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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How Do People Interact with Blogs?

I just encountered a situation where I honestly wasn't sure what I should do. A comment was made by Paul Coyne on my post Corporate Learning Laggards? I think the comment is so good that I'm writing a blog post to respond to the comment. Normally, I would just write a comment back, but my belief is that most people (including myself) don't read the comment stream unless it is a really interesting post OR if someone specifically posts that there is a really interesting comment stream. Thus, I'd hate for readers of my blog to miss out on something that I think is pretty interesting. At the same time, this feels lame?

Part of the issue is that I have only rudimentary stats on readership of my blog and I'm making some assumptions about how people read my blog and how they participate. More specifically, I have a rough idea of how many people subscribe (500) based on a crude extrapolation of feedburner, feedblitz, and bloglines numbers. This could be way off, but I don't really have a good way of tracking. I also know that I get about 200 visitors a day to the blog site itself, but very few maybe 50 will come through an RSS reader. Thus, most people do what I do:
Most blog readers read entries in the RSS reader and never touch the blog.

This is why I argued previously that You Should Provide Full Feeds on your blog so that readers don't have to visit. However, the net effect is that if this is reality, then:
Most comments are buried in the blog - out of sight of most blog readers.

However, I could be completely wrong about how people interact with blogs. Obviously, if you are seeing this post, you read blogs. But, the question is: How do you Interact with Blogs?
  • Do you only read the RSS feed?
  • Do you ever click to the blog post itself (as opposed to the links it provides - which would be on another blog)? If so, why did you click?
  • Do you ever leave comments?
  • Do you ever read comments? If so, how did you find them?
Important: if you are a person who normally doesn't click through and leave comments, its okay to do it this time. :)

And if you are a blogger with insights into this more generally, I would love to hear it.


HowCron said...

After doing a 30 second self-reflection on my blog habits, I realized that 90% of my reading is RSS only. The two blogs where I actually read the comments regularly are both political sites. I guess that when a subject or post is "debatable" and I happen to have a specific viewpoint, I tend to be more interested in what other readers/commenters have to say. But most of the time, I just read the post and move on.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I scan a ton of RSS feeds either via Attensa/Outlook, Thunderbird or NewsBreak on my SmartPhone. If I see something of interest (like this post) I flag it for later or I open the blog itself. I sometimes read the comments if it is a hot topic like the Blackboard patent. I rarely post a comment...depends on the day, time, or mood I am in ;)

Comments are usually easy to find in a blog. However, the Blogger comment system only allows other registered Blogger users to comment. If you switch over the Google will get a lot more comments because anyone will be able to comment then.

Another issue with comments on some blogs is that they get out of hand. Take a look at some of the comment threads and length on Scobelizer. Most of the comments would be better off in a forum or message board. Who will develop the first Blog/Forum integrated system???

Anonymous said...

You are right. Personally, I read most (70-80%) of my subscribed blogs via the built-in RSS aggregator of Flock. However, when I read the entire post, really visiting the blog, I usually read comments too..

Tony Karrer said...

This is really helpful for me. Thanks for the comments.

FYI - Stephen Downes created a post about this and said:

I comment on other peoples' blogs fairly frequently. It seems a nice thing to do, and I know people appreciate them, even if I am critical. But Tony Karrer has a point. If most people read blogs via RSS (and these days, it seems, they do) then th comments are invisible. You have to click on the link to view them, and people don't click on the link. I too would like to see the comments come through in the feeds. The technology is fairly simple, but mostly it's a problem of timing and flow. I can't imagine RSS readers want to see the post again every time there's a comment. But I could justify a daily re-release of each item on the site that attracted a new comment.

miranda said...

I am a convert to "Full Feeds" - and do read them, then if I want to comment I'll go to the blog itself.
I also have your blog on my Google home page - and just the titles are enough to remind me of the content.
Interestingly enough, I read the comments to find out who is commenting on your blog - bit of a reference check really I think.
This is the first time I have commented though!!

I am a student (Master in Online Learning) so I make a real point of reading as much and as many as I can. Over the last few months I have cut the number down to a few that I think are right on the button.

Anonymous said...

I read most blogs through RSS feed but have a few blogs that I read daily by visiting them directly. On the blogs that I read by accessing the site, I often read the comments. When I think I may have something to offer, I'll post a comment.

I do interact with comments made on my own blog. If it's something I can respond to quickly, I'll just respond in the comments section. If I think the item requires more attention, I'll generate an entirely new post around it. Similar to what you did here...

