Knitters Never Comment!

kittenyarn.jpgLast week I ran into an interesting phenomenon. For the first time, I had several bloggers tell me they never used the comments on their blogs – and wouldn’t even consider the insanity!

I couldn’t believe that a blogger wouldn’t use the comments section. I was a man on a mission – I had to find out why. I had to spread the Commenting Gospel as laid down by King James himself (that would be James Chartrand, the Comment King).

I had to go see this phenomenon for myself. What I found was a whole other world. This world involved needles, cats, and brightly colored balls of yarn. A tornado dumped my blogging perspective right in the middle of… a knitting blog.

Dorothy was right – I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Let me first say that the knitting community gave me a warm welcome. These people were fun to talk to and extremely open-minded to trying something new. Comment on their blog? Now that’s an amazing idea!

And one met with skepticism. Most of the bloggers admitted they never answer comments on their own blogs. A majority contacted each individual through email.

The biggest reason the knitting blog community didn’t use the comment section was that they seemed to think it would take up too much time. I suppose if you’re not used to it, reading and responding to comments could take up a lot of time, especially if you try to comment on every single blog you read.

Well, James and I joined a conversation about commenting over at the knitters’ blogs. Each group explained our point of view and perspective to walk a few steps in each other’s shoes.

Then, for one week, Deb of and Chris of tried commenting on their blog along with the rest of their readers, and I tried my hand at answering a few emails on the side.

Commenting for the sake of commenting isn’t what it’s all about. Commenting is about fostering conversation and gaining inspiration, insight, and a new perspective. It’s true; there are many commentators who leave the useless one-liner – we all know how much of a waste of time that is. A good comment is definitely an art.

The ensuing commentfest was insane – but in a good way. I don’t think the experiment made any converts, but we all sure had fun. I have to hand it to the knitting bloggers – for people who never used the comment section before, they sure kept the conversation going strong! Honestly, I couldn’t keep up after a while. The knitters wore me (and James) out.

But hey, at least I’m man enough to know when to admit defeat.

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  1. Hi Harry – that’s interesting. I often find the comments section on my blog far more interesting than the article. And some of my loyal commenters have helped develop a real sense of community on there.

    I don’t understand bloggers who don’t respond to comments. I notice that some don’t even answer questions. When that happens to often, I’m quick to hit the unsubscribe button.

    CatherineL’s last blog post..The Recipe: 26 Practical Resources For Starting An Online Business

  2. I’m the same way, too. No answer to me or anyone gets an instant boot from the subscription list.

    In the case of the knitters though, they’re not blogging to make money or draw attention from their blogs. They have a real tight knit (pardon the pun, it’s early here) community, but in a different way. Theirs is more off to the side in the emails they write and the gatherings they go to.

  3. I am not part of the knitting ‘community’, but I knit. I honestly can’t imagine not commenting. If someone goes to the trouble to post a comment, I respond. Even if it is just to say thank you for commenting. At least they know, I am glad they stopped by my blog.

    It is good though they at least respond by email. That shows they aren’t ignoring the posters. 🙂

    Laura’s last blog post..PS2 Problems? How to Help Your Children Share!

  4. You know you’re welcome back at any time! Most knitters I know DO respond to comments. (Unless they’re super-bloggers like Stephanie at who gets literally hundreds of comments every day–responding to those is just not possible, especially when she’s got book proofs to work on. And maybe not the two word, “Happy Birthday,” or “Beautiful sweater,” kinds of comments. But the “real” comments, absolutely.) The concept of subscribing to RSS feeds for comments is new, but considering that most of us don’t respond in our own comment threads, why would we?

    That said, I’ve made a point lately of dropping responses in my comments from time to time, BUT I have to tell you, it’s kind of unwieldy because I can’t be sure that the original commenter is ever going to see the new comment, and so I’m usually cut/pasting the same response into an e-mail also. (Go ahead. Laugh. I know you’re going to anyway. I’ll wait.)

    These multiple conversations about how, exactly, we all deal with comments has been enlightening, though. And it explains why, when I started “Punctuality Rules!” and would respond to comments in the way I always have–via e-mail–I’d get the surprised, “You didn’t have to!” kind of reactions from the commenters. Obviously, they’d almost never gotten e-mail responses before and were stunned, shocked, awed, amazed. Although, if they were making a point to come back to check my comments, they were probably sorely disappointed.

