Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Reflecting on what I’ve learnt so far

Michele Martin’s
Day 7 Challenge

is to reflect on what we’ve learnt so far.
Here’s my post on my reflections at Day 7 of the Comment Challenge.

What have I learned about myself as commenter?

I feel vulnerable and have a fear of making mistakes. When writing a comment I always feel as if I’m climbing onto a platform wearing very little and in full view of the whole world - I feel as I did the first time I entered a public sauna. There are parts of me that I feel I need to protect, though I’m often unsure which parts are the most vulnerable.

What have I learned about the act of commenting?

A comment is a multi-faceted thing.

It can be a:
  • tool used to winkle out information from unexpected places
  • pin that deflates another’s bubble and as such must be handled with extreme care
  • detector for similar or dissimilar opinion and can be serendipitous in what it returns
  • forum creator for companionship and sharing of understanding
  • magnet for further comments and diverse opinion
  • beacon to signal when there is a need
  • difficult thing to estimate how it's interpreted by others
How have my recent commenting activities impacted on me?

So far, it has been a liberation of a sort. My confidence has grown a little and I have found ways of phrasing my thoughts and ideas so I feel less hesitant about starting writing a comment.
I learnt recently from my son, who is a programme developer, that he hates commenting on blogs. He fears making a terrible mistake and committing that blot to the blog to remain there for eternity.

That learning made me very aware of the vulnerability of the commenter. The blogger can always edit the blog post and fix the mistakes. A comment is for ever. It has to be more carefully considered than the blog post before committing it.

Ka kite ano
from Middle-earth


Dogtrax said...

It's interesting how commenting can make some people, such as yourself, feel so vulnerable and then possibly hesitant, as if they were moving into a conversation uninvited.
I guess I don't feel that way and perhaps the reason is part personality and part understanding that if a person blogs as a public space, they are opening the door for my thoughts and comments.
Otherwise, why blog?
(I assume some people can answer that question and please feel free to do so).
I respect all of the voices that come through my site, and on the other sites that I visit, and I don't ever think in my head, Well, there's another crazy blogger at the site (unless it is some strange spam-induced comment trying to sneak its way in).
I hope you keep confident in your role as a commenter, and as a blogger. Your ideas are valuable for conversation and connection.
Take care and thanks for being honest in your sharing.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Thanks for your support Kevin.

I agree that it is part personality. I also concur with your "why blog?"

I put forward the metaphor of a high-diver:

One either plunges in, head down, heels pulled tightly against the thighs big-splash style, or takes the risk of performing a bellyflop with the same impact outcome, while attempting to make a graceful dive.

I guess my fear is more to do with the possibility of a bellyflop. :-)

Ka kite

Lovekandinsky said...

Ken, you aren't alone in feeling vulnerable with commenting--that seems to be a pretty big theme that's emerging in the challenge, one that actually surprises me. Just about everyone involved is blogging, so they're accustomed to putting their thoughts online. I wonder why it feels different to post a comment vs. posting a blog post? Also makes you realize why kids are so reluctant to comment in class. . .

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Michele, you wondered why it feels different to post a comment vs. posting a blog post. I think it's the edit-safety-net that goes with the blog post.

Only thing is, you've to watch the editing if it's done after someone's commented on your error. In all fairness to the commenter, there comes a time when...

But hey, it's great that I'm not alone in this. Thanks for that Michele!

Ka kite

Sue Waters said...

Ken as Michele says majority of participants in the Challenge are reluctant commenters because of feeling vulnerable or feeling they have nothing to offer.

I'm glad Michele said this surprised her because I really thought time was the greatest constraint to people commenting. Like Michele I assumed that someone who blogs or engages actively in twitter wouldn't have an issue with commenting. What your post and Linda Hartley's post highlights the role that ownership and safety have in influencing commenting practices.

Both Kevin and I have no issue with commenting. And I don't think feeling vulnerable was ever a barrier to me when I first started commenting. So I'm thinking that personality also has a big role to play.

Sue Waters
Mobile Technology in TAFE

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia Ora Sue!

I think the mix of things that govern barriers to commenting is very complicated. Interesting that you thought that time was a major factor. I haven’t come across that one.

I’d hesitate to agree with you about personality being a significant one for the simple reason that well over 90% of people with online capability never venture to comment. Studies by several workers have shown this, among them Nonnecke and Preece. You might like to have a look? They talk about the ‘lurker’. Etienne Wenger might call them legitimate peripheral participants.

There have been heaps of other research around this. It is complex. And while it is convenient to categorise (don’t we all do it?) I get the impression that we might be tossing a plethora of different reasons into one category. This could make it difficult to thoroughly understand why it occurs.

In my case, clearly I am not a reluctant commenter. I would say that I’m certainly not a lurker. That puts me among those who are less than 5% of online capable people who access the same blogs as I do.

Whatever the barriers I might have, they didn’t stop me baring my soul to the world on what I was thinking when I first ventured to submit a blog comment.

