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Saturday, August 05, 2006

How to comment like a king (or queen!)



Commenting has truly been the fuel that has fired readership for my blog and opportunity for me. It is also part of being a responsible blogger in general.

If one is an expert, I guess they may just want to keep their "wisdom" on their own blog, but the true conversation participants are those who contribute to the discussion wherever the blog posting is.

There are several techniques for effective commenting that I try to follow.


1) Write a meaningful comment.


"Yeah" or "Right on" may make the author feel good, but of more interest to conversation participants is "Why do you think it is right on?" If you don't care, don't comment, but if something truly resonates with you and you have something to share, do it!

You show the blog author that "you hear them"

Sometimes authors (like me) feel like they are only posting to themselves. You can actually influence those you admire with a meaningful comment, blog writers change their opinions all of the time. You can also reinforce opinions you agree with when you have real world examples.

You cast a vote on the importance of a topic

I think that as an edublogger, I think commenting is one of the most meaningful tools that we have to show experts where they need to focus. It is like having a vote and when you comment you are saying, "This is important!"

You'd better believe that when a blogger receives an incredible number of comments on a post that they are going to be writing more about that topic! If you want more from them on that, tell them!

You draw attention to your own blog

Remember this, most bloggers (like myself) read the blogs of those who comment on their posts. I want to know more about the person. I want to see who they are, what motivates them, what are they writing?

But remember, although the blogger and other readers will read your work that is not why you comment. You comment because it is part of joining the conversation! It is the right thing to do when you care about a topic!

You become part of the life of the blogger you are reading


Many people like Karyn Romeis, Liz Ditz, and Jen W and others are near and dear to my heart. They comment. And their comments aren't just your run of the mill, they include amazing nuggets of truth that inspire me. These and other good commenters are also in tune to the emotions I portray in my blog and often comment just to encourage me. They are part of my life.

As a blogger, you often scratch your head and say "Where are these readers coming from?"

As I added up the counts of my feeds last night, I realized that I'm approaching 400 subscribers (I just hit 300 two weeks a go). "Who are these folks and am I making a difference?" is always a self-instigated question that I ask.

I love knowing who people are. When I know who the audience is, I can think with them in mind!

(Editors Note: I have found some exciting new bloggers through their comments on this post: Mr. P is an amazing, innovative elementary principal in Tuscon, AZ and Kelly is a new blogger and technology specialist in Illinois. I already knew about Andrew Pass (Current Events to use in class), Langwitches (ESL), and Brain Based Blogging (current educational research as it relates to blogs). Blog-expert, Jo McLay from Australia remains a favorite of mine because she gets in there and participates, thus modeling the strategies she advocates.)

2) If you have written about it, hyperlink to your post.


I have posted several comments on Kathy Sierra's amazing blog, Creating Passionate Users. She is now a top 100 blogger, but I read her way back when. She has a box on the right of her blog that shows the recent comments of those who've said something on her blog. I and other readers look at them.

Each time I've worked to make a meaningful post on Kathy's blog, I've received hundreds of people following the trail back to my blogs. I would like to think that my comments have hit on a vein in the readers of those comments and they'd like to know more about me.

But remember the motivation, I don't comment on Kathy's blog because I want traffic. I comment because I have something meaningful to add to the conversation and I care about the topic. (Sploggers a/k/a spam bloggers comment to get traffic to their blog. Bloggers comment to converse.)

Back in April, Kathy wrote about my blog,

"One of my absolute favorite teaching blogs is frequent-commenter Vicki Davis' coolcatteacher. "
I think that was when I woke up to the impact that commenting was having on others. Meaningful, relevant, real world comments add power to the blogs that you frequent. You give those blogs credibility and you also give yourself credibility as one who participates and truly cares about your topic and doesn't just have selfish aims.

How to hyperlink
Many times, you have to type in the hyperlink by hand. Read my post explaining how to do this in detail, but, here is a "cheat sheet" for those of you who have already read the article.



3)If you have a blog, shar
e some about yourself when you comment

This is so important! I have accounts on typepad, wordpress, and a multitude of other blog engines. When you take the time to set up a profile, you create a "live link" to your blog. When you post anonymously or without a name, you lose so much potential benefit for you and your blog and for the conversation you care about.

So much of my traffic comes from commenting that it is amazing. It took me quite some time to realize this, but it is a fact. You will totally miss out on it if you do not set up profiles.

4) Use a comment tracking service


This is for more advanced bloggers who really want to harness the power of the conversation as well as to keep copies of comments that they've made. If you click through on this post and look at my blog, you'll see a box on the left that says "comments of coolcatteacher." It actually has an RSS feed. This is all of the comments that I have made that I want to track.

CoComment
Have you ever made a comment and checked for days to see if the author or someone else replied? I can go to my coComment site and see all of the places where I've commented and I can read recent comments to those posts.

Tag Cloud for your comments


I also create tags for each comment and cocomment creates a tag cloud (a paragraph of words with the larger words being more frequent in my comments and the smaller ones with less frequence) which makes it easy for me to go back to all of my comments on a certain topic (All of my DOPA comments, for example.)

Are you my neighbor?

When I log in, it shows my "my neighbors." These are people who are commenting on common articles with me. My neighbors currently include: Jeff Utecht (No surprise there), a fellow named Dennis, Madeline, acidzebra, Dajbelshaw, and edublogger. If the commenter includes their blog, I can read their blog. (This is done in the profile by just typing in the full URL of your blog, no HTML is required.)

