Commenting Styles, Posting Styles (and you expected a Sunstone Post, didn’t you?)

Stephen MarshMormon 14 Comments

Ok, I actually have my entire presentation written down, and I could have posted it, so you could read it at Mormon Matters if you aren’t listening to me talk.  But where would the fun be in that?

Instead, it is my turn to do a meta post about the bloggernacle.

In some communities comments on posts are a tit for tat thing.  You post a comment on my topic, I visit you and post a comment on yours.  Anyone who doesn’t reciprocate eventually ends up being frozen out of the community.

In some communities, all responses are pretty much within the thread.  You comment on my post, I post a response.  If I don’t, people cease to comment on my posts.

In other communities, everyone who is a part of the community posts on each other’s posts.  E.g. if we did that at Mormon Matters, every post would have a comment by every permablogger.  Some times the community handles the response portion.  You post on my group blog post, someone from my community will will post a response.

If you’ve ever seen the acronym “RAEBNC” (read and enjoyed but no comment) you’ve seen the etiquette in action when people had no idea of what to say, but felt a duty to make sure they had posted something.  I do something similar to that with authors I really enjoy reading but don’t have much to add — just to try to encourage them (or why my comments to Bored in Vernal’s posts may seem so shallow).

Then we have the bloggernacle. It has none of the standard posting or commenting patterns.  In fact, to the extent I can define a blog as a part of the bloggernacle or likely to be rejected (such as the complaints about Mormon Mommy Blogs being included in the Niblets), if it has a traditional form of responsive posting, it is probably a blog that the consensus would reject.

I find that fascinating.  I wonder if it is a part of LDS or Utah culture, the nature of the academics and quasi-academics who populate some of the founding blogs (academics tend to not reciprocate:  normal human beings are not “real people” in their world, so there are no real social duties owed to them any more than the social duties owed to lab mice or first year students), or something else?  What do you think?

Comments 14

  1. RAEBNC 🙂

    JK. comments are one measure of popularity, but I think comments can be over-rated. I have a post on my blog discussing if iranians are arabs, but it receives few comments. while it is nice to know someone has read your post, if they don’t have anything to contribute, raebnc only inflates comment totals. i would rather comments were more substantive.

  2. Funny how this post makes it clear to me how narrow my world is. I never noticed the bloggernacle was so different, because this is pretty much the only place I hang out.

  3. I think I agree with you that many of the Bloggernacle blogs do not have any of these standardpatterns of commenting…but they generally have variations that are, in my mind, close enough. For ex, instead of tit for tat, at many of the other Nacle blogs, if you’re an outsider, you have to “prove” yourself through regular commenting on the insider sites, paying attention to the particular tone and atmosphere of other comments. If you do so, you won’t necessarily get reciprocal comments on your blog (although you migt make it to a privileged position on an insider blog aggregator, like Mormon Archipelago. At the very least, you’ll be sen as “one of them”. If you don’t play by these rules, you will be ignored, your motives questioned, your placement in the Nacle doubted. This sounds like being “frozen out” to me.

    additionally, on some of the other blogs, there is this sense that all the permas make sure to comment on each other’s posts, if only to say, “thanks for this!” It’s not just “RAEBNC” though…entire inside jokes are made throug this kind of casual commenting. I think the danger with this is that it highlights and expands the divide between outsider and insider.

    I am intersted in your final paragraph, Stephen. I haven’t really thought of the academic backgrounds having that much impact…although it certainly shows in other areas (there are many posts on other Nacle blogs that I’m just to dumb to comprehend…)

    Martin’s comment is interesting. Because we like to think of ourselves as being a part of the bloggernacle, but it could (unfortunately) be the case that we have completely different audiences, tones, and atmospheres…

  4. I think I got frozen out at all those other sites, so you guys are stuck with me! Actually though, I find some of the insider stuff really off-putting, like trying to join someone’s intimate conversation at a dinner party. It just feels awkward as arse. Yet I am sort of friends with a lot of those guys. I don’t think it’s personal (the frozen out comment is just a joke). It’s just that I am more like a person from another branch of the same company visiting for this one dinner party, so I don’t follow all their in-jokes.

  5. Actually, Andrew, I meant the bloggernacle as a whole was the only place I hang out — I just haven’t experienced the other communities described.

  6. This IS the only place I hang out in the blogging world. I have very little idea about the blogging habits of the wider communities as I have never really ventured out there. I find it interesting that many authors/bloggers end up forming clique’s (for want of a better term) but it probably stands to reason given the nautre of people to gravitate toward like minded individuals.

    Having said that, I find this place pretty good. I usually feel that all are welcome and while many posts are filled with the same names, they all seem pretty knowledgable and interesting to read. I’m here mostly every day and I enjoy the different styles and the varying debates. I particularly love the different perspectives that we all come with and the different links to mormonism we might have. Makes for a great expereince and I learn something knew on a regular basis.

  7. Mormon Heretic — good to meet you in person. I will admit that the whole discussion of who are Arabs/Bedouin and who are Persians, Turks, Egyptians, Kurd. Indoeuropeans, etc. (Kurds are the last of the Indoeuropean mountain peoples to try and sweep out, and the group that seems stalled in place after all these centuries of people coming out of the mountains) is a good one, but not one that tends to resonate outside of some communities. It forms dividing lines for various sects, haves and have nots and all sorts of power struggles and power structures, all the way back to before the assassination of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson.

  8. Andrew S — in many ways we have social pecking order going on, where people have to “pay their dues” and other things that are close, but not part of the normative patterns that evolved in the earlier networks.

    Blogging, as it now is, draws its name from weblogs (which were merely logs of interesting places people had been on the web). There are still a few of those but nothing in the bloggernacle is really one of them, and I can’t think of one.

    The other thread, is on-line journal entries of various sorts. You can see mine at (and it actually goes back earlier) where commenting was all done in guestbooks before Asian spambots destroyed them

  9. Andrew S — continuing on, since our spam filter consumes comments with more than one url in them, you can see the comment system via which is where I archived that particular guestbook (I actually had four different guestbooks for four different interest areas, I think that is the only one I saved the posts in).

    Anyway, then the group blogs emerged. The bloggernacle seems to have emerged from Times and Seasons. It is currently dominated by The Mormon Archipelago which has many social trappings, a fair amount of inertia, and some other issues, but really tries hard.

  10. N — that is one convention that sure does not seem to have made this community (the “first post” one — I loved your humorous way of bringing it up).

    Hawk, you capture a lot of what is going on in a few (though not all) places. There is a little bit of a feeling (but only a flavor, not a solid mass) that what is going on is a narcissist in-group that is out in public so everyone else can see and adore them, but that does not have room for anyone else — but not quite.

    dmac — that is a nice observation. I’m grateful you like the blog.

    This last string of my responses, now that I have access to a computer again, illustrates three different response methods. One is a separate response to each comment. That especially happens in communities that measure volume of posts, people post individual in-thread responses.

    The second is to collapse responses into a single post or a few posts.

    The third is to respond to “meaningful responses” (e.g. I did not respond to Andrew’s last cross-comment to Martin, though I did implicitly include Martin’s clarification).

    Thanks to everyone who responded.

    I was tempted to include a bit of a bite in the original post. That sort of thing creates more comments. The drama queen style of posting is where it eventually ends up. But the topic of bite, hooks, engagement, completeness and using comments for theme development is a different topic, which leads me to the last meta of whether comments should be kept on track, thread hijacks and how those are responded to. All for another day, perhaps. 😉

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