Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blogging, Comments and Manners Online

When I first started my blog, I got a pointed lesson in blogging etiquette when, after sending a fellow blogger an email in which I praised the blogger's blog, I received a rather tart reply to the effect that I should have left my remark in a comment, since this person did after all leave a comment on my blog and didn't I know that it's poor manners to not return a comment. Oh, wow. And here I was thinking I had given this person a nice compliment- but apparently that wasn't good enough, and I had failed to meet my obligations. I didn't know I had any! Is it good manners to point out someone else's breach, even when that person meant to be kind? What is the well-mannered blogger to do?

For that matter, what are our obligations to other bloggers? What constitutes good manners in the blogging world? Responding to every comment? Visiting every blog that visits yours? As a new blogger that email created this anxiety that I had to visit every single person who visited me, that I had to respond to every single comment. As I found out, nobody has that kind of time.

So how to strike a balance? How to manage all this without hurt feelings? I post pretty regularly about five to six times per week, and there are people who comment on (nearly) every post, and I love them. But unless they also post five to six times per week and I can comment on every single post, I can't catch up in terms of raw numbers. Is it enough to visit once or twice a week? To comment because I have something to say, and not just to even up some balance sheet? Over time, I've come up with a very informal policy: I make an effort to visit the blogs that visit mine, to keep up on the blogs I follow in my reader, and to respond to direct questions. I leave them in my inbox until I've done something with them but if I have six comments from one person and they've posted once in the last week, I'll read and comment on that entry but not wait for five more to call it even. And, whatever's left over in the inbox at the end of the month gets deleted. And as hard as I try to stay current, I know that ultimately it may be a losing battle; there's always going to be more content out there than there is time to read it.

There's also the issue of what you say. People who leave rude, negative comments on a book when I've reviewed it positively? (Oh you liked that? I hated that!) Or say mean things about someone who died who they didn't like? If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I'm open to hearing opposing views, but I don't need to know you visited if you're going to be flat-out unpleasant.

Then there are people whose blogs I read and comment on regularly who I don't think have ever commented on mine. Do I continue to read them, even though those bloggers have shown no interest and no sense of reciprocity? Well, I like the blog, so yes, probably, even though honestly it can feel disappointing. Not because I think they should comment now and then but because I wish they would. After all, I enjoy their blogs- why don't they like mine? *Sniff* But I think keeping track of who comments and who doesn't, and how that stacks up against who I read is petty, and since I have no right to demand anything, I'll just have to respect other bloggers' rights to set their own policies.

There's also the issue of email etiquette, a topic about which I could write another post. From time to time I'll get an email from someone asking me for advice of some kind- on library school, or blogging, or something. Sometimes it's a friend, or a friend of a friend, or sometimes it's someone who reads my blog. Either way it's very flattering- who doesn't love being asked for advice, right? So I try to respond promptly (within a few days) and I do my best to give good answers but I've noticed that in nearly every case (except for one personal friend who emailed me for advice about library school), the person asking the question never writes back to say thank you. Now that's what I call bad manners. And if you think it doesn't matter, wait to see how far laziness like that gets you in the long run. I'm not perfect- I've made every mistake in the book when it comes to etiquette, and I've suffered the consequences- but I'm learning.

So, when it comes to commenting on blogs, let's just say we'll do the best we can to show interest in others, appreciate when others show interest in us and try to resist the urge to keep tabs on who has and hasn't reciprocated this or that. Don't complain to me that I haven't commented enough on your blog. Nothing will do more to encourage me to ignore you completely. And please, if someone takes time out of his or her life to answer your unsolicited questions, thank that person for his or her time and attention to your concerns. Why make a bad impression when it's so easy to make a good one?