And there’s lots of bloggers doing it. I do it myself. I comment on several blogs every day of the week – both my ‘favourites’ and new ones that I find. And I usually find those new blogs by following the trail from comments posted on other blogs.
But there’s a trend that I’ve only started noticing recently. And I wonder if it’s damaging in any way to the long-term development of both blog and blogger.
I call this trend The ‘Comment Love-In.’
What is ‘A Comment Love-In?’
You’ve seen these comment multiple times on multiple blogs. A blogger publishes a post and the comments section of that post get filled with effusive comments praising the blogger and the post – and then the blogger usually responds in kind, thanking for their kind words/visit/support and yada yada yada.
Now this is all very nice – and it’s great to get positive comments on a post that you invested time and energy on. But I’m beginning to wonder 100% positive comments is a good thing.
Let’s back up a step, and I’ll walk you through three blog situations that took this trend from something that I was aware was vaguely nagging at me, to something that I’m now almost hyper-aware of.
First Stop: Dino’s House:
Firstly Stacey Herbert guest posted over at Dino’s House about a situation where she’d commented on a post by an A-List blogger:
And her comment was – in her own words – “totally respectful – made valid points – asking questions about the A List blogger’s motives.’
Guess what – her comment was held in moderation. And not published. (Though 150 plus positive comments were published). Which begs the question: how many other comments that challenged the A List blogger were moderated out. And not published.
Next Stop: Copyblogger….
A couple of days later I read a post by Jon Morrow at Copyblogger:
Now Jon is a good writer. And the post is a good read; there are some valid points in it. There were 128 comments on the post when I surfed over there just now….all of them were pretty positive.
Except for this one:
And here are the responses to that negative comment:
Notice that two people jump in on Jon’s behalf – and Jon posts a terse comment himself. Now the original comment – the negative comment – was IMO rude. And that rudeness obscured any kernels of truth that the writer of it might have been expressing.
I’ll come back to this in a moment.
Third Stop: The Sales Lion
A couple of days ago Marcus over at The Sales Lion posted this:
This post is about a topic that is really important to me, and that I’m passionately interested in. Over on my bass guitar website I even wrote an 80,000 word book about it!
Anyway, I couldn’t not leave a comment – in that comment I shared some of my beliefs about natural talent. For the record, I don’t believe in natural talent. I will write here about it soon, for now go read my comment over at Marcus’s house. It’s about 4 or 5 down.
A day or so later, Eugene from Reality Burst left a comment. And he disagreed with me! Eugene has a different opinion about natural talent. Again, go read the comments and read Eugene’s take. And then my response to his take.
I also thanked Eugene for the matter-of-fact way he’d responded to me – no invective, no personal insults, just stating what he thought was true, and why. (Which sadly can be rare on the ol’ Blogosphere.)
Eugene then hit the nail on the head by writing this:
“I think blogs should be an open forum for discussion and sharing ideas and opinions. Isn’t that the fun part?!?
Plus, that’s how you open up your own mind to new ideas and broaden your horizons. There is no reason for things to ever get out of hand like that.
And I appreciate that you are willing to discuss. I think a lot of people would just leave it alone (out of fear or laziness or what not).
Looking forward to more discussions with you!”
Stop Nr 4: Back To Copyblogger
Here’s where I think Jon Morrow may have missed a trick to get better at writing. (I say may, because I don’t know either Jon, or Judith, the lady who criticized him).
Now Judith basically claims that Jon overwrites and doesn’t edit ruthlessly enough. She uses a phrase that’s well known in writing circles: ‘murder your darlings.’ And to support her claim she mentions that she has awards, has written for magazines, worked for the world’s No1 Ad Agency. Etc etc.
All of these facts may be true.
Because Judith dressed her advice in a confrontational package, she lowered the value of that advice. Jon’s reply to Judith was essentially dismissive – and if that reply accurately reflects his feelings he’s probably not given her comment much further though.
And that’s a shame – because as Eugene so eloquently puts it, by responding to comments: “…you open up your mind to new ideas and broaden your horizons.”
Change the word ‘comment’ to ‘feedback’ – and it assumes greater importance.
To Get Better At Something – You Need Feedback
If you’re trying to improve at a discipline – whether it’s writing, or a sport, or playing an instrument, or anything – you need constant feedback so that you can correct things you are doing wrong and grow as a writer, or a painter, or a pianist, or an athlete.
Without feedback you can’t improve. If you’ve stopped improving then you’ve started stagnating. Now you may have reached a level that you’re already comfortable with. And don’t need to get any better.
In which case, you don’t need feedback.
But if you haven’t, having a wall-to-wall stream of complimentary comments could have a negative effect. Because not only are you getting no feedback from which you can create exercises or isolate tiny areas of your chosen discipline to work on – but after a while the consistent barrage of praise can lead to an over inflated opinion of how good your work actually is.
That’s why to grow as a blogger you absolutely NEED people to disagree with your ideas. So you can examine them from a different perspective. Look at them through a different lens.
If your original idea holds up, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the idea from having considered it from different angles. If your original idea doesn’t hold up, the synthesis of that original idea with different perspectives gives you a stronger variant of the original idea.
Plus the process of examination from a different angle will lead to a small increment of growth. Stack many such tiny increments of growth over time and you get genuine improvement.
The Kind Of Disagreement That’s NOT Wanted…
I’ve yet to have many comments disagreeing with me on this site. But I’ve had a bunch on my YouTube videos for my bass guitar site. And provided they conform to certain criteria I don’t remove them. In fact, I welcome them.
Those criteria are:
- (i) Criticisms are constructive
- (ii) Criticisms are not personal
- (iii) Criticisms are not aggressive or rude
I view every ‘constructive disagreement’ as a chance for me to grow. And I always take feedback as not personal – it’s about the work, not about me.
Sadly, not every one who leaves comments treats them the same way. I’ve been sworn at for the accent I speak with – or the fact that I wear glasses. That kind of stuff is mindless and banal and gets deleted instantly.
And those kinds of comments used to get me angry – now they sadden me. Not because I got insulted, or someone was rude to me. Because I lost a chance to potentially learn something.
My New Commenting Policy
I wrote this post for two reasons.
One was to say Kudos to Eugene from Reality Burst. And give him a shout out. (And tell you to go check his blog out and read some of his posts….)
The second reason was that I realize that I’ve been guilty of reading posts that I disagreed with, and not leaving a comment because I disagreed with the post. And that’s both a lost opportunity for me to engage in debate with more people like Eugene. And also a lost opportunity for the writers of those posts to learn something by looking at their ideas from MY perspective.
By not posting my disagreements, I’m not only being dishonest with myself. I’m also not contributing to others.
So I wrote this post so that you know that if I comment on a post you wrote, and I don’t agree – that it’s not personal.
And hopefully from the exchange that follows, both you and I will emerge from the experience a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and with a deeper respect and understanding of each other. And maybe we can hang out and share a virtual coffee, or a virtual Guinness.
If I disagree with you tonight, I’ll still respect you in the morning 😉
Do You Agree? Or Disagree (LOL)?
I’d like to hear your thoughts – whether you agree, or (naturally) whether you disagree. What do YOU think? Let me know by posting a comment.