Blogging can be a wonderful medium for communication. Blogging can be a terribly frustrating medium for communication. Sometimes I enjoy blogging. Sometimes I think it is a waste of time. I think blogging can be a more positive experience for the blogger as well as the person visiting a blog if there are some shared guidelines. One of the worst things about blogging is when it becomes chaotic and difficult to communicate.
Now, I’ve created a Commenting Policy already, but it addresses the bare minimum, i.e., thinks one should do or say if one wants to continue participating in conversations here. There are things that may be done or said in the comments that are not infractions of our policy, but that tend to cause the experience of blogging, commenting, and interacting with each other to become less than pleasant.
I know that it is hard to sense “blogging social cues.” When someone is in a room where a joke is told and the response is groans or silence we know that the joke may not have been appropriate for the audience. Similarly, when two people are talking and a third approaches, interrupts, and alters the topic of the conversation we realize this is rude. I have observed that something like this happens more often than I’d like it to happen in the comments of the blog.
So how can I be a more hospitable blogger? How can commenters that visit this blog be more courteous to the writers and other commenters? One area that is screaming for attention is how to engage a blog topic. I think I should address this because it is not as obvious as I assumed it to be: when a blogger writes on a topic the courteous thing to do is discuss that topic.
I understand that there is a thin line between the topic itself and adjacent topics. Sometimes adjacent topics are so closely related that the transition is smooth and natural, e.g., one may move from discussing Paul’s view of Adam in Romans 5:12-21 to the science of human origins. BUT at other times the transition is not smooth and it becomes quite apparent that a comment is designed to move the conversation away from the topic presented by the blogger. I don’t think this is fair.
When I post on Paul’s view of Adam in Romans 5:12-21 it is because I am in the mood to discuss it. That is what is on my mind. That is what I am studying or addressing in writing at present. If a commenter wants to discuss human evolution, that is fine, but I may not participate because I am busy with other things. This is a public forum of sorts. I’m happy to see commenters talk back and forth because something I wrote interested them, but I may not have the time to go down other trails with you, and that is ok.
Obviously, this has bothered some people. That is why I thought this post needed to be written. I respect the right of visitors to this blog to have views different from my own. For the most part, I am not bothered is the comment thread goes a direction I did not intend. I am bothered when I am expected to go where others want to conversation to go, even if in my estimate it has ventured away from what I discussed in my post.
I hope that clarifies my approach to blogging and interacting with comments. I don’t aim to offend, but I have limited time and attention, like most humans, and so I must pick-and-choose my discussions. If the topics addressed here are not interesting it is quite easy to begin a new blog where those topics can be addressed.
Thanks for the clarification. Seems all very reasonable.
I hope I didn’t offend anyone in the earlier conversation. I’ll try to be careful about comments.
John, you didn’t say anything that offended me.
Thanks for addressing this in your usual caring manner. I think more bloggers should discuss it from time to time. I do try to be careful myself but know that I sometimes stretch and perhaps overstep the issue of relevance and staying on topic. However, also a bit “in defense” of those of us who may be guilty, here is one factor that plays in: even though I’m subscribed to yours and a # of blogs, I sometimes don’t get to a thread until it is a bit old. I may not comment if it appears (especially on the heavily trafficked, frequently posted, and fast “topic turnover” blogs) that even the author may not notice or care to see another comment.
So I may use the occasion of an only somewhat-related later post to make a point about an earlier subject (or a recurring, key one) that may not be completely on point on that thread, but IS in the general vein of things addressed on that blog and/or responds to an earlier point when opportunity was virtually gone earlier. I think you, and I know myself and many bloggers DO pay attention to notices of comments even on long-past posts and reply to them (when not overwhelmed), but it doesn’t seem feasible for authors of some of the real busy blogs.
I also realize my comments are often longer than most (including this one :)), but I don’t mind that in other comments either, if the writer is saying substantive things and it is at least generally related to the post or related recent posts. I don’t get much from the quick agreement/disagreement comments and don’t tend to leave them (with some exceptions).
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