CoComment integrates easily with Firefox

It was very easy to set up my coComment account and I installed a plug in in firefox so that it tracks my conversations and I tag them automatically. I can also opt to not track a conversation if I don't want to share it on my blog.

Adding a comment box

I also added the box on the left of my blog with the tools they have on their site. I think there are some other commenting services out there, but CoComment really has their act together and I love using them!

5) Don't be afraid to comment.


It is common for a beginner to think, "Well, I won't comment until I know more!" You have an important perspective (see my post: The power of a newbie) that should be shared. When you've been blogging for seven months (like me) your perspective changes as I'm sure it will when one blogs for a year.

I firmly believe that beginners who comment, will receive the feedback that will keep them blogging, push them to excellence, and will make them the Technorati Top 100 blogger of tomorrow. I honestly believe that there is someone reading this post who will far surpass me and will do amazing things, but it all starts with a comment.

6) Teach commenting

Children have a need to converse and will improve their performance when people comment on their work. As Dylan, a third grader, says (hat tip to his teacher and new blogger extraordinaire, Kelly):

Blogs are good; people, kids, or other people in the world can send you a comment. And when somebody sends me a comment I just get happy and send a comment back to him or her. And when I get out of school I feel happy and sad. I feel important to my blog because I wrote things that I wanted to share I with EVRYBODY.
7)Remember the power of words

Editors Note: This section was added after receiving a comment from an ESL teacher in north Florida and demonstrates the power of commenting and how they affect both the person who is the reader and the person who is writing the blog.

I believe that words can hurt worse than a broken bone. (The false sing song we were taught as children is not true!) Each of us as an educator has the power to build up or the power to tear down. Oh, the harm we can cause in our classrooms by a misplaced word.

Beware of Darth Commenter!

I believe that there are some people who are so abrasive and unhappy with themselves that they retreat to the Internet to reak havok on unsuspecting souls. They are like Darth Vader with a light saber. They like to play mind games and newbies are great targets. They know the psychological stress that unkind commenting can cause in a new blogger and I have no respect for such people.

I say this to warn newbies of the villain you will soon meet if you are a prolific blogger: "Darth Commenter." (I'll call him DC.)

My first encounter with DC, was really an eye-opening soul searching experience for me. (I'm glad I did it or I wouldn't have been ready for the debate that ensued after my DOPA posting.)

When you meet DC, as any prolific, meaningful blogger will, you will be forced to ask yourself the central question of blogging: "Why am I blogging?" Much like the "why am I here" questions that all humans ask, this question is literally a "why am I here on the blogosphere" question. Ultimately it is the blogger who decides if they will indeed remain a blogger. We have the ability to leave the blogosphere as quickly as we entered it and many do.

I took a several day sabbatical to ask myself these questions and reemerged with a purpose and a calling that non bloggers simply cannot understand.

My Calling

God (I cannot pull out my beliefs here) has given me a calling to share the things I'm learning in technology and other aspects of my life.

I believe in the importance of every child and the importance of every teacher.

I believe that teaching is a noble calling and that educators need to be encouraged in a world of people who really do want to zap us with their light sabers.

Never in history have teachers been expected to do so much and afforded so little respect and that has got to change. We will create our own respect because we are professionals here to do a job.

It is time for us to share across boundaries, continents, and hemispheres. It is time for us to put our collective heads together and learn from the pockets of innovation that spring up in the strangest places. And it is time for me to be a part of it!

As you meet, DC, you will emerge with your own calling. Without a calling, it is difficult to keep up with the blog and it just becomes a nuisance.

Blogging, if you truly inhale its essence, will give you a calling, renewal, and purpose, as you've never seen before.

Darth Commenter is out there and his goal is to steal your enthusiasm for blogging with his light saber of unkindness. Do not feel compelled for some "noble" reason to post his comment. Delete Darth and never look back.

Criticize Kindly

All this said, we have a need to disagree with one another. We have a need to discuss things of importance. While I delete almost all abusive comments and every single comment with profanity, I do allow people to disagree with me on my own blog. It is important that we model for children the right way to disagree on a topic and to show that we can do it while remaining civil and not attacking the other's right to their opinion.

Here are my guidelines before countering a blogger's perspective:
  1. Will it make a difference?

    Is this a blog that encourages meaningful debate not excessive profane babblings by lots of DC's and that is read by others. Think and remember that they can visit and attempt to comment on your blog as well. Do you really want to establish that relationship?

  2. Is my perspective already shared in the comments?

    If so, you can echo the comments of others. If not, I feel that I must post if it is a topic of meaning.

  3. Start by genuinely complimenting the blogger in some way and point out where you do agree.

  4. Point out each area of disagreement and why in a brief, non-rantish, professional manner.

  5. NEVER: Be sarcastic, rant prolifically, curse, or personally attack a person.
Thank you again, Langwitches blogger for pointing this item that needed to be included!


Commenting

Commenting is part of this global conversation. People who make meaningful comments understand that this new Internet is about discussing our common concerns and coming up with solutions in a more expeditious and helpful manner that does not exclude anyone.

I think some people are afraid of commenting because they don't want to give away their secrets.

Well, guess what?

If you died today and don't share "your secret," it will die with you and you will miss the chance to leave behind something far more important... a legacy.



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