Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Friday, 29 July 2011

The whys, whyfors and why nots of commenting

commentsI like to introduce you to a new word. It’s ‘anopisthography’ – the practice of writing on one side of the paper. I never knew there was a word for that. Not that it matters these days since the Internet only has one side. I wonder what the word is for something that only has one side? There must be one? Unidimensional? Nah – paper has height and width. Maybe it’s just ‘flat’! I could look it up in the dictionary but, hang on a second, dictionaries don’t work that way. You can’t look up a definition and get the word you want. And that sucks. I guess I’m suffering from lethologica . . . the inability to recall a precise word for something. Another great word I would have found some use for over the years if only I’d known about it, and don’t get me started on apodyopsis, bathykolpian and colposinquanonia which you can find defined on this wonderful webpage: Unusual Words.

So what has all of the above got to do with commenting? Bear with me.

With few exceptions people write blogs so that other people can read them. In some cases they will restrict those who can have access to family and friends and I have no doubt that there will be blogs out there that function purely as diaries that no one bar the author can read. But most of us want to be read. I’m writing this now imagining that I’m communicating with people, people like Dave King or Lis Hanscombe or Art Durkee to list the first three that came to my mind. The reason these three were the first I thought of are because they pretty much always comment on my blogs and I on theirs and if I don’t comment I feel guilty as if I’m letting the side down a bit. It’s not a competition. I didn’t sign a contract or cross my heart and hope to die. I just think it’s polite if someone takes the time to say something meaningful on your site that you a) respond to their comment on your own blog and b) make a reciprocal comment on theirs which I then expect them to respond to. And that ties everything up neatly.

Of course I don’t always comment on their blogs. Art quite often just posts a handful of photos and I frequently can’t think of anything better to say other than, “Great photos,” which for some reason I feel is . . . not beneath me, but inadequate. If I’m going to say something then I like it to be meaningful, not necessarily clever or witty, but genuine. Of the three I probably comment more of Lis’s blog than the other two. Does that mean I like Lis more than I like Art and Dave? I’m not going there. The simple fact is she posts less than the other two. But if one day I didn’t comment I wonder if I’d find her sitting over her yoghurt in the morning wondering if I’ve stopped caring because I’ve not left a comment wondering what other blogs I was away reading perhaps younger, prettier blogs with photos and fancy fonts.

Blogs are not just about the writing. They can be. You can turn off comments and not display your e-mail anywhere and you can write away and not be read because that’s pretty much what will happen. Okay you might get read a bit – Google’s web crawlers get everywhere – but you’ll be so far down the rankings that it will only be the most determined who’ll finally discover your site.

If you’re going to play the game you need to know the rules. You need to know what people expect and what they will accept.

If you want to be read you need to go and stand where people are looking and do something to attract their attention. There’s no point in sitting in your own blog and being nine kinds of clever because no one’s going to look there. They’re looking at their friends blogs and Google and Facebook and all that other stuff that cries out, “Look at me! Look at me now!” A friend of mine who shall remain anonymous put up a post that excited me and so I shared it on Facebook and a couple of days later she reported that she’d got 65 hits that day, a huge hike from the handful she was used to and much as I struggle with it that’s what Facebook is good for, especially if you get someone promoting your work for you. But if it’s just you, you can still find ways to attract new readers and one of those ways is commenting on other people’s blogs.

Commenting on other people’s blogs does two things: firstly, it gets you a backlink, and, secondly, the odds are the owner of that blog will click on the link to your site to see who you are and if they like what they see you might find yourself with a new follower. Additionally others might follow that link and discover your site.

Why are backlinks important?

The answer is simple. Backlinks are important because they are seen as a type of credit given to you from other webmasters. Search engines give you more status for quality backlinks, especially if they are from other sites within your niche. The more status a site has, the higher it will rank (this is especially true in competitive niches).

If for example your site is geared for travellers, a backlink from a cruise site will give you great “bonus” points in the eyes of Google – especially if that site has a strong PR.

Backlinks are the bread& butter of online marketing for die-hard webmasters, and the key to ranking high in the search engines. – The Importance of Backlinks, WordPress Howto Spotter

prbacklinksSee that hyperlink to ‘The Importance of Backlinks’, that’s a backlink. I’m not just acknowledging where I’m quoting from but tipping them. Okay they won’t get much of a tip because I’m small fry but a link from their site to mine would do me no harm whatsoever because they have over 15,000 subscribers. It would be much better if that link came from a site like Ron Silliman’s blog where he has the kind of readers I want to attract and occasionally I do get a link from him which usually gets me 100+ hits. Thank you, Ron.

So every time you make a comment you’re doing a little bit to promote your blog. You could, of course, sit at your machine all day typing in, “Great post. Love the blog. Keep up the good work.” but that wouldn’t work for long and if you go back to those sites in a day or two you might well find your comment deleted. No one likes to be spammed. Besides it’s never that simple, is it? Let me explain. The two backlinks above are fine – they’re in the body of the article – but backlinks in the comments are not automatically read. Most of these links are hidden from search engines without you knowing. Most of the high-ranking blogs add a "no follow" tag to your website link. This tag tells the search engine not to count this link which means you don’t get credit for the backlink. The tag can be removed manually, or switched to “do follow” but most people don’t mess with the settings. You can search for “do follow” blogs and here’s a link to a search engine that will do just that.

Of course after a while you develop relationships with people. I don’t see a post by Art Durkee and think: Ka-ching! Backlink time! but I nevertheless make a point every day of ensuring that I comment on a few blogs and every week I go out of my way to see what new blogs there are out there to ensure that my promotion doesn’t stagnate and if anything I probably put more effort into comments on new blogs because I want to give a good impression. This is not cold-hearted marketing. This is a very personal approach. Google is cold-hearted though. It’s a machine. It doesn’t care if I’m a nice guy or what. All it cares about are the backlinks but as I’ve said most of the times it ignores them anyway.

In all honesty I doubt most people comment on blogs purely for ulterior motives. I certainly don’t but I’m acutely aware of the many benefits that come from regular commenting both in the short term and the long term.

Why do people comment on blogs?

Someone said that reading a good blog post and not leaving a comment is like enjoying a good meal and not leaving a tip. I get the point but I don’t think that it’s that simple. It’s more often like eating your wife’s cooking and not at least offering to do the dishes. Comments enhance posts. Anyone who wants proof of that then pick one of Lis Hanscombe’s posts – pretty much any one will do – and start to read through the many, many comments some of which (yes, okay, mine but not just mine) can be quite involved.

