Commenting on blogs – more questions than answers

Source Flickr cc
Source Flickr cc

Okay, so we have encouraged our students and teachers to join the blogging community.  They are being creative and enthusiastic (see my previous posts and the blogroll for wonderful examples).  We have learned the amazing value of Twitter as a publicist for new blog posts.  The power of the #comment4kids hashtag is phenomenal.   The feed from that tag is constant with pleas for comments on student blogs.    The Blogging Challenge currently underway has accelerated these demands.   All good, as the people who follow these tags are happy to help – we realise the value of comments and providing feedback.  So ….

It does make me wonder : Why do so many people read blogs and NOT comment? I see blogging as a two-way process and whilst admitting to not commenting on every blog I visit, I certainly try to respond whenever the subject is relevant and I have something to offer, and often comment on student blogs (it only takes a few seconds).   When reading student blogs, I try to encourage them but question them about their writing matter.      I have a gut feeling  (totally statistically unsupported and gleaned purely  from my anecdotal experiences)  that many readers do not comment.   Are they lacking in confidence that their opinion or reaction is not valid?  Do they think writers do not need reinforcement or challenging?  I hope not, as, in that case, we are missing out on the conversation – the true bonus of this medium.   Perhaps commenting is not as important as I think it is.

I saw a recent tweet asking for blogging buddies and I think this is a brilliant idea.   The buddy process should ensure that all posts are read and responded to – as I have said before – we all need feedback!  However, the audience needs to be beyond a few buddies – we need the broader challenge, otherwise we may as well be swapping our spiral notebooks with the neighbouring classroom.

It also makes me wonder: Is there an etiquette or protocol for reacting to comments? Recently, members of my household heeded the call to comment on student blogs – questions were being asked that we had the knowledge and experience to answer.   Almost 10 days later and some comments are still not appearing (awaiting moderation) and others remain unanswered.  I ask the question : Is there a protocol for responding to comments?
My old-fashioned etiquette has me thinking that some reaction is preferred and actually required.   Is this anachronistic?   I was trained in old school – sending  written replies to written invitations, written notes of thanks after an event etc – I realise as communication mediums have changed, so too will these traditions, but are any worthy of persisting with?

Is it reasonable to expect that someone who blogs, will visit their blog regularly?  Perhaps this is the natural process of attrition – an unattended blog will fade way as the interest from both blogger and readers dwindle.  That two-way process is required to keep it alive.    This also raises the issue of subscribing to comment feeds – do most bloggers and readers care if they get a reaction?

It also makes me wonder:    How will this enthusiasm be captured and prolonged? I know that blogging is relatively new (according to the Wikipedia they began in 1999 whilst not becoming commonplace till 2004) – so it is still evolving – a relative newcomer, a work in progress.  The Twitter stream is constantly introducing new teacher and student blogs, so I anecdotally suggest that the growth is currently strong.    Will the list of student blogs requesting comments grow to an untenable extent?  In reality, this should not happen if all bloggers assume the responsibility to comment on other blogs as well.

Dean Shareski in his recent K-12 Online 2010 conference presentation – ‘Sharing : the moral imperative’,  suggests that we have an obligation to share our practice – I think this should apply to all bloggers – student and teachers and to posting as well as commenting.

Do you agree?  Are comments important to you ?   (my daughter has already pointed out the irony of me getting no response)

PS Here are a few resources to use when teaching students to comment on blogs (Thank you to the authors)

  1. Mrs. Yollis’s classroom
  2. Integrating technology in the Primary Classroom – Kathleen McGeady

15 thoughts on “Commenting on blogs – more questions than answers

  1. Great thoughts here. Many blog readers are just that- readers. They’re consumers of information and haven’t quite made the shift to being producers. Putting your thoughts in a comment can be intimidating. What will I say that hasn’t already been said? Will it be worthwhile?

    I think we need to help our children learn what content makes a valuable comment, although I don’t know if we can fault someone for not commenting in a timely manner. There are times when my Reader feeds become so backed up, I find myself commenting on posts that are a month old. Nothing I can do about that, but if I find the post engaging and wish to comment, I do so. I’ve definitely seen the “the more I give, the more I get” practice in action. Commenting on others’ blogs often brings new readers to my own.

    Help students understand that it takes time to develop an audience who offers comments, and not to get discouraged! Teaming up with another classroom or school can help facilitate this process and provide more consistent feedback on your students’ work.

  2. Thanks Lyn
    You are right about different types of users – I guess there will always be consumers and producers. The numbers of blogs available to read is enormous and I realise the impossibility of commenting on all of them. I guess, I am thinking that we need to encourage the culture of participation.

  3. Why do so many people read blogs and NOT comment?
    I often read blogs using an RSS reader and unless a post really resonates with me for some reason, I often don’t take the time to click through to the blog & post a comment. I probably should more than I do.

    Is there an etiquette or protocol for reacting to comments?
    I don’t know that there is but I think there should be. For my own blog, I try to approve comments as soon as I can and to respond quickly also. If think that if we want comments, we need to react to them in a timely fashion or those who have commented probably won’t bother again.

