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Allan Benamer

Rule #1: Answer EVERY non-spam comment like it's a gift from heaven.

I know I had that approach ever since I started my blog and it has worked out well for me.

Rule #2: Answer EVERY non-spam comment like you mean it.

Frequently, I try to deal with comments with even longer answers than the original comment. I believe it breeds trust. I'm running a 3:1 comment ratio on my blog as a result. I can be an ass sometimes when I answer but I don't mind being called to account for it. Hell, being an ass is a certain kind of transparency too you know! You should always try to have a point of view when you respond and not end up sounding like you're writing for a corporate blog.

Rule #3: Don't moderate your comments and turn off CAPTCHAs. Really. You don't need them if you're running a self-hosted blog. CAPTCHAs are very destructive to the commenting process and moderated comments are even worse.

Sue Waters

Sorry for the long comment but the post covers a range of topics :(

One of the big surprises from the Comment Challenge was the reasons why people don't comment. I had always thought time was the biggest factor however most indicated "fear" factor (e.g. providing wrong information, what do I have to offer since I'm relatively inexperienced) was their biggest barrier. This surprised me because these people were bloggers and interact in twitter; safety and ownership obviously play a big part.

The Comment Strategy task made quite a few of the edubloggers feel uncomfortable -- wonder if your non-profits will feel the same? My response to this task was:

I don’t like to think of commenting as a strategy rather a very important part of my daily routine for two main reasons:

1) It’s an important part of my personal learning; my learning is enhanced by reading other people’s post and interacting through commenting.
2) Over the years people have supported and mentored me so I like to pay this back by supporting others especially new bloggers.

I comment when:

1) I agree and want to extend
2) I disagree and want to share my opinion
3) I want to support a blogger (especially a new blogger) but try to do it in a way that extends the conversation
4) I want to thank a blogger when they link to my posts

Ways of enhancing conversations:
1) Engaging and responding back to comments on your own blog - bloggers that do this well tend to respond back really quickly to comments on their own blog
2) Creating a comment environment that makes commenters feel safe, secure to comment and interact with others
3) Writing posts that contain less information while asking for readers input
4) Using Comment tracking tools by subscribing to their RSS feed so that you can respond quickly to comments on other people's posts

Also agree with @Allan above moderating comments disrupts the follow of the conversation leading to disjointed conversations. However we did have some interesting debates with valid reasons why you might moderate comments.

Sarah Stewart

The thing I am not very good at is letting bloggers know if I have used their post to springboard one of mine. I know that isn;t quite what you're talking about here, but I must do try to be more efficient at linking my blog post to the original one that inspired me in the comment section.

Marnie Webb

I've never been a great commenter and I've trying (in part because of Michele Martin's challenge) to change that. I realize that thinking I've nothing to add is one of the big reasons that I don't comment on many other blog posts.

I also realize that I often feel like I'm butting in to other people's conversations. The same thing that stops me from commenting stops me from talking to strangers at parties.

So, I'm trying to come up with a series of rules for commenting -- so I can dig in better and more broadly.

Michele Martin

Hi Beth--as Sue pointed out, some people in the comment challenge (including Sue) were uncomfortable with the idea of having a "comment strategy." I'm thinking that it might have been the use of the word "strategy," as people were also unhappy with the idea of having a "comment policy" on their blogs (hated the word "policy"). Personally I think everyone should at least think strategically about how they want to both deal with comments on their own blogs as well as how they use commenting on other blogs. These are ways you convey your brand (another word people didn't like in the Challenge) and they can have a powerful effect.

We tend to be somewhat strategic in thinking about blog posts, but comments are just as important because they are a big part of the conversations that take place and to my mind they are one of the most important reasons to be blogging in the first place. What was interesting in the 31 Day Commenting Challenge was that the activities forced people to really think about the many aspects of commenting and how comments contribute to their experience of blogging. I know that for me, it got me out and about in ways I haven't done in a while, reminding me that commenting on other people's blogs is a really powerful community builder and something I should always try to make time for. After the Challenge, I'm going to try to have a better ratio of posting to commenting because as a blogger, I think both are important.

