Saturday, September 03, 2011

a comment about comments

Several people have written to me over the past few weeks telling me "Your blog is broken!" and asking, "Where are your comments?!" And up until very recently, I haven't been publishing posts with the comments "on" for a couple of reasons...

1) Years ago I initiated comment moderation when several of the comments that came through would make me cringe, lose sleep, develop gastrointestinal disorders and ultimately, question my purpose in life. Not necessarily because of the venom that was directed at me, but because of the venom that may have been directed at some innocent commenter who was sharing a parental experience about potty training, discipline, breastfeeding or crying it out.

You know, real earth shattering stuff.

Those comments didn't sit well with me to the point that I'd wander around the house, all day (and sometimes for several days), positively stewing. Either I, or quite often, some unsuspecting commenter was misinterpreted and I had the weight of the world upon my shoulders to make it right. Because that's what I do! I'm a fixer and master of ensuring that everyone's opinion is respected!


PLEASE let's all be kind and support one another!

Soon, I realized that a larger than healthy acceptable amount of energy would be consumed responding to a single comment on my blog. Of course Charlie recognized this energy suck much sooner than I ever did and would often say things like, "Why don't you just quit that blob thing all together?!"

To which I'd respond, "BLOG. It's a BLOG. Not a BLOB! And for the record, several of YOUR FAMILY read it." (Hi Steve! Kathy! Susan! Alex! Kathleen! Aunt Nancy! Sally! Stacy! Karin!)

Through this process I learned my first Blogging mistake...

#1: It's easier said than done, but do your absolute best to ignore negative comments from anonymous commenters.

So, I set up comment moderation and if a particularly venomous comment would come through, I'd just DELETE it before it contaminated the entire well and then I'd do my best to suppress feelings of righteousness that I needed to respond.

My initiation of comment moderation unfortunately, led to comments that were "awaiting moderation" for a very long time. Often times days or weeks. The reason for that is because some of the comments were so heartfelt that I'd really want to specifically respond so I'd just hold on to them, like little nuggets of joy until such time that I could appropriately respond.

But, sometimes when you work outside of the house you lose the ability to check your personal e-mail account every five minutes few hours. So by the time I'd have the opportunity to respond to a comment I might have read two days earlier, I'd lose the "exact" words that I had originally wanted to write and before you know it ... days would go past and then I'd just publish all the comments without any response whatsoever.

And that made me feel very badly that I didn't have at least acknowledge the kind people who took the time to leave me a comment. Especially when I'd go blog hopping and leave a random comment on someone else's blog and within a day, the blogger would send me a long e-mail telling me how much they appreciated my comment and thanks so much for stopping by!

Through this process I learned my second two-part Blogging mistake...

#2A: There's only so much time in the day.

#2B: Don't compare yourself to other bloggers.

For the record: If you are reading this blog and if you have EVER taken the time out of your life to send me a comment or e-mail, I'm incredibly appreciative of your thoughts. Please, accept this virtual (((hug))), chocolate and glass of fine wine.

Your kind words really mean so much to me.

2) Long after I initiated commented moderation, I noticed that the number of comments that I had been receiving was on a slow decline. Because I had no access to my statistics meter (I lost the password when we moved last year and have neglected to reset it), I just assumed that the number of people who stopped by were dropping off the radar because the children were growing older ... I was buried with work and had less time to write ... and when I did write, I was chronicling cancer crusades and the desperate often depressing ongoing search for work-life balance. Which, let's face it, those topics are not nearly as gripping as potty training three-year-old triplets with a beautiful newborn and a poop eating dog underfoot.

But earlier this year I realized that Blogger has a statistics meter built in and lo and behold, there are actually more people reading this blog now than there ever were before. This astonished me since I've been terrible about visiting other blogs in the blogosphere and I no longer consistently write about fun situations such as those when poop rolls across your shoe outside the U.S. Post Office.

Quick apologies to those that miss "OH MY GAH, I'm going to need a straight jacket!" stories. Yes, those were indeed good times.

Much like the time they gave me a root canal but the Novocain wore off midway through.

It's important to note that when you blog publicly, a large portion of joy is derived from receiving comments on your posts. When the outside world takes the time to provide feedback on your thoughts, the feeling can be profound. And when you have more than one person associating with your words, it's like an instant little community exists within your computer.

As someone wrote to me the other day, blogging with comments is like a lively discussion. Blogging without comments is drab.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Sometimes I think I should just keep them on and remove comment moderation. But other times, I feel like if I write about something that is REMOTELY controversial, anonymous claws have a tendency to come out and I don't want for me (or a commenter) to suffer. See, I believe that it is the responsibility of a blogger to moderate any comments received. Whether live, or by holding them in queue until such time that they can be either published or deleted.

Then again, if I just turn the comments off - although I'd certainly miss the dialogue, it would be one less thing for me to have to think about (or feel guilty about) if I didn't respond to those lovely people who left me a comment at all. Also, when you write a blog post with comments enabled and you don't receive any comments, your mind has a funny way of playing tricks and soon you may convince yourself that you're the world's biggest loser for writing something so lame and why are you spending your valuable time with this?

Obviously, I haven't made my mind up yet how I want to handle comments.

But through this process, I've learned my third Blogging mistake...

#3) Mentally unstable people should not blog, nor should those who over analyze things to the minutiae.

I'm not naming any names.


(But she can often be found dressing up like a super hero.)

That's not entirely true ... mentally unstable people should blog as should those who overanalyze things to the minutiae. If you meet either of those criteria, please leave me a link to your blog because I'd love to read it and feel better about myself from time to time.

In all seriousness, the single most important thing I've learned about blogging is that your blog should be for you and it should bring you great joy, not great angst. It should also not become an obsession* that pulls you away from your "real" life.

*Only once in my five years of blogging have I ever posted 15 posts in a 24-hour span.

So go forth and blog happily (and healthfully).

Blogging is supposed to be your story, after all.

It can be so easy to forget that.


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