Shaking Hands, Kissing Babys, Getting Comments

While I love, love, love posting on Metroblog, there’s one thing that would make this even more fun: getting more comments from you wonderful readers. Comments are the mojo that makes the blog flow. They’re the wind beneath our wings. And they just don’t happen here as much as we’d like.

So far, it seems that posts about burgers, birds and the homeless are the only things that draw commenters out of the woodwork here. Oh, and obliquely criticizing other people’s blogs, but that’s not a sustainable business model.

So, here’s my crazy Crazy CRAZY **CRAZY** one-time special deal! If you comment on this post and suggest a way that Metroblogging can get more comments — whether that’s one-time ideas, overall suggestions, UI reviews, stupid mind tricks, switch to Drupal, whatever — I’ll add you to the Metroblog blog list, AND feature your site in a post (if you want me to).

That’s right, in exchange for a minute of your time, you can get fame, fortune and/or a link from Metroblog. Don’t be shy! This is a limited time offer. Canadians must answer a skill-testing question. Offer not valid in Quebec. Lurkers, what are you waiting for? Carpe diem!

19 Comments so far

  1. Allen Pike (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 12:33 pm

    Off the top of my head? You could always do “call for responses” type posts, like the call for a Japanese Curry restaurant. Another option would be to post on more controversial topics, such as whether the Port Mann should be twinned or the Downtown East Side.


  2. Allen Pike (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

    Even better! Make it so the comments show up immediately. People want instant gratification. I know it’s susceptible to spam, but it doesn’t feel right when you put thought into a comment and it just gets absorbed into a machine with no obvious effect.


  3. Jen (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 2:58 pm

    Sending drinks to other local bloggers in restaurants seems a popular option ;) Thanks again!


  4. miss604 (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

    aw man, i comment all the time! okay well sometimes… when something tickles my fancy (ie vancouver events, hockey yada yada). People do tend to comment more often when they have strong opinions (usually in opposition) to blog content or if there’s a pic of a hot chick in your post :p har har

    i find that it helps to comment on other peoples’ sites – letting other bloggers know you are a reader and have input/feedback may help them feel a lil more open to leaving comments for you. all comments, whether good OR bad are always should be welcome.


  5. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

    Travis,

    Just a few suggestions…

    1. I’ve noticed a couple of more comments on my own blog posts (whether on my homepage or Urban Vancouver)when I post about real estate (not my area of expertise, but whatever). I didn’t see that topic in your categories but maybe I missed something. Anyway, the topic seems to hit home for a lot of people, whether they’re buying, renting, looking for a place or just complaining about the insane prices we’re paying for housing.

    2. Controversial = more comments. Of course, you already knew that, but I often check just before I post to make sure I’ve written something that is going to make someone somewhere uncomfortable. Just a reminder to bloggers everywhere.

    3. How much cross promotion do you actually do with Urban Vancouver or other blog forums? Both host sites seem to be having some difficulty attracting commenters (although I’ve noticed a few new voices on Urban Vancouver recently). Honestly, I don’t know what your business strategy is, but a more cooperative strategy just might help all of the hosts build up some volume before you all start refining your product.

    That’s all I can think of just off the top.

    Any chance I could get a link on the blog list (or have I already written something so ignorant that I’ve been disqualified from your offer)? As for featuring my site in a post – well, that would be nice… Hopefully not as a blogging version of a non-sequitur. Let me know.


  6. Rob Cottingham (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 10:04 pm

    A few ideas:

    – Come right out and ask a specific question. (Apparently you’ve thought of that one already.)

    – Post a list of the five best, worst, most surprising, or smartest items in a category. Invite people to suggest their own.

    – Comment on someone else’s blog post by posting on your blog, and track back to them. This one works especially well when you’re adding some value: correcting a mistake, taking issue with a point, or adding an example or insight.

    – Post a useful how-to tip about something computer-related. Those are by far my most active blog posts for comments.


  7. Alanah (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 11:05 pm

    Just wanted to say I appreciate all of your writing, even though I don’t comment often. Keep up the great work!


  8. Travis (unregistered) on May 10th, 2006 @ 11:39 pm

    I do that the moderation slows the conversation — I’ll ask the head honchos if we can remove that…

    The Real Estate category is something we discussed at the most recent outing we had together, so that’ll appear shortly, too.

    Thanks for all the ideas. I in no way meant to slight people who do comment a lot…. or maybe I meant ot stir up controversy! Yeah, that’s the ticket! I, um, hate all the frequent commenters. You all are, like, mondo-dumb!


  9. keith lim (unregistered) on May 11th, 2006 @ 1:32 pm

    You get few comments because the Metblog doesn’t excite, doesn’t arouse passion. It’s dull as dishwater. This is the debility that every blog suffers from. I blame the framework of blogs themselves.

