Home Science CommunicationOutreach & engagement Take back the comments sections

Take back the comments sections

by Eva Amsen

Remember when we all left comments on blogs? I looked at some of my old blog posts, and they’re full of discussions, friendly notes, silly pictures, and occasionally spin off into random banter. I have made friends via blog comments, and found interesting other blogs through the links left by commenters.

Now, all conversation about blog posts seems to happen externally – mostly on social media – and blog comment sections themselves are either empty or filled with spam.

It’s easy to blame others for not leaving comments, but be honest, when did you leave a friendly blog comment yourself? Let’s be the change we want to see, and all that. Let’s leave our own friendly blog comments on others’ blogs, and try to get back a small fraction of the early ‘00s web community.

I will revive blog commenting in July 2014 by leaving at least one comment on a blog post every day.

If you want to join me, sign the pledge here. (I’m sorry it has such a stupid name – I thought I was selecting a url extension but it turned out to be the title…)

Anticipated FAQs:

Q. Can I comment on something else? A YouTube video? A Soundcloud post?
A. Sure! Some YouTube channels actually have amazing comments sections already, but it never hurts to leave more.

Q. Does a Tumblr reblog count as a comment?
A. Only if you’ve added some text to it.

Q. What about those comments in the sidebar at Medium?
A. That’s fine. It’s just in a different location, but it’s still a comment on a blog post.

Q. What about a newspaper article?
A. That also counts, if you dare entering into those territories. These days many things people interpret as “newspaper articles” are actually blog posts run by the newspaper, so it’s all becoming a grey area anyways. And even professional journalists like comments.

Q. Do I have to comment on something every day?
A. If you can. At least try to. There are a lot of great posts out there that I’m sure you have something nice or constructive to say about.

Q. Can I leave anonymous or pseudonymous comments?
A. Yes.

Q. Can I comment on an old post?
A. Yes.

Q. Can I post more than once per day?
A. Yes.

Q. Do comments on my own blog count?
A. No.

Q. Can I leave one-word comments?
A. Sure. 😉 (A friendly word like “cool” or “awesome” directly under a blog post might mean more to someone than a retweet of the link. But beware that your short comments might be interpreted as spam!)

Q. Can I leave multiple comments on the same post over several days?
A. If it makes sense in context (e.g. if someone responded to your comment and you wnat to reply to that), yes. Not if you plan to leave the same comment every day or split one comment into one-word-each comments.

Q. Can I leave negative comments?
A. The remaining commenters on the internet already specialise in negativity, so this pledge is mostly meant to increase the number of friendly and useful blog comments, but if you MUST leave a negative comment, please let it be constructively negative. Good: “I appreciate your thoughts, but I think I disagree with what you say in the second paragraph because blabla”. Bad: “tl;dr”

Q. Can my friends and I exchange comments on each others’ blogs?
A. Yes.

Q. Are you just trying to get more comments on your own blog?
A. No, but I have considered that it might be a side effect of posting this pledge. I just want to see if we can get some of our collective pre-Twitter commenting spirit back.

Q. Do you have any blog recommendations?
A. No. I mean, I have favourites, but if you’re interested in this pledge you probably have your own list of blogs you like reading.

Q. Can I leave a comment that is just garbled sentences grabbed from other blog comments, with a list of links to sketchy websites?
A. No. YOU are already leaving ENOUGH comments online.

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Eva June 27, 2014 - 12:02 AM

And of course the first comment here is a spam comment. I might just leave that up for irony.

Fiona June 27, 2014 - 12:32 AM

haha perfect!!

I posted this in the Aussie Blog Chicks group on FB 🙂

James McNally June 27, 2014 - 12:11 AM

Eva, I love this idea. I hope you get a lot of people taking part. I really miss the separation of comments and discussion from the actual page where the content resides. Tweets and Facebook comments are fine, but this is a return to the old days of actually building a community on your own site. Thanks for doing this!

Eva Amsen June 27, 2014 - 10:04 AM

No problem! Thanks for signing!

Alyssa June 27, 2014 - 2:06 AM

Great idea! I tend to make a point to leave comments o several blogs per week I miss that community feel that seems to be gone now.

Eva Amsen June 27, 2014 - 10:04 AM

Me too 🙂 Thanks for signing the pledge and have fun commenting !

Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages June 27, 2014 - 4:43 AM

Great idea. I always try to comment on people’s pages when I can because I know how much it means to me when I get comments.

Eva Amsen June 27, 2014 - 10:05 AM

That’s great! I try when I can, but often don’t want to be the only comment, or don’t want to create an account. Thanks for signing the pledge!

fluorogrol June 27, 2014 - 3:58 PM

This is a fantastic idea. I’ve signed the pledge and will do my damnedest to stick to it.

Mademoiselle Scientist June 27, 2014 - 5:45 PM

Great point about comments! I just signed the pledge. I love comments because I like interacting with the readers. Everyday I read blogs I want to make sure I leave a comment. Comments start great conversations!

Ed June 30, 2014 - 11:30 AM

Nice idea, I wish everybody the very best of luck with sticking to the pledge. :=) Since my own site is about ongoing science questions, you’ve got me wondering about the psychology behind this shift in our behaviour. There is of course a “barrier” to overcome when posting a comment – thinking of something to say takes a little bit of effort, and you need some sort of drive to push to you make it. In the case of negative comments, it’s probably anger/hate pushing you to do so… but why doesn’t excitement have the same effect? Or is it simply that the effect is different – to share rather than to engage in communication with the author? I suspect this is the case, but I wonder what we (as authors) need to do in order to address it and keep comments positive.
I note that Google+ and Blogger may have an interesting feature in this regard, in that the site can be configured so that the “share text” when an article is shared using G+ is also posted as a comment on the blog. This has the positive effect of harnessing all those “this is cool” sharing posts, including any conversations that result on the G+ thread they spawned. I’ve seen other sites using similar features that go more cross-platform, it’s certainly something I’m going to take away and have a think about 🙂

Eva Amsen June 30, 2014 - 11:55 AM

I’ve noticed the G+ commenting in use on YouTube, and it’s very confusing! When someone shares a video on G+, it shows as comment on YouTube, but the share is addressed to the sharer’s friends, and on YouTube you expect a comment to be addressed to the video makers. So it ends up being something like “thought you guys might like this” directly underneath a video.

Ed June 30, 2014 - 10:54 PM

Yeah, that is rather an irritating side effect! Of course, it wouldn’t be a problem if everybody used G+ circles the way the G+ engineers intended, but I’m pretty sure that’s never going to happen 😀

Jenny July 1, 2014 - 1:44 PM

This is a great idea! I’m relatively new to the world of blogging, and the comments section can sometimes feel like a bit of a wasteland. I will enjoy doing my part to try and make that a bit different in the future.

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