Blog comments and treasure troves

Happy New Year.  It’s January 1, and traditionally time for making resolutions and commitments.  (I got stuck in wondering what the difference is between a resolution and a commitment and found this interesting sounding book, The Logic of Commitment).

Thinking about resolutions, my mind wandered to my very frequent thought that I must/should/ought to respond to people who comment on my blogs.  Each of my blogs ends with the invitation, ‘Let me know’, and often people do.  I get comments posted on LinkedIn, on my own website and through emails.   I read them all, they’re helpful to me at least, and I appreciate getting them.

I feel churlish and anxious in not replying to the public ones – though I invariably reply to email comments.  There’s really only one reason I don’t reply: I don’t have enough time to give each one a thoughtful response.   And a quick ‘thank you for your comment’ response, doesn’t seem sufficient.

Now, I’m wondering if I should I resolve (or commit) to respond to any comments I receive in 2019, (and what to do about all the ones I haven’t responded to in 2018 and before that) or alternatively stop saying ‘Let me know’, or switch off the comment box and not feel the churlishness (but also lose the value in the comments) or come up with something else that isn’t quite so binary.

To see what others do I took a look at HBRs most popular 8 articles this week.  Only one of the 8 had no comments. The rest had between 3 and 16 with an outlier one which had 25.  Blog authors varied in whether they responded or not.  Most did not. Only 2 of the 8 blogs had a response from the author in which they were responding to a posted comment.

Then I looked at what the prevailing advice is.  There are lots of differing views on the pros and cons of responding to comments. A well-balanced piece discussing disabling the comments feature, with data to support, asks the question ‘With no clear consensus from the content marketing community, how are you supposed to decide what to do with the comments on your own blog?’ and concludes ‘Since blog comments don’t have a huge effect on your traffic, they don’t have a huge effect on your revenue either. …  Comments can be used to further relationships with your existing readership, provide social proof, or to elicit feedback. … it is completely up to your own personal preference [whether you disable comments or not].’

An idea I have, that is somewhere between not responding to any, responding to some/all, or switching off the comments feature is to take an arbitrary date – maybe a month after I’ve posted the blog and at that point draw on all the comments to synthesise/interpret them in relation to the blog topic. And that activity might become a blog topic in itself.

I came across a piece in the Journal of Organisation Design that does that, for a suite of journal articles: ‘An Interpretative Synthesis in Three Themes’ where author Richard Burton says ‘I was asked by JOD to monitor the discussion and identify the broad organization design themes that emerged [from the inaugural issue of the Journal of Organisation Design]’.

Maybe doing that for each blog that had a reasonable number of comments would be useful to organisation design practitioners (and others)?

Aiming to get to my view on the answer to this question I took a look at the 52 blogs I wrote during 2018 – one per week.  I post each one on my own website and on LinkedIn.  Looking only at LinkedIn, the blogs that got both the most comments and the most views were:

The blog Agile: is it hype? got a higher number of comments, but not as many views as some other blogs – 29 (265).

I re-read A Big Issue and all the comments it got. It’s about systems thinking.  I followed all the links and references people commenting have put in.  It turns out to be a treasure trove of views, ideas and references on systems thinking from a diversity of perspectives. The trove includes:

On Pete’s blog, Bruce Kay – someone following the discussion and commenting himself – summarises the discussions saying, ‘Thank you all for a very entertaining and illuminating discussion on the merits of Systems Thinking. In the following paragraphs I captured some notes … ‘

Also, Pete fostered the discussion by responding to every comment in supportive and questioning ways which kept it going.

My conclusion to this limited research is that thoughtful comments provide a rich source of additional information/resources on a blog topic.  Someone fostering the discussion by responding to and extending each comment adds richness. (I’ve done this when I’ve been teaching on-line courses but not seen it done before on blogs).  If there are sufficient comments it might be worth synthesising and interpreting them.

I’m still thinking over how I should approach the comments on my own blogs.  Any ideas?  Let me know.

Image: No comment graffiti