Can You Build Community Without Comments?

1382003 63022620 300x183 Can You Build Community Without Comments?

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What Is The Value of A Comment?  I’d argue that question is a universal truth/question among bloggers. I’d also argue that comments aren’t currency and are not indicative of whether a blog is successful or not.

But I am not the sort of fellow who can just look at a rock without wondering what is underneath or what the view looks like from on top of it. Heck, if I were the chicken the answer to why I crossed the road would be because I could and because curiosity drove me to see what it was like over there.

When it comes to blogging I can’t help but spend a few minutes trying to determine what I love about it and why. The obvious part is that I love writing and I love the learning that comes from blogging about my thoughts, feelings and ideas.

But the communal aspect drives me too. The more I think about it the more obvious it becomes to me. But it isn’t just me. Other bloggers are writing about it. Other bloggers are thinking about it.

Can you build community without comments? I don’t think you can. More on this in a few.

Technology and The Remote Office

I have spent the last six years working out of a home office. I rarely spend any time in a traditional office setting. My days of wearing a suit and tie are many years behind me. Most of the time my work attire consists of a t-shirt and shorts, no shoes.

For the past two years my sole companion has been the family dog. Other than that unless school is out I spend most of my time working alone. Twitter, Facebook and blogging have replaced going to lunch with colleagues and or hanging out around the water cooler.

Sometimes there is a reason for me to head into an “office.” I throw on a collared shirt and some khaki slacks and take care of whatever needs to be done. It is a nice change of pace and a reminder that one day I may be back in that situation on a regular basis, but that is neither here nor there.

I do very well by myself. I am a good companion. I never interrupt myself and I laugh at all my own jokes, but I would be lying if I said that I never notice the quiet.

Can You Build Community Without Comments?

The benefit and beauty of working in solitude is that it has really helped to cement my belief that comments are a big part of building the community that surrounds and supports a blog.

I love and appreciate the personal feedback. It is great to get all the emails and to hear from people.  I value that and am grateful for your time, but that sort of communication plays a different sort of role in building the community. It helps provide some guidance for what people would like to read about and an overview of where they would like things to go.

The comment section is different. The comment section is where you get to meet other readers. It is where the readers get to interact and that sort of regular interaction leads to community. That sort of interaction builds relationships. The readers get a chance to talk to each other and become friends. It is a big part of what helps to make more people comment on my Facebook fan page.

What About The Lurkers?

Dear lurkers, I am not ignoring you. I never do and I never forget about you. There are lots of you who read and never comment. I am always curious about who you are and what you think. I wonder why you don’t comment.

I understand that there are lots of different reasons why you might not. I am not judging or criticizing you for not doing so, but I would be grateful if every so often you came out and said hi. Just let me know you are there.

And don’t be afraid to be a part of things here. When I wrote on the FB page today that blogging has introduced and exposed me to some wonderful people I meant it. If you are among the long time readers you know that I don’t just say things like that. I don’t like everyone I have met. I don’t expect that everyone will like me either.

That is ok. We can’t be all things to all people. It is foolish to try and will only create issues. But it is also foolish to ignore the people who sit in silence.

My son hates being called upon in class. He will rarely volunteer to answer a question, but if you ask him to participate he will. He always knows what is going on and most of the time he knows the answers to the question. I tell him that he should participate because he adds value.

You do too.

Reach out and click someone sometime.

The floor is yours now. What do you think? Can you build community without comments? Is there a point to having a blog without comments?

 

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  • http://www.lifeforinstance.com/ Lori

    Hi Jack,
    There’s been a lot of thinking-aloud around the blogosphere lately about the value of comments and the need for the feedback and encouragement that this interaction offers. When I mentioned to my coach that a post I was very excited about elicited very few comments, he thought a moment then said, “But you needed to say it, right?” True. And maybe someone needed to hear it. It takes a lot of courage to be a blogger and my kudos go  out to the bloggers who, on a regular basis, send the invitations and play the music to which many will listen and few will dance.
    The funny thing is, we’re all trying to build community, and as a bunch of bloggers, we’re becoming one.
    I always knew you’d be the one who would lead us into community Jack!
     

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Lori Hi Lori,
       
      I don’t know if I am leading anyone to anything. I am just out here like so many others trying to share a few thoughts and meet people that I can learn and grow with.
       
      It is funny to me because I spent so long feeling more like I was in a cave and did not do a lot to engage or interact with other people. Certainly not like I do now.
       
