I exaggerate.  Usually the replies are a healthy paragraph.  That’s all.)

Some people advise to only respond when you have something to say.  That does not apply to me.  I always have something to say.  Others say to only respond to direct questions or concerns.  I have problems with this approach as well.  When reading other blogs in which replies are random to comments…it just doesn’t feel right.  It feels like everyone is not being acknowledged equally.

It takes between fifteen minutes and thirty minutes per blog to respond to comments.  Chit, chat, chit, chat.  I usually feel good afterward.  It feels like the person’s comment is not left hanging in the air.  It feels like the energy is somehow complete.  It somehow feels wrong not to respond, not to reach out, not to say thank you (but I can’t say thank you and just shut up.  Not usually.  That doesn’t feel like developing a relationship.  Although it could be.)

My children are raising their eyebrows.  They think this is a flaw, or an endearment or something.  They are of the generation or inclination where response to commentary simply is not required. 

Cattail release

Lately, however, I am wondering if they are Right.  Pondering approaching this commentary thingee differently.  Recently I popped lots of questions in my commentary replies.  Asking folks to elaborate on their comment.  Really wanting to know more.

How many people replied to my commentary reply question?  Out of a dozen questions, maybe one.  I can point to maybe five people who faithfully read the reply to commentary.  Who sometimes reply to the reply to commentary.

So I ponder:  is it worth it?  Is it worth it to spend fifteen to thirty minutes daily replying to comments that aren’t even read?  Or which are read by so few?  (Please do not think I am feeling sorry for myself.  I am not.  I am simply trying to decide the most efficient and viable way to handle the truth of what is.  Or what I think might be.)

Now don’t you start thinking that I am always going back to read replies to comments on other blogs!  I am no comment-reading saint.  (OK, I’m a WordPress comment reading saint, but not even a comment-reading person worth praise on non-WordPress blogs.  Others have patiently tried to teach me about RSS feeds, but it hasn’t stuck.  On WordPress I push the “subscribe” button, read via email, and then delete the subscription if there is too much commentary filling up the in-box.)

Seeds to the wind!

I can point excitedly to several bloggers whom I regularly read who Do Not Reply on their blogs.  Instead, they either A) email responses if necessary or B) simply show their engagement by visiting the reciprocal blog.

That’s what I’m thinking of trying.  OK, I’ve thought of trying this in previous incarnations. 

If–in the near future–maybe even today–you notice the absence of blog comment replies, know that this plan has been implemented.  If you still see my commentary beneath the commentary, it’s because goshdarnit, I love to write. 

Maybe it really doesn’t matter if anyone reads the reply to comments.  Maybe it’s not necessary to view it like that. If we’re still writing our mini-blogs beneath the major blogs, maybe the important thing to consider is:  “Do we do this because it fulfills us on some level?”

The jury is still deliberating.  What have you decided on your blogs?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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36 Responses to To reply to blog comments or not to reply to blog comments. That is the question.

  1. Dawn says:

    Either way – you are a source of lovely energy! I’m just glad you are out there. 🙂

  2. Elisa's Spot says:

    I haven’t really had to decide on any of my blogs. Some of the comments that I do get, seem not to require a comment are are only a sharing of a person’s thoughts or feelings. Sometimes I do think how ‘real’ is this? Does my investment make it any more real to me, to the ones reading or not reading? Have I made a footprint, do I want to have made a footprint? Do I want to agree or disagree with other’s understanding and comprehension of what I’ve said. Do I want to correct them? How might they feel if I did? Waving from Texas this morning~~~

  3. Karma says:

    I am one who goes back to blogs where I have left comments to see if there is a response. The WordPress dashboard is very handy for reminding me which blogs I’ve recently commented on. If someone asked me a question in a comment response, I think I’d be likely to answer it – if not immediately, than certainly the next time I went to the blog. Today I was happy to find the response about Mike’s plane.
    As far as my own blog, I will continue to reply to comments. My comments have not reached the level where I find it difficult to keep up with responding. I have received some responses back to my comments as well, so I do enjoy that interaction. Depending on the style of post or comments, sometimes a group response of “Thank you so much everyone!!!” is enough. Whatever you decide, Kathy, I’ll still read and comment! 🙂

  4. Susan Derozier says:

    Kathy – I can certainly understand the time consuming task of commenting on comments. I just will say that I keep finding myself revisiting previous blogs to see if you have responded, and feeling the rush of pleasure when you have. I had to laugh at your mentioning no one answering questions you post in your responses because I am still pondering the one question you asked of me…..what IS my favorite tea? As I see it….comment back if it suits you and if you don’t I, personally, will still enjoy your initial posting. Maybe if you were willing to post an email address we could write a note if we are interested in your personal feedback? Just as with your taking a break away recently with the blog….I say just “go with the flow.”

