I have so many more readers for this blog than I ever thought I would. I have great fun writing it, to the point of distraction from my other responsibilities, including sleep. From day to day, week to week, I don’t know exactly where I’m going to take this thing. What I’m going to write about and what I’m going to say is as much a process of discovery for me as it is a surprise for you. This blog has given me a chance to gain confidence and refine my “chops” as a writer, which (after the past two years of Lewis-Carroll-meets-John Grisham-meets-James-Ellroy has “repositioned” my career) is a direction I intend to pursue seriously.
So, when I open up “From the Desert to the Sea…” each day, I am happy. Except for one thing.
Days, sometimes weeks, go by without any reader comments.
The sites I admire the most, irrespective of subject matter or point of view, get lots of comments. Jon Weisman’s Dodger Thoughts, where I am part of the commenting community under the nickname dzzrtRatt, will get a hundred comments during a rain delay. Ann Althouse‘s posts on the day’s news will spark a fascinating discussion in the comments — often with little further input from Ann herself. Likewise Jeff Jarvis‘ site on the media, BuzzMachine. I don’t always agree with him, but the combined effect of Jarvis and his erudite commenters is always stimulating.
Each of these sites succeed in creating a conversation, which is the ultimate flowering of the web medium. In print or on TV, the writer is king. On the web, in a blog, optimally the writer is merely the instigator.
Now, I know that Jon Weisman, Ann Althouse and Jeff Jarvis have been blogging much longer than me. They do it better. Weisman and Jarvis also stick to their knitting better than I do. When you open their doors, you know what you’re going to get. Althouse, a law professor who likes to stray from writing about the law, has established a persona and seems like a friend. (Some other sites legendary for their high volumes of comments attract a politically homogeneous community, from the right or left. Obviously, that won’t work for a polymorph like me. I don’t want or need a bunch of yes-persons saluting me.)
Some might say, maybe comments aren’t that important. Two of my other favorite sites, LA Observed and Instapundit, don’t even permit them. Kevin Roderick and Glenn Reynolds are such prolific posters, I imagine they don’t think they have time to moderate the dozens of comments they’d undoubtedly get.
But with all due respect to both gentlemen, I believe their sites would be even more interesting if we could read the conversations their posts stimulate. “Naked Conversations” co-author Shel Israel posted about comments the other day, expressing relief that his broken comments capability had been fixed. He asked his readers, “Do Comments Help?” The first comment he got, from Doug Karr, said it all to me:
Without comments, you’re merely a writer.
With comments, we have a conversation.
By not acting on comments, I have no choice but to leave the conversation or yell louder.
The context was a little different than this. Israel is one of many writers trying to talk corporations into blogging — a pursuit that is fraught with at least as much peril as opportunity. But the point applies just as much to a blog people read purely because they like the writer’s style or subject matter. All my life, I’ve read newspapers, magazines and books with a running dialogue going in my head–or to be more precise, a parallel running monologue. Now, technology has created an opportunity to turn that into a dialogue.
So, I ask. If you are a reader of this site, why don’t you comment? Is it me? Do I come off like a writer who’s said it all, smothered the subject and left no room for anyone else? It is you? Are you afraid of letting other people know what you think, or what you think of me? Are you too busy? Or just too bored. Don’t hold back, I can take it.
To facilitate more comments, I’ve changed how they are processed. I no longer moderate them — although they are still subject to a spam filter. The spam filter is not perfect, so a few spammers (out of hundreds each week, by the way) might get through. I’ll remove spam as soon as I see it. Also, I believe I was asking people for their e-mail address before, and that might’ve been a deterrent. If I’ve gotten the widget working correctly, you won’t need to do that anymore. I will delete comments later if I think they’re abusive, or raise legal concerns, but the bias now will be that comments should appear.
So let me know. Do you want to comment? Do you not want to comment? Are there things just better left unsaid? Whatever to you want to say about it, please, leave a note right here…