    The framework of a blog is a journal of ongoing events in some setting. This is interesting only if the setting, and the events occurring therein, are themselves interesting in general. And journal entries are interesting in general only if they have a focus or are compressed into a relatively short time frame, with deadlines. The shooting of a movie, for example. Or the development of a business project. Organizing a large-scale recreational event (a public festival or sports competition). Going on an exotic vacation. That sort of thing.

    Most blogs don’t have that focus or that fixed time-frame, with the associated closure (for good or for bad) at the end. In the first place, they’re just random babblings about mundane events in the writer’s day-to-day life. And most people’s lives are thoroughly uninteresting. Nobody cares about your random rant or your weekly workplace crises or your new hobby or that you cleaned your room. Yet these are the staples of blogs. Nobody cares! They’re boring. Worse, there’s no end to them, they just keep coming and coming with no resolution. Until of course, one day, the tedium bores even the writer himself or herself, and the blog goes into suspended animation with an unannounced, abrupt (and merciful) end to the stream of trivialities. The stasis, undead state can’t even be pronounced until some months later, after a long period with no life signs.

    None of this goes away just because a blog is multi-author rather than single author. You just get the random mundaneness of many people’s lives instead of a single person’s. If anything, it just makes it worse, since this boring stuff now comes as a flood rather than a trickle. And there’s not even the hope of of it falling into a coma, since there’s now multiple independant bodies keeping the machine churning, rather than a single point of failure.

    I blame the framework of blogs themselves, as I said. A blog is just a website. But rather than a website built around a topic and with a goal of writing for others, the blog framework is designed around random, stream-of-consciousness entries. The audience is the writer, not the reader, since the point is to self-select and record only what the writer, rather than the reader, considers significant. There’s also categorization-by-date as the default organizing method (rather than by topic, or category, or section). It ruthlessly keeps track of the frequency of updates. As the date of the most recent entry (always promimently displayed on the home page) recedes ever further into the past, the motivation to post something new, anything, grows, and often results in some low-content entry: an apology for the lack of updates with a quick mention of some incredibly uninteresting activity thrown in just for the sake of making a new entry. A non-blog website doesn’t have this problem. A website about a tv show, for example, might update weekly, or even several times a week, while new episodes are appearing. In between seasons, the updates may drop to once a month or even cease entirely until the next season approaches, but nobody would mistake the site for an inactive one, just because the frequency of updates has suddenly slowed. The site just isn’t obsessed with prominently date-stamping every single new entry to it; there is no pressure to update frequently if there is nothing of substance to add. It gets updated only when there’s something worthwhile to update it with.

    All of these aspects of the blog framework–the lack of focus, the self-absorption, the relentless date-stamping and resultant pressure to add new entries for their own sake–combine to make blogs insipid and unstimulating, and ultimately, unsatisfying. They’re the written equivalent of junk snack food. While individual nuggets may be tasty, they aren’t usually worth commenting on. Do you comment on every potato chip or popcorn kernel you pop in your mouth? Even as a whole, they’re unnutritious and unfulfilling, offering no benefit of note to your intellectual health. The most anyone usually has to say about an entire bag of chips is “they were tasty”, and nothing more. Read a blog in the morning, and by afternoon, it’s likely you’d be unable to tell someone else what you’d just read or describe the details of the content, never mind explain its significance. The content is ephemeral; there’s usually little to grab you, little that sticks with you. All entries fade away into the dusty archives, to be hardly ever looked at again. Related entries remain separated by time, categorized by date; they aren’t organized, put together, interlinked, never mind used for anything anything deeper, like a compare and contrast.

    If you want comments, if you want others to be willing to take the time and effort to put themselves out there and contribute to a cause, you have to excite, to arouse passion in them. Now, there are several tried-and-true ways to do this:

    Be a troll. Deliberately write to inflame, to annoy, to enrage. Report inaccuracies, distort facts, willfully misinterpret intentions, gratuitously insult. Your role models are computer pundits John Dvorak and Rob Enderle.
    Be so stupid as to be indistinguishable from a troll. Your writing is, for all practical purposes, identical to that of trolls, except that it’s also riddled with the most basic spelling and grammatical errors as well. Your role models are the sites Slashdot and Digg.
    Offer quality. Don’t write when you have nothing of substance to offer, and when you do, research your topic, give some historical background if possible, and serve up substantial and nutritious food for thought. Online role models are hard to find, but The Tyee does a pretty decent job of it.