      I do wonder if more of us are starting to feel more disconnected than we did before. I sort of get that feeling. And maybe that is why so many of us are trying to build the communities we see forming.

  • Crissy Page

    I wrote a post this week asking my readers to “de-lurk”, after feeling somewhat disconnected from my readership. I was amazed at the amount of people who revealed themselves to comment when I made it clear that comments are important to me. http://dearcrissy.com/de-lurk-friday/
     
    So, yes, I think comments are very important, and as we all Tweet and FB more often, it becomes harder to illicit meaningful commentary on blog posts, which is sad and discouraging to the blogger.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Crissy Page Hi Crissy,
      I understand that feeling. Some of my lurkers spend hours going through my posts. I don’t mind it, but I am curious about what they like and what they are looking for.
      I think that given the way things are going it just means that we have to work a bit harder to get more people to come out and say hi.

  • http://markharai.com Mark_Harai

    Hey Jack,
     
    You can certainly build a following without comments; however in regards to community, not so much…
     
    I see nothing but benefits to having both : )

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Mark_Harai We are in complete agreement on this.

      • http://www.lifeforinstance.com/ Lori

         @TheJackB Me too – ditto Mark! Do you notice this theme around the blogosphere lately, or is it just me? :o
        Lori

  • http://www.atlanticweborks.com/ KristenDaukas

    I had a bout of pouting over this last week on my personal blog. I was SO frustrated that the posts that I think are some of my strongest get zero comments, yet the random nothing posts generate several. I’m not sure what I as whining about at this point.. Anyhow.. several of my favorite tweeps gave me the “comments aren’t important” speeches, but I agree with you Jack. I think they are and if I stop by to read someones post, I try to leave at least some kind of comment. I mean,, isn’t that what we all are hoping for? So why not be the one that starts a “trend”. It’s perplexing.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @KristenDaukas Hi Kristen,
      There is no good explanation for that. I have seen it happen here more times than I like. It is frustrating. I wish there was an explanation because then it might make it easier to find a solution…
      Sometimes the easiest way to start a “friendship” with another blogger are the few words you leave on their post or so it seems to me.

    • http://www.lifeforinstance.com/ Lori

       @KristenDaukas Hi Kristen, I have to laugh because I can SO relate to this: “some of my strongest get zero comments, yet the random nothing posts generate several.”It presents a dilemma, doesn’t it? You don’t want to write for comments – you want to write from the heart, but if people show up to a party and no one is there, will they stay? I think that’s the bottom line. You can’t have a great party with wonderful interaction if nobody comes.

      • http://www.atlanticweborks.com/ KristenDaukas

         @Lori Yes! And honestly, I do write from the heart and have for 8 years but the comment thing definitely seems to come in waves. 

  • http://greatguitarsound.blogspot.com/ JD84

    What Is The Value of A Comment? Well I cant help but notice I got a previous comment removed, I take it that someone didn’t like another point of view? I do respect that bloggers have full control over their comment section and can do as they please. When trying to build a “community” with comments it’s interesting to see how some free speech get hindered.. Should the freedom of the press / blog to deny freedom to comment.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @JD84 The First Amendment doesn’t apply to a private blog and it really shouldn’t even be used in the discussion because it is not really relevant.
      If you are looking for a recent comment it might be that LiveFyre hasn’t imported it yet. I am having a bit of a problem with that and am waiting for help from tech support to fix that particular issue,

      • http://greatguitarsound.blogspot.com/ JD84

         @TheJackB Good point, we could probably have a long discussion about that topic, still I feel that with all the recent bills passed whether relevant or not it is something that’s looming overhead.
         
        Well if livefyre have such issues I’m not going to implement it in my blog, I’ll sit back and watch.

        • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

           @JD84 I am sure they’ll fix it, but to be clear I always reserve the right to edit and or delete any comments that appear on this blog.
          It happens rarely, but it does happen.

  • Gabby

    We are 67 and 71 year old voting citizens of this great country of ours. We are lurkers, I guess, but I don’t like that word. We’ve been married 41 years and are retired. We enjoy your blog so much, Mom reads it out loud to stroke victim Dad. We intend to blog ourselves one day once we figure out how to do it. Blogging about blogging are interesting posts and your personal stories are delightful. Thanks for writing.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @gabby 
      Thank you for commenting and visiting with me, I appreciate your time. Lurkers is sort of an odd term. The “traditional” definition might sound a bit negative, but when it comes to blogging that isn’t how I see it.
      Blogging is a wonderful way to express ourselves and meet other people. I think that you’ll find you really enjoy sitting on the other side of the fence as well as this one. Thank you again for your time.