  5. jeffstroud says:

    Kathy,

    You will know when you know! I look forward to your comments, one of the reasons I respond and read your blog… and as Krama writes above if you ask a question in the blog or comment, I seek to respond in some timely manner.

    Yet your comparing your blog to Gaia blogging is water over the dam. The Gaia experience was an amazing opportunity to build community yet no one wished to maintain the site, in the form it was inspired to be. This kinda of open ended blogging is a whole new ball game, and or building of community in a different way.

    Thank you Kathy for all the work and intention you do put into your blogging and we all know you Love to write.

    I am Love, Jeff

  6. flandrumhill says:

    Could you ask a tougher question Kathy? 🙂

    When I first started blogging, another blogger (who didn’t allow comments on her blog) told me that she found them to be a distraction. And they certainly can be all that. But they can also be a wonderful vehicle for connecting with others. Readers also will often add insights or bits of knowledge that add so much to the discussion. The blogosphere is very dynamic and seems to thrive on that kind of exchange.

    The only thing I did not like about being Freshly Pressed was having to discern which comments from new visitors were genuine and which ones were just looking for a quick link back to their sites. I found that quite difficult and time consuming.

    In the long run, I believe you have to do what feels right for you while also considering how much time you have available to respond.

  7. flandrumhill says:

    Forgot to mention: Nice cattails!!

  8. My philosophy is if a comment requires a comment, I do so. But commenting to a comment is like keeping a perpetual thank you going to a thank you…lol…which is fine, if that is what you like to do. I comment when blogs strike a cord. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, but I faithfully read. You are a fine blogger, which is why I keep coming back, whether you comment or not. :-)(no thank you required…lol)

  9. jeff vanderhorst says:

    Hello Kathy. I dont blog , I have a hard time keeping up with my various forms of mail, i.e . voice, snail , e, etc. You ask is it “worth it” to reply to responses. I think like most of the other questions you pose , it is somewhat rhetorical, it doesn’t need an answer . But I would say this, If you feel compelled and you have the time, then why not? But you should in no way feel obligated , you do plenty of “answering” by simply posting and asking some of the thought provoking questions you raise. At any rate, I look forward to your posts. I refer back to them often. I am somewhat ashamed that I dont respond as often as I would like, but I’m working on that. Keep up the good work! I’m sure there are plenty of others who feel like I do but don’t bother to reply for whatever reason. jeff P.S. I enjoyed the aeriel pics, especially of Huron Bay, I have been wondering if there was ice in front of our place. there isn’t

  10. john says:

    Only reply when you have something to say. Elaborate on a point, respond to a question, defend a position, or if you feel you would like to concur with the poster. If I say “Wow, I really loved that. Picture three was great and I see your point.” doesn’t necessarily warrant a comment. I read you blog religiously, but do not comment every day. Your blog stats tell you if people are reading and if they didn’t like reading your writing they wouldn’t be coming back.

  11. Unless I ask the writer a question, I don’t really expect a response – sometimes there isn’t really anything to say back, anyway! Just do whatever you feel is right. Sometimes, all it takes is a brief mention of someone, or a previous comment in a new post to let the readers know that you do read what they say!

  12. P.j. grath says:

    “I always have something to say.” Loved that, Kathy! Love the cattails, also.

    So far I try to reply to each, although it does, as you note, misleadingly double the number of “comments” I’m getting, because all of mine count. If someone comments and I reply and that person comes back and replies to my reply, I may or may not keep going. That depends on the nature of the third comment in the chain.

    Recently (there’s link in my last two posts) I found myself completely embroiled in a long, long trail of comments, spanning many months, and I was especially fascinated when people came back and replied to replies on their initial comments. It was a conversation! And I realize now that that was really part of my blogging dream, that interactive conversation.

    Thanks for the question.

  13. Reggie says:

    Oh my gosh, Kathy, you have hit the nail on the head yet again! As I read, I kept nodding and nodding and nodding… Personally, when I feel moved strongly enough to leave a comment on someone else’s blog, I would really appreciate an acknowledgement of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a whole novella, as you said 😉 (although I do love those!), but even just a few words would suffice in most cases. Unless, of course, I’m keen to continue a conversation and would love some feedback.

    I confess that I have actually UN-subscribed from blogs, where I kept leaving comments (on selected posts that moved or touched me somehow), but where the writer never bothered to reply, neither to mine, nor to other people’s comments. I thought that was a little odd, and a little rude somehow, particularly when people did take the time to leave interesting feedback.