There are loads of lists online suggesting why people comment. Ignoring self-promotion for the moment here’s my list:

  • To state an opinion
  • To start a debate
  • To contribute to the post
  • To ask a question
  • To encourage the blogger
  • To be polite
  • To hear the sound of your own voice
  • To satisfy convention / reciprocity
  • To stop yourself feeling guilty for not commenting
  • To network
  • To develop a friendship
  • To show off
  • To correct a mistake
  • To pick a fight

What’s probably more interesting is why people don’t comment:

  • What you write is so complete, that I don’t know what to say except good job.
  • You’ve taught me something I didn’t know, and I need to think about it before I even have a question.
  • I get ready to type a comment, but I notice you only respond to a few friends who mostly share inside jokes.
  • The folks who comment on your posts like to argue and I don’t.
  • You rarely respond to comments.
  • Your blog has geeky attitude and I’m not geeky enough to keep up.
  • I really like your blog and your post, but I’m too tired, busy, or any one of a number things that you can’t control.
  • You end your posts with a giant general question like “What do you think of the Big Bang Theory?”
  • You put up a fence by making me login to comment.
  • Your content wasn’t fresh and exciting, and I couldn’t find anything YOU inside it.
  • Your post was negative. Negative is scary. Most folks don’t like negative stuff, because they know they could be next to be the recipient. I don’t comment, because I don’t want to be part of it.

I copied that list from and old post by Liz Strauss. At the time I did it had only received 573 comments.

Looking at the list I’d say the one I’m probably most guilty of it the first (though please feel free to disagree (and if you could voice your disagreement in the comments box I would be grateful)) but I think there’s a simple enough solution to that one: talk about you. As I’m writing this I’ve just posted my review of The Story of Mr Sommer which I describe as a children’s book for grownups. Who reading this blog has no experience of children’s books? It wouldn’t bother me a jot if someone was to tell me about their favourite children’s books growing up – mine were Enid Blyton’s retelling of the Brer Rabbit stories, the three 1963 editions illustrated by Grace Lodge – and I think a lot of people shy away from comments like that Brer Rabbitbecause they feel they should be complimenting me on my jolly good post. Sod that for a game of soldiers. If you say, “Great blog, Jim,” what’s left me to say bar, “Well thank you … you,” and where’s the fun in that?

Online marketing is an odd beast. I’ve struggled with it for over three years now and I’m no closer to taming it. But that’s the thing with beasts, there are ways of taming them but bullying them into submission is not always the best approach. Animals know when they’re being conned, when you’re not genuine and people do too even if they’re on the other side of the globe and all they’ve got to go on are a page full of squiggles. You can’t be businesslike and professional when it comes to blogging. Blogging is personal and you need to be personable. And genuine. The people whose sites I leave my comments on aren’t daft, they know that part of my reason is to promote ME but that’s okay. We don’t mind when some bloke knocks on our door to repossess the car as long as they’re nice about it and treat us with a bit of respect; anyone call fall on hard times.

Blogging is certainly not as simple as I first envisioned it. None of us started out blogging for the comments but once we start getting them we start expecting them. A while ago I posted a review of a pretty awful book and I got no comments – not a one, bugger all – and it stung although I would have no idea what to say if I’d come across the post written by someone else. The number of comments people leave says something about your blog as does the number of hits you get but no one would ever try to measure their personal worth with a tape measure and so we need to keep stats like these in perspective. And probably the worst thing any of us can do is compare the number of comments we get to what our friends get.

Now you know what you ought to do before you leave, don’t you?


Kat Mortensen said...

Very educational. When I started blogging, it was more of a lark really—a lark that quickly turned into an obsession.
I often wish I could cut it off completely, but after four years of doing this, I fear it would be like cutting out my own tongue!

Art Durkee said...

I do like getting comments. I usually like getting comments I might not fully agree with. It makes me feel like someone is out there, and if not always listening, at least they're there. Sometimes the creative work I do, which I mostly for my own purposes, can feel like shouting down a well and not getting an echo back. Getting a comment I might not fully agree with is an opportunity to start a dialogue. It's possible to have a good exchange even with people you rarely agree with.

Yet I've noticed that most people aren't interested in dialogue. The say their piece, and don't reply to your replies to their comments, usually. (There are always a few exceptions.) Many people are much more interested in what they have to say, vs. getting into a dialogue.

A lot of very public commentators are rather narcissistic; I'm thinking of some of the regulars who used to comment on Silliman's blog: not always because they had anything to say, but to feed their own egos by hearing themselves talk.

I was thinking about the people I used to know online, on some of the poetry boards and chatrooms I was once involved with. The most recent time I tried to connect again with any of those people, one or two of them had turned into trolls, and what had once been a good environment was now so hostile it wasn't worth participating in, even for those who are still sane. People do change, and sometimes not for the better. Anyway, pretty much all of those old relationships are gone, now; many of them were built on dialogues and comments. That seems to be over now, though.

When I get a comment, I always appreciate. But I often do not get any comments at all. I'm sure some of the reasons for that are the ones you've listed here. My self-esteem is just fine, and is not based around the comments I get. Nonetheless, one cannot help but notice that less than one percent of people who might read my blog actually comment. I suppose it's good that others do read it, even if they don't comment. One does want a little human touch, though.

I don't comment on every blog I read. In some cases I've learned from experience that my comments wouldn't be welcome, or would just be ignored. Which is fine. Sometimes it does make you wonder, though.

Marion McCready said...

I love this, the psychology of blog-commenting behaviour! The way to get loads of comments is to comment frequently on loads of other blogs, blogging is a social scene in that sense. As an introvert my blog-commenting behaviour reflects my real-life behaviour. I prefer to have a few close friends who know me well rather than hundreds of superficial (I don't mean that in a negative sense) friends. Extroverts are energised by frequent and wide social contact, introverts are sapped by this. I think this can be true to an extent with online behaviour.

What I'm slightly bemused at is the weight you give to commenting. I don't believe the quality of the post and the number of comments that it generates are related. As you've shown people comment/ don't comment for a variety of reasons. I rarely comment on your book review posts because I don't often buy current fiction and I'm not all that interested in it. Even the one's I do read and enjoy - your Dr Finlay post - I simply don't have anything to say other than "good / interesting post" and for the reasons you mentioned it doesn't feel worth leaving that as a comment.
Being read is the important thing and I kind of like the mytery readers who I notice in my stats read my blog very regularly but have never left a comment, I do that to certain blogs too!

j said...

First comment confession -- I skimmed this post, feeling guilty because I have been violating the unspoken etiquette of blogging for a long time now -- I rarely comment on other peoples' blogs these days, even those of faithful readers and commenters such as, um, you. This has resulted in fewer comments, which I am fine with, but it does feel impolite.

Sometimes there are so many things to comment on, or (in your case) I feel like I really need to absorb what you've said to comment intelligently. If it is any consolation (though I doubt you need consolation from me), the more complicated and well-written the post, the less I feel like I can write an intelligent comment. It becomes a worry about putting my foot in my mouth, or on my keyboard, by missing some important element of a post. Maybe this stems from my childhood -- a joke, a joke -- but I am often concerned about sounding like an idiot. And this is without regard to backlinks, etc.

So concludes my all-about-me comment.

Andrew McCallum Crawford said...

Sounds like you know your way around the blogosphere, Jim! Tell me, though, which do you prefer - people leaving comments on your blog link on your FB page, or people leaving comments here on your blog? I've seen a couple of writers on FB complaining that all of the feedback seems to come through FB.

Jim Murdoch said...