  • Michael

    Hey Jack, 
    I think comments are crucial to a blog whether they’re positive or negative. How is one supposed to know if anything they are writing about is worth reading if there isn’t any feedback? Why one want to be a writer then? It’s as symbiotic a relationship if ever there was one.
    My thoughts from the cheap seats…
     
     

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

      @Michael Symbiotic is a great word and truly representative of how I have come to see blogging.
       
      When I first got into it It never occurred to me that anyone would read what I wrote, let alone comment. I think I was bit a slow to figure that part out, but I am glad that I did.
      The interaction and engagement are wonderful.

  • http://www.vidyasury.com/ Vidya Sury

    Jack, does a “hug” count as a comment? I am one of those lurkers (who lurks on your posts in my feed reader). Now is a good time to tell you how much I enjoy your writing (Thank you, Bill Dorman, because it is through you that I began subscribing to this blog.). 
     
    In fact, I’ve been thinking about the “community” for a while now and working on an appreciation post. I always appreciate the community by sharing posts I enjoy on a daily basis – but I also wanted to write a special appreciation post.  One of the greatest thing about community is how we trust the opinion and likes of someone we like. Call me anything, but when Bill mentioned that he read your blog every day, I had to come over and check it out and subscribed immediately.  That’s the thing I love. Yesterday, someone on twitter said she wants to follow me because a mutual friend showed me love. I love that we can blindly accept someone, and be ready to promote them based on a friend’s word.
     
    And so, yes, those comments are important. (Guilty). My problem is – on days I am overloaded with work and fighting deadlines, I just read the post and share it even though my mind is bursting with something to say. And of course I always have something to say.
      :-) Did I say I love your blog? I do.
     
    Love, Vidya

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Vidya Sury Hello Vidya,
      That is a very sweet comment and I appreciate it. Your point about the value of a referral from a friend is important. I always pay more attention to those. When you trust someone and they tell you to check/try something that carries extra weight.
      I understand what you mean about the time crunch. I go through periods of time where I barely have time to write and virtually none to comment or respond to comments.
      It is a constant juggling act.

  • http://weforgotyounot.wordpress.com/ CrossBetsy

    To me, it’s like throwing a party. You provide the space and the refreshments and hope people loosen up and have a good time, possibly learning here and there. Most of the time I have to stay in the kitchen  (researching and writing and doing everyday life stuff, and where a lot of good conversations are had BTW) making sure there are a lot of refreshments (posts) and leave guests to mingle. I might pop in and out, but they really just need a space to congregate.
    Blogs, however, are like themed parties. Some people who are a bit more introverted might not want to put on a toga, but they love to watch the party as peepers! LOL!

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @CrossBetsy The kitchen is the heart of the house and often the best place to mingle because everyone shows up there.
      The peepers are interesting. Can’t help but wonder about them, it is intriguing.

  • TheJackB

    No worries.

  • Erin Feldman

    I read the post, but I couldn’t think of anything coherent to say. :)

  • TheJackB

    Erin Feldman Works for me.

  • Erin Feldman

    I’m still thinking about my answer. I may have to visit when I’m less tired.

  • http://armentdietrich.com/ ginidietrich

    You laugh at your own jokes. LOL!!
     
    I don’t think you can build community without comments. That’s like saying you can go to a networking event without talking to anyone. Not possible. I know there are lurkers. Lots of them. In fact, 99% of our readers don’t comment. And that’s OK. Because the ones that do provide me enough fodder for future content. 

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @ginidietrich My jokes are funny, why wouldn’t I laugh at them. ;)
       
      We’re in agreement. I don’t think that Seth Godin has a community. Fans and supporters, but community- not so much.

      • http://weforgotyounot.wordpress.com/ CrossBetsy

         @TheJackB I immediately thought of Seth’s blog and how I never read it for that reason alone. I can go to the library and check out a book if I want information. Why have a blog if you done want to attract like-minded people and at least let them interact in the comment section?

