Who Comments on Blogs, and Why?

On most websites or blogs, the ratio of readers to commenters is gigantic. On this blog, a post that garners 40 or 50 comments is considered quite a bit, even though there are many thousands of readers. The stream of comments can take many shapes, depending on the nature of the post. And, once again depending on the nature of the post, the commenters here can seem like a fairly diverse lot. But lately I got to thinking: what kind of person comments on a blog, and why?

I like blogs as much as the next guy, but I don’t think I’ve ever left behind a comment, even though I have plenty to say about lots of things. So what distinguishes me from a blog commenter?

I realize there is a selection problem here: anyone who responds to my question about why commenters comment is, alas, a commenter. Which means that regular commenters will be overrepresented in the comments — unless, of course, a whole bunch of you who never comment decide to go ahead and log in and, in the comments section, tell us why you never comment. Or why other people do.

Comments welcome.


Matt W

I read many blogs and I've commented a total of probably 3 times so I may have a good view.

First is the fixed cost.. it just took me 3 minutes to register with Wordpress and that's a long time for the internet age.

Second, usually, on a high traffic blog like this, commenters have usually taken most points of view in an hour or so.

But mostly, it's just like in school where there's a class of 30 people but the same 5 or 6 are the only ones that raise their hand.

twofedoras

Supply and Demand. There is a surplus of easily accessible opinions in the blogosphere. Comments simply add to an already over-saturated market of ideas on a limited subject matter.

I suspect when information is more niche, you will find a greater percentage of participation since ideas, opinions and even hard information is much more scarce. Therefor, people will meet the demand by supplying their own comments.

mcjane

i usually don't comment, although after reading this i commented on the next post as well :) i view the comments like a large group of people having a conversation. i feel the need to read through all the comments before posting a response myself, because otherwise it seems like running up to an ongoing conversation and blurting out something. but on popular blogs i get overwhelmed with the large number of comments. to me its like being in a very large room of people. the more outgoing ones are likely to be the ones carrying the conversation. which is funny, because that's me in real life, but not online. i think i feel like i have less invested in an online conversation like blog commenting. i generally don't feel like my comment is worth the effort of posting.

JakeSutton

I agree with Matt W's points.

I comment regularly on the blogs of people I actually know, but very rarely on the blogs of strangers or on what might be called "public figure blogs".

I think a lot of it actually comes down to basic human shyness. Nobody wants to speak up for fear of sticking their foot in their mouth. ;^)

TheQuitter

i would do it just to take part in the conversation. of course every comment board represents a voluntary response bias so you'll never get all of us. some of us probably also have blogs and enjoy getting a linkback.

some blogs have tried things like, "hey look at all my readers. i want to get to know you better. comment with name, location, [or insert whatever you want]. generally it seem that most entries if they fetch 10-40 comments on a random blog would garner like 200+ in replies.

also, registration is a %$#@!

suppose you reduced commenting to Name, Website, Comment, and Verify you ain't a robot. basically your barrier to entry is too high for a blog that's not building a community. why do i want to register for a wordpress acct just to comment on YOUR blog?

furiousball

Many bloggers comment to get comments. Many also comment to connect with people. The undying need to be loved is strong with the blogging community.

TheQuitter

oh, and notice when you offer incentives, like your puzzles and the prize to the winner.. then your comment count goes way way up.

dpm

You've put up a high barrier to entry by requiring people to create an account before leaving a comment.

jefftang

I tend to have a kind of efficient market attitude toward comments. If it was worth saying some other more garrulous reader would have already made the post.

Veda

I'm not that slow of a reader/typist, but gosh, when I logged in there were only three comments here. Now seven, but likely higher when I'm done typing!

I was prepped to say that in three comments, most POVs were taken, as #1, Matt W hit on. So, in effort to feel clever without sticking my foot in my mouth, how about the difference being similar to that of the "quiet one in the corner" at a huge, raucous party?

I don't always see comments as a string of conversation. Often each individual comment is specifically a reply to what's said in a blogger's post. When I feel I have something thought-provoking to add, I'll pipe up. Otherwise, I'm the quiet one in the corner and that's alright.

akbal

I rarely comment on blogs because (1) written communication is a skill I have not practiced since high school (often my comments are misunderstood), (2) I've learned that people usually ignore or attack what they don't already believe (this makes my comments seem futile), and (3) I have things I would rather be doing (it usually takes 30 minutes or more to write even a semi-coherent response to a blog.

