Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Comment Conundrum

I don’t know - yet - what I want to say. I have written a few hundred words already, only to delete them into the cyber ether. I want to go this way… then that way. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say - those who know me know that this is rarely an issue - I’m just having trouble getting my thoughts to flow into anything that makes any sense.

So I write about it - and the words start to come.

This blog started as a tool to keep me writing during the break in between the fall and spring semesters of my junior year at Sacramento State. Monday morning will mark the start of my final semester of undergraduate studies. I will graduate with my bachelor’s degree on May 26 (or 27). I started off by writing about my favorite subject (me) and expanded into a number of other areas. One genre I have re-visited regularly is that of politics.

Over the past thirteen months, I have been able to pick up on some patterns. I don’t have any independent empirical data - no dependent or independent variables, no control sets - just some observations as determined by my hit counter and the comments and emails I’ve received in response to what I’ve written. Before I get into my analysis, I have another set of very subjective observations regarding my readers.

My regular and semi-regular readers are highly intelligent. I would like to think that I attract those who think for themselves - an ideology I encourage and respect. I’m not one for blind loyalty; I question authority; “Because I said so” has never worked for me. It would appear that my readers are cut from the same cloth - no matter what political party they might be aligned with.

I don’t take politics personally. If you think the war in Iraq was the right thing to do and you think so based on your own weighing of the issues, I can respect that. I certainly don’t agree and will say so and why if asked, but it’s not personal. I don’t hate or even dislike our president. I have other strong opinions regarding his decisions, but it’s not personal. However, after watching politics closely for many years, it is apparent that not everyone reacts as rationally. To disagree with some politically is tantamount to a personal affront. I don’t play that game.

More objective (though, as noted earlier, certainly not scientific) observations are based on numbers. They are generated through the comments registered and the visits to my blog as documented through my hit counter. One of my first (and earliest) observations is simple enough. Shorter is better. Generally 600 to 1,000 words are the most anyone is willing to commit to. It’s a general rule in news writing. There are, of course, exceptions, but in the blogosphere, it seems to be true as well.

The subject matter, although much more difficult to isolate, seems to make a difference as well. Even within the same field, some matters garner more opinion than others. For example, my recent post, “The Left Coast,” was about a proposed law by a Democratic California Assemblywoman that would outlaw spanking. Although this post probably could be categorized a number of ways, “political” would have be one of those categories. However, political though it may be, it is also a decidedly social issue. It was a post that generated comments very quickly.

The next two posts were political as well. Both were oriented towards national politics and as such dealt with the war in Iraq. The first, “The New Way Backward,” was a preview opinion on the State of the Union address. It generated only two comments. My last piece, “Democratic Response,” was an analysis of the SOTU address and of Senator Webb’s response to it. Initially, it didn’t garner many comments either. It took some time before visitors felt compelled to comment.

There are of course many other factors that I can’t even begin to account for. What day of the week a post is put up and how long it stays on top is a factor as well. Furthermore, although my comment count varies, my hit counter does not. I still get the same number of visitors - roughly - regardless of the comments left behind. And even on a highly remarked piece, the visitor count outnumbers the comments… by a lot. What’s it all mean?

I haven’t a clue, so I’ll just keep writing.

28 comments:

Bob-kat said...

It means that people are reading and that is important. I must admit that I have visited and no commented recently, and once it was simply because blogger was playing up and I didn't have time to argue with it!

I question everything. It was the best piece of advice I was ever given.

Awareness said...

This post makes me laugh because it is truly how I think things through as well..............its a wee bit uncanny!!

My own observations regarding the post topic and comments etc are very similar to yours. I always seem to generate many more comments (and emails) when I tackle a social political issue. It enflames the readers I guess.....

On some of the more personal reflective pieces....the ones I seem to learn the most about, I often will receive an email and a couple of comments, but like your site....... the comments don't often arrive right away.

I too have monitored site hits and the like......and have often wondered about the number of readers and the few comments.....but as bob-kat pointed out, people are reading.

One posting drops many seeds to germinate and ponder......

Enjoy your weekend Mike.

Muskie.

carli said...

I think you do a good job of making your blog interesting. I'm always curious to see what you have to say. And more importantly, you have to be true to yourself and blog what you want to blog on any given day.
Here from M.

Anna said...

wpusiI really appreciate everything you said there Mike.

I enjoy reading your posts because they come from a place where I feel everyone can sit around and take part. Isnt that what our system is supposed to be about? I do not comment everytime you post but I am always there...thanks for being able to convey your thoughts so well.

I look forward to more and more.

Anna said...

OK...obviously I don't proofread! Those first letters in my comment above are from the word verification I had to type...STINK!

Sorry about that!

Jennifer said...

I have you Bloglined, so every time you make a new post I come visit. However, you're a little deep for me, so I rarely feel intelligent enough to comment...ha! :) I know nothing about politics, very little about world current events...I'm a mommy of five and a student and a wife (not a great one) so my vision is very limited :)

Andrea said...

Blog for yourself. Sometimes people don't know what to say in response to a post. I tend to not comment on political posts as my views may not be the same as the person writing..and I was taught never to argue religion and politics

Michele says hi, btw :)

Anna said...

Hey Mike...thanks for your comment on my blog. I was very happy at how my first shot came out. Something tells me that I will treasure that one forever and ever.

Terri said...

I think it's almost impossible to account for the increase or decrease in comments or hits. I've tried and given up. But then....I only really write for "me." "I" have something to say and if somebody else has something to add, all the better.
For me personally....Due to the huge amount of blogs I try and visit, I feel bogged down when I see a very long blog. Unless it's a gripping subject, I tend to skim through it. It certainly has nothing to do with the writing, the content, etc. It all has to do with MY time limits.
So if somebody can figure out how to give me more than just 24 hr. in my day, I'd greatly appreciate it.

margalit said...