And for a lot of people, even after three for four years (I’m fast approaching my four-year anniversary), Kat, it still is a lark. If they get read they get read and so what if no one ever reads what they write. The thing is I never start anything as a lark. I’m a serious person and I don’t do anything lightly. Most people would think my attitude takes the fun out of things and I’m sure it would for many people but I’m a great believer in if you’re going to do something then do it right; I get a real kick out of a job done well. So before I started blogging I read a huge amount about how to have a successful blog and I set out to do that. Every now and then I take stock and try and measure how successful I’ve been. It is a harder thing to measure than I first expected. I have loads of stats available to me but the only one I check daily is Google Analytics. Every now and then I look to see how many followers I have and am usually disappointed to find it’s not moved since the last time I looked. All of these are a measure of success but I try and not make too much of them. And the same goes for comments.

The reason I wrote this article is to try and impress on people how the system works. Marion is perfectly right when she says, “The way to get loads of comments is to comment frequently on loads of other blogs.” The first part of this article is trying to explain why this works and why it might not be as effective as you expected. For a long time I didn’t understand about backlinks and tags and I’m certainly no expert but I did think that Google took note of them in its algorithms. Now I know that the only benefit is if a living person reads what I’ve written and decides to investigate this bugger whose comments are usually longer than most people’s posts.

I think you make a good point about dialogue, Art, and I do enjoy it but, with me anyway, it’s quite simply a time thing. I’ve been sitting at this laptop for nearly four hours and all I’ve done in that time are read and respond to blogs and Facebook entries and I’ve still a good thirty blog entries which I’ll have to leave until after tea if I’m going to get any writing done this afternoon. I honestly don’t know how some people cope. It’s good that you don’t pin yourself esteem to your blog for people to tramp over thoughtlessly. I don’t either and I’m well aware that most of the people out there are trying to do as much as me in a fraction of the time but I still appreciate comments. I’m far less interested in praise than I am in getting some bit of insight from another person. I don’t expect people to try and respond to everything, just pick the thing that jumps out at you and give me a few thoughts on that.

I’m also an introvert, Marion, as you very well know. And I agree totally with your assessment: extroverts are energised by company, people like you and I are drained. I was mentally exhausted by my little trip out to see you read. I fretted for days in advance. Everything went fine, we had a nice chat, and it didn’t last too long but I still found it very hard work. I tend to overcompensate at times like that and go into performance-mode and so I worked hard to stay calm. Online it’s not so bad because I can take hours to think about a response but I still find it draining. It’s part of the deal. I’ve decided that the Internet is going to be my main forum for promoting my writing and so I have to be willing to get my feet wet even if I’m never going to be ready to jump in the deep end. So there’s no need to be bemused. I’m not making more of comments than I need be. They are a part of the game, that’s all.

Jim Murdoch said...

Jennifer, my wife and I were talking about this last night, about how my online presence differs from who I am in real life. We both agree that online I can come across as intimidating. I try and not but I know I do. I am intelligent – there’s nothing I can do about that – but, and I’m always sure people think I’m just being self-deprecating when I say stuff like this, I’m nowhere near as clever as people might think I am. Have a look at a lot of my posts and what you’ll find is a string of quotes from other people which I’ve assembled into an article that makes it look as if I know what I’m talking about. Ask me a few days later to discuss that particular subject and you’ll see just how much has actually stuck. I’m interested in learning and as I learn I share. So please feel free to put your foot in your mouth any time you like on my blog. I won’t shoot you down. No matter how knowledgeable someone is there’s always someone out there who knows more or understands better than you. Look at the comments I make on your blog. Sometimes I offer critical comments, sometimes I try and encourage and sometimes I relate something from my own past that your blog has reminded me of. There’s no right way to comment.

And, Andrew, I am trying. I read articles all the time about online marketing and SEO and how search engine algorithms work and it’s a huge subject. The fundamentals are all things that anyone with a bit of common sense will have worked out for themselves but a bit of technique can go a long way. Google is a program, not a person, and it’s just doing sums but if you realise that it pays special attention to anchor text, headers, images, hyperlinks then it pays to pay a little more attention to these: there’s writing for your readers and there’s coding for the searchbots.

As for where people leave their comments I by far prefer people to comment on the site. I am not a fan of Facebook. The first few days I was on it I felt physically sick when faced with this wall of entries. I recognise it has its benefits but it’s a very crowded room.

Poet Hound said...

Wow, what timing Jim! I've been feeling trememdously guilty that I haven't had time to reply to my commentors, visit my favorite blogs and comment (yours included), and know that I need to get back to posting regularly despite my life outside of Poet Hound crowding in on me. Thanks for the post, I agree with the idea of trying to say something more than "good job" or "great photos" which is why I read so many blogs but don't always comment.
I love getting comments but I am slow to respond. I usually don't check up on them until the weekend when I have time to really focus on the comment.
Blogging can be a serious endeavor when you add in all the layers of communication you have mentioned, great post Jim!

Jim Murdoch said...

There are articles out there that discuss the etiquette of commenting, Poet Hound, and I certainly make an effort to respond to every comment made no matter how late, but I don’t fret if someone takes a few days to respond. I often leave it for a day or two until I have a few comments and then reply to them en masse because quite often comments cover the same ground and I can kill two birds as it were with one stone. I have to say it does rub me up the wrong way when I post a detailed comment, one that’s obviously taken me time to formulate, and I get no response whatsoever. I find that rude and I’m disinclined to take as much effort the next time if I bother to comment at all.

Your site is a hard one to make comments on because much of the time you’re pointing us elsewhere and then we forget to come back to say thank you. I suppose that's where Facenook's 'like' option comes in handy. There should be one of those for blogs.

It’s also interesting that, referring to Andrew’s question, you chose to comment both here and on Facebook. So, what’s the protocol there? Do I ‘like’ your comment back? Who’d ever think that life online could get so complicated?

Art Durkee said...

In reading through these comments, I find it striking that so many people view commenting as a SOCIAL activity, rather than a literary or philosophical one. Granted, on some level it is a very sociable thing to do. That networking friendship thing.

I find I don't comment if I don't have something to say. I certainly don't feel any social pressure to comment, just to comment. Granted, I'm a solitary introvert who has spent many years undoing his tribal conditioning.

But that only makes it clearer to me how social expectations are expectations that people mostly place on themselves: the idea that there is a social necessity to comment is a birth-tribe idea imposed on us when we're young, that many of us have internalized and no longer question.

But I do question it. If it is a social expectation, imposed from outside, than I will likely not do it. If it's my own choice, free of tribal conditioning, then I'm free to comment or not, as I see fit.

What seems remarkable to me, both on blogs and on social network media, is that these expectations to be social, that apparently create so much guilt if not adhered to, seem to be a dominant motivating force. I think they're one of the main reasons people end up spending so much time online: "I simply MUST respond to this person's latest tweet, or email!" One thing I've learned from being sick, then having surgery (I didn't get back online for weeks, and didn't drive for almost a month), is that most things really aren't that urgent, and really can wait. I find myself very free of the social pressure to Participate; and I do so on my own terms, not out of expectations.

Of course that makes me not fit the social network profile at all. Not that I care, but I have been chastised for it. My point is that the chastising itself is ridiculous. Life will go on if you don't get on Facebook every bloody day.

Elisabeth said...