    The problem with WordPress’ Dashboard, is that it only tracks the most recent comments – and I don’t always tick ‘notify me of follow-up comments’! So I don’t always remember where I left a comment… sigh…

  14. Oh Kathy, you are better than a cup of tea…and by the way, my current favorite is Red Bush Chai with a touch of honey. Several companies sell this and I have not decided which I like best. Still tasting.
    I love your comments. I don’t always circle back, especially when I get caught up in another of your posts. Sometimes I don’t comment because I don’t have anything original to offer, as you have such communicative readers who say great stuff.
    I have always admired your loving attention on your readers and I aspire to create the same feeling on my blog- a community. I have not yet struck a tone that engenders as much conversation as you have…and I study your blogs for clues! Believe me.
    I was bowled over this morning to read about the woman who blogs at Dooce.com who has over 100,000 followers. Go see her blog. It is very cool and contemporary…and raw in many ways and must really appeal to a lot of people. She was listed as #26 in the most influential people in the US by Forbes Magazine recently. I envy the readership, but not the duty of Tweeting and all of that.
    My purpose with my blog is to create conversation and permission- to invite my readers to see in to the beauty of their daily lives. My hope is that my blog readers will be my book audience, when that blessed day arrives with my book appearing in the world as a written thing. I desire to build my audience.
    Here is much love to you from the getting heavily snowed upon Northeast Kingdom of Vermont!
    Yours, as ever, S

  15. Carol says:

    For awhile I followed your lead, and I replied to comments. But now I rarely do. If the comment seems to require a response, I usually email one. Most, I think, do not. I comment on the blogs I read erratically – some days I just have nothing to say – but I rarely go back and look for a response. Actually, I’m likely to have forgotten what I commented on, and I don’t really expect responses. I comment because I think I have something to say (there is no guarantee as to value of the comment)or to let the blogger know I was there.

  16. holessence says:

    Kathy – I never visit a blog without leaving a comment. However, because I visit so many blogs, starting at the first of the year it’s rare that I go back to the blog (after I’ve left a comment) to see if the blogger responded to me. I only go back if I’ve left a question.

    As far as my own blog goes, I do respond to each and every comment.

  17. kiwidutch says:

    I think that if you like to GET feedback that it’s also nice to GIVE feedback… yes I do go back to see replies to my comments but I only “re-reply” if there is a question or it seems fitting for the response.
    Each situation is different and it really depends on the nature of the post, the nature of the comment and what seems appropriate for each.
    Personally my view is that if someone took the time to make a well thought out comment on my blog then they deserve a well thought out response. (works for me at least LOL)

  18. Colleen says:

    Kathy….. oh my gosh, I don’t know what to say. Like some of your other readers, I LOVE the comments. All of them. The novellas, the single words, the insight and the wisdom the comes flowing out in the comments (from both sides!)It’s like another blog in itself…..Volume 2. I truly believe that this is a wonderful gift you share with the world. And a reminder of just how far even those seemingly smallest of ripples move out into the world and the universe….and make it a better place. One word and one thought at a time.
    And your ripples are by no means small!!!!

    On the other side, I also know the need to follow our hearts and our inner whispers (or shouts). And it makes me happy to know that whatever road you decide to take, this is what you will be doing. Following your heart. And it will be a gift and a blessing. Love you

    P.S.
    I might pout for a little while but I’ll still be here 🙂

  19. phx says:

    You get comments on your blog?

  20. Susan D says:

    I’m experiencing angst. I know I’ve answered some questions you’ve posed in your replies to my comments, but other times, I’ve considered your questions rhetorical… hmmmm. You know me well enough to know that I’d never deliberately leave you “dangling” … I have that inbred politeness gene – perhaps a hereditary
    illness – that leads me to respond to comments. Feedback on actually responding to comments has taught me that LOTS of folks DON’T respond to comments; therefore, the recipients of comments seem most appreciative of “being acknowledged.” This is my take only. Others would roll their eyes and say that I overrate the power of my replies, as in “who do I think I am,” after all. Frankly, for all the instant access we have for communication, I’ve discovered that there are many, many lonely souls out there … it satisfies me to receive a heartfelt response to MY response … Okay, I’m going around in circles here, so I’m hushing, for now. Love, love that cattails … and love the thought-provoking blog. Thank you!

