My husband teases me for skipping past much of the bulk of newspaper editorials to get to the comments. He’s a social scientist, interested in government policies and the social order; I’m a fiction writer, interested in how personalities respond to rhetorical maneuvers. It hasn’t been lost on me that the majority of highly rated comments in newspapers like The New York Times come from a handful of commenters, who seem to make a full-time job out of logging on to major journals and Internet sources to post comments that get up- or down-rated by a majority of comment-readers like me. I’ve also been intermittently curious about the posts that get deleted for “inappropriate content” as well as the unseemly rants that sneak through the Internet filters.
But I hadn’t made the leap from reading comments to considering blog-commenting as a specific form of writing until I came across the (to me) eye-opening post by Kevin Duncan on a site called boostblogtraffic. Apparently there is a long-range purpose to posting blog comments: to persuade popular bloggers to notice you, and to then make reference to your blog in their blog, thus giving you more traffic and more reader comments (likely by hopeful bloggers) posted at the end of your own story or list of funny cat videos or advice to recovered evangelicals … or whatever. Apparently we go round and round until we end where someone is trying to make money selling something, or perhaps not even then.
What sets this writing form apart from others?
According to Duncan, blog commenters are trying to score a big date with the blogger. Like any suitor, they do best to hone their approach: It’s possible, according to Duncan, “to stumble into marriage, kids, and a house with a white picket fence even if you turn up to your first date with a mustard stain on your shirt and use the pickup line, ‘Did you hear about Pluto?’ But just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s likely.”
He goes on to warn against first-date faux pas like using a gravatar (which I just this second learned is a globally recognized avatar) as your image, because “you know you’re sexy. Show us that smile!” Ditto using a false name (“Using your real name on a first date is just the right thing to do”); dumping links in your comments (“Imagine you’re on a date and, halfway through, your date asks if you have life insurance”); failing to read the post (“Ever been on a date with someone from Match who didn’t bother to read your profile?”); and repeating what the post said (“Ever had a date where the other person repeated everything?”).
Better to greet the blogger, by name, unlike the date that launches right into talking about his day. Better to pay the blogger a compliment (“You meet your date for the first time. ‘Wow! I love your outfit,’ you might say.”). Be sure to add value to the exchange. (Here, our analogy diverges from romance to food: “No one cares how good the appetizers are if the main course is a garbage sandwich with no mayo.”) Finally, leave the object of your desire with a parting promise (“After a successful first date, each person is usually looking for a clue that the other enjoyed themselves … and when wooing a popular blogger, you’d be smart to let them know you’re interested in a longer-term relationship.”)
Once I got this far in my new understanding of the Art of Blog Commenting (let’s call it ABC, shall we?), I began fantasizing about how you, the loyal commenters of Lingua Franca, could begin wooing me. You could greet me by name (“howdy, if you’re feeling folksy”): “Howdy, She Who Is Carried to the Light.” (Only don’t repeat that; remember the warning.) You could pay me a sincere compliment, say on my effective disguise before the paparazzi.DSCF0018 You could add value by sharing a personal insight (“Did you find something particularly relatable?”), when you read about my 12-year-old terrier. DSCF0106And above all, be sure to leave me with a promise. Promise me you’ll use the serial comma. Promise me you’ll stop haranguing me and my buddies about singular they, and instead you’ll start appreciating our tart sense of humor, our keen insights into gendered speech, and especially my clever titles.
Then, only then, baby, you’ll have me forever.
But wait. Didn’t Bon Jovi say love is war? Apparently so. Because Duncan advises, once he’s done with all the lovey-dovey stuff, that “great comments alone won’t catapult you to world domination.” But “comments are perhaps the most misused — and least understood — weapons in the ambitious blogger’s arsenal.”
Yikes. Let’s just be friends, OK? And keep your hands to yourself.