Monday, November 16

How NOT to get discouraged

I was on chat with a fellow blogger last night, discussing how it can get really discouraging to be blogging regularly and feel as if you're either (a) shouting into a void or (b) doing this just for vanity's sake. The two are,of course, intricately connected.


It's important that we bloggers and you readers remember on occasion to appreciate EACH OTHER. I can't believe the number of readers I have, people I've NEVER met, you guys are an absolute miracle to me. And I'd like to get to know you BETTER, but I can't if you never comment.

Several HUNDRED people looked at the Carrie Prejean LOLcats yesterday and less than twenty voted. Rule number one in blogging is, "no whining," yet I feel like I must be doing something wrong.

I emailed lots of fellow bloggers late last night about the idea of a delurking week to invite our readers to "break their commenting cherry" so to speak, and one wrote back to ask me about "metrics." Will I quit blogging if people don't de-lurk? Hardly. No metric. This blog is much more my art studio than my exclusive gallery space. It's mine. I can make a mess here. It's very Napoleon Dynamite. "Whatcha gonna blog today BG?" "Whatever I feel like, GOSH!"

There is something discouraging for us bloggers, creating on this old skool, labor-intensive platform, about Facebook and Twitter, particularly Facebook, because even though many bloggers are happy to post links to their blogposts at FB, people can leave comments at FB which do not then get integrated into the blog itself. And nevermind about the mainstream media, particularly the beltway insiders, who can't get enough of the Twitter and who think Huffpo and Daily Beast (and maybe Kos if they feel 'progressive') are the only blogs in the world.

Writing (and photoshopping and video mashing) for one's own blogspot blog in the age of Facebook is like putting up one's work in a gallery with a guestbook prominently available right there, then people who have been to the gallery write about how nice the show was... over at the grocery store bulletin board. I would understand if I put all kinds of barriers to posting comments here, but anonymous commenters are welcome at BG.

And things are discouraging these days for progressives, obviously. I made a difficult decision when I decided not to blog regularly about healthcare reform.

Somehow I think we're hitting a technology wall. I just got an email from a friend I was supposed to meet with this past weekend, he called me but either my answering machine wasn't working or they assumed I would know they were calling via caller id. But I don't pick up the phone when I don't recognize the number, and out of state cell phones mean callers can call from anywhere and be in town, and...

do you see what is wrong with this picture?

Another blogger emailed me back with very helpful advice (he's really a nice guy and very well-informed, this is NOT a criticism of him at all) about beta apps and potential for more integration of comments across multiple platforms...

again, what is wrong with this picture?

And I'm certainly not advocating that everyone just stop it with the Facebook and Twitter and I-phones and such. But we need to recognize that there is some GREAT writing going on back in the blog-world Folger library, where snooty self-congratulating bloggers can be so very Aristotilean:

Blog::Facebook as Shakespeare/Michaelangelo::Wall*E humans

[I can't use that video as a criticism of ANYONE but the person I see in the mirror. And I can't tell you how often I tell myself to close the laptop before I become THAT.]

UPDATE: Another fellow blogger wrote to say he wasn't sure where I was coming from and that he believes in art for art's sake. To which I say amen, and replied:

Here's the basis of all of this:

Yesterday I posted three LOLcats, I know they're stupid, but they're funny. I wanted to know from people which they liked best so I INVITED them to vote in comments and the "winner" will appear tonight at C&L open thread. Not a big deal, it's very low stakes.

I don't require registration or blogger membership to comment.

For some reason, not the least of which is I pimped the hell out of this at Twitter, I had over seven hundred hits in one day. And TWENTY people commented. And I'm not whining and I'm not bitching, I just really wonder what the barrier is to one or two extra clicks and saying "I laughed hardest at the first one."

As I say, I'm not bitching, as I said in the post it's not like I'm going to walk away from blogging if my readers do nothing. If they're reading me via an RSS feed I don't catch their hit counts anyway, so the seven hundred doesn't count those folks who were just scrolling through their feeds (and for whom clicking through and commenting would actually be an interruption, I get that.)

I am just getting to the point where I don't understand why someone would read a blog and either feel afraid of commenting or feel that there is some barrier to doing so. I'm not bitching about it, I truly am grateful and amazed by every hit. But if I'm doing something that stops them from adding their two cents at my own blog, I want to change my behavior and be more welcoming.

I'm going to add this response to my already too long post. Thanks for the question.

PS. Thank you so much to Wonkette and Mock, Paper, Scissors for their early support of me in the Weblog Awards. The nomination process is still on-going, no voting yet, but if you want to help out click the little green plus sign below this comment. That will get me some attention, they tell me. And thanks again.


