Why Are You Even Here?


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By here I mean the interwebs.

I was out roaming the interwebs a little earlier this week, considering blogging hospitality. One of my goals with STILL GROWING has been to build relationships so that this piece of the interwebs fosters support, love, empathy, friendship, etc…

Some blogs are AMAZING at this. They get bunches of comments on every post – and not just comments, but encouragements between blogger and reader as well as reader and other readers.

Then there are those other kinds of blogs. They’re the ones with a completely silent readership. I came across one last week that only had one comment on a home page featuring 7 posts (and, sadly, that one comment was actually a pingback the blogger had made on his own post). After I noticed this, I thought I’d take some time to study that blog and what kept readers from commenting.

I came up with several thoughts:

The Sidebar

Not everything is about us, dear bloggers. I get that we’re an egocentric bunch, but oughtn’t we to at least make an attempt to include others?

The widgets on a sidebar should NOT go like this… Follow Me!, Subscribe, What I’m doing (Twitter Feed), My Top Posts, Follow me on Twitter, Books I’m Reading, Music I’m listening to, Books I will read, Follow me on Twitter, Subscribe to my blog, (RIDICULOUS #) hits since yesterday…

Now, I’m not saying that I’m super at this, but shouldn’t some of the things on the sidebar be about the reader? Even that About Me widget can be a little about the reader… see how I offered you Hot Cheetos? πŸ™‚ Of course I want people to subscribe and therefore made it easy to do that, but I’m also rather irate at WordPress for changing the subscribe widget so it counts followers… it seems like I’m saying, “Look at me! I’m a leader! I have followers!” It seems like it’s not so much about making it easy to subscribe as it is about making it easy to see how popular I am.

Other widgets that aren’t selfish (yes, I am about to list the ones I chose for STILL GROWING; I chose them for a reason): Anything that makes people smile (pictures, jokes, online pets)… archives, calendars, search boxes and tag/category clouds that help readers navigate the blog... Blogrolls that help readers find more to read… Reader Comments that help readers find each other’s opinions and that show off their avatars.

It’s okay for bloggers to include stuff about themselves in the sidebar, but I find it really offensive when a blogger has multiple places to follow him on Twitter, but no blogroll to credit other bloggers.

The Self-Pings and Links

It’s fine to refer readers to posts that give them context for current content. It’s even fine when bloggers gush about a few of their previous posts and re-publish them later. It’s actually helpful when bloggers do that because I don’t feel the need to go back through the archives and read EVERYthing they’ve ever posted… I know the good stuff will eventually be re-posted. What’s not okay is constantly linking and pinging back to yourself and pointing out which of your posts that month got the most traffic. If the blog has 10+ admins who post daily – sure, tell us which ones were popular. But if you are blogging all by your lonesome dove, you don’t need to tell me which posts were popular. I’ll figure it out by looking at which ones your readers liked and commented on the most… or I’ll read or skim the posts myself.

The Title

I don’t have a great feel for what should be done with a title, but I do know that it repels me when a title is something to the effect of MY THOUGHTS, MY RANTINGS, MY… MY…. MY… We’re just a short ‘n’-sound away from those birds on NEMO. It doesn’t bother me when bloggers title their blogs after themselves (like with their names), but there’s something about declaring MY (whatever) that makes me want to punch YOUR (whatever).

Comment Moderation Settings

Remember all those settings you made decisions about when you set up your blog? I’m not talking about the decisions you made about appearance, like the theme and widgets.

Here’s what I’m talking about on WordPress:

Before a comment appears

  • An administrator must always approve the comment
  • Comment author must have a previously approved comment

You can select either of those bubbles or none at all.

It makes me really angry when bloggers bubble that first one. That’s right, angry. At least it didn’t cost me $5000 in therapy to learn to say that (Richard Gere reference).

I know. It’s not my blog. People should do whatever they want to do with their own piece of the interwebs.

But I just want to ask those bloggers who bubble the first one, “Why are you even here?”

It seems to me that the point of a blog is to connect with other human beings. Therefore, human beings should be able post their thoughts on blogs (remember that trolls are not human beings… so moderate the heck out of trolls).

To those bloggers who bubble the first option, I say, why should I read what you write when you are unwilling to read what others have to say.

HOW rude!

If we were in real life rather than the interwebs…

Can you imagine it?

Blogger gives 5-minute speech about his thoughts on life, the universe, and everything.

A thoughtful sort of fellow listens patiently, then says, “That’s interesting. I think…” but he’s cut short by the blogger who insists he whisper his thoughts before speaking them at normal volume, in case they aren’t suitable for public consumption.

Without pause, the thoughtful fellow pokes the blogger in the eye, elbows him in the gut, sounds his barbaric YAWP from the rooftops of the world, and walks away.

And why not?

The thoughtful fellow was under the impression that social networking is about being social.

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8 thoughts on “Why Are You Even Here?