    Arouse passion (whether in a good or bad way) and you’ll get comments. More than you ever expected or wanted. And openly begging for comments is just rock-bottom pathetic. Rather than producing something that, on its own merits, elicits responses, you directly ask for comments, just for the sake of having some comments, any comments, about anything at all. Please! Lack of response means lack of passion. It doesn’t even have anything to do with how many people read the original entry in the first place. How many do you need anyway? Quality is what counts, not quantity. Blogs have the exact opposite approach, with a framework that encourages the production of a huge quantity of posts, but mostly of insubstantial quality. Why be surprised at the lack of excitement about that? Metroblogging can’t get comments because it’s trapped by its own inferior framework: it’s a blog.

    The day this blog fad ends can’t come soon enough for me.


  10. Lydia (unregistered) on May 11th, 2006 @ 5:30 pm

    Keith Lim, why are you such a bitter, sad man? And if you hate blogs, why do you read this one, and why did you write such a frighteningly long response?


  11. Travis (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 12:51 am

    Hey folks.

    I don’t know why Keith doesn’t like blogs. Perhaps he was frightened by one as a child.

    But good news — comments aren’t moderated any more! Your comments go immediately live, and ain’t nothing we have to do to make it so.

    That said, we’ll still be on guard for spammers so you won’t have to wade through you-know-what and that-other-thing which I can’t mention or else my comment won’t post…

    TTFN
    Travis


  12. Ariane (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 9:31 am

    For some reason, I thought that you had to sign up to comment…whoops! Well, don’t take the lack of comments to mean lack of readership, I’ve been reading pretty much everyday since I found this. I can say it’s definately made me more connected to what’s going on in the city!

    ps. Maybe you should do a feature on City Girl Designs (and other sustainable small businesses?)…I know that would really interest me! ;-)


  13. Ryan Cousineau (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 10:13 am

    keith’s not bitter, he’s just stalking me. No seriously, full disclosure, yadda yadda, keith is an old friend of mine, and we come as a package.

    The point is that keith’s dissatisfaction has merit. Blogs are not an end to themselves, and there is a certain “everything is a nail” attitude that the hammer of bloggery inspires.

    But keith: it turns out that begging for comments works.


  14. Jon (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 10:49 am

    And Keith isn’t entirely wrong, in many of his points.

    I think that the problem with this site is perhaps that it remains more a collection of personal blogs than a collective project with some larger aim. Though I’m not sure what that larger aim would be.

    Heh, you could slag off Seattle or Toronto or something.


  15. wyn (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 11:21 am

    Many great points for us to address at the next meeting. Might I suggest we address the “business” of this blog in a serious way at the next meet-up?
    Also, I’m all timid about posting now… it’s true, personal blogs can be so much more eclectic and you can love it or leave it – here, we should represent in some more coherent fashion.


  16. keith lim (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

    But Ryan, begging for spare change on the street also works as a way of making money. It’s not a particularly good way, though, and works only so long as you keep up the pleading, while annoying and turning off people in the bargain. Far better to work for money: people give you money more willingly, on a more regular basis, without you having to constantly ask for it, plus you produce something valued by others, and which you might even feel good about. And far better likewise to get comments by producing writing with weight, discussion with depth, content with coherence, than by begging. Excite people’s minds and they’ll respond.

    I wrote about passion. Good quality and high standards in products and services is something I’m passionate about, which is why I went through the effort of writing such a long post at all. A typical blog falls so far short of what an online journal, what a website could be and most people don’t seem to care that it does, and that just infuriates me.

    And Ryan (with the benefit of years of friendship) sees through the shtick. The sad, bitter, angry rant tone is a bit of a put-on. (I can do a semi-decent consultant-jargon bit too.) But the points I bring up, I’m serious about. You wouldn’t put up with a thick book or long movie that was comparably unfocused and rambling, throwing up random topic after random topic but exploring hardly any in depth, then just allowing them to drift away into the past, with no resolution. Blogs can be so much better than they are.


  17. Scott (unregistered) on May 13th, 2006 @ 11:55 am

    One easy way to encourage not just comments but repeat comments from visitors to your site is to respond to the comments that readers do leave. I have also gone as far and personally emailed visitors thanking them for their contributions.


  18. Travis (unregistered) on May 14th, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

    Thanks, Scott! That was a great suggestion!

    TTFN
    Travis


  19. Ghosty (unregistered) on May 18th, 2006 @ 7:50 am

    I have the same issue with my blog and lots of lurkers, few commenters. (I’m guilty of lurking about on this site too :) So out I crawl.

    It seems current events post tend to get people commenting…like posts about the local kidnappings etc

    Or post about some more controversial/philosophical topics tend to incite commenting.

    Although I must say blogging certainly turns one self into a stats/comment junkie. Got to get that fix and when you do, it’s definitely wind beneath the wings.



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