One of the most important things I do on this blog is respond to comments

Reading other blogs was one big reason I started this blog. If other people could do it, I sure as heck could too!

I still love blogs. On them, everyday people share their lives and their thoughts. I think we all lead interesting lives and I’m deeply curious about yours. But I won’t just come up to you and ask you to tell me your stories. When you have a blog, I can come visit and get to know you.

At my desk
Where I work on this blog

Sometimes, a post really touches, moves, amuses, or otherwise impresses me and I leave a comment. It is always a little disappointing when it is ignored. It is flat out frustrating when I want to leave a comment, but the blog doesn’t accept them.

I get it, I don’t have a Constitutional right to comment, and nobody owes me a response. But my frustration and disappointment led me to set a policy when I started my blog (way back in 2007): I would allow comments, and I would respond to every comment.

That was easy at first, as few people read what I wrote. By 2015 this blog was getting about 2,500 comments a year, and sometimes comments would turn into long threads going back and forth. It became a little challenging to keep up. So I modified my policy: I’d respond to every initial comment, but I didn’t have to have the last word in every thread.

I think that my reply policy is why this blog gets so many comments, and why the overwhelming majority of comments are of good quality. People really like the interaction.

Having conversations with you in the comments has turned out to be enriching for me, as well. I learn so much from you. Just this morning someone commented on one of my recent Michigan Road posts having done some research with old maps, finding an old alignment of the road I had missed. When I taught myself to develop and scan black-and-white film, several of you offered meaningful advice that shortened my learning curve considerably. And when my oldest child died, your condolences really did help me grieve.

Because of this, I don’t understand bloggers who ignore comments or don’t accept them in the first place.

I make an exception for bloggers who are well known. For whatever reason, commenters come out of the woodwork with axes to grind. But most of the bloggers I follow are everyday people with small followings. My blog gets about a quarter million pageviews a year, which ain’t bad, but that still places it in the “small following” category.

If you blog but don’t allow comments, try turning them on. Try responding to comments. I believe it attracts loyal readers.

I do have a comment policy, finally implemented last year when a couple comment threads got out of hand. Read it here.

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27 thoughts on “One of the most important things I do on this blog is respond to comments

  1. It’s very gratifying to read this post as I’ve occasionally messaged you privately about your comment policies and how you respond to a variety of people and how they respond.

    As a person whose blog you’ve sometimes featured in your weekly roundups, I took those lessons to heart, but my current interests have pivoted me away from posting in a traditional blog format. When I circle back to something more accessible I’ve got no doubt I’ll follow these guidelines.

    Your old roads posts are favorites of mine. It’s been gratifying to occasionally add some information when I’ve been able to. I was shocked to be of some small help when it came to Woodside Drive in Richmond!

    Down the Road is a daily read for me, regardless of what’s up for discussion! So are the comments.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly! Responding to comments is important. If someone takes the time to write a comment, then acknowledging it is the polite thing to do. It shows appreciation and builds a positive community, which is why people will return.

    I also believe that when leaving a comment on someone else’s blog, the comment needs to be positive and ideally contribute to the conversation. I always edit for tone and hope that my words cannot be misinterpreted. I never want my comment to hurt anyone. As a rule, if I wouldn’t make a comment in front of someone’s family, then it probably doesn’t belong on a blog post!

  3. andytree101 says:

    I see a comfy chair and a glass of wine, now that’s civilized blogging! I’m very new to blogging, and have had comments “switched on” from the start, I don’t get many, but those I do, I appreciate very much! Cheers and best wishes Andy

  4. I like that chair you have. Is it comfortable enough? I prefer the old metal office chairs that look similar to yours but have cushioning on the seat, arms, and back rest. I went back and forth with having comments on when I went from having a blog on WordPress to using Jekyll (static site generator, using Disqus for comments) back to WordPress again because I didn’t think I had much of a following and there was email. Now, I leave them on but check them out before they are approved. I reply at least once to each of them and have disabled stars because I prefer people to interact with words rather than using clicks.

    • My chair is reasonably comfortable, although I do have to add a seat cushion and a small pillow for lumbar support. I work from home at this desk and in this chair, so I’m here 9 hours a day weekdays, and my back isn’t unhappy when I knock off.

  5. I have definitely found commenting, both responding to stuff on my own page and commenting on other people’s stuff – to be the best way to interact and up the traffic on my page. It’s just a nice personal touch. I know when I first started my blog, I was very worried about “trolling” and considered not allowing comments, but I’m very glad I did in the end. I wonder if that’s why some other people don’t allow them?

  6. Greg Clawson says:

    Jim, I appreciate your policy for commenting along with a personal reply.

    I was always taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say keep your mouth shut.

  7. I’ve always allowed comments on my blogs, but due to years of spam, I moderate them all. It was a pain in Blogger, but easier with WordPress, as I can use the mobile app to do it. I try my best to respond to my comments, but don’t always. I do appreciate them all, and am often frustrated by blogs that don’t accept comments (or just ignore all of them.)

  8. Man, now I’d almost feel bad commenting, knowing I’m just taking up more of your time! It makes me want to say something meaningful but then a lot of the time I just don’t, so I end up leaving a like instead. And that goes double for my own blog; I at least want to acknowledge someone else’s comment with a like.

  9. Because of the time difference between here and there, by the time I check your blog in the morning there are already a large number of comments. And someone has usually said what I thought about saying.
    I always read the comments here because they are civilised. I gave up reading comments on bigger sites because the default tone is Nasty.

  10. Amen! I don’t get many comments on my blog but always enjoy interacting with folks. Nothing is more frustrating than having something to say and not being able to do it – especially when you want to ask a question or have something nice to say.

    Thanks for setting the bar high for other bloggers!

      • I try to always reply to comments as well and have a handful of people that I hear from regularly. Many of my readers are friends who I interact with via other means. Truth is, I haven’t really tried to grow my blog the way most people do, instead viewing it as a fun little creative exercise. Perhaps I just need to invest a little effort.

        Whatever you are doing works so keep it up!

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