JakeSutton also makes a very good point. Shyness definitely plays into my reasons.

Amos Moses

As with most things, there's probably a whole bundle of "right" answers. I liked twofedoras answer. And Matt W.'s.

Speaking for myself, one, I think the typical blog commenting system is bulky and broken. It feels discordant, fractured from the originating idea, just a long stream of disconnected thoughts and opinions with, typically, only one originating source, the blog post. It seems to encourage a "me too" type of system. It;s not how real conversation flows.

I'd like to see some other implementations of a comment system, where connections can be drawn between the people commenting as well as the blog owner. This doesn't feel linear to me but more like a mind map of thoughts and opinions with the locus being the originating post.

That was too long, sorry but not done yet :). Secondly, I'm guilty of not encouraging comments. I think the content's author is often absent from the discussion, does not play an integral role in mediating and massaging the flow of the conversation. You know, it's almost like good ideas and thoughts go to comments to die. People respond but there's no vitality or growth down there. Part of it's presentation I guess.

Anyway, long, disjointed comment, which maybe one reason people don't comment more - they have to wade through ones like these :)

Good question though Stephen.

Read more...

sbw

Commenters needed to be parsed into distinct categories. Some comment to learn -- to nail an idea to a page so others will refine it. Some comment to convince. Some comment for community.

Still others comment to overpower ideas with cheap rhetoric.

Ike Pigott

Echoing some of above:

1) Registration will be a barrier. There are other ways to prevent comment spam.

2) "Conversation" is harder to track in a pure linear model. There is a Wordpress plugin that will allow you to give readers the option of Threaded Comments, for those who track the flow better that way.

3) Maybe an appropriate way to ask your question would be "For those who comment, why do you choose to comment here? And under what circumstances do you NOT comment on other blogs?"

jonathank

I comment on two types of blogs: people I know and where I believe the author reads the comments and might actually be looking for ideas and different takes.

I have, on rare occasion, joined in to reinforce others' comments. It is fruitless to argue with people in comments - or mostly anywhere on the internet - but sometimes it can be enjoyable (and, in a rare case, even constructive) to agree with other commenters

abraxas

Inevitably, a large readership will yield someone who has some good insight into the subject matter. When I have this I try to contribute.

It's not quite the same type of community as a message board, but it is similar. Since I don't have the time to be a contributing member of a message board, besides lurking on a few very good ones, occasionally leaving comments allows me to feel like part of a community and/or participate in brief debate with possibly similarly minded people.

snubgodtoh

Scarcity and how much people value anonymity.

I enjoy commenting because in interpersonal settings I tend not to (therefore the act of voicing my opinion is scarce, although I enjoy doing so). I also enjoy the allowance of the anonymous chime; I guess this may boil down to self esteem or social anxiety issues.

Perhaps non-commenters are more socially well-rounded.

Another point of value that I gain from commenting is in the action being a form of outlet. I work in a very rigid setting, I have no humorous outlet and the intellectual outlet that I have is debatable at best.

One thing is for sure, I would never post a phonetically playful name plate on my office door that reads "hot dog buns" in reverse, but I would like to.

Spike

Your question needs refining.

First you must ask what barriers exist on the blog to comments?

1. technological - the most odious being registration like yours. Is it worth the effort? I finally broke down and registered but each time I have to use the password retrieval because your blog's not worth commiting a password to memory over.

2. control of discussion - does the blogger actually turn off comments?

3. nature of the discussion - is it something worth engaging in, or is it nothing but mudslinging etc.

Then you can begin to parse who comments on what types of blogs and why.

More that could be said, but no time.

Takshaka

Well, I cannot comment on why I think people who commonly comment choose to leave comments, I can however tell you why I usually do not leave comments.

I have been a long time blog reader, but I can probably count the number of times that I have left a comment using my fingers and toes. It is not that I never have the desire, I just usually find myself far less articulate than the author of the blog that I am reading. For that reason I figure that there is no need for me to take away from what they have written with a seemingly un-intelligible response. I feel that there are far too many of these types of responses in blogs and I usually do not wish to be part of it. Why I chose to be part of that now though, I cannot explain.

alanreid

A colleague and I were pondering this very issue yesterday when we read your burnt pyjamas blog. A thorny issue such as copying being discussed on a highly ranked and read blog surely would elicit more than half a dozen comments. Does this beg the question "What is the real value of blogging?" Or has it just become visual wallpaper for our everyday lives?