Maybe I should have kept it to myself :-)

Cheers from Middle-earth

Christine Martell said...

There are several reasons I might not comment on blogs. There are some bloggers who just don't seem to engage with their readers, so I don't bother talking to them. It terrifies me every time I comment on one colleagues blog who writes about business writing and grammar. I'm just sure I'm going to make a mistake there. Time is absolutely a factor for me. I read in my RSS reader, and it takes way more time to click over to a blog to comment.

I edit people's comments. Not for wording, but if there is an obvious typo, I fix it while moderating. I have also had people email me and ask me to fix something, which I am always glad to do.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia Ora Christine!

I’m curious about what you said of editing other people’s comments. Apart from my ignorance of how to do this on my own blog, I think that even if I knew how to do it I’d be very reluctant to touch one letter of another’s comment.

I must thank you for sharing this.

What comes to mind (@Sue - and this may be a personality thing:-) is that such a facility could well permit the alteration of things in a comment less subtle than a mere typo.

As well, the alleged mistake could be an intended, possibly idiosyncratic, characteristic entered on purpose by the commenter. I frequently make puns, often on spelling, and I always put the stuff I write through the spellchekcer.

But the more sinister facet of editing another’s comment (if this is at all possible) has a legal aspect as well as a side to it that involves integrity (of the editor, not necessarily the data - but that too).


Now you have got me thinking.

Ka kite ano
from Middle-earth

Dogtrax said...

Editing comments ... now that is another can of worms, right?
I don't believe I have done so, but there might be a time when I see a misspelled word and made a quick fix, just because I can't resist and want to save face for the comment writer.
But, as a blog owner, we do have the ability to tinker with the words of our commenting visitors, don't we? I see a little "edit this comment" button on all of the comments at my blog.
This is an ethical issue.
Would you change the substance of someone's comment?
(I am assuming I hear the resounding chorus of: no friggin' way)


Blogger In Middle-earth said...


Too friggin' right Mate!


Diane Hammond said...

Good conversation happening here. Ken, I like your style of responding to commenters. I've seen other bloggers state their preference is to stay out of the conversation and let the commenters have the floor. I tend to follow your approach; I think interaction with the poster keeps the conversation flowing.

I feel comfortable commenting but I do still take my time to re-read my comments carefully to make sure my words convey my message in a conversational, yet professional tone. I also keep in mind that my comments are taking up valuable real estate on someone else's blog, so I try to add to the conversation without hijacking it.

Christine, I'm interested in your comment that you edit comments while moderating. I have never done that and am having a tough time coming up with a situation when I might do so! I know myself that I have made some errors in comments. (Putting the sentence period right at the end of a URL, thus "breaking it" is an error I've made more than once). I usually just post another comment with the correction. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I felt my comment had been "marked, found wanting, and corrected". Wait a minute; who am I kidding? I do know how I'd feel - slighted and I don't think I'd be back. I tell all my student bloggers that although language conventions still need to be followed, they should consider their posts and comments more as conversations than polished pieces of writing. Would you agree with that?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Dianne - Kai Ora.

Well you haven't hijacked my blog, though I have an empathy with what you said about that. I tend to write long comments when I have something to say. I try not to waffle, and often edit out bits before I submit - I feel a post brewing on that ;-)

Y'know, most bloggers who respond to my comments are pleased that I brought forward some detail. While I'm flattered with their reaction, it also indicates to me that not all bloggers shun long comments.

Go for it Dianne! And thanks for your useful advice.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kai Ora Tatou (Greetings to Everyone)

I appear to have contradicted myself in several comments in this conversation and this is not helpful in preventing confusion, sorry :-) So I’m going to try to be a clear as I can in this one.

@Sue @Dianne @Kevin @Michele @all others-who-spotted-this – I think I need to clarify what I mean by a ‘barrier’ to commenting.

1 - Time: Sure it’s a barrier to making all the comments I want to, after all I’ve got all the blogs on the Internet to get round and I’ll never do it. But it is not a barrier to actually ‘commenting’. The bottom line is ‘does it stop one from commenting (anywhere)?’ A more significant barrier for me is having to select the cocomment group to share before I submit a comment. I haven't 'shared' this comment for I just went round and round in cicrcles trying to pull across the group name :-(

2 – Personality: It’s similar with this factor, though different in parts :-) My feeling is that it is not a significant factor in providing a barrier to commenting. I think that a reluctance to comment due to a feeling of vulnerability, especially for someone new to commenting, may not necessarily be to do with personality. My gut feeling is that there are other, more significant, factors in this case. Again, there is a difference between stopping one from commenting altogether and giving one a feeling of vulnerability or even some reluctance when making a comment.

I hope this clears the air with my, seemingly paradoxical, view on all this. Thanks to all who have commented so far. You’ve made me think a lot!

Ka kite ano (Until we meet again)