  1. I'm delurking! Huzzah!

    I feel your pain on the over-teched front. I'm overwhelmed, myself, trying to keep up with my RSS feed alone. I've added Twitter (as a reader, not a Tweeter). I think what finally happens is, you try different ways of keeping up and keeping in touch, out of all the tools out there, and settle on the ones that work best for your own quirky work habits and personality. For me, it's RSS and Twitter. For others, it might be Facebook and having digests delivered directly to your inbox.

    On a personal level, I hate the phone ... even family knows to email or IM because I so hate the damn thing. Just admitting I hate it and using it only when forced to has been very freeing, and made me much less of a grump.

    Anyway, keep on keeping on with your blogging. There are more of us than you know reading you daily, even if we don't comment.

  2. Thanks for the reminder re hating the phone, Susan.

    I do use the phone to catch up and keep close to friends when there is no other alternative. But I spent years as a customer service rep: I don't hate the phone but in day-to-day interactions I consider the phone "work." Answering the phone when I don't know who is at the other end? Definitely work. Thanks.

  3. I was the one who talked about technological solutions to cross-platform commenting with Blue Gal in email and I didn't take offense at all, because the technology is only part of the problem. Yes, Facebook and Twitter and all the other social networks have fractured commenting. And yes, there are various solutions like FriendFeed's API (assuming Facebook doesn't just kill FF now that they own it), or Disqus comments or Threadsy.

    But even assuming we could finally integrate comments across all the major platforms, that still leaves the problem that the person reading the blog post has to want to leave comment. And that comes down to a commitment of time, which is a very high price to ask someone to pay in this day and age it seems.

    For instance, one of the features I most detest on Facebook is the "Like" button (even though I use it, and hate myself for it). It's great to know people give something I posted their personal thumbs-up but it doesn't tell me anything. 9 times out of 10, when I write something, or even when I just post something, I'm looking for feedback and conversation. Just hitting that "Like" button doesn't scratch that itch I have to engage with people on ideas.

  4. I'm not going to leave a comment, so there!

    You're not the boss of me.

  5. I read your blog every day, and I comment when I feel like I have something to say. I don't know if this helps or not, but this is one of the easiest blogs to comment on that I have found. It never has the feel about it that you could get shot down for what you say. Well, maybe if you say something that is both really stupid and not amusing... Really, the reason I don't comment more is that I always ask myself before I do: "Would anyone want to read that?" So I guess it boils down to a question of who the intended reader of the comment is. If I'm answering something in your post like I am right now, I'm less shy than when I'm commenting on a subject in general (like a real blogger). Also, I agree about the phone, it is my electronic leash, but at this point I pretty much have to have it. Please don't get too discouraged, you have created a very fine thing in this blog, and I do read it every day.

    -Doug in Oakland

  6. I visit your blog EVERY day, and if something new is up, I read it. I don't make comments because it would seem to me as if I was trying to out-clever you. Intellectual female smartasses are the best. I should know, one of them married me.

  7. I always laugh when I see you make fun of a four word Atrios post where 386 people leave comments. The commenting public can have a herd like mentality at times.

    I understand the whole "time is precious" argument, but mostly I think it has to do with fear. People are afraid, even when anonymous , to speak their minds. They want to remain in the audience instead of participating and being part of the show. Here we are now, entertain us.

  8. I'm delurking now, and feeling sheepish. Thank you for the kick in the butt! As a fellow blogger, I was actually just talking recently about how when I come across an interesting article and I post it to Facebook rather than to my blog, I feel quite lazy. Before Facebook, I feel like I was more critical about what I posted and more thoughtful about it.

    Facebook seems like lazy blogging to me. Sort of like drinking cheap beer, which I also sometimes do, but it makes a truly good drink taste so much better!

  9. Kelly in NY6:39 PM

    Delurking, too.
    I started reading your blog earlier this year and always enjoy it. I don't comment here--or anywhere else normally--because I don't have anything to add. On the rare occasion that I do, I comment but I read about 20 blogs a day. That very time-consuming already. I'd be on my computer all day if I also commented on everything I read.

    I read blogs to stay informed and because I enjoy the analysis or humor of certain bloggers. I'm not interested in the community aspect of blogs--I'm a passive viewer/reader. Maybe it's age-related. (1) I'm 45 and have 2 kids. I hardly have enough time to keep up with my real-life friends and relatives. (2) I grew up as a passive consumer of TV and newspapers, so I approach blogs the same way.

    Just as I might recommend a good TV show to a friend, I sometimes recommend certain blog posts to friends (usually on Facebook these days; I used to email them) but it usually doesn't occur to me to give any feedback to the writer.

    I really do appreciate your wit, your writing and your artwork. I like that you're my age, too--many bloggers are VERY young. Thanks for doing this! Keep up the good work!

