My friend (let us call him E) and I were catching up on stories a few days ago. Somewhere during the course of that conversation, we discussed blogs, bloggers and blog comments. He mentioned that a lot of people told him they found his posts too intelligent to comment on. They did not want to make fools of themselves and therefore, hesitated to click on the button. E, being a nice and friendly guy, was quite surprised. I treasure my comments as long as they do not try and sell bamboo curtains or cheap ink cartridges. So what if they just want to say 'nice post E'? I don't mind that at all Echo he added. Right, right. Nice has popular patrons and it is a nice word indeed. E's blog (which I shall not link to here because E will show up in my city soon and I do not want to be bashed up for gross exaggeration as soon as we meet) is a creative space and it is gratifying to have people click on the comment button and call your creative post nice even if they do not want to add anything more specific.
Having said that nice post is not such a bad line unless you see it a hundred times over, it is indeed difficult to thank all the nice people calling your post nice. So you may not respond to comments on your blog at all but you may encourage readers to return by posting great stuff day after day. What happens if you are the kind who posts short, crisp paragraphs with great links? And if you also have a huge readership, you may just put up a no comments policy and add an email link (with mailing rules) so that your audience can reach you if they have something relevant to say to you. If you are really the kind of person who can change the course of things, you will juggle a busy life and plenty of comments and still be loved by all. Or if you are a twenty something girl with an email link and comments enabled in your blog, you will get plenty of attention that you are not really looking for!
The point then is this: comments are a good thing until they become too much of a good thing. Comments that are posted with care add tremendous value to a post. They serve as good starting points for many new friendships, inspire satisfying discussions, motivate bloggers to continue their lonely nightly efforts on the computer, and make blogging a truly social activity.
So what becomes of the people who run away without commenting on E's blog? They are the Lurkers - the ones who keep coming back to his blog but never ever comment for fear of sounding stupid. The blogosphere, like the big bad world around us, is a scary place for people who are anxious in a social setting. On the one hand, the freedom to write what you think without trapping yourself and your readers in the curves and angles of your physical frame is a liberating feeling. On the other hand, the world of blogs is still a social world where the ones who talk the best are the ones who rule the roost. And the ones whose words roll into lumps in the throat are as anxious of sounding stupid without a face as they would with one.
Lurkers are far more common than you would give them credit for. They are the ones behind the numbers that make you grin in pleasure. They are also the ones who have a recognized medical problem. So the next time you hear that remark dear E, think of your site statistics and smile please.