Beth Kanter

Michele: I wish I had taken the comment challenge .. but with travels to Australia - I just couldn't. I'm glad that I managed to dip into a couple of your posts.

I wonder why participants didn't like those words?

Michele Martin

Beth--I think it was because so many people who participated were educators who are using their blogs for more personal reasons. From my observation, the words that seemed to cause the most negative reactions were "strategy," "branding," and "policy." This is only my opinion, but I think that "strategy" and "branding" are words that education doesn't generally use, at least not as they were presented in the challenge--these feel like business-related words and I think that educators tend to have a viscerally negative reaction to them. "Policy" was a word that implies "rules" and although challenge participants were ok with a policy for students, they didn't want to constrain themselves with a "policy" on their own blogs--which I think was interesting.

This is making me think that I should do a follow-up post on the whole issue of language, though, as I do think that this is a great example of the concept of framing and how we have emotional reactions to words. I'm just guessing at how people were interpreting these words (I could be totally off-base), so it would be better to go straight to the source and find out what it was about these words that turned people off so much.

Sue Waters

@Michele and Beth

For me the issue with Policy is I work for a large organisation where every thing is guided by policy (as it should). And yet policy means you have pages of paper work, fill the necessary forms then if you are trying to implement change wait for the system to process it all (which can take considerable time). Meanwhile if you just went ahead did what you wanted to do, time would have been saved and the desired outcome would have been achieved now not one day in the distant future.

I think I was the main person that was uncomfortable with comment strategy whereas the others were more concerned about branding. Why Strategy? Because I don't want people to think the reason why I comment is to get more readers to my sites -- I just felt the word strategy implied business goals and that aspect.

If the term online identity had been used I don't think they would have had the same sense of discomfort.

Beth Kanter

@Suewaters @michelemartin

Thanks so much for your insights! I suspect folks from nonprofits may not react in the same way to those words.

Beth Kanter

@michele and @sue

Have either you written or posted about how you "reply to comments" - what techniques you use to facilitate conversation and what tools you use to make this efficient?

Sue Waters

Yes I do have a range of posts on "reply to comments" and techniques I use to facilitate conversation and the tools that make this efficient.

Here are some of them:
1. Keeping up with conversations on other people's blogs - you will notice the same picture
2. Here’s My First Five Tips For Writing Better Blog Posts — What Are Yours? - this post is about blogging technique which is important if you want people to comment because it impacts on whether people comment
3. How to effectively manage comments on other people's posts using co.mment - how to use co.mment
4. How to effectively manage comments on other people's blog posts using cocomment - how to use cocomment

I use both co.mment and cocomment for tracking my conversations because each tool has their advantage and disadvantage.

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Came in from Techmeme and thrilled to see so many...comments! Keep up the great work, Beth! Hope your time in Australia goes well. Lots of love, M

elpollo

Hi Beth,
Great post, you can see by the conversation it has generated. My opinion it takes discipline, a strategy and a good tool to help you track and respond on time. So to answer your questions, "how do you facilitate conversations" Sue gives a few ideas such as cocomment and a few other platforms that provide the similar service.

Great conversation.

THanks

cawlin

It's true that we have less control over where our conversations take place. Sites like digg, reddit and mixx are prime examples of valuable discussion being hosted off your site.

I recently found that when i answered questions on digg about one of my posts that had been submitted I was received very positively and it increased the amount of people willing to come back to my site and ask questions later.

Emily

Beth, thanks for the reply and the mention!

One of my fears as a new blogger has been annoying everybody because I just don't get the cultural nuances. This is a huge help to me and the other "up-starts" out there.

Thanks to all for the conversation - I'm listening!

masha

Hi Thanks for this post - I have just discovered your blog while doing research on how non-profit organizations are using social media (and also how big brands are using social media). I teach multimedia at a tertiary institution and its not easy to find good information on this topic!

I have just started blogging myself, and am still very unsure how to manage the communication that happens when people comment. Its been very interesting to read the "strategies" quoted above.

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