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Monday, 16 July 2012

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SEK

X-posted at LGM, which, I know, is likely part of the problem. Or would be, if I haven't almost always been blogging somewhere else concurrently. But, different sites, different readers, different sorts of comments, etc.

Ahistoricality

I don't see how that's either new or strange: until recently, the technology for an author to have an idea about the conversations being had regarding their work didn't really exist, and most people could and did have conversations about pieces of writing -- literary, journalistic, opinionated, etc. -- without authorial intervention.

SEK

It's strange now, I suppose, and in this medium. I mean, I wrote a dissertation knowing no one was going to read it, so my expectations were low, but back in what now seems like the heady heyday of blogging, it became the norm. At least, for me it did, which might be one of those "biggish blogger complaints" that should be beneath me.

Timothy Burke

The fact that I'm confused about where to discuss it is an interesting sign.

I think it's wrong to blame Facebook alone for this. Really what's happening is that conversation space is fragmenting across a bunch of different platforms and cultural spaces, just as other media spaces and audience experiences have fragmented. The main bad thing about Facebook is what Kathleen says: you can't pull conversations out of it, unlike many of the other social media spaces where responses might be happening.

But blogs are still generating the "root content" that feeds a lot of reaction and discussion in those spaces (locked or not) so they still matter. The bloggers themselves just aren't as sure of what people are saying--kind of like old media writers weren't sure...

SEK

We are become "old media," in certain respects. (Not in terms of compensation, alas.) But as to where to discuss it, that's interesting precisely because we're "new media" people learning to deal with the problems of audience that the "old media" people have wrestled with for years. Part of it is, I think, that we were spoiled by the robustness of our commenting communities, and secretly believe that they're still out there, only in some wilds inaccessible to us.

Moreover, for me at least, the audiences are different in kind: having one set of commenters on one blog and another on another isn't quite the same as having unknown audiences. Which is annoying as a writer, because how can you appeal to an audience you don't know?

Linkmeister

I never had a great number of commenters, and many of them have left blogging altogether. Some of them do show up on FB and comment there when I link to a blog post, but I find I get more comments when I link to other big media content with a comment of my own to lead it off.

I dunno. Now I blog because it's habit and I mostly enjoy it. It's also a useful memory jog for when something happened in my life; I can search the blog to see if I blogged it.

Rich Puchalsky

People like comments but hate commenters. Or rather, they like them if they write pretty much what the authorial space agrees with, otherwise they're trolls. I think that the last blog that I commented regularly on was Crooked Timber, but I decided that everyone involved would be happier if I didn't. Facebook avoids the problem of disliking what your commenters write because disagreement is discouraged.

Ahistoricality

It's strange now, I suppose, and in this medium.

Media are like that. When newspapers started, they were much more interactive, personal, reactive.

There's a technological issue, at least for me. It's a lot harder to maintain a pseudonym in comment systems which are increasingly tied to FB, and other cookie-based memory systems.

SEK

I can search the blog to see if I blogged it.

Most days, I barely know what I think about stuff unless I search my own site. (Did I like that film? I think I remember liking it, etc.)

People like comments but hate commenters.

Bloggers like commenters, though, until there are too many of them. I wouldn't say I prefer commenters who agree with me, though, so much as I enjoy having a manageable number of commenters to disagree with. Too many and it's impossible to conduct a useful conversation. (The subtext, obviously, is post-as-classroom, but not one in which I impart wisdom, but more like a grad seminar in which I can acquire genuinely new knowledge. Or something like that.)

Facebook avoids the problem of disliking what your commenters write because disagreement is discouraged.

This confuses me. On Facebook, old friends fight with family members over the latest Obama outrage, so the difference seems to me that if we argue with strangers on the Internet, the upside is that we don't have to see them at reunions.

It's a lot harder to maintain a pseudonym in comment systems which are increasingly tied to FB, and other cookie-based memory systems.

It's well-nigh impossible, isn't it? An otherwise friendless person who only comments on blogs with Facebook comments will be flagged as spam, won't they?

Ahistoricality

I wouldn't know. FB won't allow pseudonymous accounts. The only places Ahistoricality can comment anymore are legacy blogs with standalone comment systems, a few WP blogs, and blogspot blogs with LJ workarounds. FB, Disqus, JS-Kit.... feh.

Gary Farber
We are become "old media," in certain respects. (Not in terms of compensation, alas.)
Convergence!

