Friday 15 May 2009
When I visit a blog for the first time, if it looks even remotely interesting to me, I subscribe to its RSS feed with the plan of reading articles the blog publishes for awhile to see if I like what the blogger is doing. Maybe other blog readers set the bar higher initially, and don’t subscribe until they’ve had multiple positive experiences with a blog before adding it to their feedreader. I’m not sure, but if the overall topic of a blog is important to me (local search, copywriting, SEO, usability, humanitarian issues) I’m quite willing to give the blogger the benefit of the doubt and a chance to engage me as a loyal reader.
Then, every few months, I go through my Bloglines account and delete those feeds that lead me to blogs that have failed to engage me for a protracted period of time. I’ve started to see some patterns in why I hit delete and this is my list of most common reasons why I typically unsubscribe to blogs.
This is something I have witnessed both on new blogs and on very popular ones as well. A blogger writes a great post that evokes a response from readers who then comment. And then the comments are totally neglected by the blogger. He doesn’t bother to respond. I know, on blogs that receive vast numbers of comments, it’s not realistic to expect the blogger to respond to each and every one of his reader’s comments, but hey, if you write a post that get 3, 5, 10 comments and you just ignore them all, what is the point of you having people comment at all?
I have left remarks, asked questions, praised and condemned and received zero response from authors. If this happens once or twice, I don’t really care, but if this is the blogger’s habitual attitude toward the readers who have taken the time to attempt to converse, then there is no point, really, in attempting to participate. I feel that the blogger doesn’t really care about what he is doing, and I am left with an apathetic feeling about his writing. I hit delete.
It’s my feeling that if you enable comments on your posts, it’s only civil to respond when people comment. If you are just too busy to acknowledge your readers, then maybe you shouldn’t be blogging.
Some people live in a world of big shots and…for lack of a better term…little shots. They would be too shy, too overawed, too nervous to write directly to a ‘big shot’ blogger even if a post has really gotten their attention in a special way. Sometimes, someone writes something that is so great, I want to reach out to them personally and commend them, ask questions, introduce myself, get to know them a bit better and, essentially, give a special recognition to the fact that something they have written has really struck me as exceptionally good or important.
On several occasions, I have received no reply from the blogger after taking the time to find their address, write to them, introduce myself, etc. When this has happened, I feel a bit puzzled and wonder if maybe their email account blocked my address as unknown, wonder if they went on vacation, are really, really busy, are sick, are lying wounded in a ditch somewhere. You get the idea…I make excuses for them because, to be honest, I feel some kind of instinctual embarrassment when I make a friendly overture to someone who then does not respond at all.
So, if I love this person’s writing, perhaps I continue to loyally read their work. Their writing comes off as so genuine, so informative, so worthy of my time. A few months or a year goes by, and they write something else that excites me so much, I send them another email, filled with my interest in them and their work. By this point, I may have forgotten that I tried to speak to them once before to no avail. But when, again, I receive no reply to my kind epistle, I tend to remember. I say, “Oh, this is the guy/gal who didn’t respond to me that other time. They must be too much of a big shot to be courteous or interested in a non-big-shot like me.”
After a couple of experiences like this with the same blogger, I find I can no longer read their work without associating that negative personal feeling with it. I actually feel a bit humiliated for awhile when I think of it, and then I write them off as probably not worth worrying about. And, I delete their feed from my feedreader.
It’s weird when this happens with people who seem to live near the center of the industry spotlight. You come across their work everywhere you go. I’ve even had well-known bloggers who have ignored me later email me to sell me their products or get me to vote for something they’ve written in an SM platform. I feel embarrassed, at that point, for them. They have no idea, I suppose, how phony they appear to me doing this. As I sit there reading their ‘friendly’ appeal for my business or vote, I have to realize that, yes, indeed, they’ve got my email address in their database because I wrote to them. Those emails they never troubled themselves to respond to. Ugh. So uncomfortable.
Some people have pet peeves with blogs that are updated too infrequently. This doesn’t actually bother me that much. Several of my favorite bloggers only post once or twice a month, but I still read everything they write (you know who you are!). Quality counts more than quantity with me. Other people don’t like blogs that disagree with their own beliefs or business views. Personally, I benefit from encountering a wide variety of people and opinions. Sometimes, after giving a blog a trial run, I find the content simply doesn’t interest me enough and I notice that my feedreader has 100 unread posts in it from that source. Time to move on with no hard feelings.
Hard feelings, for me, come when bloggers ignore what is, ostensibly, the goal of the blogging format: to write interactively. Newspapers have lately attempted to mimic the blogging format by enabling comments on news pieces. But I have never yet seen a single journalist return to a piece he has written and respond to those comments. Maybe they do in papers I don’t read, or maybe they think the comments are there so that community can build itself without oversight, moderation or participation from the author of the pieces the public is reacting to. It’s rather fuzzy what the point of it is, but real blogging clearly has the point of interactivity between author and readers and to see that ignored in the face of comments being enabled really does bug me. To see great questions go unanswered, kind remarks go unacknowledged, opposing views go unobserved strikes me as a tremendous waste of opportunity.
And on the personal side, if a blogger’s writing inspires the people who read it, I just don’t think it cuts it anymore to hide behind an aura of being too big of a superstar to respond to readers who reach out to say, “hello, I admire your work. I have some questions.”
I’ve had real famous people (well-known authors, CEOs, scientists, etc.) respond with genuine, personable interest to my attempts to converse with them. Dedicated people seem to share a quality of being always interested in talking about their subject with others who share their interests or concerns. The acquaintances and friendships I’ve formed with real famous people have thrown an unappealing light on bloggers who have attained the heights of a few hundred or thousand subscribers and have subsequently lost their manners.
You just never know how those things are going to play out. The stranger who writes you a note about your blog and tells you he’s working on becoming a full-time SEO could turn out to be one of the most gifted new people in your industry. Or even just the nicest. If you neglect even the most basic of good manners in returning his greeting or wishing him good luck, who knows what you may lose? Maybe future work. Maybe your reputation as a good guy. Maybe a degree of your own self-respect.
All of us are busy. I have tasks to fill every hour of my day. I hope I’ve never been too busy, though, to meet good will with good will. As a blogger, I think it’s my responsibility to foster a pleasant atmosphere in which all can speak, all can learn, all can participate. Equality is good for business and our relationships with everyone. Don’t you agree?