    –Deb’s last blog post..Better Than Two Pistols at Dawn

  5. I’m still stuck on Copyblogger. I’m curious – are you all subscribed to his blog?

    Brian rarely comments or replies to emails. I’ve tried emailing him and have commented on his blog (like I do here) but I have yet to get him to respond to me. He once . . . once made a reference in relation to something I said, which I took at some level a response to me.

    How and why does he get away with it? Why am I still subscribed? Who am I and why haven’t I washed my car in over 3 months? oh sorry, I started rambling ;).

    Harry and James replied to more of my comments on the first post I ever read from them.

    It must be a numbers game – or how busy. Once you get a name like “Trump,” for example, you don’t have to play by the rules anymore, for awhile anyway.

    John’s last blog post..8 Drawbacks to Free Web Hosting

  6. @ John – I’m not sure why the bigger bloggers don’t talk with their community more in the blog comments. Brian does come out, though, even if it’s minimal. I seem to see an average of once or twice a thread. I do know he’s busy, as are most A-listers, so knowing that he’s at least reading some of the comments is heartening. But I know this only because of my involvement in the blogging world and some emails that went back and forth between Brian and I around the time of my guest post. To anyone else, he does appear uncaring.

    A shame, because I tend to view Brian as a pretty genuine guy. And yes, I’m subscribed for life. (He’s probably reading this and laughing his head off, thinking, “James, you fanboy, have I ever got the best of you!”)

    Darren Rowse of Problogger rarely, if ever, comments in his thread. I’ve ditched discussions there completely. In fact, there really *aren’t* discussions there. Everyone seems to just be idolizing and dropping links. Yuck. It’s a shame again, because I think Darren is another genuine guy. (No fanboy this time.)

    Other notables in the A-list world are much the same. They blog and walk away. I guess the only answers we’ll ever get about why they do that are the ones we come up with ourselves. Consider, though, that if Harry and I had 10k subscribers (it’s coming, people), we might not be able to be as active in responding to everyone. However, we’d find people to integrate into the blog and to provide that interaction with the people who come here.

    @ Deb – It still startles me to see a personal email from you. Though I’ll admit: I’ll discuss knitting (with mutters) in public, but I’ll be damned if I’ll discuss the rest. I did forward the link you recommended, though.

    I will say I think the point of Harry’s post was more to say that there are different ways to do things and that we often forget there are whole other communities out there. It’s easy to become self-absorbed in a virtual world with our own little niche cliques. On the other hand, we always flock to where our interests lie, do we not?

  7. @Deb: I am laughing, just a little bit, but it’s okay. I’ve never stopped to consider that no one sees the responses, but I figure since we have the subscribe to comments, that the commentor has checked that box and will eventually see it.

    @John: Yes, we’re subscribed to Copyblogger. Brian’s a good guy. I think he gets so many emails and comments it’s hard for him to keep up with them. Unless you’re like our own Comment King and continually make your presence known, you’re probably not going to get the same kind of response you do here.

    James and I are unique when it comes to answering comments here anyway. We have our roots in writing forums (both running them and participating in them) and on those types of message boards, it was always important that you answer everything that came along, no matter how big or small. Interaction for us is very important. We don’t like to leave our comments section to run itself and hope people create their own conversations. And like James said, when the day comes where we have too many people to respond to, we’d find a way to take care of it and try to cover everyone.

    After all, we’re not writing to simply hear ourselves talk, we need our readers and we want you all to feel appreciated.

  8. @ Harry – I never thought about it that way – that we have long experience on message boards and that answering a thread is a habit long ingrained in us. Good point. Perhaps that’s why we handle our blog the way we do.

    But I agree – I enjoy the people who come here, those that read, those that comment, those that visit. People are good.

  9. I’ve been participating in message boards for years, too–about books, about curly hair, about knitting, about dog training–and it’s one of the reasons I answer all my comments, also. That’s what you DO. I suppose that, as long as you’re answering in some way, that’s what matters. You can get an email from a friend and answer by picking up the phone and giving her a call. One of my mother’s friends–honest to God–answers an email by writing a handwritten note and sending it back via the post office. We laugh at it because it seems ridiculous, but at least she’s responding. The important thing is to answer.

    –Deb’s last blog post..Better Than Two Pistols at Dawn

  10. Hmmm… I think it isn’t that knitters don’t comment so much as post authors tend not to respond to received comments via comments. As a group, knitters are very generous with their comments!

    Chris’s last blog post..Dipping my toes in the dating pool again

  11. @Catherine – “I don’t understand bloggers who don’t respond to comments. I notice that some don’t even answer questions. When that happens to often, I’m quick to hit the unsubscribe button.”