Thank God for Face Book, Jim because without it I might not have noticed this post, and then I'd have missed out on all those references to none other than you 'me', and Art who now shares his wonderful first name with my newly born grandson.

I was out driving my first born grandson home the other day. Leo's coming to terms with the arrival of his new baby brother, Art. Out of the blue the radio announced the name of the next program, 'Art and design'.
'That's my brother they're talking about' Leo said, and for a moment he seemed quite pleased.

'Self referential', I call it, the necessity of a healthy dose of narcissism and we all have it, perhaps in larger doses as bloggers.

You have been one of my finest friends in the blog world, Jim. You have introduced me to the art of blogging in a way no one else bothered to do, and you have stuck by me in a way many others have not.

Bloggers come and go. It's the way of it but you have remained loyal.

You know it's true, I don't think you have ever failed to comment on one of my posts and if you did I'd probably sit over my yoghurt and weep.

I exaggerate of course but like you say, I'd wonder what's going on? Was it such a terrible post? Or is Jim away?

On the other hand I imagine there will come a day when one or both of us leave the blogosphere.

Like a love affair, I suppose it can't go on forever, blogs can't go on forever. I miss Kass from the K is no longer silent. I wonder where she's gone. I miss Barry who died. I agree with you Jim that blogging is such a personal event. And not only online.

I find bloggers sometimes write to me behind the scenes and that pleases me greatly.

I have so little time these days. I'm trying to finish a thesis and I work full time. My children complain sometimes that I spend all my free time blogging, which is not true. I blog and write and read and every night I indulge in old BBC programs.

I have so little time these days for real human contact and yet I still manage enough.

I wish I had more time to visit all the blog friends I have made. They are so many and varied but I have made a pact with myself that by and large I will post once a week. I will respond directly to all my commenters even if it's only a day or two later and I will continue to visit other people's blogs especially those of my friends and commenters but only by a process of serendipity, otherwise I will not have time at all to live.

And living counts most, next to writing and relationships, that is.

Thanks for an inspirational post, Jim. Yours always are, at least those I read are.

Now please send me a link to the post that no one commented on at all. I'm curious. I know I don't comment on all your posts. I don't have time to read them all, though I wish I did. But I'll comment on this one, I promise just so you have no orphan posts.

I have several orphan posts at the beginning of my blogging career until you, Jim came along. And I thank you once again.

Tim Love said...

I send letters to poetry magazines for the same reasons that I comment on blogs. For me, a letter in (say) PN Review counts for more than a poem in a small webzine.

"Online marketing is an odd beast." - web impact matters to academics too. Their performance is partly assessed by the papers/books they produce and how often they're cited. In the current Times Higher Education there's an article about how academics are trying to assess their web impact - "Increasingly, many of our scholarly activities are transferring to the web. We write academic blogs; the backchannel of conferences is played out through Twitter … All of this activity indicates impact". The article mentions and I can imagine a day when page-ranking software is used to produce league tables of influential writers by using factors like who commented on whose blog, which online mags they've recently appeared in, etc.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have to say I’ve never really thought as what we do online, Art, as a social thing. I know that in the strictest sense it is and there are accepted and expected ways of behaving but I do like the fact that it keep us all one step removed from each other. What I dislike about social situations in the real world is that I get drawn into discussions that are of no interest to me or that I’m uncomfortable talking about. The range of that discomfort is wide but at its mildest it would be having to respond quickly without giving a matter sufficient thought. I read your comment last night and I could have rattled off a response then but I decided to have think about it first. I’m like you though I don’t feel any social pressure to comment. Where I have a personal relationship with a person then it’s a little harder since we’ve usually developed a rhythm.

I’m not a social animal. I feel quite out of my depth online at times. More so in environments like Facebook and Twitter is a scary, scary place. But comments on blogs are more like letters from pen pals (even e-mails) and that I can relate to.

Lis, I recommend you use an RSS feed reader – I use FeedDemon and would recommend it – to keep track of the blogs you don’t want to miss. In total at the moment I subscribe to 217 separate blogs and there is no way I could keep track of what I’ve read if I didn’t have a program to take that burden off my shoulders.

I just said to Art that I struggle to view what we do online as social and yet what is friendship other than a natural consequence of social interchange? And you are probably right I doubt there will be a post of yours that I have not passed comment on. You’re welcome. You write about interesting and varied things. It’s never difficult to think of things to say. But blogs come and go, as you say. I also miss Kass but now you’ve mentioned her I’m embarrassed to note that it has been some time since I’ve thought of her. I have way too much on my plate and I find it hard to keep track of all the people I know. She’s still in my RSS feed reader and so if she does post I’ll know. I don’t have to think to go look for her.

Everyone who has a blog has it for a different reason. My ulterior motive has always been to promote my writing, not to put too fine a point on it, to sell books. I’ve not been very successful at it which disappoints me but I still think the blog has been a success in its own right. I’ll still keep plugging away with the books – I have a new novel for later in the year and the first e-book releases in a few weeks – but I’m realistic about how successful I’m likely to be. This, however, is why I’m more interested in numbers than others like yourself. This is my job now. And I’ve never not been successful at any job I’ve done.

As for the post no one commented on, here’s the link. Don’t feel obliged to spend any great amount of time on it. It was a pretty awful book when all is said and done. I have other posts coming up in the next few months that you’ll find far more interesting, like a two-parter on boredom and the one (or maybe two – it’s getting pretty long) I’m working on just now about the nature of poetic beauty. The book reviews were introduced to buy me time to research my other articles and I’m a bit sad that they’ve got a bit out of hand of late but even there who cares if you talk about the book, talk about what comes to your mind.

Jim Murdoch said...

And, Litrefs, yes, you’ve picked up on part of what I was getting at here, understanding how the Internet works. I read articles about this all the time, most of them way above my head, and I’m sure there are others out there frantically trying to develop ‘systems’ to nudge themselves a little closer to the top of whatever tree they care about. One of the recent ones I was looking at was talking about bounce rates and mine has never been less that 80% which, from all accounts, is pretty atrocious. But I can only be so attractive. Like you I write the kind of stuff that only a select few are really going to be interested in and frankly it’s about time I gave you a bit of a plug too – I’ve had your poetry chapbook on the table beside me for a few weeks now and it keeps getting stepped on by other things (at the moment A S Byatt is squatting on top of it (I’ve just had a flash of Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare)) – but it’s on my list of things to do. Sometime. Eventually. Just don’t hold your breath.

Danish dog said...

I like your blog, Jim, because you write well and in great depth about many things I care about. I also like the fact that you write regularly. It's also a good feature that you take the time to respond to those that comment.

Uusually I don't bother to comment. I certainly don't feel obliged to. Not even today when it's all about commenting. Today I a) happen to have some time on my hands, and b) perhaps have something worthwhile to say. And of course I only commment if I think have something worthwhile to say. As you yourself point out, saying something like "Interesting stuff!" doesn't seem worthwhile enough. If I wrote "Interesting stuff, etc." on all the blog posts I thought were interesting, then a) others would start skipping my comments, and b) I wouldn't have time to read other interesting stuff.

