Nina Simon’s Muesum 2.0 blog post, What You Lose When You Become Embedded, and a Moment of Mourning for Blog Conversations, discusses how her posts start a lot of conversations that she is not privy to, and that she would really like to be included in discussions of her posts.
Problem is, I’m only part of a tiny fraction of those conversations. I’m learning less. I feel more lonely in my writing. It makes it harder to keep it up.
This “problem” disproportionately impacts only one of this blog’s thousands of users: me. For me, this content being embedded across different platforms and conversations is lovely in the abstract but frustrating in the day-to-day. I used to feel like a party host with really amazing guests. Now I feel like a street performer. I’m part of a bigger city. I supply some content but only get to talk with a few gadflies who stick close to the show (of whom I am very appreciative). One of my greatest blogging-related joys is when someone shares a blog post with a colleague and accidentally hits “reply” instead of “forward”—thus letting me in on their conversation.
This is what it means to be embedded. To not be the center of attention. To be used by someone else, somewhere else, without notification or participation. To be more important, but to feel less important.
In response to a comment of mine on the post, Nina Simon pointed me to another article about blog comments that she wrote way back in 2008, Museum 2.0: Why Doesn’t Anyone Comment on Your Blog?:
When people ask about blogging, the question of comments comes up more frequently than any other. It’s a bit strange. Why not ask more typical website questions, “why don’t more people visit my blog?” or “why don’t more people link to my blog?” There are many good ways to measure a blog’s value, but somewhere inside ourselves, we feel that comments are the thing that validate a blog’s existence. They prove that the conversation is two-way. They demonstrate that the blog is a more participatory vehicle than other kinds of media. So when people ask, “Why don’t more people comment?,” it gets me excited. It means that you are blogging because you want to hear from someone else.
In both her old post and her new one, she talks about why people don’t comment much. Although it is clear that she accepts the rather low ratio of commenters to readers, it is also clear that she would rather have more public conversations in her blog.
The external commenting rate on my blog is about 0.6%—that is, about 6 comments from people other than me per 1000 views. I’d like to have a rate more like 2–3%, that is, four or five times as many comments as I now get.
One of her commenters pointed out that a lot of ephemeral discussion happens on Facebook and Twitter, and that many people are intimidated by the greater permanence and public nature of blog comments. Some of her lurkers have promised to try to comment more on her blog (though they recognized that this was likely to go the way of all New Year’s resolutions).
I don’t even have that comfort of triggering discussions on other platforms, as I doubt that my posts are getting much attention on Facebook or Twitter—the referral numbers to my blog from either is rather low. About 2/3 of my views are coming from search engine hits—people are looking for specific material that Google thinks they can find in one of my blog posts. They may read just one blog post and not return, though I do have a (small) number of regular readers who subscribe to the blog.
One big difference, I suspect, between her blog and mine is that she has a fairly large community of regular readers on her blog, almost all of whom are interested in museum administration.† They have a lot to say to each other. My more scattered posts on electronics, programming, teaching, home schooling, university administration, and random stuff that interests me does not result in a large, loyal following. People who are interested in only some of my posts may have nothing to say to people interested in other of my posts. When I put up a series of posts on one topic, I may lose subscribers who were only interested in one of the other topics.
I follow a lot of blogs (too many, actually, as it eats up too much of my time), and I try to comment on them whenever I have anything to say, because I know how much comments mean to blog writers. Even slightly stupid comments are better than silence. (I try not to make stupid comments, but I’m sure I do sometimes.) Some of my most frequent commenters are fellow bloggers whose blogs I comment on—we sometimes have blog conversations that are not contained just within the comments, but that trigger longer posts on our own blogs. These are often quite satisfying conversations, which we are glad to share with other readers—and we invite you to join the conversation in the comments.
For those of you who don’t feel you have anything to say, here are some questions I’d like answers to: What brings you to my blog? What should I write about to keep your interest? What topics would you feel more comfortable commenting on?
†I’m a bit of a fringe member of Nina’s blog community, having gotten interested in the Museum 2.0 blog mainly because of what she had done to turn the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz from a stodgy little provincial museum, of no interest to almost anyone, into a vital part of the community. I keep reading her blog, because she writes well and gets me thinking about things I would otherwise not consider, even if much of what she writes about has no application to my professional or personal life.⏎