  10. Okay, fine. We'll TRY to delurk. But we're very shy.

  11. I also read your stuff every day and look forward to new posts. Sorry I don't often comment, I guess I'm just a little shy and don't want to seem trite if I don't have something witty to add. I'll try to do better.

    P.S. Thanks for the Anne Taintor link, now I know what to get my snarky female friend for XMAS.

  12. Evil Slut Clique cracks me up with their shy ways. Ha ha.

  13. I comment from time to time, so now all I need you to make me do is actually start blogging regularly. :-)

  14. I went over and voted for ya when you posted on the awards the other day. Though, and this is just my humble opinion, the best award any Blogger can get is when you post something that people feel is worth their while their while to comment on or link to. By my count you just got about a dozen awards in this thread alone.

  15. The web usability experts say that blog comments have just about the lowest participation levels of anything on the Internet. That is independent of the subject matter.

    Don't feel bad. You aren't doing anything wrong. It's the nature of the beast.

  16. I'm not a cherry as a responder but sort of a slut, but here's a shout out to you again: You do the best damn videos out there! And I'd donate again if I could get my damn paypal thing to work.

  17. Arrrgh, I completely feel your pain, as it were. Not to go all Palin on you and make this all about Me! Me, me, MEEEEE!, but my tiny little outpost has seen a serious decline in comments, too. Sitemeter tells me the traffic remains constant, which is to say, I still get a whopping 50 or so readers per day, sometimes a few more, and once in a while, a whole boatload! But even then, no-one comments. On anything.

    I think our dismay stems from this: reading and interacting with commenters is (was?) such a pleasurable part of being a writer--one that didn't exist until blogging came into being. Before Blogging, there wasn't really a way to get feedback unless you read your work aloud to someone.

    The instantaneous, real-time feedback makes up, in part, for the not-getting-paid aspect of blogging.

    So I'll admit it: it's really discouraging to put several hours' worth of my wittiest, chewiest compound sentences together, only to have no comments that day, and perhaps, a day or two later, there will be some bullshit remark left by an insurance shill, something that completely fails at refuting my argument, but worst of all, doesn't offer a hint of acknowledgment as to what a talented, clever, and deeply funny writer I am. *BIG pout*

    Hang in there, BG. You have lots of readers, even if some of us get yanked away from the laptop before we can write something in support. The support is still there. I suppose I should take my own advice, shouldn't I?

  18. I think for me it's a combination of things. I need to go back and read all of your comments because this is something I've been thinking about since I started a livejournal in freaking 2001. But my knee-jerk is:

    1. Primarily I have a hard time being a commenter on a blog where I don't feel like the blogger will ever return the favor. This might not be because they disdain me or something, it might be because they got comments from 35 people that day and simply don't have time to comment back to every person on their latest post. There is an issue with economies of scale and I just like to interact with bloggers who also read my stuff. But that makes it hard to connect sometimes.

    2. Related: time. My google reader explodes frequently; if I commented on everything I wanted to comment on I'd have to quit my day job or something. It just doesn't work.

    3. I think that in the grand scheme, there are just plenty of people who aren't commenters. They just like to be entertained. That's cool.

    4. Some folks only like to comment if they feel they have something quality to say, something substantial. Like #3 I think this is just a style of blog consumption. Those of us who devote time to trying to write something personal, or political, or whatever, just have to accept that some folks aren't talky.

    Or maybe that's just what I tell myself when I get 0-2 comments.

    And I also think it's sad that the only way I can get the comments is to pimp over at FB. But the reality of that is that I think some folks don't use feed readers and can't be bothered to go to individual websites on a regular basis.

    Jeez, I guess I could write my own whole post on this. Sorry to take your space!! But I think about this more than I probably should. But hey, hello! Nice to meet you, I'm a former lurker.

  19. Anonymous9:02 PM

    I think I'm unlurked. I read your posts daily (big fan) and comment occasionally. I've always commented anonymously because, quite frankly, being severely techno-challenged I can never get the identity thing to work otherwise. Hopefully this one will stick.

  20. Dear Blue Gal,
    I've never understood RSS, Facebook seems strange, and I don't see the attraction of Twitter. I just learned how to take a picture on my cell phone and print a "selection" of a web page. Sigh. Obviously from the older generation.

    But I discovered blogs during the Obama campaign and I confess I'm hooked. What an amazing communication medium. You are one of my favorites -- creative, well read, funny, and honest!

    Thank you for putting yourself and your ideas out there for the rest of us. Great job!

    Susan McL
    Stow, MA

  21. I don't really have anything to say or add here, except to say I'm glad THE EVIL SLUT CLIQUE commented, 'cause I feel like following you back to your blog and seeing what an EVIL SLUT CLIQUE might be about.

  22. Oh Honey, we waive the initiation fee for Freida Bees. Automatically.


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