The time factor is probably the chief reason why I don't comment more often, and I could imagine that non-writers feel this even more strongly. It will take them a long time to compose a comment. And for them the eloquence of the blogger must be an extra intimidation.

I would guess too that many people who are 50+, even people who are writers themselves, are wary of commenting simply because they're still not very used to writing as a means of direct communication.

And they say letter-writing is dead! What a joke!

One carp, Jim, if I may. I've recently noticed more and more small spelling mistakes in your posts, like "and" instead of "an" and so forth. That the time factor again, I guess.


Jessica Bell said...

Great post, Jim. ;o)

Hehe, well, yeah, when I don't comment my excuse is usually time, or I don't have anything intelligent to say which is often the case with your blog because you write such wonderful and in-depth material that it's almost impossible for me to add to it.

And yes, I do feel guilty. I feel guilty because you are such a great writer, not to mention, person, who evidently puts a lot of effort into his posts. It must feel horrible when you don't receive comments after so much work has gone into them.

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned yet, because I haven't read everyone's comments, but I find that the posts that get the most comments end with a question directed toward the reader. At least then the reader has a prompt to think about something specific, which in the end also takes less time on their part. Perhaps you could try doing that?

BTW, what's the link to the 'bad book' you mention. Would love to take a gander ... :o)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, Jim. I'm an absolute beginner when it comes to blogging and social networking and was wondering whether there was an etiquette around commenting, so all very useful.

As I've said to you elsewhere, I'm beginning to fear that blogging and Facebooking could become almost a full time occupation - and i already worry that I never have enough time to write, by which I mean writing poetry, short stories etc, let alone do the paid work.

Jim Murdoch said...

That’s my biggest problem, Duncan, time. I never have enough of it so when I do decide to make a comment I like to make it count. And that takes time. I will never be a part of the Twitter Generation who think in 140 characters or less. I’m a little surprised that you would think that over-fifties would balk about communicating in writing. I would have said that it’s the youngsters who like everything in sound bites that would have that problem. Letter writing is most certainly not dead. Before blogs I regularly corresponded with several people online. My wife and I alone must have exchanged millions of words.

Sorry about the typos. You should have seen my posts a couple of years back when I was ill. No matter how many times I checked them my wife – who proofreads everything I post bar comments – still picked up literally dozens of errors. I’m a lot better now but she’s a lot worse (she can usually bank on an hour or two’s clear headedness in a day) so I guess she doesn’t catch quite so many. I’m embarrassed by it and please feel free to drop me an e-mail if I drop a real clanger. The bottom line is that although I have recovered from my breakdown I’ve not bounced back to the man I was but you do the best with what you have.

Jessica, my wife and I were talking about your blog only a couple of days ago (when you were bemoaning the loss of 5 followers) and I said that one of the things you did that encouraged comments was to post a questions at the end of most posts. It’s quite clever really because you get your readers to do a lot of the work that way. I’ve done that on a few occasions but not so often. To be honest it would kill me if I suddenly started getting dozens of comments – I absolutely marvel how Lis Hanscombe copes with the number she gets – and this post was not really about making my lurkers feel guilty (let them feel guilty about not buying my books if they’re looking to feel guilty about anything), rather it was to get people to realise the pros and cons of commenting. I don’t think most of the people I interact with regularly give a second thought to actively promoting themselves. Maybe I give too much to it. All I know is that if I hadn’t started going out there and making constructive comments on other people’s blogs I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am today after four years doing this. It’s easy to get complacent though and rest on one’s laurels and I’m keen not to do that which is why I’m always on the lookout for ways to find new people because they’re not looking for me; they don’t even know I exist.

Here’s the link for that post BTW.

Jim Murdoch said...

And, Lorna, nice to see a new name here – didn’t recognise you without the green top. You are quite right, of course, and I spend hours every day fighting with the social aspects of the Internet. You have to be practical. I do this in place of a fulltime job these days. I look after my wife who isn’t well but she’s not terribly demanding and so I can devote most of my time to promoting my writing but it’s how to do that effectively that’s the problem. I’ve recently joined a couple of groups in Facebook that are populated – I nearly wrote ‘infested’ – by indie authors because it looks like a good crowd to get to know but at the end of the day we’re all there to promote ourselves and our own products and what we’re looking for are just-readers: just-readers who don’t suck the life out of us. I know the whole basis of social marketing online is based on personal relationships but let’s face it, Ian McEwan and Stephen King don’t correspond on a one-to-one basis with all their readers. I keep trying to find a place where I can be the author and other people can be the readers and we all know why we’re there.

It’s the arbitrariness of it all that gets me. Take you. My wife and I had a long talk about your green top yesterday, just the fact that it was such a trivial thing that caught my eye, not your great writing or winning personality but a tiny block of pixels. I bet people have looked at my profile picture and though, Christ, he looks intimidating and not clicked on my blog. You don’t know what is going to work. It’s a weird world, the Internet – we make judgement calls in split seconds.

As far as your time goes the best thing is to set time limits. I generally spend my mornings doing the rounds of my blogs, answering e-mails and looking at all the Facebook entries. But my afternoons are dedicated to writing. Usually. Today because of the extra comments on my blog I’ve decided to devote more time to it but only because I finished my article early. I really need to stop now as I have an hour before my wife gets up from her nap and I’ve a book to finish which I want to start reviewing tomorrow. You have to ask yourself – and be honest – am I getting more out of this than it is costing me? If the answer is NO then you seriously need to think about directing your efforts elsewhere.

Art Durkee said...

There's no predicting, I believe, what kind of posts will attract comments. You never know. I don't think there's a formula; certainly there isn't one that works all the time, in all places. Many blog posts I've made that end with a question to the reader sink like a stone.

In fact, I'd say that I only get comments on around a third of what I actually post. I've learned not to take that personally. It's true I post randomly, not on a schedule but when I have something to say, or show. I know people are busy, and I know that not everything requires a comment. Nor does everyone have time to comment on everything they read. I know that, too. And I'm sure there are things I post that simply leave people speechless, not always in a good way. I post more than you do, Jim, and I don't have a schedule, and not all posts are weighty, meaty, or long. Some are just a few photos, plus maybe a haiku.

I like comments when I get them, as I said, and i do my best to respond to all of them. But there have only been about a half-dozen posts that have ever gotten more than 4 or 6 comments, including my replies. I posted once on Emily Dickinson, and that set a record number of comments, mostly because of a dialogue that got started. But that's only one post out of over a thousand total posts since I began in May 2006. I've gotten some great comments over the years, some really thoughtful ones. But I don't get them all the time, nor do I expect to.

And for whatever reason, that makes my blog quite different from yours or Elizabeth's. Or most everybody else you link to, like Dave. They all get comments regularly, even just the "this is great" stuff. I don't, for whatever reason. (To be clear, I'm not losing any sleep over it, just mulling it over a bit.) And that's interesting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jim .. come over via Jessica .. interesting post - that you've got lots of commenters interested in. I love getting comments and reply to each of them .. and I should get over to their blogs - and I probably do .. but it's an etiquette thing .. and we all have different time frames, different reasons for blogging, etc etc ..