Anonymous said...

I use Bloglines and read from Bloglines almost exclusively. I rarely click over to the actual blog. I will look at the comments for a post if the blog has specifically asked a question or asked for comments (such as you did in this post).

I have noticed that some blogs have a link to the comments in the feed and some offer a feed just for their comments (maybe Jay Cross?).

Jim Belshaw said...

Interesting discussion, Tony.

Partially reflecting my own current knowledge base as well as my email traffic volume and range of interests, I don't use RSS feeds. I actually prefer to go direct to sites that I know. Following a suggestion you made earlier (see your influence!), I have blogs listed under favourites as current (try to check daily), weekly and archive.

Because I write on a range of issues, I use regular blog searches to check other writing in the blogosphere. Given that I do site visits rather than rely on feeds, I will always check comments on posts of interest.

I try to comment in reasonably regular fashion on posts of interest because I know that people do appreciate comments. Where people comment on my blogs (reasonably rare)I will normally check their blogs and if appropriate post a return comment. I also run regular stories on my own blogs pointing to posts or blogs of interest both for my own reference and to give inbound links.

Overall, I have found the comment process one of the most valuable parts of the blogging experience.

Anonymous said...

I find Jim Belshaw's comment interesting. He says "intersting discussion". In what way is it a discussion? I read a series of reactions to a monologue, this reply is the first that makes any reference to any other than the original post, and most of them read more like monologues.
People may read the comments but I find it hard to see the comment function as a "conversation". The much-touted "conversation" in the blogosphere tends to have this characteristic, and reminds me of the kinds of "discussion" you see on panel discussions on TV, which are closure to serial monologues.
I remember when Stephen used to really discuss things, rather than comment on them, back on the DEOS list. He has been absent blogging recently though he has returned a little in the past few weeks. I like the blog, but I miss those discussions. The blog "conversation" has little resemblance, and the effect on e-list participation is a pity, I think.

Tony Karrer said...

In regards to whether this is a discussion or not - this is probably not a good example because this is intended to be a bunch of answers to "how do you read a blog?" I've mostly tried to stay out of it and will likely post something later. I think this is a different kind of interaction - and wouldn't qualify as a normal discussion pattern.

On the other hand, if I get a bunch of individual responses, then I post a follow-up, that does represent a sharing of information and ideas. What would you call that? Is there something wrong with doing that?

Maybe you are picking on Jim's choice of word. I personally "discuss" things with Jim all the time through our blogs - so I personally wouldn't think anything about his choice of term given the broader discussion.

At the same time, it is an interesting observation that this is a very different kind of pattern with intentionally little or no interaction between commenters.

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Rina Tripathi said...

Amazngly the people at Yahoo 360, and most of them are Americans, not only read comments but we have long drawn discussions too. Here it is a profession related blog but I think in a more personal blog you tend to get more responces. Reaching 41,000 hits my blog has very interesting comments for almost all posts and I interact regularly with people exchanging views on politics, environment or just about anything.
Chek it if you think it can be otherwise!;_ylt=AvnA5jC1v95f.fie2BuZN5PkdeJ3?cq=1

Ann Marie said...

Hi … I’ve been a blogger for most of the last 8-9 years though I’ve not been doing it recently. I was overwhelmed by the number of entries found by using the RSS feed, so I now only read blogs when my searches through Google point me to one of interest. I don’t really want to subscribe to something that might be relevant to my e-learning needs only periodically. I just don’t have the time. Sometimes I have left comments – especially if the entry says something to me that’s important – as well, usually if I’m going to write a comment I will read others’ comments first as what seems like a matter of polite practice.

I published a book which was a recap of my blog from the first year. I didn’t include the comments because I didn’t want to mess with copyright – nor was I ever inundated with comments. I like the practice you address in collecting comments as a source of “next discussion.” Most of my blogging at that point of life was through the process of reflection about my life. At this point of my life – that many years down the pike, I’m a fairly new student earning my Master’s in Adult Education specializing in e-learning, technology and design. There is a lot more that I don’t know than I do know. I’ll definitely be studying your page of links about just starting out. I do believe in social communication in furthering human connectivity.

In the past, there has always been the question that although generically I like to share my thinking processes and conclusions – but because some of the elements were very personal, it didn’t suit my needs to have everyone I knew at a professional level reading where I was at. I’m interested in starting out again in blogging, but perhaps be more focused on the issues closer to the interests I’m studying – in particular with e-learning with other quilters. Not lame! Just my particular interest in life.