  21. OK, here’s what I do… I try to respond to comments on my blog, but admit that I don’t reply to EVERY comment. Although, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. In the end, all my regular commenters are treated pretty equally, even if it doesn’t look like it on any given day. I don’t really expect people to come back and read my reply, but others who do, get to read the answer. And if someone asks me any questions, I do reply to that comment. Usually on my blog, but sometimes in an e-mail.
    If I come across a blog that I really like, I try to comment often. It might not be every day, or I might be a couple of days behind, but I read every post. When I do comment and ask a question, I check the box that will notify me of any other comments on that post, so I get to see what the blogger replied (although I admit that it’s sometimes a bit annoying if my inbox gets flooded with other people’s comments. Something WP needs to work on improving)
    I’ve made many friends through blogging, and they are the reason why blogging is so much fun.

    One thing about the blogs I comment on, I NEVER expect those bloggers to come to my blog and comment, just because I commented on theirs. If they do, GREAT! ALL the comments are very much appreciated, but if they don’t that’s fine, too. Just like I don’t feel obligated to comment on someone’s blog just because I commented on theirs. I do check out their blogs, and if I like what I see, THEN I comment.

    Did all that rambling make any sense at all? LOL

  22. Robin says:

    I have been contemplating this, too. When I first started blogging, I didn’t know it was “proper blogging etiquette” to reply to comments so I never did. Then it became a topic of blog conversation and it appeared that everyone else knew that you were supposed to at least thank people for commenting. I still did not comment a lot. Mostly when it seemed the comment needed a reply of some kind. Then I started thanking people individually for their comments. And that worked fine until I started getting more comments. Now I find myself having to choose between using my computer time replying to comments or reading blogs. I’d much rather read blogs, especially since most of the comments I receive are of the “nice photo” variety and really, how much conversation can you have around that? Other than a thank you?

    I subscribe to blog comments on WP when I’ve left a comment so I can read any reply to my comment. I don’t always expect a reply, but I do like to know when there is one, more so when I leave a comment at blogs written by people like yourself who do engage in conversations in the comments. (By the way, when I first started blogging way back before it was called blogging, we always held conversations in our blog posts, too, and even had little parties in the comments section, chatting back and forth. But it was a sort of closed atmosphere where the whole world couldn’t just drop in and leave comments.)

    I still don’t know what I will do. Wait and see how I feel each day, I imagine. 🙂

    Beautiful, fluffy, cattails.

  23. barb says:

    Wow, Kathy – this series of Cattail photos is wonderful. I’ve always had a “thing” for Cattails – they seem so beautiful in every stage of change. I must say, I ALWAYS look when I come to visit your newest post to see if you “spoke” to me on my last comment. However, I rarely read the comments others leave on your Blog. So, I guess my connection and conversation is only with you… I never reply to comments on my Blog, but if someone asks a direct question, I answer via E-mail. Also, I always visit everyone who leaves a comment on my blog as a way of saying “thank you.”

  24. P.j. grath says:

    Coming back to comment on Reggie’s comment: I too have left comments that were never acknowledged on certain blogs and find I either no longer leave comments on those blogs or don’t follow them at all any more. I’m talking about bloggers who NEVER reply to comments left. For me, it’s a conversation–but only if both parties acknowledge each other!

  25. Val Erde says:

    Myself, I can’t not reply to blog comments but that’s just the way I am. To me, seeing comments that have no responses in someone’s blog (anyone’s blog) gives the following impressions: a) The blogger is blogging in public when they should be blogging in private or to a chosen readership (both of which are possible on most bloghosts) because, if they don’t want to have a ‘conversation’ then why put it ‘out there’ for all to see? An alternative would be to have their stuff on a website and not on a blog as, for me, a blog is mostly about connections. b) The blogger is egostical and just saying “this is me, but I’m not interested in engaging with you. Love me.” c) The blogger posts their posts and goes off to do something else and really has no connection with anyone else. d) The blogger is getting so many comments that they are overwhelmed by them. e) The blogger has a social phobia. f) The blogger has a commercial/niche blog and it’s not personal.

    I think you’re probably in (d). I think you’re overwhelmed by the comments and to be honest, I’m not surprised. Also, I’m not sure – even with my love of replying and needing responses – what I’d do in your shoes.

  26. Dawn says:

    Ok. Even though we have discussed this before…just look at the great thoughts and comments (yes comments!) people have made here. You make us think. About why we blog, why we comment, and why we do or do not respond to comments. And it’s obvious that some of us are as undecided as you are. So it’s a fluid thing…which is why blogging is so fun. But comments and the replies to them are the way some of us have become “blogger friends” which would not have happened without comments and their replies.

    On the other hand..there are only so many hours in a day…and they can’t all be spent reading and writing and commenting and replying on blogs. Or can they?

  27. wolfsrosebud says:

    Funny you bring this up… I’m still struggling if I should be blogging, since most of the time I don’t even get comments. Hello… is anyone out there.

