Earlier in the week, someone who’d commented an a Cherryleaf blog post emailed me to say he had a feeling the two of us were the only ones participating in the conversation.
He went on to say:
“It’s funny how some topics attract interest and others do not. I thought that having some commentary running would lead others to join, but apparently not. The secret seems to be to mention Star Trek.”
He was saying how few technical communicators comment on blog posts, and that only the more left-field posts seem to spark a debate.
The number of comments on our (Cherryleaf) blog, the STC Notebook blog, as well as other blogs on technical communication, seems to bear this out. Only Tom Johnson’s “I’d Rather be Writing” and Scriptorium’s blogs seem to have lots of comments.
So why don’t technical communicators comment more on blogs? Let’s explore six possible reasons.
1. Do technical communicators dislike writing?
I doubt that technical communicators dislike writing or talking about the profession. Mindtouch publishes a list of the Top 100 techcomms influencers, which indicates there are at least 100 blogs out there. There’s a wide variety of technical communicators presenting at conferences, too. For example, there were 136 speakers at the 2013 STC Summit.
2. Is there anything more left for you to say?
As a blogger, when you’ve said everything, there isn’t much more for readers to say. Equally, if there’s a comment that already expresses your opinion, you can feel silly posting the same thing again.
One of the reasons why our post on Star Trek resulted in a lot of comments was because the original post was like an incomplete list. Completing sets is a great motivator.
3. Has commenting moved somewhere else?
One reason might be that people respond by writing a post on their own site. However, we’ve noticed the people who tend to comment on blogs are often the most active bloggers themselves.
People add their own comments when they tweet a link to a blog post, so it may be that commenting is now done on Twitter instead of on the blog.
4. Are you putting people off from commenting?
People don’t like walking into an empty restaurant, and they can be put off by walking into a crowded restaurant as well. So the number of existing comments will influence whether someone adds their own comment or not.
They can be intimidated if they feel they’d lose face by commenting – particularly if the other commenters or the blogger are seen as experts.
So it may simply be human nature to watch from the sides, instead of participating more actively.
5. Are you allowed to comment?
According to Jeremy Victor, of Make Good Media:
“Studies show that more than half of company employees aren’t even allowed to access the social web from their computers at work and even if they can, they may not be allowed, or enabled, to comment.”
6. Does it matter?
Every blogger is worried that they might be writing posts that are simply boring. If the reader doesn’t care about the subject, they’re unlikely to comment.
Often, bloggers write about things they’d like to learn more about, or use the blog as a way to clarify their thoughts on a subject. So comments can help in that process, providing useful feedback.
What do you think? Add your comments below
Personally, I don’t worry too much about the number of comments. Instead, I use the number of tweets each blog post receives as a yardstick. I also blog on the assumption that people can still feel engaged simply by being a listener. Am I making a mistake in believing this?
What prompts you to comment? What puts you off from commenting? Please share your thoughts below.
Yes, it will be ironic if no-one comments (and what’s more, I’ll have lost a bet).
Ellis Pratt is sales and marketing director at Cherryleaf. Ranked the most the influential blogger on technical communication in Europe, Ellis is a specialist in the field of creating clear and simple information users will love.
Shut up Flickr image by Kristin Schmit.