Ten Thousand Comments

In our recent discussion of theory and practice, ZD hit 10,000 comments.  (The 10,000th comment, by the way, was Geoff J’s #6 on that thread.  Congratulations, Geoff; your prize, a T-shirt that says “This is What a Feminist Looks Like,” and a subscription to BUST magazine, will be in the mail.)  I have to say that it’s a bit strange to think that our relatively small blog has this many comments.  (Just think of the number of dissertations that could have been produced by all that writing.  Of course, they might not have been coherent dissertations.)

Comments, I think most bloggers would agree, are both one of the most fun and one of the most challenging aspects of running a blog. How much do you try to keep the conversation on track?  When do you bring in the heavy hand of censorship?  When do you engage people’s trollish-sounding arguments, and when do you just ban them?   Unless things are clearly over the line (spam, dramatic name-calling), I find that I struggle with those judgments.  I note that different blogs have different norms on this—and I’m highly unlikely to object to the way anyone else runs things, both because it’s their blog and therefore their decision, and because I find dealing with those questions so challenging myself.  It’s easy to complain about a blog being tyrannical; it’s not so easy to run one.  And I don’t envy the bigger blogs, which have to deal with this much more than we do.

In fact, I feel quite lucky that this hasn’t been too big of an issue on ZD.  We seem to have a lot of long comments—as Ziff noted in his nacle numbers analysis of 2007,

ZD’s average comment (146 words) was over 20% longer than the second longest average, FPR at 125. Not only are we long winded, we attract long-winded commenters.

And, on a non-quantitative level, I might be biased, but I think we generally have high quality comments, written in a thoughtful and reasonable tone, which is something I really appreciate.  I also like that our blog is a bit slower, that you can mull over things a bit and then jump into the conversation, that you can come back to a topic after a couple of days.  I quite enjoy reading the fast-moving discussions at the big blogs, but I sometimes find that by the time I’ve formulated a thought, the train has long since passed.

Around here, I would say that we’re generally fine with threadjacks, since we tend to think in pretty random ways.  The only exception would be those that start an emotionally tense argument that detracts from what was previously a thoughtful conversation.  If you want to push our buttons, on the other hand, probably the best way is to sound condescending, or to hint that our problem is just that we need more faith.  I’ve also noted that my co-bloggers have varying tolerance levels.  I’m possibly more on the impatient side, more likely to get exasperated with things going in a direction I don’t want to deal with, and shut them down.

One of the other challenges in comment management, I think, is that of not letting people slip through the cracks.  On the faster-moving blogs, it’s simply impossible to acknowledge everyone who adds something to the conversation.  But I know it can be discouraging to take the trouble to write something, and not see any evidence that anyone actually read it.  And I do think we try to respond to people here, though sometimes on the longer conversations, some doubtlessly get lost.

I have two sources of guilt when it comes to blogging.  The first is my tendency to write posts which attract interesting comments, and then run out of blogging energy and disappear.  Then to make things worse, I might find myself wanting to comment on someone else’s thread, but I’ll feel like I can’t, because then it will look like I’m ignoring all the people on mine. (Am I just completely neurotic, or do other people worry about this kind of thing?)  For what it’s worth, I can guarantee that we do read all the comments, even when we’re too lazy to respond to them.  My other source of guilt is that a lot of people take the time to come here and comment, and I’m a slacker and don’t reciprocate on their blogs.  Part of the reason is that I’m busy writing my long-winded comments here.  Part of it is also that I’m much more comfortable just rambling here, but I feel more pressure to carefully think out what I’m saying when I’m elsewhere, so it takes more energy.  But I do keep meaning to repent, and be a better Bloggernacle citizen.

So those are some of my random thoughts on comments.  What are yours?  (But please don’t write comments that will cause me to agonize over whether I should sic the Bouncer on you, or just delete them.)


  1. In honor of the occasion, I think we should compose a piece of liturgical music called 10,000 Comments, modeled on Hildegard of Bingen’s 11,000 Virgins.

    I’m sure Geoff will wear his prize with pride. 😉 He certainly deserves it–he’s one of our most devoted commenters.

    Our next goal? To get 10,000 comments on a single post. Maybe one titled “Chicken Patriarch Soup for the Soul.”

  2. Thanks Ethesis — I have been training for this for years…

    And who would have predicted that a guy like me with 5 brothers and only one sister would become a world-class feminist.

    Lynnette — If it makes it easier you can make my prize you giving NCT the prominent listing in your sidebar it so richly deserves.

  3. That probably is a better prize, since I don’t actually have the one I claim to be giving away. I just looked and was surprised to see that NCT isn’t even in our list of links. I really thought it used to be there, though I could be delusional. But I will fix that, especially since the NCT-ers have contributed a good number of our ten thousand.