  1. Ouch!

    I’ve failed you, I fear. I don’t have a blogroll listed on my blog as a way to network. I get your point, it’s tiresome when things are “me me me” all the time. BUT your blog is “you”. So I think it’s good to make it easy for people to figure out who that “you” is ASAP without tons of distractions. What is the voice on the blog?

    Anyway you’ve given me food for thought, b/c in general I totally agree with you here.

    P.S. You can take the count off of your subscriptions if you want. I did.

    • Suzanne – I definitely don’t find your blog excessively ego-centric. I LOVE your little piece of the interwebs, so don’t think too hard about the things I write. πŸ™‚

      Also, thanks for telling me about the subscriptions thing … No more counting!

  2. I really like cheeseburgers but I really don’t see the value in hamburgers. Not only is there an unbreakable law of “anything with cheese is an order of magnitude better than anything without cheese” but there is also the benefit of something creamy with something meaty. That’s always a good combo.

    Have I ever eaten a hamburger with no cheese? Yeah, and I’m sure it was fine, but it doesn’t even compare with most cheeseburgers I’ve ever had. There is something about cheese that makes the burger “pop”.

    I should also point out that ketchup and mustard on a burger are essential. Unless the burger is specialty designed for more sophisticated pallets these two condiments belong on every burger.

    So what does this have to do with this well written post?

    Not. One. Thing.

    • As I was reading this, I was pretty sure you were making some sort of amazing point – like: blogs with selfless sidebars are cheeseburgers while the ones filled with “follow me on Twitter” widgets are regular burgers. I thought you were going to scold me for scolding burgers when they’re perfectly acceptable – even if cheeseburgers are better.

      πŸ™‚

  3. I like the suggestions, but it’s difficult to read this without interpreting, “If everyone constructed their blog exactly like Katie’s, it would be better.” πŸ™‚ I know that you don’t mean that, but it certainly makes for a good rant either way.

    Way back before blogging was absorbed into the social media stratosphere (yes, some of us were blogging prior to the myspace/Facebook/Twitter revolution), my roommate wrote his own manifesto of sorts. Point #1: “The best thing about blogging is that it is yours, and you can make of it what you’d like.” We weren’t so much concerned about social hospitality and commenting — it hadn’t become that yet — we were just glad for a free forum to communicate our thoughts and to read those of others.

    As a low-comment-volume blogger, I propose another variable. I find that my comment/social interaction load is more dependent on the content than the layout, hence the reason I receive more comments when I write about nonsense as opposed to something deeply spiritual. Did my viewership disappear and magically reappear due to “me” factors? Not really — people are generally more comfortable interacting over lighter topics — present company excluded πŸ™‚

    However, my hits increase dramatically for the heavier, non-commented material, so I know that it’s being read and referenced by others. Since my particular purpose is to communicate ideas that can be wrestled with for days, rather than anecdotes to be interacted with in a social manner, my format (and its “most read” archive) reflects this. I want the content that readers have determined to be “most chewable” to be explored by new viewers.

    Not sure if I’m defending my own blog or that of others, but I can’t say that it has ever crossed my mind whether another’s blog felt welcoming. Inevitably, if the content is there, so am I. Likewise, your blog serves its goal very well, and it should suit you to frequent other blogs that serve the same social purpose, since the “support, love, empathy, friendship” format appeals to you. But in asking others “why they are even here,” I wouldn’t presume they are concerned with someone else’s purpose for their own blog.

    • I agree with A.W. When I started blogging it was more so a way for me to journal my thoughts and experiences online since I am horrible at keeping a paper journal. It was my own personal thoughts with little rhyme or reason. If people stumbled across it and commented, cool. If not, still cool. I noticed that I still had consistent traffic regardless of if people commented or not. It was more so the content that people cared about, not the layout. People commented on things they could relate to or felt comfortable with like relationship topics as opposed to baptism in the Holy spirit. The amount of comments or traffic really wont change my format or topics and yet people still seem to find their way to it. Everyone has their own way of formatting their blogs and if everyone followed a cookie cutter checklist of do’s and don’t, it would take that personal, unique flare away and make it less appealing. I love your layout and it lets me get a peek inside your personality. If your blog looked like the next one, you would’t stand out enough to hold my attention (which you already have).

  4. A.W. & Frances –

    Agreed. I definitely made the assumption that the purpose of blogging is uniform, which isn’t the case. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the blogs I continue to read that don’t allow comments (like DISIRING GOD and LIGONIER), and some of them have the feel of a magazine or newspaper. I like that, but there’s still something in me that thinks people should be allowed to comment or at least message bloggers about their content. On the practical side of things, I think it provides accountability, which is sorely lacking on the World Wide Web, but I also just think it’s polite to allow commenters.

    I get what you’re saying, though. And I know that some bloggers aren’t trying to engage others in conversation, which is valid.

    • Now I think it is weird if people have blogs that don’t allow comments. That seems to defeat the purpose. I think I would probably bypass a blog that wont allow me to share my thoughts, whether I agree or disagree with the author.

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