    Then I figure my posts are exercise for my own writing. I’ve been actively writing for twenty years. Response has been slow in missionary letter writing, magazine writing, book writing, and blog. People who appreciate a writer’s work usually don’t take the time to tell the author how their lives have been affected. Why should they? They aren’t writers and often feel uncomfortable writing to a writer!

    I’m with you regarding building relationship via a blog. That is one of my motives. Everything in balance. I’ve enjoyed your posts even if I can’t respond to your daily posts. Know that if you have traffic on your blog… you’re changing lives!

  28. Barbara Rodgers says:

    Don’t ask me why, but when this post came up I saw the top of the first picture and thought, cotton candy!

    I share your motivations for blogging, relationships, conversations, thought and idea feedback… Sometimes I think blogging evolved from letter-writing, only you don’t have to write the same thing to ten different people, you write it once and everyone who wants to can read it. Years ago my sister used to write what she called “generic” letters. They were sort of like those newsy letters people used to stick in Christmas cards once a year, only she did it about every two weeks, and all her correspondents got a copy.

    Well, I like reading your answers to our comments. I always come back and read your response to my comments. And everyone else’s comments! My problem is getting to read blogs in a timely fashion, I find myself lagging way behind all the other visitors. If someone comments on my blog I respond, but again, it sometimes takes me a while. Slow as molasses in January, or a turtle. I hope you keep responding, Kathy!

  29. Pingback: Part One: Blogging thoughts and thoughts about blogging | Absurd Old Bird

  30. bearyweather says:

    My blogging time is very limited these days, but comments and responses are very important to me. I started blogging to share and hopefully start discussions. I visit many blogs and can’t help but add to the conversations that are going on. Because I am interested in discussion, I always go back to see the replies to my comments and what other people have added to the conversations and add more to it if something comes to mind I feel furthers the discussion.

    Commenting on other blogs also makes my blog more dynamic. The more I comment on other blogs the more traffic I get to my blog. The more traffic I have at my blog, the higher the chance of starting some great discussions. I try to make time to reply to my comments because I value replies to mine. There are some comments that do not require anything more than a thank you. However, sometimes the comments get my mind going in another direction or a reader caught something I did not see … those are the replies I focus on when I do not have much time. Comments and replies make the conversations and I think that is an extremely important part of blogging.

  31. Marianne says:

    This is a good point, Kathy. I like to respond to comments just like I would respond if someone were to speak to me in person. However, I can imagine how time consuming it would be if I had as many commenters as you do. No easy answers to this one.

  32. Kathy says:

    For those who haven’t had a nibble of cake or sourdough bread or slaw or scalloped potatoes at my blog party today (https://upwoods.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/blog-party-youre-all-invited/)…
    I have any entirely new Philosphy about Blog Comments.

    I don’t recall exactly Who Mentioned It (although I am sure it is hidden in the above comments) but I am no longer perturbed or disturbed or even ruffled that the Original blog commenter does not read my thoughtful and lengthy reply. I now realize that the reply is meant for She or He who reads it–not necessarily for the Original Commenter.

    therefore, I am at peace. Please pass some more goodies. And keep those comments comin’!

  33. I’ve thought about the replying to comments activity too. What I’ve seen on other blog sites is the blogger who received a comment will visit the commenter’s blog and reply like this: RYN – thanks that was great… RYN = Read Your Note I think this inspires communication, too, at each other’s sites? But I still sometimes feel like I’m leaving a comment hanging if I don’t reply on my blog. Such a dilemma 🙂

  34. Maybe…if one can leave a RYN on the commenter’s blog, leave the comment there… If the commenter doesn’t have a blog, maybe comment on the original… My head is hurting now and I’m still unsure which way to go!!! LOL

    • Kathy says:

      It is a dilemma, dancingantelope, and I am still not sure which way to go either. I keep trying out different alternatives. The trouble is: there is both positive and negative, no matter which way we choose to handle this. If you quit responding to comments you lose some of the “family” give-and-take feeling of blogging. It’s a strange conundrum. Perhaps the trick is to decide one way or another and just go with it. There’s no “right” way…just differing results.

  35. I’ve thought a lot about this, this past week. It’s funny how on some sites, people reply right under the comment on on others they comment right on the commenter’s blog (RYN). If it helps, on the other site, I’ve never lost a reader by commenting on their blog instead of replying on mine. I actually forget to check replies to my comments on another’s blog! Hmmm, thinking out loud (writing) I think I’ll just respond to comments on the commentor’s blog instead of replying to them on mine. That keeps communication up and then they feel good they know for sure I also visited their blogs 🙂 Many solutions to the same issue… Still, not a simple topic!

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