    With students, I think there also should be an etiquette, but I feel that unless they are taught about commenting, they won’t necessarily know what they should do. Students need to learn how to make a thoughtful comment and how to monitor, approve and respond to comments on their own blogs. I think we also need to realize that sometimes students don’t have access to their blogs on a daily basis so they may not see a comment has been made for week or more.

  4. Thanks Vicky
    The access point for children is very valid. Lyn’s comment about there being consumers and producers is sitting well with me too. Teaching students how to comment is very important and the links I included have some great ideas

  5. You raise so many great issues in your blog post Celia.

    I subscribe to the philosophy that the more you give, the more you get back. Most definitely, if we take the time to comment on the thoughts of others they will respond to us, or come visit our blogs.

    Althoughyou raise the issue of our students in schools needing to learn the ‘etiquette’ of commenting, I feel that we adults also have to learn the etiquette or value of commenting on blogs we read. I’ve spoken to many an adult who confirms your gut feeling – they read but don’t comment. For some it is quite threatening to leave their footprint on a blog. What there is to fear, I’m not sure. The other issue I’ve picked up in conversation is that often there is a lack of confidence that what they have to say is not of value.

    I crave comments on my blog. Comments are the ‘cherry on top’. Comments contribute so very much to the blogging process. Hopefully your thoughts here will provoke more comments!

  6. You definitely raise some interesting points, Celia. I am a frequent reader of blogs and an equally frequent non-commenter. I think I fall into the category of worrying that I have nothing useful to say that someone else hasn’t already covered. While I haven’t yet introduced blogging with my students, I have tried to instill in them ‘traditional values’ of responding appropriate to emails, even if it’s just to say thanks.

    I agree with Bev that comments do really add to the blogging process for the writer and readers. It’s one thing to have a blog resonate with me, quite another to know that there are others who commented who also have similar views or, equally, to find some with opposing views that I hadn’t considered.

    Anyway, you’ve fired the spark – I shall aim to do my bit and comment on more blogs from now on!

  7. Thanks Bev & Gill,
    I agree about lacking the confidence that what I have to say is valid or interesting and frequently hover over the ‘Send’ button, wondering.
    Once I accepted that I am happy that people will have differing opinions and not agree with me, I felt better. I am infinitely suggestable and quite open to varying ideas – guess it is a bit scary. I have realised though the benefit of participating and wish that for others

  8. Thanks for starting this conversation Celia, my feelings exactly. Receiving comments fuels my motivation to keep on blogging…sometimes I wonder if its worth my while. If it wasn’t for my flags I wouldn’t know if I had many visitors at all.
    I love receiving and making comments. Even if time is short just a hello can make a difference to someone.

  9. Celia

    Thank you for your blog comments – it has truly been motivating for my student to receive comments fro other teachers.
    My children also used Mrs Yolis how to .. blog comments and it was an excellent starting point.
    Good luck with the blog.

    Elizabeth Faithful

  10. Whoops .. I did the one thing that I say to my students check spelling and typo’s before hitting the post button – lesson learnt!

  11. I believe that receiving and giving comments is one of the most positive aspects of blogging.Not only do we realise that people really are reading our blogs but we also experience the benefits of new insights and ideas.
    Thankyou Celia for the comments which you have made on my blog s well as on many others.
    I have also enjoyed reading your blog and your discussion on comments has prompted me to be more proactive in using comments .

  12. Some great comments here – I agree with Bev (the more you give, the more yout get), although it’s only just dawned on me!

    We forget that different types of users visit our blogs and that many are not interested in blogging themselves. We create our own network, in a way, through the comments that we leave on blogs we visit, and although I’ve been focusing on widening my network further by using Twitter and other sites, I’ve forgotten that leaving a simple comment can go a long way.

    I also fall under the category of worrying that I haven’t got anything of value to add. As a very recent graduate, I feel that I haven’t got the experience to back up my comments. I’ll have to keep reminding myself that I have new ideas that can spark conversations, too!

  13. Thanks Catherine & Lynne,
    In ‘my’ world, blogging is a new medium and I guess I am grappling with the consequences and benefits. There is an interesting conversation going on, on #comments4kids about the validity of teachers commenting on student blogs. It will evolve and I certainly believe the potential is amazing.
    Catherine, you would be surprised how much a ‘new’ teacher can have to offer – a fresh perspective is wonderful!

  14. As a blogger myself I believe that commenting on your articles is a definite no no, as much as is possible.

    The only times the author should join in to comments is to directly reply to questions or points raised, but not in an immediate and one by one way.

    In my experience I believe it stifles debate and discourages people from commenting.

    The best way I have found to encourage commenting is to actively encourage people to comment. Ending an article with questions is a sure fire way.

  15. Hmm…. I am not sure I understand the problem with commenting on your own articles. I see it more as continuing the conversation and notifying the reader that you have read and appreciated their comments. I agree that asking a question promotes comments.

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