Monday, June 7, 2010

Canon of a Good Blog Host

A week or so ago, my nemesis Simon made an announcement on his blog* that because of the high amount of comments he gets per post, he would no longer respond to them all in the comments, and would be only doing so via email. I thought this was silly and told him so (par for the nemesis course). But then, Roni at Fiction Groupie, whom I respect, said that wasn’t a bad idea**.

*I only scan his blog looking for opportunities to apply my plot against him.
** I surmised she’d had a temporary lapse in sanity, because after all, this is the nemesis we’re talking about.

It’s rather a blessing, isn’t it, to be found so diverting on a regular basis. (The nemesis gets around 50-70 comments per post and Roni gets around 25-35). We all know that lots of comments make our world go world, because as bloggers, it’s the most visible validation that people like what you say.

It seems that handling comments falls under the Canon of Good Blog Hosts, a list that I just made up, but which I feel strongly about. Please understand: I’m listing these things from my experience as a blog reader—NOT as a blogger. I read a lot of blogs every day and the following items make me read and enjoy posts more:

Respond to comments.
If you have hordes, no one’s going to crucify you for not replying to each single one. I just disagree with the email response method because it doesn’t mean less work for you, other people can’t interact with your responses, and new readers think you’ve gone into hibernation! It’s important to appear as though you still live on your blog, when tons of others do.

Be tidy.
As a reader, I’m looking for content. I like a picture or two, but a thousand of them prevents me from reading your content. Make sure the post is front and center and isn’t too cluttered by eye candy. This goes for backgrounds. Make it easy on the eyes (white is best), and keep sparkly moving things to a minimum. Some of you have these things, and I still love your blogs, but man I read your posts in Google Reader. Just saying.

Be short and use headings.
Not always possible to be short (like this post), but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked on a blog to read what I think sounds like a really cool post title, only to turn away because it consists of thick blocks of unbroken paragraphs. I can’t deal with it, guys, I can’t. And neither can others, because my most least successful posts have proven to be those with long ass blocks of text.

Provide a means to contact you.
I recently wanted to contact a blogger to ask for a comment for a post I'm planning, but there was zero way to contact him. Oh, you could fill out a form, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to take the time to do it.

Make it easy to interact.
I’ve said this many times before as has Roni (poor Roni probably thinks I’m harping on her today but I hope she knows I LURVE her), but taking off the word verification on comments really, really, really is appreciated. It slows me down. I don’t have one on mine and I never get spam. Not sure what verification prevents.

Be consistent and don’t apologize.
If I don’t know when you’re going to blog, then chances are I’ll forget to check back regularly. Note that I’m not saying I don’t WANT to. Repeat: I forget. Consistency is key. Also, if you haven’t blogged in a month, don’t apologize for not blogging. It’s okay. Really. Just post your usual thing. You’ve wasted my eye real estate by apologizing. I’m looking for content, remember?

I hope these help. No one's perfect (especially not my nemesis). Try your best, but try also to remember that people are reading, quickly, and regularly.

What are you blog pet peeves?


Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm not a fan of the, "Sorry I haven't posted" posts either. I don't have tons of time to read blogs and that just ate up several valuable seconds. Just move on- we all know life gets crazy.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Lapses of sanity are a common issue for me. :) I'm trying the email method as a replacement to the responding to every comment within the post. I do still insert a reply comment here and there if I think it's something that can benefit other readers or cause discussion. I was just trying to avoid doing the--"thanks for all the great comments" comment.

I'm still not sure what method I'll ultimately end up with. I just know responding to each comment either via email or in the comments section is serious time commitment. And when I'm rough drafting, I hate when I realize I've spent hours blogging, responding, visiting other blogs then run out of time to do the thing that I'm actually blogging about--writing. So it's hard to find a balance.

Now, if blogger would get with it and add a threaded comments feature, that would make our lives SO much easier.

Also, I'm still in the hallelujah choir about nixing the word verification. I get some spam, but I fixed that problem by setting up comment approval for blogs two days or older. It works beautifully and no stupid words to type in.

Hmm, I may have to blog about this today--we'll see. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

KLM said...

FINE. I just took word verification off my blog comments. Are you happy now, Sierra? Just for you I did this.

I'm totally with you on the too-much busy stuff going on with blog layouts. Lights and blinky things and music. Some of them induce seizures. I have a tender sensibility. I can't take too much visual stimulation.

And hey, what is this comment over at LT's blog. "KRISTEN gets to read your ms, but not me?" What's up with THAT? What am I, chopped liver and caramelized onions? Sheesh.

Tahereh said...

this is actually really, really helpful to read. i'm still loath to get rid of word verification because i don't have time to monitor all kinds of spam -- and even the remote chance that i might get makes me wary.

but this is super interesting!

thanks for your thoughts, love! (AND I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU ON THE BACKGROUND STUFF, omg.)

(maybe we're just aesthetic junkies?)

Lt. Cccyxx said...

Blog pet peeves:
1) Comment moderation for no apparent reason, with comments taking days (sometimes) to show up.
2) When the blog author never interacts with the commenters.
3) When the blog author talks in bizarre internet code-speak (e.g., "teh d00ds is my sockpuppetweasels!!!1!ELEVENTY!")
4) When the blog author includes links in lieu of explanation for their main points
5) When the blog is too cliquey, appears to be premised on some inside joke you had to be reading in 2005 to understand, or commenters spend most of their time trying to guess each other's race, sex, and ethnicity.

Roh Morgon said...

