The Basics: Commenting on Scholar Blogs

by Anna Blanch on July 16, 2010

Sometimes I find myself dashing off a quick comment on a post I’ve read and realise that I probably shouldn’t. That I should have “checked safe” as it were (that’s a firearm metaphor). I suggest that It should be second nature to comment on blogs with a professional attitude, just as we would ask questions and give feedback in a seminar or conference context. However, this is not always the case. In part this may be because of the more anonymous nature of the online world (even as your online profile is much more open and accessible than that which your colleagues from across the State or Country might know about you upon first meeting at a conference) commenting can be superficial at best and down-right lazy or rude or completely unprofessional at worst. 

So how do you comment with a professional attitude and with a courteousness reasonably expected? 

For me, I try to keep in mind that commenting on other people’s work, whether blogs, websites, or written work needs to be other-centred. Am I just trying to tell them about my ideas or am I listening and engaging with them humbly seeking to learn?

It is akin to effective listening: which I take to be really listening, and not just waiting for your turn to speak.

I would like to suggest that there is an art to leaving comments, no matter where those comments are left!

While I am thinking about tips for blogs specifically related to scholarship I would like to propose that this framework of ideas also applies to other things which you read.

  • Make a point with your comment.  Perhaps you can add some additional information or provide another point of view. Either way your comment should contribute to the discussion and be helpful for other readers.
  • Why are you commenting? Provide some of the context in your comment indicating what it was about the post that impressed you or that you particularly liked or which you disagreed with.  It should be relatively easy to pick up on some of the keywords the blogger is focusing on, put at least one in your comment. This will help their post be more searchable and rank higher in search engines like Google or Bing or Yahoo. If you thought their ideas were interesting and valuable enough to comment on then why would you not want their work to be more easily found by others?
  • Be respectful.  If there was something you disagreed with, challenge the idea not the person. Play the ball not the man!
  • Be concise with your comment. There is no reason to write a tome or to write a comment longer than the original post itself. You will also find that the author is more likely to respond directly to your concerns and ideas if you are to the point. you can always write additional comments as the conversation progresses bringing up your other points or ideas. Don’t comment with a form response on multiple posts or in response to multiple comments on the same post – not only is this nonsensical, the author/blogger can see this from their overview and dashboard with great ease; it is likely all you will achieve is annoying the blogger who may well delete or ban you from commenting – not desirable and not fun for them either.
  • Be careful not to troll. Trolling is the practice by which one comments merely to generate trackbacks or links or visits to your own site. In this way, providing a link to a particular piece of your own work could be looked at as rude. It took me a long time to learn this. Most sites generally give a link to your profile next to your comment  and that is sufficient if you have generated interest by the readers to see what else you have written about. 

I’ve had a young blogger recently commenting to tell me about her own site because she thought i might be “interested in Scotland” – darling, I live here was my response. It was obvious that she hadn’t even bothered to read enough into my site to find that out. Instead of engaging with me or apologising (she obviously wasn’t interested in a conversation about Scotland but was merely wanting to drive traffic to her own blog) she simply posted the same comment on a different post two weeks later. In her case (from what i could tell, she was a teenager blogger) I suspect she was enthusiastic but didn’t realise how rude she was being.

  • Proofread your comment before submitting. It is amazing how many typos i’ve let slip by.

Hope these suggestions help in developing a reflective approach to commenting on scholar-blogs.

Anna M Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD candidate in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts, University of St Andrews. She posts weekly over at Transpositions, a blog on Theology, Imagination, and the Arts. This post is part of the The Basics series.

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  • @lynda

    These tips aren't exclusive to Scholar Blogs, for sure! Any blogger should take heed of your suggestions.

    I recently had a guy come to my blog, spend 30 minutes reading through several pages (I'm obsessed with stats) and then left me a series of comments telling me how absolutely useless my site was and that only my mother cared to read it. (Sadly, she doesn't.)

    That type of behavior (trolling) perplexes me so much more than those who are obviously just trying to get a hit to their site via any means possible. That dude spent a good 45 minutes of his life to tell me that my site was useless! Who has that kind of time?

    I'm not going to pretend that I'm not ultra-intimidated to leave a comment on this post in particular! Seriously though, thanks for these commenting basics. They rock!
    My recent post Friday Finds- Camera Phone Shots

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  • pgepps

    haha we don't need no porfessionalizm check out my site

  • pgepps

    Good thoughts, Anna. I occasionally find myself needing to go do some research because I've started reading in the middle of a conversation; disengaging from the "must comment constantly" habit has helped me be more judicious with my remarks. Except when I'm being playful, of course.

  • Goannatree
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  • Goannatree

    except i like it when you comment – you haven't been round much lately! You should remedy that! I need an iron to sharpen me.
    My recent post The Old Testament Is Literature Too

  • Goannatree

    So glad to have your comment here too. I think it's one of those things, where you have to start somewhere. There are still blogs where I'm hesitant to leave a comment because the general tone is a little too combative for me or i have done have the mental energy to think through an appropriate comment.

    You're right on the practise! practice! prac-tise! besides sounding intelligent is overrated. Aim to be understood. Thanks for the comment – I hope you stick around and leave a few more comments and get involved in the discussion with people like pgepps here below! he's kind of ornery sometimes but i kind of like it when he argues with me! 🙂
    My recent post Transpositions Tuesday- Reviewing bad art- defending Simon Cowell- and telling the truth

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