Some blogs of specific interest I read and if I comment I certainly don't expect an answer ..

I guess I do the best for me and the best for you .. and build relationships that way .. people understand ... especially if we've cultivated that blog base in the first place.

Cheers - good to meet you .. Hilary

Jim Murdoch said...

I just read this article today. This is exactly the kind of point I was trying to make here. She clearly understand SEO better than me but this just underlines the importance of the power of the right sort of commenting in the right places:

The Power and SEO Behind Blog Commenting

Angela said...

Ha ha, Jim. I used to measure the success of my blog in percentages. If I had one hundred followers, I expected to get about ten comments. Twenty comments for two hundred. Thirty for three hundred, etc . . .

But then I realized that most of those comments only came in if
1.) I was participating in a blogfest or 2.) I was super vigilant about keeping up with all the blogs on my blog roll.

Once I reached about 200 followers, I found keeping up with all those blogs was nearly impossible.

The percentage of comments to followers dropped, but I was fine with that. Because there are only so many hours in a day and I can only do so much.

Now I measure success in only one way. Have I done my best?

Ash said...

Jim, you are a great commentor and I SO appreciate the time you take to stop by my blog and comment! While on vacation I noticed that your comment from my last post ended up in Spam. I'm glad I found it! But that is another commenting situation--spam. I quickly glance through mine before I "empty spam" but I cringe hoping that there isn't a jewel hidden somewhere in the trash that I don't see!

Danish dog said...

Yes, I know, Jim, it is surprising to realise that many people 50+ aren't good at communicating in writing. I don't mean this abstractly. What I mean is that they are simply rather inexperienced/inept at the whole culture of ONLINE communication, and not very good at typing. Perhaps writers tend to forget that.


Jim Murdoch said...

I think you and I both are own worst enemies, Art, in that we favour lengthy posts that cover a broad range of topics. You’ll probably note that I usually pick just one thing you’ve talked about and make my comment on that, something where I can add something from my own, quite different, life experiences. I noticed Poet Hound has a plug on her site at the moment and maybe that’ll get you a few more readers. As you say who knows what it is that attracts or repels readers. It might be nothing more complex than the fact you use a white font on a black background. I personally don’t like it and I always view your posts using Readability these days, as I do with both Lis’s and Dave’s as it happens.

Hilary, glad to see a new name in the comments. Yes, a post about commenting always attracts comments. I guess it’s common ground. I do think we all need not to take things so personally. None of us really know what’s going on in the lives of others irrespective of what they say online. For some I bet it takes them all their spare time just to read the blogs they subscribe to. If I allowed it I could literally spend my entire day doing nothing bar reading and commenting on blogs and get no work done whatsoever. And who would expect that? So I skim every blog on my feedreader first, decide on the ones I think I should read and then go back, read and (hopefully) comment on them. I do try and clear my feet on a daily basis but sometimes I’ll leave one and then the next day discover they’ve posted again. Blogging too often can actually be a burden on our friends. I think twice a week is more than enough. A lot of my friends only post once a week and that’s something to look forward to.

Angela, if only it was that simple. I know everything can be turned into percentages but I don’t trust statistics. I don’t feel obliged to follow everyone who follows me. I read art and music blogs and I certainly wouldn’t expect them to follow me unless they have an interest in literature. I always check the blog of anyone who comments to see if it’s the kind of place I might be able to contribute to but if they’re just talking about their kids or their holidays or how to make fruit loaf then I’ll pass. And every few months I do go through my feedreader and do a cull of the sites I know I haven’t commented on in weeks. I’m following over 200 blogs at the moment and it’s getting a bit much. Time for a trim I think.

You’re welcome, Ash. I know I tend to comment on your site and run but the thing about your place is I generally can say something worthwhile and I like that. You make a good point about spam. I only check for it when I’m about to post something new. I don’t get a lot but it’s nice to see old posts getting the odd comment. I don’t obsess about getting feedback from my comments. The good thing about a failing memory is half the time I can’t even remember making the comment in the first place. What I do hate are the sites where you don’t always get an e-mail telling you you’ve had a response to your comment because I rarely think to check.

And, Danish dog, ah, yes, I see where you’re coming from. I do suppose that’s the case. They were talking on the TV a couple of days ago about the number of pensioners who weren’t online and I have to say I was a bit surprised. To my mind a computer these days is like a TV and who doesn’t have a TV these days? Many of my friends online – I might even say most of them – are over fifty and some in their sixties and even seventies (Dave King is 74 I think and very active). I am sure that in the future the ratio will change and I can just see me in my nineties in the hospice clinging onto my laptop for dear life.

Jessica Bell said...

I post four days a week, but my posts are pretty short. Do you feel that's too much? Asking, simply because I'd like a perspective on it. I feel the same way sometimes, but I also feel like I SHOULD post because that's what people have come to expect. :-/

Jim Murdoch said...

You have a different kind of blog, Jessica, but I think if you dropped to three times a week no one would notice. What you have to ask I suppose is: Is there anyone out there waiting for me to post? And the answer will be: No. There is so much stuff available out there that no one would think twice about it. If they’re like me and use some kind of feed reader all they’ll do is look at what’s unread anyway and were you to ask them at the end of the day who they read or who they didn’t read they probably couldn’t tell you.

I remember one of my bosses sitting me down once and talking to me about customer expectation. It is an interesting topic. And the bottom line is that customers are like puppies or little kids, they need a firm hand because given half a chance – hell, given a sliver of a chance – they’ll wangle more and more for their buck until the roles have almost been reversed. I used to post twice a week and as each post was about 3500 words, well, you can do the sums, that’s 1000 words a day, every day, and there are professional novelists out there who don’t write that much. I believed that was what I needed to do, what my readers expected but the fact was it was what I, expected. I’d done what I always do, raised the bar too damn high. So I cut back.

It’s finding a balance. My friends Lis and Ken only post once a week these days and I genuinely look forward to their blogs. Anticipation is important. This is why I don’t go on and on about the books I’ve got coming out. I drop wee mentions here and there and that’s it. Try it. Try posting three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, leaving that gap in between. And you might also do what I do, write your posts all in advance. I have my next 25 articles and reviews all done: that’s four months worth. I am never under pressure to get anything done and that’s freed me up to do more research, write better articles and spend more time building up relationships with a view to promoting my writing.

Dave King said...

I would never have thought of posting on commenting! I wish I had, but the truth is, it would not have occurred to me to do so. I am glad it occurred to you, though. That was a splendid read, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

You have obviously gone into this issue in far greater depth than have I, so I wonder if you can answer me this conundrum which has been puzzling me for some time... it is that the number of comments I receive and the number of visits I get seem to be in inverse proportion. Just to emphasize the point: the more hits I get, the fewer comments and vice versa. It doesn't always work that way, but in the main it does. It has always struck me as a puzzle. I have tried to come up with hypotheses for it, but none of them have stood much examination.

Elisabeth said...

I'm with you here in your comment to Jessica, Jim. I think it helps not to post compulsively but rather to have a sense of having something meaningful to say.

At the same time a bit of spontaneity helps and serendipity, like my sudden decision to comment here having read your response to Jessica.