  4. Wow, congratulations on getting to 10,000 comments. I’m a faithful Bloggernacle lurker, but I de-lurk when I have something to say. I was surprised how high I came out on Ziff’s analysis last year.

    My blog is small and sporadic, so I don’t get many comments. Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with trolls or even rude commenters. I’m not sure how I would deal.

  5. Nice. You’re quick L.

    In answer to your question about comment — after 4+ years I have become somewhat more curmudgeonly about new commenters at NCT. Far too often newbies prove to be trolls or morons or both. I keep a lot of new commenters on a short leash these days. See here (#54) for my warning to a new guy earlier today. The good thing is that trolls do have a certain “smell” about them and I feel like I am pretty good at sniffing them out early nowadays.

    I came to the conclusion at some point a couple of years ago that better moderation makes for a better experience for all; useful participants and readers alike.

    I agree with you about liking the pace of discussions at NCT and ZD (and other non-giant ‘nacle blogs).

  6. Congratulations to ZD!

    On the big blogs I like to get any comments in as early as possible, because they go so fast and I really dislike commenting when I haven’t actually read all the previous comments.

  7. You bet I could! I’m not such a bad pilot myself! We don’t have to sit here and listen to this…

  8. Congrats!

    I do have to say one thing about the supposedly “slow pace” of discussions here (and over at NCT too—you listening Geoff?!): the pace may be slow, but the original posts and comments are so thoughtful, so careful, so rich that they are anything but easy to follow. Sometimes my brain just shorts out.

  9. Yikes! Now I notice that the statement from Nacle Numbers that you quoted was false. In fact, 146 is only about 17% more than 125. Thanks to everyone who let this egregious error pass without verbally flogging me over it.

  10. By the way, Ziff, if you decide to do another analysis like the one you did last year, and if Keepa meets your criteria for inclusion, I’ll gladly do all the counting for you — you just have to tell me what you want counted, and do anything else that needs more sophisticated skills than counting.

  11. Congrats on 10,000 comments!

    I think you really could sell merchandise here, if you want my opinion.
    I’d certainly buy a tote bag with the ZD logo on it (I liked the one that made the letters red to spell “laughter”) and I’d carry it proudly at church.

    Also, a shirt that says, “This is what a feminist looks like” but I probably wouldn’t wear that to church. . .

    (btw, the star wars stuff is hilarious, who is doing that?)

  12. I want to reiterate that I do in fact read and appreciate all the comments on my posts, even when I’m horrible about responding to them.

    Then to make things worse, I might find myself wanting to comment on someone else’s thread, but I’ll feel like I can’t, because then it will look like I’m ignoring all the people on mine.

    I have the same problem. So I at least share your neurosis.

    And I also try to follow links back to the blogs of people who comment here, so I do read your blogs, even if I don’t comment on them! (I know I should do better at commenting, but I don’t. Especially if I have to sign in to comment. It’s never going to happen.)

    (btw, the star wars stuff is hilarious, who is doing that?)

    What Star Wars stuff?! I can’t figure it out, and it’s driving me crazy… (obviously I’m not the one doing whatever it is…)

  13. Vada, it’s always reassuring to hear that I’m not alone in my neuroses. And I should add that like you, I often follow the links back to people’s blogs, despite being such a commenting slacker.

    Re the Star Wars stuff, check out comments #8, #10, and #11 on this thread. And in response to jessawhy’s question, I will say that it is evidence of the quality of our commenters that only one of them was written by a ZD, and the other two came from commenters.

    Ziff, I of course immediately noticed that 146 is only 17% more than 125, but I didn’t want to make you an offender for a number. 😉

  14. BrianJ, you may have a point about the “slow pace.” Especially here, where we tend to really alternate between lively discussions and down times. Sometimes I re-read old threads and am kind of amazed at how long and complex some of them are—not necessarily in terms of the total number of comments, but in the length of the individual responses. Come to think of it, that may be why I’m so on-and-off in blogging; I don’t always have the energy for that level of discussion. And if I’m in lurk mode, I’m much more likely to chime in on silly posts where I can just say something smart-alecky.

  15. Thanks Lynnette — I had actually read (and appreciated) those comments, but I guess I’d just… forgotten? Have I mentioned recently that my husband’s working halfway across the country and I’m insanely tired?

  16. Lynette: there are some posts on this blog (e.g., Worrying About Salvation) that I just leave in my Reader queue for days or longer because I am so terrified that opening them will be a mental Pandora’s box—a post so profound that I won’t be able to focus on anything else (like work, eating, riding my bike…).


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