    @Laura – “…I honestly can’t imagine not commenting. If someone goes to the trouble to post a comment, I respond.”

    Is there a thread of misunderstanding here? Knit bloggers most definitely encourage comments *and* respond to their readers, mostly via one-to-one email as you’ve said; a different type of conversation but a community-building one to be sure. Not all conversations are meant to be shared. Besides, there are other ways to frame responses or encourage the “talk amongst yourselves” vibe. It really does work in almost viral, connective way.

    @Harry – “…After all, we’re not writing to simply hear ourselves talk, we need our readers and we want you all to feel appreciated.”

    We don’t write to hear ourselves talk, either, as that smacks of extreme narcissism. Even if you’re a super-blogger dealing with hundreds of comments daily, you write to share what you’ve learned, what you’ve done and where you’ve been. You write to connect with others, to make friends and, sometimes, to make sure you’re not alone. How else would we have developed such a “tight-knit community”, with *community* being the key word?

    The easiest way to determine if it’s working is via comments. So yes, we care and we show our appreciation.

  12. @ Karen – Most people who come to this blog can’t conceive of the way knitters interact with their commentators. Harry and I were really taken aback by the email procedure for commenting… so I expect many people really don’t “get” other methods, which would be completely foreign to them.

    However, I think Catherine was stating that, in general, she unsubscribes from blogs that don’t pay attention to their comment section. Laura is saying that she responds in the comment section.

    And Harry was in no way being narcissistic, accusing anyone of narcissism or insulting other methods. It’s not personal; please don’t take it that way. In fact, Harry stated that knitters had a very close community and that he was impressed.

  13. @James – Thanks for the clarification. My interpretation of Catherine and Laura’s comments was based solely on what I read here, with the implication that knit bloggers don’t care about their readers and, therefore, “don’t respond to comments.” I did not see the words “in the comment section,” so you see where I might have gone wrong.

    The same apparent misread goes for Harry. I don’t know any of you or your commentators, therefore I cannot gauge your intent. I have this micro-context only, Although you may have read a particular tone in my response, it isn’t personal. I was simply trying to clear up what I saw as misunderstanding of bloggy intent.

    Karen B.’s last blog post..Noro, My Love

  14. @ Karen – Makes sense. We’re a pretty relaxed group of bloggers around here and this place is the kind of home where you can walk in, dump your sneakers at the door, grab a beer and crash on the couch for some casual conversation. No one minds 🙂

    It’s interesting to see the different types of perceptions going on – Harry and I were both shocked that some bloggers didn’t respond in the comment section of their blogs. We took that exactly as you’d imagined: that people didn’t care about their readers or community because we perceived that group of bloggers didn’t maintain their comment section. Deb/Chris completely set us straight on that in very short order and showed us that there are different ways to do things and for different reasons.

    So the business bloggers and the knitting bloggers (or others) see each other very differently. It’s kind of like a Quebecer being handed a star fruit and told that he can eat it. Really. And that it’s good. It’s bound to get that skeptical, “I dunno… you sure?”


  15. @Karen: *whew* I’m glad all of that got clarified before I woke up. The knitbloggers were (are) a great group of people and I’m glad I ventured over there to see what you all were up to. I just thought the situation was so unique it bore some investigation. I went, I saw, I learned.

    I’m finding a lot of differences between the various niches, not just with the knitters. Even the differences between bloggers like James and I, and the creative writing end of the spectrum is vastly different.

    I’m glad you stopped by though, and I hope you continue to do so.

  16. I had the same reaction that Karen did – I thought they were saying we don’t respond to comments because we don’t do it in the comment section.

    But I respond by email too – not in my comments. In fact, if someone is responding to me in their comment sections, I’ll very likely never notice. (And no! Can’t turn on the forward all the comments to my email or I’ll never live long enough to read my incoming mail, much less work for knitting. Er, a living. ) Well, there are a few of my book blogging buddies that respond in their comment sections so I catch them as I best I can, just like I do with my daily blogging buddies.

    Carrie K’s last blog post..Jericho on Tuesday Night 10pm CBS

  17. Dave Navarro - Million Dollar Leverage says:

    Don’t believe what people say … knitters are comment freaks. They can’t get enough.

    I knew this knitter in college … nevermind.