  • http://www.slymarketing.com/ Jens

    You might be able to build a community without comments, but as a blogger I love comments. To me, comments are valuable feedback. And as an author it’s like an immediate feedback on what I have written. And sometimes it’s my deepest thoughts, other times it’s just a silly question. But having people to comment on what I write is probably the most important part of blogging. I would be nothing without the people who comment. 
     
    The comments makes me want to keep writing.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Jens 
      That feedback can be quite useful. Sometimes it can be far more useful than the information you can pull from your analytics. It never hurts to have comments that are direct and not subject to interpretation.

  • MatchesMalone

    Based on I believe it’s the Pareto Principle, I’m lucky if I get one or two comments on every post, as I have less than 100 readers, and need to drive traffic from elsewhere in order to generate them.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @MatchesMalone Do you have a plan for doing so?

      • MatchesMalone

         @TheJackB Besides the usual? I have over 5000 followers on Twitter, but that doesn’t translate to readers…

  • http://www.janbierens.com/ JanBierens

    That’s a toughie. Part of me is trying to convince me that blogging without ‘an audience’ is possible, but I know I like interaction on my blog.
    That interaction is just what it is, it’s like having people over in your house. Deep down a blogger craves attention in one form or another. He wants to share his posts he has written with the audience and gets ‘something’ back in the form of interaction / attention. IMO anyways.
    Makes one think, this post.
    // Jan

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @JanBierens 
      Hi Jan,
       
      I really am the guy who will blog with or without comments but I would be lying if I said that I don’t like them. I do. That interaction you mention is useful, important and serves as encouragement.
      The thing that I try hard not to do is only write posts that will generate comments. My goal is to write posts that interest me regardless of whether I think people will respond to it.
      I suppose that the theory is that if i write about what interests me that generate the sort of passion and interest that attracts readers.

  • Motherese

    As a blogger, I do like getting comments. It makes me feel like we’re having a conversation. I still remember the first comment I ever got and the sense of affirmation that my words weren’t just echoing in my head. I’d say my favorite posts are when the comments section gets going in a real discussion, just like the conversation at a fun bar or dinner party.

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Motherese 
      Hello Kristen,
       
      That conversation can be quite stimulating. I like comparing it to a bar or dinner party. There is no doubt that it is quite pleasant as the writer to see people respond to our words with their own comments and or experiences.

  • http://judyleedunn.com/ JudyDunn

    Hey, Jack,
     
    I crave real interactions and conversations BUT I know I have two sets of readers: the players and the spectators. That said, I absolutely love it when readers not only add value to the conversation and make me think in different ways, but it is so gratifying when I see them making connections with each other.  And I’m with @Harleena Singh Sometimes the negative, or the other side to an issue, sparks great debate. I love it when that happens! 

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @JudyDunn  @Harleena Singh 
      Hello Judy,
       
      We’ll always have the players and the spectators but my goal is to see if I can’t encourage some of the spectators to take a turn at bat. Well, it is not my only goal but it is one of them. That interaction leads to some great stuff. Some of the best material comes from an active comment section, but I don’t have to convince you of that.

  • http://www.aha-now.com/ Harleena Singh

    Great topic of discussion Jack!
     
    I think those who are blog owners and blog regularly would mostly like comments, which are a way to let us know that our content is read and liked. How else does one get to know about it? I guess it matters a great deal, whether there is a positive or a negative remark about things written, it shows that people are interested in your work and appreciate your work.  Thumbs-up from my side. :)Thanks for sharing. :) 

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Harleena Singh You touch upon a good point that it is better to see some sort of response than nothing. I don’t mind civil disagreement. I wonder about blogs where there isn’t any dissent.
      It is important to challenge ourselves and our views.

  • thedailyawe

    I guess you can say I’m like your son – I don’t like to be called out. But, I’m here reading. 

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @thedailyawe Thank you. I appreciate your time.

  • Jared Karol

    Great post, Jack. Sometimes I wish I had more comments on my posts and that people would be more active in the discussions and conversations on the words that I have written. But then I notice that my writing was starting to be affected by how many people read/commented on what I had written. It’s like a catch-22, I suppose. As to why I blog in the first place, sometimes I wonder. . .

    • http://www.thejackb.com/ TheJackB

       @Jared Karol Hi Jared,
      It can be a double edged sword. If you receive ‘enough’ comments you reach a point where it becomes quite difficult to respond to them all and then you hope that people understand you are not ignoring them or that you don’t appreciate them.
       
      But a blog without comments isn’t always easy to run either. I am always looking for the happy medium.