As I said to you on Facebook (ha!): we live in fallen times.

"Which is annoying as a writer, because how can you appeal to an audience you don't know?"

Pick someone you have in mind and write for that person. (This person might be yourself.)

Martin Wisse

Yeah, too many blogs have switched to either some sort of facebook sign in commenting system (which I refuse to do because I don't want my comments centralised) or require that you create an account on their own site; worse, even on blogs where you can still comment the old fashioned way I more and more see my comments just disappearing into some spam queue never to be seen again.

Facebook links to my blog annoy me, cause you can never see where they're coming from (as you're always redirected via the "this is a scary place outside of facebook, are you sure you want to visit it" page. If it wasn't for that, people discussing your post on facebook wouldn't be different from people discussing your post on another blog.

Picador

Bloggers like commenters, though, until there are too many of them.

This is obviously a key part of this conversation that doesn't seem to have been addressed yet: people want to comment, not only where they already have relationships with the other readers and commenters, but where the number of other commenters/readers is at a sweet spot somewhere south of, say, the NY Times, and somewhere north of some dude's blogspot blog that he maintains for a readership of five people.

Where the readership is too large or too small, commenting is unsatisfying. Which is one of the things facebook seems to have going for it: your community of fellow readers is dictated by your own social circle, and they're all people with whom you have a relationship. The main problem, of course, is that the author is not automatically part of the group.

I'm way out of the loop on current standards for online IDs and commenting systems, but aren't there some open and open-source standards for this? Trackbacks, OpenID, something? I've never commented on anything posted on facebook, so I'm obviously an outlier.

Hcgoldsmith

I don't comment—and never really have, anywhere—because I don't have the time/energy/temperament to have protracted, disembodied conversations with people I don't know.

NickS

A couple thoughts:

1) At some point, probably 2009-10, I stopped reading blogs which didn't fall into one of two categories (a) blogs where I had a good sense of the commenters and the tenor of the conversation (e.g., unfogged or even Brad DeLong) or (b) blogs in which the comment section wasn't an important part of the blog (Ezra Kein or Matt Yglesias). But trying to get to know a new comment section (say when I click over to your posts at LGM) just felt like work.

I wonder if there's less experimentation going on now in the relationship between bloggers and commenters -- if people are familiar enough with blogging that most bloggers already have a sense in their heads of what a good comment section looks like and either try to maintain that or give up on that. For whatever reason it feels like there is a tendency for blog comment sections to be one of nonexistent, chatty and personal, or busy an impersonal.

2) I thought about this post when I was reading this article about the ways in which freelance blogging is becoming a normal step in the career path of aspiring journalists/writers. I wonder if, these days, more of the blogosphere is made of people who's motives are fundamentally careerist. Obviously running an active blog is a LOT of work, and nobody with a demanding job will do it unless they think it benefits their job in some way, but it could reasonable change the tone of the median blog if people are explicitly thinking of the blog as their writing portfolio / freelance job.

SEK

This is obviously a key part of this conversation that doesn't seem to have been addressed yet

I think what you say after that is true -- it was quicker to quote the introduction to your points than the points themselves -- but I'll focus on that boundary between a NY Times morass and a Livejournal blog, because I abide in it. This blog isn't over personal, in that you don't need to know me to read a post about Mad Men, but it's oddly personal, because of my penchant for dramatizing my life to humorous effect. I think one of the reasons commenting here is down is simply that there's no protocol for commenting at a place like this.

For whatever reason it feels like there is a tendency for blog comment sections to be one of nonexistent, chatty and personal, or busy an impersonal.

I think this is dead-on, and it's a shame, because it used to not be the case. I wrote another version of this post as I was going through my own archives for the "Best of..." posts, and I could definitely see a change in the tenor of the comments. So many of the people who comment now are "first time commenters," which means I've pulled them from the wool work, but they're rarely "second time commenters."

Obviously running an active blog is a LOT of work, and nobody with a demanding job will do it unless they think it benefits their job in some way, but it could reasonable change the tone of the median blog if people are explicitly thinking of the blog as their writing portfolio / freelance job.

And by "change the tone," I think you mean "eliminate," which is why those "authorless" posts invite nothing so much as projection: the comments either aren't there, because who wants to talk to a non-entity, or it's all invective, because who the fuck cares if they offend a non-entity?

Martin Wisse

and nobody with a demanding job will do it unless they think it benefits their job in some way

Counterexample represent.

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