    Dave Navarro – Million Dollar Leverage’s last blog post..By: Men with Pens Web Content Writers and Freelance Writing Services

  18. *whets needle tip on grindstone with calculated look in his eye*

    No, no, by all means… continue…

  19. Reading this very late but it made me laugh, so I have to comment.

    Until I started blogging for corporate folks (mostly lawyers), I had never heard of a blog where comments weren’t allowed. My first was a lawyer who regularly reminded me to not check the box next to “allow comments” when I’d post. When I finally asked him why the no comment policy, he said (and I do quote), “I don’t bill $500 an hour to delete viagra spam.” Long story short, he now allows comments.

    Another lawyer blog I write doesn’t respond to comments in the thread but follows up with everyone by email. I am not sure why and haven’t asked (he scares me). Honestly, I thought this was just another strange lawyer phenomenon until I read this post.

    Interesting post. Love the new “men with pens” theme, btw.

  20. @Amy: Better late than never! Yeah, it took me a while to understand why people didn’t do comments. With the knitters, I could see it, but for lawyers? You’d think they’d want to foster conversation. Answering by email alone leaves out so many other points of view (good and bad), but that’s what makes a blog interesting.

    Thank you for the compliments, we like it too 🙂

  21. I agree, but I’ve learned to never argue with a lawyer. Just blogged about your post, so I’m sure some of the lurking lawyers will get a kick out of it.

  22. Nope, never argue with a lawyer. Very sound advice there. I’ll have to go check out your post, thanks for the heads up!

  23. Hopefully all the paragraphs won’t run together for you. I’m having some tech troubles with the new template I uploaded, and I have no clue how to fix the spacing between paragraphs. Works in firefox though!

  24. I have FF, and it looked fine to me. Haven’t used IE for years now. If you need a good coder to take a look at it, I can recommend someone.

  25. Good to know. I might take you up on that.

  26. I am not a professional blogger, but at least I try and my blog exist to reach out to people around the world to help stop animal suffering.

    As far as your blog is concerned, I give you a thumb’s up, as I find it iquite educational and informative . For me to share and receive comments from viewers would be really a brave act, as I’ve said earlier I am not a professional writer, but I tried for the sake of animal suffering!

    Perhaps, you can help me as how to go about to get this page to add in my blogger for viewers to submit their comments.

    My most warmest regards, Lily from Malaysia

    Lily Arbee’s last blog bobo, bsb, n-sync, etc… – children need a helping hand

  27. At first, I was going to tell you that you were full of crap. Knitters’ blogs?!?

    Then I realized something. Just like any of my hobbies (Dungeons and Dragons comes to mind) there is a corner of the blogosphere devoted to it.

    Part of that process of realization is dropping stereotypes. Just like not every D&D blogger is a tubby guy with a goatee (though I am) not every knitting blogger is an octogenarian.

    Commenting is indeed what keeps the blogosphere going. It is the conversational nature and tone of blogs that, by and large, separates them from the rest of the Internet. Isn’t that what web 2.0 is all about, really? Social networking. Social bookmarking.

    Good form!

    Bob Younce’s last blog post..Writing Around the Web – March 16, 2008

  28. @ Bob – Knitters blog. And knitters blog like there’s no freakin’ tomorrow. Knitters can whup our asses hands down – and probably dust off their hands and then whup the asses of 12 other big names out there without blinking.

    True about the stereotypes, by the way. (I can’t form anything more coherent at this hour without coffee.)

  29. What a great post! I am a knitter and a blogger, but I blog about writing. (I can read and knit at the same time, but I haven’t learned how to write and knit at the same time — yet.) I can imagine knitting bloggers to *seem* like they are not responding to comments as some may prefer to respond via email. And not all comments may be response worthy. As many of you already pointed out, bloggers who get mountains of comments with every post may just be too overwhelmed to answer each one. I know that I don’t expect a response with every comment I leave. It’s nice to be acknowledged, but it’s nothing personal when you’re not.

    In stitches,

  30. @ Marie Ann Bailey You need to try some voice to text software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. Headset on, kneedles and yarn in hand and off you go – knitting and typing!

    Knitting blogs – I am not going to look. I am not going to look. I am not going to look. Ok, just a peek.

    *And she resurfaces three weeks later. Only because she ran out of wool*

    Melinda´s last blog post…Destroying the Old to Release the New

  31. I’ve only just found your post, but its so interesting! My blog is (mostly) about knitting, and I tend to prefer responding to comments by email or twitter directly back to the person to have that one-on-one contact – and my comments on other’s blogs are responded to in the same way, if they respond. If there is a question raised in the comments, I tend to answer it in the context of my next blog. I’d be interested in replying in the comments section though, just to see what happens – I know that most blogs I read, I don’t go back to see who responded there, because I forget where I leave comments! This new RSS for comments would get around that though…


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