To me it's like having a live conversation and they're the best. Unfortunately my responses to my commenters can sometimes take days and it's not just the time difference between hemispheres. For me it's the pressure of time and other commitments.

I read through several blogs today and wanted to comment on them all but with so little time, I had to be selective or totally inspired. As I am briefly here, but now I'm off for my nightly indulgence to watch the BBC series, Ballykissangel.

Jim Murdoch said...

I’m afraid I have no answer for that, Dave, and one could drive oneself batty trying to analyse why some posts work better than others. I was reading an article a few days about talking about the day and the time of day when we post and how much difference that can make. I always post at 11pm. I have no idea if that’s the optimum time but since the post sits there for five days I don’t fret too much. If it’s not been read after five days I reckon it’s not going to be read. The vast majority of my readers find me though Google these days anyway.

And, Lis, your blog is different again to mine and Jessica’s – it encourages commenting and discussion even among those commenting. I don’t usually read all your comments. I scan them, like I did today, which is where I picked up on the whole lady doctor thing but I just don’t have the time to devote to them. It’s the afternoon now and I haven’t looked at Facebook yet and I still have thirty-six blogs I’ve not even looked at, several from yesterday or the day before. Art posted a long poem which I read but I need to get back to and, what do you know, while I’ve been pussyfooting around doing other stuff he’s put up another post. If I get my book review finished early I’ll try and get back to it before tea. The problem I find is that after a while my head starts to spin and I can’t do quality reading. A poem like the one Art posted needs a clear head and this is what I’m coming to hate so much about the never-ending wall of stuff to read, that less and less of it is getting my full attention.

Hope you’re enjoying Ballykissangel. It was never a show I watched regularly. It gets filed in my head with shows like Hamish Macbeth and Monarch of the Glen, all perfectly watchable but they never really keep my interest. We’ve just started watching one called Sugartown set in a small seaside town that’s seen better days and now has to rally together to fight of the big bad businessman who wants to level the place and build his dream empire on top of it. It’s well-written and doesn’t treat its viewers like idiots who need the entire plot to date summarised throughout the show – I really hate how the Americans feel the need to do that.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, I'm new to your blog ( and love its title)). I came via Rachna's blog because I liked your comment there. I learned a lot from this post. Gave me a lot to think about. I generally visit blogs and comment to meet new writers and have made some nice writing friends that way. I also learn much about informative sites (contests, submissions, even tutorials, etc.) I might not have found on my own. But mostly I like the community of common interests, since writing itself is such a solitary endeavor.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I like getting comments from my writing buddies, its nice to see that they have read my post and added their thoughts and opinions. I make it a point to visit and comment on all the people who leave comments on my blog.

Jim Murdoch said...

It’s nice to meet you, Elizabeth. This underlines the power of making quality comments. Granted not everyone reads all the comments that are made but I periodically go on a trawl through the comments on certain blogs to see if there’s someone new on the block that I might want to get to know.

And, Rachna, yes, it is nice to know you’re being read. It pleases me no end when I make people think differently about something, like commenting, that they have perhaps taken for granted.

Anonymous said...

Jim! If the internet only has one side then the word for that would be 'Möbius strip'! Well ok, that's two words. We could hyphenate it and then turn the hyphen through 180 degrees, thus joining both words together as one without having to skip the hyphenated stage, since 'Mobiusstrip' would admittedly look pretty ugly.

The existence of a Mobius-strip-like internet might also explain why the number of comments received doesn't seem to gel with the number of readers that any given piece receives.

If a writer of your calibre were to write upon a given piece of mobius-strip, and a reader were to read it from the opposite perspective, no amount of reader gloss, however studious, would make it through the surface since they're saying what they think (or anopisthrographising) from lateral positions on a surface that is both one and antipodally the same!

Jim Murdoch said...

The thing about the Möbius strip that's always confused me, Brad, is that it has two sides. Take a piece of paper and twist it into a figure 8 and you have Möbius strip with a top and a bottom, or an outside and an inside depending on how you look at it. The paper has two dimensions (three if we’re being very picky) and I don’t see how it can lose one just because you twist it a certain way. A solid sphere has only one surface but it still has three dimensions.

Ken Armstrong said...

I have become a very poor commenter.

I read much more than I comment on. I've come to see my self as a sort of a two legged version of Mr. Ed who would 'never speak unless he had something to say'. Of course that's quite untrue - I speak all the time and rarely have anything new to say.

I've also become a poor commenter on the (so-welcome and appreciated) comments I receive on my own blog. I love the comments and they are often give me much food for thought. I have found that (for me) the comments often mean more if left to stand on their own and that my own returning to comment on the comment seems to devalue to purity of the relationship between the original post and the comment (hark at me).

As you say, it's very much about time. All my writing time could be used an the blog and on other people's blogs but I need to ration that. I need to produce more substantial writing work outside of this merry-go-round. I need to for my own sake.

As time passes, I feel this need more.

Jim Murdoch said...

Yes, you have, Ken, become a very poor commenter and responder to comments. You make your excuses eloquently but I do have to say that a few times of late I’ve been curious to hear what you had to say about my take on your blog like the one where I had to go away and check the dates of my parents’ deaths. It is a hard call. I have all the time in the world and I know how much all aspects of blogging drain my time and there you are with a job and a family all crying out for attention too. So I try to be grownup about it. There is another aspect to not responding to comments that you might not have considered – we worry about it. I do. I noticed right away when you started to slip and I was concerned then and I thought to myself, This is the thin end of the wedge and it might not be too long before another great blog bites the dust. That hasn’t happened . . . I’m resisting adding ‘yet’ but I might as well own up that I’m thinking it. My biggest problem, and reading in between the lines here I suspect you might be suffering from a similar affliction, is that I don’t feel I can leave a comment without it being deep and meaningful; I’ve made a bit of a rod for my own back. Well, we both need to get over that. My solution is not to try and comment on everyone’s posts. Dave King has been posting a poem a day it seems for months now and it’s exhausting just trying to read them properly – prose you can scan but poetry, not so much – but I try and not let too many days go by without finding something to say. Either way I’m glad you’re still with us.

Ken Armstrong said...

It's a complex business, Jim. You and I know this, as do many of your other commenters, becuase we've been stung on both sides of the equation - the absence of comments and the absence of reply to comments.

As ever, you are both astute and truthful and that is indeed a potent mix. What you see is true; my little blogging exercise would be long-gone by now if I hadn't severely cut back my commitment to it. When it came to posts, I used to be a 3-a-week man (as you know) and I commented on my comments on my comments. For a time, it seemed to all become more a social exercise than anything else. I must visit such-and-such and he/she must in turn visit me. I came to devalue that trade in my head. I decided to cut adrift from it and to not worry when people didn't come to visit my posts. In all honesty, I have achieved that finally. I love when people read and react - let me say that again, I love it but I have been very keen to remove any obligation to do so from people. I suppose, deep down, I feel that my commenting on a blog seems to put pressure on that blogger to come and visit me and then the merry-go-round starts all over again. The whole process has made me quite comment-shy, I think.