As a fairly new blogger, I've been wondering what the accepted protocol is for responding to comments.

Thanks for posting on this!

Crystal Cook said...

This is a great post, I'm always looking for ways to be a better blog host :)
I think it's very interesting to see how different people feel about responding to comments. I think you just have to do what works for you, because everyone has a different opinion about this!

And I really hate word verification, and had it off my blog for a long time but just put it back on. I woke up one day to 14 spam comments on my blog and then the next week the exact same 'robot' or whatever it is did it again! I was so ticked that I put that baby right back on.

And, sorry for the ranting, but it's nice to meet you!

Natalie Murphy said...

Ahhh! YES! #2 and #3!! I refuse to read big blocks of text. REFUSE! It takes too long, it hurts my eyes, and... there are a billion other reasons that I wont get in to ;)

And about the email vs. comments thing... I'm not too sure where I fall. I know I've commented on a few blogs and received emails instead of a comment, but that was because the person had something personal to say or wanted to make a joke that some other bloggers may not understand. Those, I think are fine. But I do like seeing some interaction on the post.

Good post Sierra =)

Travener said...

My pet blog peeve is that I live on the West Coast and by the time I read some blogs (like Roni's) there's already 40 comments, so what's the point of adding my two cents' worth and so I don't, and then I am afraid that my bloggy pals will think I'm not reading their blogs when I am, and then no one will read my blog, then I'll be even more bummed than I am (because my best friend is moving to Singapore after last year my other best friend moved to Sacrafuckingmento), and my world will be even gloomier than it is.

Plus bloggers who write really long sentences.

Simon C. Larter said...

You may have noticed that I am not following my new rule, and I am responding in the comments section again. This is because I like to keep people guessing, especially my nemesis.

It is not--and I'll repeat the "not" for emphasis here--NOT because I changed my mind due to commentary by said nemesis, although said nemesis's comments were agreed with by a number of other bloggers (Michele Emrath, Elizabeth Spann Craig, L. Diane Wolfe, etc.). Nope.

Anyhow. I do (mostly) agree with your list here. (And, as always, you can assume my agreeing with you is mainly to induce a false sense of security.)

Anne R. Allen said...

These are such great rules, Sierra. I wish I'd known them when I started blogging a year ago. Blogger should post them.

I never did much dialoging with commenters until recently, when I realized a lot of my favorite bloggers posted responses in their comment threads. But commenting through email sounds like more work for no particular benefit.

And I'm so with you on bloated graphics and silly apologies. Anything that wastes my time. There's nothing wrong with posting once a week, or once a month, as long as you're consistent. In fact, I'm more likely to follow the less frequent posters these days because I don't have time to read many more every-dayers.

And if your blog takes too long to load because of videos and fancy pictures and graphics--I'm gone before I can find out if you have anything to say. I can't let blogging take up any more of my writing time than it already does.

Sierra Godfrey said...

These are such great comments, guys. And in case you missed it, Roni posted her own thoughts on the issue over at her blog today. Check it out.

I want to respond to what a few of you said -- not because I feel that I have to as blog host, but because you all bring up such awesome points (minus the nemesis, of course).

Roni-- my main concern about responding to comments via email is that newcomers won't know that policy and may be put off commenting because they don't see you interacting.

kristen -- Ha HA, I'm so glad you took of word verification and also that you agree about the seizure-inducing graphics. And yes, you are carmelized onions, now that you mention it.

Tahereh -- yes, we are aesthetic junkies, but because we're designers we know design theory which is white space rules.

Lt. -- Love the list, great point about the ridiculous inner circle clique-speak.

Roh and Crystal, thanks for stopping by, commenting, and following -- I love you.

Crystal, I hear you about the spam. I've never had any without word verification so I'm lucky I guess (or else my blog isn't worth spamming. What! Spammers! You don't want to sell me penile enlargements and an offer to move vast sums of money to an offshore account in Africa? Screw you!)

Travener-- I COULD NOT AGREE MORE about the west coast thing! Since I've been blogging and tweeting, I have noticed that the East coast is where things happen! I always was partial to the west coast but now I can't think of a good thing apart from the open land space.

Simon, I did notice that you stopped following the email comment rule, and marked that in my Win column.

Anne - You nailed it -- anything that wastes a reader's time. One could say that reading blogs is a waste of time, but it isn't -- it's CONTENT. Your comment is the quintessential rule of web design: hold the reader for as long as possible. That means making things easy to read, find, and understand. I feel another post coming on this topic :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Great suggestions all around!

I'm definitely with you on the "be short, use headings" one. There are a couple blogs out there I enjoy from time to time, but when I check the day's post and see it's a giant sea of gray text, I often move on without reading.

Terrific blog post!

Amalia T. said...

I think you're right about how responding in the comments section definitely makes the blog more of an open chat/conversation than responding by email, but I don't really mind it either way. I'm still not big time enough to need to worry about it too much! :) A problem I look forward to having!!

This is a great rulebook, Sierra! Nicely thought out!

Meghan Ward said...

Great advice, Sierra. And I think you know my pet peeves!:

Sierra Godfrey said...

Yep, thanks for the reminder link Meghan! I loved that post.

Thanks Tawna and Amalia.

Natalie Murphy said...

Oh, I thought of another pet peeve of mine! It annoys me when music starts randomly playing on a blog. Now, classical music is fine, because it's generally not too loud and it's nice to listen to. However, when people start randomly screaming at me through my speakers, it startles the crap out of me, LOL!

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