I think that anything people read is important, and anything you write is important. Personal observations on politics are a great things to write about. I find that local politics tend to bring me a lot of comments and national politics keeps people away, but that's just me. It's your blog, write what you want and don't worry about the comments. They'll come when you say something provocative and then you'll wish you kept your mouth shut!

Here via Michele tonight.

Begered said...

Hello Mike. First off I would like to say congrats on your upcoming Graduation from Sac State! I got my BS from Sac State in '98 from the School of Engineering. Good to see other Hornets out an about in the Blog World :)

This was a very interesting post. You blog about things that I probably never would have thought about. It makes sense that you would get more reader comments on social political issues than the other posts such as the one about the State of the Union address. Good luk in furhter research in this matter!

Justin said...

That's what it's all about. Blogging. Writing because we must, and we hope someone is reading.

Also, congratulations on the upcoming graduation. I'm about to graduate in May too.

Michele sent me!

Sarch said...

Mike your topics are typically intelligent and interesting. The serious posts are usualy well thought out and communicated and the lighter posts are usually very entertaining.

There are times when I don't have the time or mental energy to respond in an intelligent manner, so I simply lurk a bit and then move on. But you can be sure I for one am checking your blog daily.

Snaggle Tooth said...

It means, (to me), depending on your subject matter, some readers are at times more apethetic or emotionally affected while deciding whether or not they wish to ad-post their thoughts...
Or the phone rang, they ran out of free time, or are having a stick the head in the sand "shy" day...

We'll never know! Statistics n demographics remain enigmatic!

Badoozie said...

i don't know what it all means, but rarely do I visit and read a post without commenting, I just do, thats all. as for politics, I avoid arguing about them, because those who WANT to argue are those who are never going to change their mind, so what's the point.

i had an idea the other day, on longer posts, bold the main point of each paragraph for all the "skimmers".

utenzi said...

Michele sent me, Mike.

I get between 45 and 120 unique hits a day. I typically get, if you exclude Michele traffic, about 10 comments a post. However the comments drop to essentially zero anytime I post about science. Even when it's about breast cancer, which is the area I do research in. You'd think that cancer would be something most could relate to but the science angle just keeps commenters away. I guess it's the same when you're talking politics--unless of course the demographic that reads the blog is into politics. I guess that's not the case for your blog, and my demo isn't into science. Oh well.

Becky68 said...

Well I've commented on your blog about politics, of course, I agree with you for the most part & that doesn't make for especially interesting dialog. I truly believe the statement: "If two people agree all the time, one of them is unnecessary" ~David Mahoney.

WebKittyn said...

Stay true to yourself and the Hell with the rest of the world. I've only recently discovered you here through Michele but I genuinely like coming here.

Your words are interesting and well-written and I like the way your mind thinks.

Comments come and go, some of the posts I've gotten the most comments on are about the silliest things. Hard to tell what's going to make a person actually stop and take the time to comment.

I've blogrolled you, coming here to read has become something I enjoy.

David said...

just keep blogging...
its what we do

here from michele

kenju said...

I think we all experience that - what you said in the last paragraph. I have many, many more hits than comments. Who knows why so many don't stop long enough to say anything?

I steer away from politics most of the time. It bores me, mostly, and the issues that don't bore me get me mad, and I don't want to get mad!

I have run into all levels of intelligence here in blogland, but I must say that the intelligent ones far outweigh the less smart. I don't think that people whose IQ is low would have the mental stamina and stick-to-it-qualities that you need to write a blog everyday, in addition to doing whatever else you have to do in life.

Michele sent me to read this post, Mike, and I am glad!

Ciera said...

Absolutely...keep writing!

Here from Michele's! :)

Rhea said...

I just found your blog and read that you are about to graduate with your degree. Congratulations! It's great when you can achieve something you've always dreamed of.

kate said...

my sitemeter has not been accurate for a few weeks lately and it is driving me nuts! I agree that there are far fewer comments that visitors... and narrowing that even more, I have far more return visitors than ever before but the comments are about the same...

have a great day!

Sarch said...

Mike I'm back again via Michelle.

Hey have I told you that I now can't go to a Starbucks without picturing you sitting at one of the tables writting your blog on a laptop? See you ARE affecting people's lives!

Belizegial said...

Happy Sunday Mike!

For my part, I come to visit you only on weekends as this is when I have the most time. When I am here, I read back to catch up on what I missed during the past week. However, I comment only on the most recent post on top.

It's enjoyable coming over to read your blog site observations. Otherwise, I wouldn't keep visiting.

Keep on blogging. It's something you're good(nay, great)at! :)

Saludos,
~Enid

Barbara said...

hey Mike...speaking of comments, I did comment on this but you either deleted it or it never showed up. I was right after Awareness :(

colleen said...

I occasionally post on politics, as it's just another part of life. Most of my readers are polite no matter what they feel about the current situation. I do have one reader that I have to pick and chose what to post or not. I'm not into being a soapbox for someone or giving free reign for someone to insult me or my readers. I don't get the whole trying to change other people's minds and lashing out personally if they won't. michele sent me.

Carmi said...

I'm hitting the Wayback Machine today, Mike. Hope that's OK.

You've hit on an interesting topic. I often wonder why I don't get more comments than I do. Then I wonder why I get them at all. It's a pretty big commitment for readers to leave anything more complex than a "hi, how ya doin'?" comment.

I notice that some entry types seem to spawn fewer comments. For example, the numbers drop when I talk about media. I'll keep doing it, of course, because I use the blog to track my work. But it's interesting that it's less interesting to others.

Oh well. No sense losing sleep over it until it becomes a major driver of revenue.

Maybe soon...