I apologise for causing worry. I will think quite carefully about what you have said and perhaps modify my approach to commenting a little for a time to see how that goes. Your thoughts are very valuable (and that's not meant to be subtle comment-pressure) :)

The particular comment you refer to is a fine case in point as to why I often don't reply. That comment meant much to me, I was so struck by it that I removed it and used it as part of a 'writing-thing' since. But my thoughts at the time were, what would I add to it by replying? My reply, which confined itself a rather sweeping generalisation about all your comments, was born of my respect for what you had written but anything else I could think to say seemed to take away from the comment and also from the original post. The editor in me said, "together and unadorned, they work rather well together."

So, ultimately, my commenting is, as we say over here, 'for shit' but as you kindly said, I'm still here and I'm glad of that.

I'm glad you're still here too. So there, ye auld git. :)

Jim Murdoch said...

I think what it was with that particular comment, Ken, was that it was that extra bit revealing. And when we do something like that – perfect example, the first time we allow someone to see us naked – we need an appropriate response and there’s a great danger we read too much or too little into that response: “What do you mean, ‘Very nice.’ What the hell does ‘very nice’ mean?” When I started writing Left it was supposed to be about a daughter going through her father’s things after his death and getting to know the real him through what he had left. I hadn’t quite decided if that was going to be poetry or pornography but I liked the idea of him not being there to explain or give a context to whatever it was she discovered. What I found as I was writing it was that I couldn’t put myself in her position even when I took on both roles and used myself as a model. What I kept coming back to was a woman who was unable to access her grief, in fact she was unable to access most of her emotions, and I found I was comfortable with her because I’ve always felt like she felt, a person who didn’t know how to grieve right.

My latest book review is about a memoir, a father coming to terms with the loss of his child, and Art made a comment about how he grieved for his parents, the ceremony involved in that, and I find the whole thing so alien. That’s not how I grieve. Which makes me feel very odd because here’s you going on about your mate and Art going on about his mum and dad and I can’t even remember the years mine died. But to say anything else in my comments would have been an out and out lie.

After four years blogging – my first blog was on 6th August 2007 – I’m at the stage of assessing how successful I’ve been, what working and what’s not, hence this post. You’ll note that I’ve never done an anniversary post and the reason for that is, as is the case with me an anniversaries in general, I never think about them. I’m just about to release the first two novels as e-books and I’m hoping that I might be able to move up a gear with a new audience and that is part of the reason I’ve also cut back on blogging, to enable me to focus on marketing. But I still don’t really know what I’m doing and as much as other people say they do I’m not convinced. Commenting has definitely brought me readers, even friends, and so it’s something I personally need to keep up even if that means not writing so much at the moment: I have more than enough to promote just now and at the rate I’m releasing stuff I will have for years to come.

I look forward to reading your ‘writing-thing’ if you ever see fit to do anything with it.

p.s. Let this be the last comment.

McGuire said...

Christ! I've not been commenting or posting for a while. What with being in Prague. Drinking too much. And generaly, waiting for the miracle to come.

I still read here, of course, Jim was the one who 'brought' me into the fold, I suppose. Before meeting you Jim, I was just sitting on my own writing I've got more invovled in the poetry antics in Edinburgh etc. etc. Some luck there.

On that note, there are more poems going up soon, and more reviews etc. And one day Jim, no pressure, I'd hope to catch you at some of these awful poetry readings that are always going on.

Silence in court!

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, Colin, I’m delighted to see that you’re still there. I’m not worried so much about not seeing so much of you online – let’s face it I survived for decades when there was no online: it’s not the end of the world – as long as you’re happy within yourself. If not writing makes you unhappy then you know what to do about it. And if you get more from interacting with real people then go for it. There are times I wish I was more sociable but I’m not and at my age there’s not much point trying to make major changes to my character. If we happen to run into each other one day then so be it. You’re not missing much. I’m far more eloquent online when I get to think about everything I’m going to say for half an hour before I say it.

McGuire said...

I haven't stopped writing. I've just stopped posting as regularly on the blog.

Real people or real page. I like both. I prefer the former.

I'll be reading you/.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing the link to this post on my blog. I try to comment on people's blogs but I am often at a loss for words and really try to avoid generic commenting. There are a few blogs that I comment on regularly and I guess I need to expand the horizons a bit. Thanks for the explanation on backlinks as I had never even given that a thought. I guess I will be rethinking my approach a little bit when it comes to getting people to comment on my posts.


Jim Murdoch said...

It is a common problem, Scott. I sympathise. There are so many posts that I leave lying in my feedreader hoping I can think of something to say and the next thing I know there are another two or three entries by the same person. And it never ends. I do the best I can and try and ensure that if I only comment on one in six posts at least my comment is a good one; I think that quality counts for more that quantity in that regard. Also I get feedback from a few heavyweights and I can imagine following what they’ve said can be intimidating at times. Glad you found the information useful. I’m nowhere near as savvy as I’d like to be when it comes to understanding how sites like Google work but there are things you can do to help yourself and it does help to do a wee bit of reading on the subject. I recently discovered that with the changes to Google Panda older posts that don’t receive many (if any) visitors can actually work against your overall ranking. One person went in and deleted I think it was 400 of his old posts to try and stem the rot. Not sure if I would do that but I might start a new blog and transfer older posts to it to give them an extra chance of being read. We’ll see. Time is always against me.

R. Brady Frost said...

I'd have to say that by and large the biggest reason for me not commenting very often on your blog, Jim, is because there are only so many ways that I can agree with what you've written without looking like a goob. There have been times when I've meant to write something up, but I often find myself reading your feed when I'm at work and I don't have the time to put what I want to say in the comment field.

When it comes to my own blog, the absence of family comments has been a little hurtful over the past few years. I don't bring it up to them, doing so would make any new influx seem forced. Every now and again I post a link on Facebook, but that's it.

The sad side of it is that many blog writers count on comments to give them an indication of whether people are getting something out of what is being written. There are stats you can track in Blogger, but those numbers can't tell you much about who it is that might be listening.

Jim Murdoch said...

My daughter rarely reads my blog, Brady. I can’t pretend it doesn’t bother me but she has a very busy life and I do write long articles and although you’d think the psychology-oriented ones would catch her interest she’s so inundated with course work that it’s sucked all the joy out of the subject for the moment. I don’t really obsess about comments but I do like to get occasional proof that people like your good self are still reading. As for what you say, I don’t try to comment on everything, I pick the bit that interests me, something I can talk about, and that’s the direction I head off in. A lot of the time I don’t even talk about the post, I talk about me. A girl’s just posted a blog about a dream she had so I prattled on about my experience of dreams and never mentioned her dream once. I’m not being ignorant. That’s how conversations go. Look at some of the comments I get on book reviews, they’re off at a tangent and more interesting reading than the review half the time.

I do check Google Analytics every morning. In the last month my site had 4449 visitors which is better than it’s been for a while but I was up near the 6000 mark a few months back and I’m not sure what’s happened there. The average time on site is the really worrying figure: 53 seconds. But even at its peak that’s never been much over a minute and considering the fact some people are spending four or five minutes on my site there must be a lot who land on the page and move on immediately. What can you do? You do your best.

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